Groups and Interests (Book Project)

My book project examines the relationship between group identities and attitudes toward redistributive policy. I argue that we can best understand support or opposition to public policies based on an individual's answer to the question - "Is it good for people like me?", which serves as a heuristic for what is likely to be good for oneself in the future. Recognizing the importance of uncertainty in the political and social world, I argue that subjective identification with a group is, in part, acknowledgement that the lives of other group members provide information about potential life outcomes for oneself. Applying insights from sociology and psychology about the sources and consequences of identification with a group, I suggest that the definition of "people like me" varies based on levels of between- and within-group inequality, economic conditions, political institutions, and the strategies of political elites.

The project draws on evidence from cross-national surveys, single-country cross-sectional surveys, single-country panel surveys, elite interviews, and original survey experiments. The evidence is broadly consistent with a definition of "people like me" that combines attention to those in one's social network and to those whose current economic status is predictive of one's own future economic status.

Outline:

    1. Introduction - groups in politics
    2. Groups and Interests - a heuristic theory of ethnic and regional identity
    3. How to study groups - methodological challenges in studying group politics
    4. Group incomes and preferences - evidence for a cross-national evidence for a link between group income and individual attitudes
    5. Linked fate - evidence that individuals think their groups shape their interests
    6. Inequality and prediction - how within-group inequality shapes attitudes
    7. Groups in an uncertain world - how economic instability makes group incomes more important
    8. Political rhetoric and cleavages - how political elites shape the salience of one group over another
    9. Decentralization and heuristics - how federalism can increase or decrease the salience of regional inequality
    10. Why it matters - how individual attitudes and group inequality shape political outcomes