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Alper, Kaitlin and Caroline Marie Lancaster. 2023. The Strength of Attachment: Regionalism, Nationalism and Vote Choice. West European Politics.

This article examines the relationship between strength of regional identity and voting for the radical right in Western Europe. Using ESS data and a new measure of regional identity strength constructed from the Regionalist Parties Dataset (Massetti and Schakel 2016), we show three things: First, people living in regions with strong legacies of regionalism are less attached to their national state; second, regional identity strength is negatively associated with voting for radical right parties; lastly, this relationship can eclipse the effect of immigration attitudes on vote choice as radical right parties’ rhetoric around immigration generally focuses on cultural homogeneity. Evidence supporting these hypotheses is found using both cross-national data and case evidence from Italy.

Alper, Kaitlin, Evelyne Huber and John D. Stephens. 2021. Poverty and social rights among the working age population in post-industrial democracies. Social Forces. 99(4):1710-44. ​

This article explores the determinants of relative market income poverty and poverty reduction among the working age population in 22 advanced industrial democracies. We show that the primary determinants of market income poverty are volume of work as a result of economic and demographic factors, as well as remuneration of work at the bottom of the income distribution driven by labor market institutions. We then show that the main determinants of poverty reduction are social rights; controlling for social rights, need variables are important for explaining poverty reduction as well.


Huber, Evelyne, John D. Stephens and Kaitlin Alper. 2019. The varied sources of increasing wage dispersion. In The European Social Model under Pressure - Liber Amicorum in Honour of Klaus Armingeon, ed. Patrick Emmenegger, Nathalie Giger, and Romana Careja. New York, NY: Springer Publishing.  

This chapter examines the determinants of wage dispersion (90:10 and 50:10 ratios) in 21 advanced democracies. We show that the same factors shape wage dispersion between both the top and bottom and the middle and bottom, but not uniformly across the two measures. The effects of capital market openness, Third World imports, and immigration are stronger for the 50:10 ratio. Union density, wage coordination, temporary employment regulation, and human capital investment restrain both ratios; but the effect of temporary employment regulation is stronger for the 50:10 ratio. 


EPLO EU to Campus Podcast - Interview with Kaitlin Alper introducing the European Parliament

EU Today Podcast - Interview with Kaitlin Alper on economic inequality in the EU




This project, based in my dissertation, focuses on the inclination and ability of subnational governments to redistribute income within their borders. The geographic scope of this project includes the advanced post-industrial democracies of Western Europe and the Anglo-American countries. I contend that regional political actors’ policy aims are focused at the level of the subnational unit, and thus they may use their authority over transfer spending to reduce regional inequality. In contrast, central government actors are focused on national-level outcomes, and thus route social spending to achieve national-level objectives.

This project is organized into two parts. First, I argue that regional left party incumbency is a significant predictor of inequality reduction at the subnational level; that regionally-determined transfer spending is also a significant predictor of inequality reduction within regions; and that spending on regionally-determined social transfers has a larger substantive effect on within-region inequality reduction than do nationally-determined social transfers. Second, I argue that the ability of subnational political actors to affect inequality outcomes via transfer spending is a function of both their de jure and their de facto bargaining power relative to the central government.


A central component of this project is the creation of a novel Regional Political Economy and Social Policy dataset (still in progress). This dataset is composed of approximately 2,500 region-years from 19 advanced industrial democracies from 1980 to the present. Harmonizing microdata from the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) and the Eurostat Standards of Income and Living Conditions (SILC) datasets and supplementing it with data from the OECD, I have collected data on political economic and demographic data at the subnational level, including regional-level market and disposable income inequality for the general and working age populations; regional-level relative market and disposable income poverty rates; and regional-level unemployment figures. 

I have also collected social transfer spending data for six types of social transfers, including regional per capita spending on unemployment insurance, disability payments and family benefits, among others. In addition, I am using policy documents and reports, constitutions and legislation to hand-code data on the level of government responsible for setting benefit levels for each of these types of social transfers. This will allow for the creation of variables measuring per capita spending on regionally- vs. nationally-determined social transfers. My goal is to create a dataset that will allow me to pursue an extensive research agenda focused on the social and economic impacts of regional vs. national social policy and transfer spending.


In addition to creating a quantitative cross-national dataset, I am conducting in-depth interviews with politicians and experts in France and Germany to elucidate causal mechanisms. I have chosen four regions in France and four regions in Germany based on their party alignment and relative wealth. From May through July 2021, I conducted over twenty such interviews in France while based at Sciences Po in Paris, including interviews with national, regional, departmental and municipal politicians. I have thus collected qualitative data on the policy goals and resource constraints of subnational politicians as they relate to economic inequality outcomes in France. From October through December 2021, I conducted similar interviews in Germany while based at the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS) at Universität Bremen. 




The project which is the focus of my postdoc focuses on the political roots and consequences of 'unequal' (subjective) insecurity in modern advanced democracies. In a book chapter, coauthored with Peter Starke and Queralt Tornafoch Chirveches, we comprehensively maps empirical patterns of subjective insecurity across about 20,000 individuals in 20 OECD countries, using the 2020 Risks That Matter Survey data and other data sources. The chapter’s first aim is to test if and to what extent subjective insecurities in the domains of health, crime, housing, income and unemployment are related to an underlying latent feeling of insecurity. Second, we ask whether there are differences in the short-term and long-term insecurities that people express. Third, we zoom in on the distribution of insecurity. Is there a ‘security gap’ between people with high and low incomes (or with regard to education, gender and other key variables)?

In a related article, we look at the ability of the welfare state to a) reduce insecurity and b) reduce the security gap among the rich and poor. We find that, we find that the poor are more insecure and that the welfare state does have the capacity to
reduce overall insecurity. However,  welfare state interventions do not meaningfully reduce the security gap between income groups. We complement this with national survey data from Denmark. We not only see that insecurity has increased, but also that there is a growing security gap, echoing the cross-national findings.

Lastly, in an ongoing survey experiment fielded in Denmark, Peter Starke and I look at the intersection of physical and economic subjective insecurity and its effect on people's attitudes towards both the welfare state and the criminal justice system. Specifically, we are interested in how physical and economic insecurity shocks affect people's willingness to support more punitive criminal justice and welfare policies.


This paper looks at the determinants of subnational working age market income inequality and redistribution using a portion of the dataset created for my dissertation, among 199 regions in 13 countries between 1990 and 2010. I find that need is a major predictor of subnational working age pre-tax and transfer income inequality, confirming that some of the dynamics present at the national level are also present at the regional level. With respect to working age inequality reduction, I find that the volume of work within regions as measured by employment and unemployment rates significantly predict regional redistribution. Politically, left-wing government incumbency at the regional level increases regional redistribution; and this effect is strengthened by ideological proximity between the region and the state and by the relative wealth of the region.


This project, coauthored with David Attewell and Andreas Jozwiak and David Attewell, examines the sources of women's higher support for redistribution relative to men. Crucially, we add a within-household perspective to the understanding of economic self-interest as a driving factor for women's support for the welfare state. We find that women’s income relative to male partners falls moving up the household income distribution; and that this variation in within-household inequality is consequential for the gender gap in welfare state support. We find no gap among men and women in low-income households. Instead, gaps emerge in the middle of the household income distribution and grow towards the top. Gender inequality and its political consequences are thus intertwined with broader structures of income inequality.


In this project, coauthored with Sean T. Norton, we focus on the interrelationship between state decentralization and social movement decentralization in eleven developed democracies from 2000-2019. We argue that, as states decentralize, the nucleus of political and economic power shift towards the regional level, increasing the importance of more localized social networks to mobilization. In short, social movements decentralize with the state. We test our hypotheses using a novel dataset merging the Regional Authority Index (RAI), and automated event counts.


This project, coauthored with Eroll Kuhn, explores the phenomenon of dual citizenship and its potential for elucidating the effect of context on political attitudes and behavior. Despite an increasingly transnational world, scholarship on dual citizens - arguably the most explicit manifestation of this - has been lacking. This introductory set of studies aims to do two things. First, we conduct a classical survey experiment of four sets of dual citizens (British-American, British-Italian, German-American, German-Italian) to test how priming participants to place themselves in one context vs. another influences their political attitudes and voting behavior. Second, we conduct a within-person experiment of these same groups, asking participants to vote in both contexts as we track their decision-making process using methodology borrowed from behavioral economics. Ultimately, we hope that this project can be a jumping off point for a broader research agenda in this area.

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