Redistribution, Polarization, and Ideology (link)

Why doesn’t rising inequality encourage income redistribution? The standard model posits that the more concentrated income and wealth are, the more the median voter values redistribution. Yet despite the marked increase of inequality in the United States, redistribution has barely changed. We approach this puzzle from a fresh angle by considering the role and nature of polarization on the politics of redistribution. While inequality increases voting elasticity with respect to redistribution, polarization has the opposite effect, thus reducing parties’ accountability towards voters. But without further exploration, inequality and polarization’s effects on redistribution cannot be determined. We demonstrate that for polarization to discourage redistribution, the importance that voters associate to ideology with respect to social issues (“ideological salience”) needs to rise with income. Using data from the American National Election Study and the Census, we verify that this is indeed the case. Armed with this result, we use the model to assess the effects of inequality and polarization on redistribution within no-inequality and no-polarization counterfactuals. Effects of “income elastic” ideological salience can account for the stability of redistribution policy, and shed light on the economic implications of political extremism.

Foreign Born U.S. Citizens and Immigration Policy (with Tracy L. Regan)

We study the impact of immigration on U.S. Congress’ votes on immigration reforms, and disentangle the effects of naturalized and non-naturalized immigrants. Our results indicate that, once controlling for socio-economic and demographic factors that affect voters’ preferences on immigration, the effect of immigration on politicians’ behavior is to be attributed to the share of naturalized immigrants in the population, while non-naturalized immigrants do not further affect votes on immigration policy. Naturalized immigrants exert an additional effect linked to their ability to vote in congressional elections. Higher naturalized immigrant population increases the probability that Democrats vote in favor of immigration, and decreases it for Republicans, suggesting opposite electoral incentives for the two parties (consistent with a model of office-motivated incumbents who try to be re-elected). The results contribute to the understanding of the determinants of immigration policy and the political consequences of rising immigration.