In 2021, we reached out to scholars who are members of the American Political Science Association to support a new organized section on American Political Economy. The response to our petition was rapid and impressive—nearly 400 signatures in a matter of weeks—and in 2022, the new APE organized section was launched.  
The purpose of the section is to facilitate and promote research in the emerging subfield of APE—the study of the interaction of markets and politics in the United States. The section facilitates panels exploring topics related to APE at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, recognizes quality scholarship in the APE subfield with awards, and provides mentorship for younger scholars working in the APE subfield.

The APE organized section overlaps with but is distinct from the Consortium for American Political Economy. It is currently co-chaired by Chloe Thurston of Northwestern University, Jacob Hacker of Yale University, and Chair-Elect Jessica Trounstine of Vanderbilt University. The leadership team includes Nate Kelly, University of Tennessee (secretary-treasurer); Daniel Galvin, Northwestern University (2024 program co-chair); Mallory SoRelle, Duke University (2024 program co-chair); Sarah Anzia, U.C. Berkeley (member of the Executive Council); and Lisa Miller (member of the Executive Council).

For more on the organized section, including how to join, please visit the section’s website.
The Consortium on the American Political Economy Junior Working Group (CAPE-JWG) is a graduate-focused online working group for PhD students and early junior faculty to discuss ongoing research projects and build community, with the ultimate goal of advancing the study of the American Political Economy (APE) within the American political science subfield.
The Consortium on the American Political Economy Junior Working Group
  • Contribute to the intellectual community of American Political Economy (APE) and related topics, including those interested in using a diverse array of methodologies and placing the US in comparative perspective
  • Provide a space for junior members of the discipline to connect, presenting the potential of finding co-authors as well as other joint research opportunities;
  • Workshop on-going research;
  • Offer a place for junior scholars to receive advice from faculty with similar interests;
  • Help mainstream APE as an intellectual project.
  • Public policy
  • Public law
  • Racial and ethnic politics
  • Historical and contemporary political economy
  • American political development (APD)
  • Policy preferences and outcomes
  • Political and economic behavior
  • Qualitative and mixed-methods research
  • Participation is open to any political science graduate student, post-docs, and junior faculty.
  • For students (and recent PhD graduates), we are especially interested in bringing together individuals from a diverse group of universities, where students have an interest in APE and related topics detailed above; these include individuals doing APE-related research at institutions outside of the U.S.
  • Although participation is online, we are interested in students who can participate regularly.
  • Meetings are every third Wednesday of the month, 3-4:30 ET, beginning Spring 2023.
  • Each meeting will feature 1-2 presentations of ongoing research, comments from a discussant, and Q&A session.
  • Once or twice during the semester, we will hold a research professionalization session featuring one or two established junior, mid-career, and senior scholars in APE.

Sign Up for Updates About the Group

Interested in presenting work? Want to stay up-to-date with the group? Complete the following form.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to the co-organizers, Rachel Funk Fordham, Claire Ma and Trevor Brown.
Check back soon for updates.
September 20, 2023 3:00 PM

Damages Denied: The Impact of ERISA’s Statutory Design on Patients’ Access to Health Care

Miranda Yaver
Wheaton College
Pam Herd, Georgetown University
Despite being written primarily as a pension law, the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 has come to apply to the majority of employer-sponsored health plans in the United States. However, despite its health care salience in self-insured plans, it has a key statutory design feature that limits patients’ ability to access their prescribed care: it precludes damages recovery for those who have been denied health coverage, an insurance practice that is pervasive and increasing. What’s more, the law does not even necessarily guarantee the awarding of attorney’s fees if successful. A consequence is that patients from marginalized groups will be less willing to incur the costs of litigating to secure coverage for their prescribed care. The absence of litigation incentives creates perverse incentives for insurers because it makes it all the more unlikely that patients will be able to obtain legal representation, such that insurers may deny with impunity. Drawing on extant literature on path dependence and on ERISA’s history and implementation, legislative history of Congress's health care reform efforts, original data on ERISA-related litigation and bill introductions, and interviews with key legislative and executive staffers, this paper evaluates this statutory design’s persistence across moments of health care reform including the 1993-1994 health care reform efforts, the Patients’ Bill of Rights, and the Affordable Care Act, and the ways in which this can not only limit patients’ rights upon a coverage denial but reduces health insurer accountability in a manner that can perpetuate the denials themselves. (Note: This session will be joint with Alex Garlick.)
October 4, 2023 3:00 PM

‘In This House We Believe’: The Housing Crisis, Redistribution, and the Renter-Homeowner Divide among Democrats

Sam Zacher and Amelia Malpas
Yale University
Mallory SoRelle, Duke University
The intensifying housing crisis in America is disproportionately impacting the nation's biggest metropolitan areas. At the same time, the Democratic voting coalition has increasingly dominated these metros, as Democratic politicians have won more support from affluent, educated urban and suburban homeowners. These interacting dynamics have produced a wide gulf of housing wealth and economic precarity between Democratic renters and homeowners. Given the power of shared partisanship in American politics, does this economic divide translate into preference differences in the coalition? We argue that, indeed, Democratic renters are far more likely than homeowners to favor more aggressive state intervention to mitigate American inequality. Specifically, we show that Democratic renters are consistently more likely than homeowners to support the most left-leaning presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, and redistributive housing policies. Democratic renters are only mildly more supportive of non-housing redistribution but are more likely to intensely demand more public housing. To support these claims, we analyze an array of survey data, including data on a real-world ballot proposition and original data measuring preference intensity. These findings carry implications for the contemporary politics of metro-area housing, the Democratic Party politics of redistribution, and the interaction of economic interests and political identities. (Note: This session will be joint with Marco M. Aviña and Marcelo Roman).
October 18, 2023 3:00 PM

Computer Science Education and Skills for the Digital Economy

Nora Reikosky
University of Pennsylvania
Jesse Rhodes, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Through President Obama’s Computer Science For All and other vocationalized educational policy efforts aimed at “21st Century Skills” and "career readiness," proponents of schooling for work suggest various national crises and social, political, or economic problems related to inequality may be resolved or avoided. Increasingly, career readiness at the K-12 level involves the advancement of STEM and CS curriculum. These policy efforts often target districts serving poor and racially minoritized students to develop technical skills for future work, while aiming to minimize persistent poverty (Greene, 2021). This paper asks how a mainstream emphasis on developing “skills for the 21st century” through computer science (CS) curriculum was developed as a mechanism for achieving “career readiness.” Relatedly, it investigates the political actors and coalitions are that are responsible for advancing the parallel objectives of career readiness and expanded CS education, working to understand how they discursively articulate and advance their aims. I investigate the relationships between NGO, corporate, and philanthropic actors in relation to the state as a persistant alliance devoted to education toward economic ends. I examine public and private advocacy efforts for expanding CS education across all levels of elementary and secondary education, particularly those originating at the federal level during and following President Obama’s administration. I consider these efforts alongside human capital education reforms, analyzing the role of private actors in advancing expanded CS education. I theorize the ways these efforts undermine political equality and democratic institutions and conclude with mechanisms to mitigate these risks.
November 1, 2023 3:00 PM

Owning The Green Grid: The Political Economy of Renewable Energy Policy Design in the U.S. States

Josh Basseches
Tulane University
Sam Trachtman, UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy
My book 'Owning the Green Grid' offers a new account of why U.S. state-level climate and renewable energy policy is so variable in its environmental strength, and so similar in its distributive qualities: namely, in all cases, costs are shifted from utilities to ratepayers. While the political science literature generally highlights the importance of partisanship and energy economy in explaining policy variation, my book centers a new, political economy explanation of variation in policy design. I argue that a key, underappreciated factor is the structure of the electric utility sector because it informs the policy preferences of investor-owned utilities, which are the single most influential interest group actor when it comes to shaping policy design. Drawing on seven state-level case studies of states that vary in partisanship, energy economy and electric sector structure -- and that together house one third of the U.S. population -- I analyze legislative and regulatory texts, more than 16,000 pages of archival material, and transcripts from more than 200 policy-focused interviews to argue that, while partisanship and energy economy may be the primary factors leading to a state’s decision to adopt these policies, it is the structure of the electric utility sector that is the most important factor in how they are ultimately designed.
November 15, 2023 3:00 PM

Credit, Checks and Covid: The Role of Credit in Exacerbating (or Alleviating) Unequal Pandemic Outcomes

Grace Beals
Cornell University
Rhea Myerscough, Butler University
Americans received three stimulus checks of an unprecedented size between April of 2020 and March of 2021. These checks were designed to incentivize citizens’ consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic and, as a result, to mediate the effects of the economic downturn. Concurrently, multiple states increased their regulation of subprime credit products and payday loans in particular. This suggests the following question: what are the implications of credit (in)access for other policy interventions? I hypothesized that access to subprime credit would decrease the stimulus checks’ impact on indebtedness (i.e., with access to payday lending you see a larger jump in indebtedness, despite the stimulus checks). As an initial test of this argument, I use various models, including a fuzzy regression discontinuity in time design (RDiT), to assess the impact of the stimulus checks on debt-to-income ratios across distinct credit regulatory environments. I find that states where payday lending was legal during the pandemic saw a smaller jump in their debt-to-income ratios than states where payday lending was illegal, though this pattern is reversed when I use a larger threshold around the cutpoint. These results suggest that credit mediates existing policy interventions. (Note: This session will be joint with Angie Jo.)
November 15, 2023 3:00 PM

Varieties of Crisis Response: Welfare Regimes and Emergency Fiscal Spending on COVID-19

Angie Jo
Alexander Reisenbichler, University of Toronto
Welfare regimes differ significantly in their design and generosity in normal times, but systematic differences in their response to large crises remain understudied. This paper examines a puzzling relationship between baseline social spending and discretionary fiscal response to COVID-19: countries empirically cluster by welfare regime (Esping-Andersen 1990), rather than welfare state size, government partisanship, or fiscal capacity. In particular, Liberal states vastly overspent on the crisis, relative to their own baselines and other low-spenders, while Social Democratic states underspent. I theorize three supply-side factors to explain the outsized Liberal response: i) Liberal governments inherit weak institutional infrastructure for aid transmission, which inflates volume through inefficiency; ii) Liberal governments must bargain with conservatives to deliver temporary relief policies that are designed to disappear; and iii) Liberal market economies rely on credit and consumption-based growth. These factors favour broad-based cash transfers over alternative policies, causing a short-term “spike” in fiscal spending in Liberal countries, whereas Social Democratic states “smooth” their spending across normal times and crisis times. I use regression, principal components analysis, and case studies of the United States, Germany, and Denmark to illustrate how their everyday welfare states come to constrain and complement their menu of options in crisis. (Note: This session will be joint with Grace Beals.)
February 8, 2024 3:00 PM

Power asymmetry in the US labor market and its impact on political participation

Jack Garigliano
Laura Bucci (St. Joseph's University)
Research on political participation in the United States has long pointed to the workplace as an important site for developing skills and confidence that facilitate engagement in civic and political affairs. Yet the United States is noteworthy for the proportion of its workforce that has no formal channels for participating in workplace governance. Even more, there is evidence that the public-private nature of the US welfare state discourages those dissatisfied with their working conditions from searching for a better job. How, then, does a person’s lack of control over their working conditions inform their confidence in themselves as a political actor, and how does this impact their political participation? To explore this understudied question, I study the shock to working conditions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Using both difference-in-difference and cross-sectional designs, I examine how personal efficacy and political behavior responded to the pandemic differently depending on how one’s working conditions were affected. Further, I show how welfare policies mediated this relationship by demonstrating the effect of state-level policy differences on changes either to people’s working conditions or to their ability to leave for a different job. Based on this study, I point to the importance of worker power in the labor market in informing patterns of political participation. (This will be a joint session with Max Kagan.)
February 22, 2024 3:00 PM

Death, Taxes, and Family: How Information Shapes Attitudes Towards the US Federal Estate Tax

Patrick Sullivan with Kattalina Berriochoa
Lucy Martin (UNC)
The U.S. federal estate tax affects a tiny and declining fraction of the nation’s richest individuals. However, even in an era of increasing wealth inequality, attitudes towards policy reforms such as lowering the exemption amount remain mixed. While self-interest considerations have been investigated as one avenue that influences support, another may be found in the increasingly political debate surrounding implications and potential reform measures of the tax. Advocacy groups and politicians, for instance, have cultivated numerous frames and arguments painting the estate tax as an unfair form of double taxation, a threat to small farms and family businesses, and a policy that infringes on family rights. In this paper, we examine the relative role of these competing frames to disentangle the information that shapes individual policy support and opposition. Using a randomized survey experiment, we deploy a battery of experimental treatments to examine the impact of providing information about individual tax liability, harm (and no-harm) to families, farms, and business, and the case of double-taxation to measure post-treatment policy preferences. With these randomized information provisions, we aim to highlight the importance of misperceptions about socially-oriented considerations, that likely alongside self-interest, determine who and under what conditions Americans support or oppose reforming the federal estate tax. (This will be a joint session with Eric Scheuch.)
April 25, 2024 3:00 PM

The Company Town: Private Power and Public Governance in a Fragmented Polity

Brian Highsmith
Alexander Sahn (UNC)
This paper explores the consequences of structural corporate power for local democracy in the United States, particularly as mediated by jurisdictional fragmentation and policy devolution to under-resourced local governments. By qualitatively examining the various forms of local governance in several historical “company towns,” I suggest that spatially-concentrated property ownership has facilitated the private domination over public life within non-diverse regional economies. Classic labor histories have documented the oppressive employment relationship in these planned communities—including payment in scrip, regular threats of eviction, obstacles to unionization, and employer surveillance of private affairs. But few accounts have examined company towns as local governments: a legal means of achieving an effective merger between the public functions of local governance and private domination of the workplace. This paper aspires to (1) identify the sources and contours of this form of power, developed in part through brief historical case studies; (2) highlight the relationship between this form of power and jurisdictional boundaries, through the interactions between economic geography and jurisdictional fragmentation; (3) discuss the consequences for theories of local democracy, including by developing a set of normative recommendations for fiscal/regulatory federalism design. (This will be a joint session with Rebekah Jones)

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