My book project, "How States Create Electoral Cleavages Through Policies," develops and
tests a novel theory that identity-based cleavages emerge when voters and political entrepreneurs form a parliamentary opposition to government policies. Decisions like how to distribute resources and who has social mobility make identities politically relevant when they divide society into winners and losers based on those same identities. Government policies that link identities to policy outcomes create cohesion between voters who share an
identity and drive them to seek political representation for the interests of the group. The expected electoral success of an identity-based coalition creates powerful incentives for seat- seeking political entrepreneurs and ideologues to organize around the aggrieved identities and eventually cement the opposition to the government in an ethnic party.
I test the theory on several rare cases in which policies did not re-enforce existing cleavages and were not initiated instrumentally by elites in order to mobilize voters along identity. In two German states, Prussia and Bavaria, the state initiated policies that inadvertently aggrieved Catholics while the state and the Church were allies. In Belgium, industrialization during the 19th century made the status-quo of French dominance no longer sustainable, and in the 20th century, the Belgian government initiated austerity measures in response to an economic crisis. Because the policies were not based on existing policies, I can trace how voters and political entrepreneurs began to organize around identity after the policies were initiated.
I substantiate my theory with both process-tracing in multiple languages and statistical analysis of new datasets with fine-grained data on election returns and indicators for Church in influence in Prussia, the demographic profile of constituencies in Prussia and Belgium, and the adoption of the Flemish issue by Belgian legislators. I gain additional leverage from analyzing outcomes of failed attempts by political entrepreneurs to create cleavages and from comparing between the very different cases studies.
Other Research In Progress
"Government Policies and Ethnic Party Formation" (working paper)
"Party Dealignment and Internal Change"
"Did Public Opinion Turn Against the Welfare State?" (with Noam Lupu)
"Diversification in the Social Backgrounds of MPs in the German Empire" (with Carles Boix)
"Who Voted for Hitler Reconsidered" (with Carles Boix and Ingrid Mauerer)
My work examines how identity motivates the behavior of individuals and ultimately shapes macro level outcomes. In the past, I examined this question together with colleagues in the context of violent conflicts.
"Group Segregation and Urban Violence" (with Ravi Bhavnani, Karsten Donnay, Dan Miodownik, and Dirk Helbing), American Journal of Political Science 58: 226-45 (2014).
Winner of the AJPS Best Article Award 2014
"Introduction" (with Dan Miodownik, Oren Barak, and Omer Yair), In Nonstate Actors in Intrastate Conflicts, edited by Dan Miodownik and Oren Barak. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press (2013).