with Evelyne Huber and John D. Stephens

Goodbye to Meltzer-Richard: Testing Theories of Redistribution

We re-analyze four major explanations of redistribution including the Meltzer-Richard model, power resources theory, Iversen-Soskice’s political institutions explanation, and Lupu and Ponstusson’s skewness theory. For each of these, we reconsider the causal chain and test their assumptions using a comprehensive, original dataset on working-age income-inequality consisting of 589 country-years for affluent democracies in the period 1963-2019. We find that partisan governments are directly related to redistribution and have a strong effect on the generosity of social policy. Lupu and Pontusson’s skew measure has no effect on redistribution in models with controls but does have a positive effect on generosity of social policy. Finally, we find that the mean-to median income ratio has a consistent, negative, and highly significant effect on redistribution, directly refuting the very premise of the Meltzer-Richard model. 

From Democratic Accountability to Consumer Choice: Does Privatization Change Voters’ Expectations

Can privatization and de-regulation interfere with electoral accountability? The expansion of markets at the expense of government management and regulation since the 1980s has often been framed by policy makers as a means for improving social welfare. Yet, even when reforms yield unsatisfactory outcomes, policy reversals via de-liberalizing reforms remain exceedingly rare. In this paper, I suggest that this dynamic is partially explained by the framing effects of liberalization. By submerging the state, policy outcomes become synonymized primarily with the behavior of market actors rather than the political sphere. Put differently, liberalization qualifies our expectations from government and thereby improves perceptions of incumbent performance. To test whether liberalization reduces electoral accountability, I leveraged data from an original survey experiment in which respondents were asked to assess the performance of incumbent politicians in light of a service area of declining quality. The results indicate that privatization improved general satisfaction with incumbents, as well as their perceived electoral fortunes. The same cannot be said with respect to deregulation which is a more implicit form of economic liberalization. These findings imply that certain liberalization reforms pose a unique risk for creating a democratic deficit since they make unfavorable outcomes less susceptible to public demands. Moreover, this study demonstrates the potential for incumbents to strategically leverage liberalization reforms in order to minimize their exposure to disadvantageous policy domains. In the next two sections, I develop a theory of liberalization and accountability, and then explained the experimental design and sample. After presenting the main results, the paper reflects on the future of democratic accountability at the age of liberalization.

with Ayelén Vanegas

Still Jenny from the Block? Support for Affirmative Action Among Upwardly Mobile Individuals

How does social mobility affect support for inclusive policies? This article argues that people who experienced upward (downward) mobility have stronger (weaker) beliefs in meritocracy and, in turn, be less (more) supportive of targeted egalitarian policies. Individuals who ascend to a higher social status that surpasses their parental background will be more inclined to embrace conservative or right leaning values, which aligns with increasing their likelihood of espousing a meritocratic worldview. Moreover, people who believe in meritocracy tend to underestimate the role of external assistance to mitigate inequalities. Thus, we expect people who experienced upward mobility to attribute the responsibility for social inequities to the personal or cultural failings of underprivilege groups and as result, to oppose affirmative action. We test this argument using a novel framework to trace the causal path with an original survey conducted in the United States.

Citizenship Studies

with Yael Yishai

Fragmented Citizenship in a Religious-national Democracy: Homosexuals in Israel

Fragmented citizenship has been a concept describing a deficit in the rights granted to citizens, which may be subject to fluctuations. This paper suggests that the expansion of citizenship is connected to an ideational shift while fragmentation occurs when institutional structures and core values inhibit change in certain areas. The case under discussion is the status of homosexuals in Israel. The country has been described as a gay-friendly society where homosexuals enjoy a plethora of socio-economic rights on the one hand, but are denied marital rights on the other. Expansion of citizenship was made possible owing to a gradual process of liberalization and growing institutional receptivity. This however, did not conclude with the full social inclusion of Israeli homosexuals but rather with citizenship fragmentation. Granting full citizenship rights would have been incompatible with Jewish national core values backed by the institutional autonomy utilized by resistant veto actors.

Chapter from Dissertation

Issue Privatization: The Right to Buy Reform and Housing Discourse in the United Kingdom

Can privatization depoliticize former areas of state intervention? Experimental evidence suggests that market reforms are especially resilient to policy reversals due to their ability to shape individuals’ perceptions of incumbents (SoRelle 2022, Machtei n.d.). Absent of a corresponding change to the properties of the service or the information environment, such a dynamic would imply that market reforms alter the issue frame used for evaluating candidates (Chong and Druckman, 2007; Druckman, 2004). That is, reduced accountability following domestic liberalization may be a function of reforms removing policy domains from the dominant political discourse and framing their respective services or goods as market choices. In this chapter, I suggest that marketization reforms have depoliticizing effects which make them particularly resilient to reasserting state intervention. To test this, I propose an observational design based on the United Kingdom’s experience with public housing privatization.