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About the Talk

Professor Larry Bartels (Vanderbilt) examines the relationship between public opinion and social spending in thirty affluent democracies over the past three decades. He finds that governments’ responsiveness to citizens’ preferences was highly skewed in favor of affluent citizens, who were generally less supportive of the welfare state than poor citizens were. This bias in responsiveness reduced the equilibrium level of social spending in most countries by 10-15%. Separate analyses of subsets of country-years differentiated by political culture, democratic consolidation, electoral and policy-making institutions, national wealth, and economic inequality produced significant evidence of severe disparities in responsiveness in every case. These findings suggest that political inequality is rampant in contemporary affluent democracies.

About the Speaker:

Larry Bartels the May Werthan Shayne Chair of Public Policy and Social Science at Vanderbilt University. His scholarship and teaching focus on public opinion, electoral politics, public policy, and political representation. His books include Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age (2nd ed., Russell Sage Foundation and Princeton University Press, 2016) and Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government (with Christopher Achen, Princeton University Press, 2016). He is also the author of numerous scholarly articles and of occasional pieces in the New York TimesWashington PostLos Angeles Times, and other outlets. Bartels is a co-director of Vanderbilt’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, a trustee of the Russell Sage Foundation, and a past vice president of the American Political Science Association. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Academy of Political and Social Science and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.