Political Representation, Legislative Responsiveness,and Polarized Labor Markets:
The Politics of Rising Wage Inequality in the United States
The alarming rise in wage and income inequality in post-industrial democracies has put the study of the origins, persistence, and
effects of inequality on governing institutions and society at the forefront of research agendas across political science. Despite the
great deal of knowledge that the scholarly community has accumulated about the causes and compositions of income, wage, and
wealth inequality in the United States, American politics scholars have yet to explicitly integrate these literatures into their research.
This paper attempts to link the findings in the labor economics literature about wage inequality and polarizing labor market outcomes
that reward skilled workers over lower skilled workers to research on political representation, polarization, and policy responsiveness
in American Politics. Using data on the economic conditions of congressional districts and the States, this paper analyzes the effect of
constituent level economic conditions on the quality of representation legislators provide their constituents. Using a population of 62
roll call votes in two policy areas linked both theoretically and empirically to the causes of wage inequality, I find that changing labor
market conditions have not made legislators more likely to vote for policies to benefit their constituents. This work adds nuance to work
that find a strong relationship between polarization, ideology, and economic inequality. By utilizing data on constituency level economic
conditions, this work contributes to knowledge about how legislators may be complicit in supporting policies that are not in their
constituents best interests. A complex feedback between labor markets, ideology, public policy, and inequality exists is provided as a
more complete way of studying the American political economy.
The thesis can be downloaded at the Academic Output page.