The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Public Policy Job Talk- Derek Epp

Agendas and Economic Inequality in American Politics

Fri, April 21, 2017 | BAT 5.108

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM


I investigate the relationship between economic inequality and US congressional agendas. Longstanding insights into the influence of political spending on public policy suggest that money can narrow the scope of policy conflicts. I argue that rising inequality should intensify these negative-agenda forces as wealthy interests gain a political advantage relative to other social groups and use this advantage to protect their socioeconomic position by donating to candidates who protect the status quo. The expectation is that economic inequality narrows the purview of policymaking and that this is manifest through a reduction in the diversity of the congressional agenda. Empirical analysis supports this position. Error correction models show that rising inequality is associated with a reduction in the diversity of congressional hearings, bill introductions, and laws. Moreover, these trends appear driven in part by legislators who rely heavily on deep-pocketed donors and political action committees to finance their campaigns.

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