Research / work in progress

This page contains information about my ongoing research projects, including abstracts and the option to download working papers.

The Micro-Foundations of Permanent Austerity: Income Stagnation and the Decline of Taxability in Advanced Democracies (with Olivier Jacques)

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Abstract:

The slowdown of economic growth and the stagnation of incomes for substantial parts of the population in recent decades are well-known. But what are the implications of these changes for the politics of taxation? The consensus in the literature is that income change either has no effect or that large income decline raises support for welfare policies. Focusing on the revenue side of the welfare state rather than the spending side, we present the opposite argument: We predict that economic decline makes individuals less tolerant of paying taxes, because tax increases would imply a reduction of their consumption level. We test this argument using longitudinal data from both repeated cross-sections and panel surveys in the United States, Canada and Japan. Our main finding is that tolerance of paying taxes is lower when individuals perceive that their economic situation deteriorates. Thus, perceived economic decline can create political obstacles against higher taxation.

Download working paper here (June 2022).

Status unmatched: rising inequality and radical voting (with Sarah Engler)

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Abstract:

Income inequality has risen in parallel with the electoral transformations in advanced democracies in recent decades. But how does rising inequality affect the choice between radical right and radical left parties of the voters turning their back on mainstream parties? In this paper, we argue that this choice depends on the (mis)match between individuals’ relative economic position and where they perceive themselves in the social hierarchy. Testing our claims in an empirical analysis of 20 Western democracies between 1987-2019, we find that rising inequality reduces support for mainstream parties and increases support for radical parties in general. However, while radical left parties draw support from the most deprived groups, radical right parties attract support from voters with higher subjective social status who perceive an increasing mismatch with their economic position when income inequality rises. This has important implications for understanding the electoral consequences of rising inequality in advanced democracies.

Download working paper here (January 2022).

Income stagnation and welfare state retrenchment (with Tim Vlandas)

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Abstract

What is the effect of income stagnation on support for the welfare state? Combining novel data on the evolution of income to existing micro- and macro-level datasets, we argue that stagnation leads to greater support for spending cuts and tax cuts. We develop a simple model linking income stagnation to support for cuts via three distinct mechanisms. Stagnation reduces altruistic motives for welfare state spending, it heightens the relative perceived costs of insurance, and it leads individuals to support tax cuts to compensate for their stagnating incomes. Our micro-level empirical analyses show that individuals facing stagnant or lower incomes support spending cuts and tax cuts to a greater extent. This effect is especially strong among high-income individuals and/or people facing low unemployment risk. At the macro level, these dynamics lead to greater retrenchment in countries with lower income growth. Taken together, our findings link the literature on income stagnation to comparative political economy studies of changing welfare states. They help us make sense of why governments implement (often) economically inefficient spending cuts during economic crises, despite rising risks which should lead to larger welfare states. In contrast to previous literature claiming that the implementation of austerity is the result of democracy being subverted, we show that there are rationally based reasons why some pivotal electoral groups may support retrenchment under conditions of economic stagnation.

Download working paper here (July 2022).

Trends in redistribution preferences: A new harmonised dataset (with Julia de Romémont and Ali Bargu)

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Abstract

Socio-economic transformations like rising income inequality are expected to have affected individual preferences for redistribution over the past decades. However, different time periods, different items, and scales hamper the ability to compare longitudinal trends. This paper presents a novel harmonised dataset from four cross-national survey projects (ESS, EVS, ISSP, and WVS) in 31 advanced democracies between 1985 and 2019. We explore the trends in redistribution preferences and how they align with the main explanations and expected political consequences from the literature. We estimate counterfactual support for redistribution adjusted for country-specific differences in survey items and answer scales. We find a moderate but significant increase in support for redistribution over the past three decades, with differences in the extent and timing across countries. Standard explanations like rising inequality or differences in the income position explain only a limited share of the trends over time. Redistribution preferences continue to have a strong impact on voting and social policy outcomes. This longitudinal perspective has the potential to combine insights from different strands of the literature in comparative political economy and comparative politics.

Paper available upon request