Political Science Now

John Voorheis, Nolan McCarty, and Boris Shor win the 2016 Franklin L. Burdette/Pi Sigma Alpha Award

The Franklin L. Burdette/Pi Sigma Alpha prize is awarded annually for the best paper presented at the previous year’s annual meeting. The award is supported by Pi Sigma Alpha.

Rising income inequality and its political consequences are important topics of major concern across political science.  In an extensive investigation of American state legislatures and legislators from 1993 to 2013, Voorheis, McCarty, and Shor demonstrate a causal link between increasing inequality and partisan polarization at the state level.  The authors amend conventional wisdom, demonstrating that inequality moves state legislatures to the right, displacing moderate Democrats with Republicans and leaving Democrats more liberal. Within-district inequality moves Republicans to the right while between-district inequality moves Democrats to the left.  The authors argue persuasively that polarization begets more inequality over time, as Republican-dominated legislatures are unlikely to enact redistributive policies and polarization increases legislative gridlock.

Special thanks to our committee Carol Nackenoff (Chair), Swarthmore College; Jake Bowers, University of Illinois; Jonas Pontusson, University of Geneva