Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

It's not all about the Benjamins: Essays on political economy and social psychology theories of welfare state preferences
by Goodrich, Benjamin King, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2010, 159; 3415415
Abstract (Summary)

In a democracy, the relationship between the preferences of the citizens and the policies of the government is, in principle, fundamental. Whether this principle holds in practice has been the subject of a long but inconclusive debate in the political science literature. This dissertation focuses primarily on a different question, namely, what are the determinants of mass preferences over welfare state policies?

To answer this question, new quantitative methods are developed, implemented in a Free, Libre, and Open Source Software package, and applied to relatively recent data. The primary contributions of this dissertation to the social science literature are two-fold. First, we present new empirical results on mass political preferences that will be of interest to political scientists, economists, and researchers in other fields. Second, those empirical results are obtained from new estimators that are especially useful for modeling preferences but are also useful for modeling other multivariate phenomena. The strength of these empirical results will hopefully spur innovation on a third front, namely the way in which political economists develop theoretical models of the process by which political preferences are aggregated in democracies.

The first chapter is largely empirical and tests traditional political economy theories of preferences for redistribution against theories of inequality aversion, using the method developed in the second chapter. The main empirical conclusion of the first chapter is that a plurality of the variance in preferences for redistribution is attributable to differences in inequality aversion. The second chapter is methodological and attempts to answer the question of how many explanatory variables went into the data-generating process for the outcome variables we observe. The third chapter develops another new estimator and applies it to empirical data on preferences for redistribution and immigration. The main empirical conclusion of the third chapter is that not only is inequality aversion important to our understanding of preferences for redistribution but that it is is mostly exogenous to other factors in the model.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Alt, James
School: Harvard University
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 71/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Political science
Keywords: Political economy, Social psychology, Welfare state
Publication Number: 3415415
ISBN: 978-1-124-09095-5
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