Below are brief descriptions of some of my current research projects. Feel free to contact me for working paper drafts or related data.
The Politics of Unemployment Insurance in Canada and the United States: The Role of Risk and Regional Interests
How do the ways in which social benefits are financed affect the politics of those benefits? In this paper, I explore this question in the context of unemployment insurance policy in Canada and the United States. The Canadian system of unemployment insurance has long been much more generous and expansive than its American counterpart, despite the fact that the American system actually began slightly more generous relative to Canada. Using a mixed methods approach, this paper examines why two countries that are otherwise quite similar have had such different trajectories of unemployment insurance policy. My explanation centers on early choices about how to finance the two different systems and the subsequent coalitions that emerged to oppose and support later policy expansions.
Death by Taxes: Why Democrats Struggle with the Politics of Revenue (with Theda Skocpol)
In December 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans for two more years. Over the past decade Democrats had regularly and vocally criticized the Bush tax breaks for their cost and top-heavy distribution; indeed, then-candidate Obama had made the repeal of the Bush tax breaks a key component of his 2008 presidential platform. Why, then, did the Democratic Congress and President Obama ultimately extend all of the Bush tax cuts, including the generous and very costly provisions for cuts on high incomes? Together with Professor Theda Skocpol of Harvard University, I am exploring the causes of the extension in 2010 and examining more broadly how the two major U.S. political parties deal with tax policy and how this has changed over time as a result of changes in public opinion, economic trends, and in the party system.
Perceptions and Use of the American Unemployment Insurance System (with Jeff Wenger)
The majority of unemployed Americans do not apply for unemployment insurance benefits, including those most likely to be eligible. Why? Together with Professor Jeff Wenger of the University of Georgia, I am designing a survey experiment to examine how the provision of policy-specific information about the unemployment insurance system changes workers' likelihood of applying for benefits, as well as workers' perceptions and attitudes towards the unemployment insurance system.
When Do States Cut Taxes for the Working Poor? The Politics of State Earned Income Tax Credits (with Vanessa Williamson)
Many studies have identified a strong negative correlation between reliance on progressive taxes and the generosity of social benefits. In this paper, we examine how existing tax structures have shaped the politics of an important, yet often overlooked, social program in the United States: state earned income tax credits (EITCs). Leveraging a quantitative event history analysis, as well as extensive qualitative evidence, we examine why states decided to enact EITCs. Our results show that states that had extensive individual income taxes in the past could draw on the technical, administrative, and symbolic resources offered by the existing tax code to create EITCs, while states without robust income taxes generally could not. In this way, states with more progressive taxes were generally more capable of enacting EITCs compared to taxes with more regressive tax systems, a result that cuts against the received wisdom in the literature.
When do Workers Want Unions? The Role of Economic Risk in Shaping Individual Preferences for Unions
When do workers develop preferences for, and join, unions? Using international cross-sectional and panel data, I show that exposure to economic risks plays a powerful role in shaping individual preferences towards labor unions, and that national institutions mediate this relationship in systematic ways.