Working Papers/Projects



APSA Paper: "Race- and Class-based Inequality and Representation in Local Government." (with Jesse Rhodes and Ray La Raja)

MPSA Paper: "Race and Inequality in Representation: New Evidence from Local Politics." (with Jesse Rhodes and Ray La Raja)

Are local governments responsive to the preferences of their citizens -- and, in particular, of disadvantaged and non-white citizens? Can local governing and electoral institutions enhance -- or erode -- the political power of poor and non-white Americans? While local governments play a central role in American democracy, data limitations, particularly an inability to measure the preferences of racial and class groups within municipalities, have obstructed efforts to evaluate whether local governments are responsive to all their citizens. An inability to measure subgroup preferences has also forestalled efforts to gauge whether differences in local institutions mitigate or exacerbate responsiveness to disadvantaged groups.

This paper is the beginning of a project that will to provide an unprecedented look at local government responsiveness, by combining data from a database with information on more than 290 million American adults with information on the ideologies of local representatives, the outputs of local governments, and the electoral and governing institutions of hundreds of communities throughout the United States. Leveraging these advances in "big data," we will examine whether poor and non-white Americans receive unequal representation from local governments, and test whether electoral and governing institutions that facilitate participation and increase descriptive representation of poor and non-white citizens enhance government responsiveness.

While evidence is mounting that local government is responsive to the average citizen, we know little about whether and how institutions expand or constrict opportunities for poor and non-white Americans to wield political power. The limited variation in federal and state institutions circumscribes our ability to understand how institutional design enhances or erodes prospects for comprehensive representation. There is much greater variety in local institutions; yet the absence of data on preferences at the local level has prevented researchers from exploiting this variation to study how institutions mediate government responsiveness.

Our project, for the first time, asseses whether (1) poor and non-white Americans receive less representation from local government on average and (2) local government institutions that facilitate political participation and increase descriptive representation actually enhance prospects for representation of the poor and disadvantaged.

Redistricting and the Office Holder Effect: Individual-Level Evidence on the Magnitude and Nature of the Personal Vote.” (with Stephen Ansolabehere).

This paper provides estimates of the incumbency advantage arising from the personal vote by exploiting the redistricting of 2010 to 2012 and a unique large-sample panel study conducted as part of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study. Ansolabehere, Snyder, and Stewart (2000), among others, use redistricting to measure the electoral advantage of individual office holders by comparing the vote share received by incumbents in portions of their districts that they represented prior to redistricting with the vote share received in portions of their districts that they did not represent prior to redistricting. This methodology solves an important problem with earlier estimates of the office-holder advantage because it allows researchers to hold constant the candidate quality within the districts.   But, it does not fully allow us to explore the mechanisms thought to produce this effect, especially levels of familiarity or contact with the incumbent, or whether the the magnitude of the personal vote depends on the partisanship of voters, past voting behavior, or other characteristics of the electorate.  We analyze individual-level panel survey data of 19,000 respondents interviewed in 2010 and 2012 and find that the individual level data confirm earlier estimates of the magnitude of the office-holder advantage.   We further offer a test of the role of information (or knowledge), pork, constituent service, and partisanship as mechanisms.


"Beyond the Core and Periphery: A New Look at Voter Participation Across Elections." (with Stephen Ansolabehere)

This paper explores the patterns of surge and decline using a sample of actual voter records for the entire United States from 2008 to 2014 and a novel panel survey of voter behavior, spanning the 2010 and 2012 elections. The data on voting records consist of 1 percent of all adults in the United States (approximately 2 million cases), their registration histories, their demographic characteristics (especially age and gender), and, most importantly, their vote histories. These data allow us to measure the actual rate of voting and non-voting in Presidential and Midterm elections -- that is the actual turnout in Presidential and Midterm elections at the individual level. Most research on the link between midterm and presidential turnout examines aggregate turnout rates and assumes that the patterns of surge and decline observed in the aggregate apply at the individual level. Some scholars dispute whether the aggregate data support the assumption at the individual level. We observe, and confirm, the basic pattern asserted by Campbell (1960). We further explore which sorts of individuals are core, peripheral, and non-voters using the 2010-2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study Panel Survey. Core voters are distinctive, we show, in their levels of knowledge about and attention to politics, in their ideology, and in their partisan orientations. We find that Peripheral Voters tend to be more Democratic than Core Voters, and that the Core of the electorate is more polarized ideologically than the Peripheral Voters and Nonvoters.