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




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 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 will conduct similar interviews in Germany. 




This paper explores the dynamics of women’s economic independence at the individual household level and its relationship to country-level family policy regimes in nineteen advanced industrial democracies. I show that women at upper ends of the income distribution consistently have less within-household economic independence than their counterparts at the bottom of the distribution, and that this strong negative relationship holds across family policy contexts.


In this paper, I and coauthor Caroline M. Lancaster show that regional identity strength is negatively associated with radical TAN voting; and that this can eclipse the effect of immigration attitudes. We hypothesize that people living in regions with strong regionalist legacies are less attached to their national state (opposed to radical TAN parties’ exclusive state-level nationalism) and possibly more supportive of European integration (opposed to their anti-supranationalism). Using both cross-national data and case evidence from Italy, we find evidence only for the former.  


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 Andreas Jozwiak and David Attewell, examines gender differences in attitudes towards the scope of the welfare state, on the one hand, and attitudes towards the deservingness of recipients, on the other. Consistent with predictions, we show that women are, on average, greater supporters of the scope of the welfare state. However, and contrary to our and the literature’s predictions, we find that women are no more supportive of the deservingness of welfare recipients than are men.