I am interested in the following topics: inequality, participation, elections, representation, political psychology, Congress, public policy, and research methodology.


“The Influence of Inequality on Welfare Generosity: Evidence from the US States” With Lyle Scruggs (UCONN).  2017.  Politics & Society 45: 35-66

home_coverAbstract: This article examines the relationship between income concentration and policy outputs that determine the generosity of two major state-level safety net programs: unemployment insurance and cash social assistance. Using a difference in differences framework, it tests the degree to which the top 1 percent share is associated with benefit replacement rates for these programs during the period 1978–2010. The results suggest that higher state income inequality lowers those states’ welfare benefits significantly in ways consistent with a “plutocracy” hypothesis that has been suggested in work by scholars such as Bartels, Bonica, Gilens, and Page. The results are robust to controls for several alternative explanations for benefit generosity, including citizen ideology, party control of government, fiscal pressure on programs, state racial heterogeneity, and public opinion liberalism. The results thus support the notion that growing income concentration at the very top undermines social protection policies.

  • Check out our LSE blog post about this article here


“Bankruptcy Reform and Congressional Action: The Role of Organized Interests in Shaping Policy”  2017.  Social Science Research 64: 66-78.

622946Abstract: This paper tests the degree to which PAC contributions can influence voting outcomes on legislation that disproportionately influences the poor. Using passage of the Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 in the House of Representatives, the results show an association between PAC campaign contributions from the financial industry and support for final passage of bankruptcy reform. The findings suggest that one source of underrepresentation of the poor may be donations made by interest groups during campaigns.




“The Effect of Political Parties on the Distribution of Income in the American States: 1917-2011.” With Amy Widestrom (Arcadia) and Christopher Dennis (CSULB).  Forthcoming at Social Science Quarterly.

social_science_quarterlyAbstract: Objectives. This article examines the effects of partisan control of government on income distribution within the United States. Methods. Using newly available data, we estimate the effects of unified Democratic and Republican Party control at the state and national levels on the share of income going to the top 1% of income earners, by state, between 1917 and 2011. Results. We find that unified party control at the state level has minimal impact on income going to the top 1% of income earners within the states, but that unified party control at the federal level does have an effect. Moreover, we find that over the long-term, unified Democratic control at the federal level leads to less income going to the top 1%, while unified Republican control increases income going to top earners. Conclusions. Despite the increased focus on federalism and state policy in studies of income inequality, our findings suggest that federal level political factors are important for understanding the share of income going to the top income earners in the United States, particularly in the contemporary era.


“Opinion Backlash and Public Attitudes: Are Political Advances in Gay Rights Counterproductive?” with Benjamin G. Bishin, Matthew Incantalupo, and Charles Anthony Smith.  2016.  American Journal of Political Science 60: 625-648.
ajps16_cover_smallOne long recognized consequence of the tension between popular sovereignty and democratic values like liberty and equality is public opinion backlash, which occurs when individuals recoil in response to some salient event. For decades, scholars have suggested that opinion backlash impedes policy gains by marginalized groups. Public opinion research, however, suggests that widespread attitude change that backlash proponents theorize is likely to be rare. Examining backlash against gays and lesbians using a series of on-line and natural experiments about marriage equality, and large sample survey data, we find no evidence of opinion backlash among the general public, by members of groups predisposed to dislike gays and lesbians, or those with psychological traits that may pre-dispose them to lash back. The important implication is that groups pursuing rights should not be dissuaded by threats of backlash that will set their movement back in the court of public opinion.

  • Winner of the 2014 APSA Bailey Award for Best Paper in LGBT Politics.
  • Co-Winner of the 2015 Best Conference Paper Award from the APSA Law and Courts section.
  • Check out our LSE blog post about this article here
  • Check out our Monkey Cage blog posts about this article here and here




“Fiscal Policy and Economic Inequality in the U.S. States: Taxing and Spending from 1976-2006” with D. Xavier Medina Vidal (Virginia Tech).  2015.  Political Research Quarterly 68: 392-427.

To what extent can state governments influence economic inequality? How do state fiscal policies of redistribution affect families in different economic situations? Using a large database of state fiscal policymaking tools (taxing and spending) between 1976 and 2006 we examine the effect of these tools on state level inequality as well as the average incomes of families in different economic groups. We find that state taxing and spending efforts can influence these indicators of economic inequality, though these fiscal policy tools can have differential effects. Spending on unemployment compensation and cash assistance as well as revenue from taxes on corporations are found to reduce state level inequality. We also find unemployment compensation to positively benefit the bottom 10th percentile of income earners, while the inheritance tax helps all income groups.   Corporate tax revenue is associated with higher middle class incomes, while income tax revenue benefits both middle and upper incomes. Sales tax revenue positively benefits wealthy earners. Higher property tax revenue is associated with decreased income for all groups. These results suggest that state governments can affect redistribution through fiscal policies, by affecting both state level inequality as well as the economic fortunes of different income groups.

  • See our LSE blog post about this article here
lossy-page1-1200px-american_politics_research-tifThis paper examines the factors that influence two important areas of state tax policy—the adoption of an income tax as well as whether a state permits deducting federal income taxes against state individual income taxes.  We focus on a factor that has largely been unexplored, the flow of income going to the top 1 percent of earners. Employing data during two different time periods (1916-1937 & 1960-2003), we find that the share of income received by the richest 1% of taxpayers corresponds with both the likelihood states will adopt an income tax as well as whether states allow deductions of federal income tax against state individual income taxes.

: This paper investigates the extent to which people link policy preferences with unequal outcomes.  As the American public is both aware and supportive of reducing income inequality, it is an open question whether this concern is translated into support for policies that might help alleviate the rise in economic inequality.   Methods:  Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression and Ordered Logit Regression are used with data from the 1996 General Social Survey (GSS).  Results:  People do in fact match views on income inequality with spending preferences, signifying that people who are concerned about inequality also favor government programs that could help alleviate these disparities.  Moreover, the least well off are more attuned than the upper or middle class at linking attitudes about inequality with government spending preferences.  Conclusion:  The main findings suggest that because citizens are able to link attitudes about inequality with spending preferences, popular sovereignty could be under duress as wealth inequality expands.

home_cover1To what extent do members of Congress respond unequally to people in different economic situations? How does partisan control of the agenda change the way in which Senators respond to the poor? Using data from the 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey, and multiple roll call votes, I examine Senate responsiveness for the 107th through 111th Congresses. The results show consistent responsiveness toward upper income constituents. Moreover, Republicans are more responsive than Democrats to middle-income constituents in the 109th Congress, and a case study of the 107th Senate reveals that responsiveness toward the wealthy increases once Democrats take control of the chamber.
  • See my LSE blog post about the article here


Thomas J. Hayes and Benjamin G. Bishin.  2012.  “Issue Salience, Subconstituency Politics, and Legislative Representation”  Congress and the Presidency 39: 133-159.

uctp_275_393To what extent are citizens able to control their elected officials? Does representation improve when issues become visible? Conflicting results in studies of legislative representation are frequently attributed to issue salience or subconstituency politics. However, most conclusions about the effect of issue salience rely on studies of responsiveness on issues held to be either important or visible. Consequently, we have little idea of how changes in salience serve to alter the representational relationship. To examine this question, we employ a natural experiment to exploit the sudden increase in issue visibility surrounding the consideration of the Armenian Genocide Resolution. We are unable to detect any evidence that salience (as measured by visibility) enhances responsiveness to majority preferences. Instead, salience appears to alter legislators’ sensitivity to different intense subconstituency groups in their districts.


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