Research

Publications

Zoltan Hajnal, John Kuk, and Nazita Lajevardi. “We All Agree: Strict Voter ID Laws Disproportionately Burden Minorities.” The Journal of Politics 80.3 (2018): 1052–1059

Link to paper

John Kuk, Deborah Seligsohn, and Jack Jiakun Zhang. “The Effect of Rising Import Competition on Congressional Voting Towards China.” Journal of Contemporary China 27.109 (2018): 103–119

Link to paper

Working Papers

Politics of Economic and Racial Inequality

Abstract

Have voters become polarized as income inequality has risen? To better understand polarization among the public and its relationship with inequality, I estimate voters’ ideology in two dimensions from 1980 to 2012 with a two-dimensional item response theory (IRT) model. The IRT model shows that the degree of polarization in economic policy preferences has not increased since 1980, but rather that polarization on racial and social issues has increased. The views on racial and social issues are largely driven by racial resentment. The degree of polariza- tion on social issues and on inequality levels are as highly correlated as the degree of correlation between polarization among elected officials and inequality. These results suggest that the link between inequality and polarization in Congress is voters’ polarization on non-economic issues, and not redistributive preferences.

Abstract

The 2016 US presidential election and the rise of populism around the world has engendered a scholarly debate as to whether this rise is due to economic anxiety or cultural threat. While we have growing research favoring the racism argument, fundamental questions remain unanswered. Why has racism become a decisive factor in recent elections? Are there contextual factors that render racism more salient in the contemporary political landscape? In this paper, I explore the impact of economic anxiety on racism and develop a theory to explain how economic anxiety induces an individual’s racism. Individuals whose living standards have stagnated over time and thus fear losing their socioeconomic status are likely to develop stronger in-group solidarity and out-group derogation. Whites counteract economic threats by developing stronger in-group versus out-group identity. I test this theory in two different empirical settings. First, using local Chinese import exposure as an instrument to capture local economic disruption, I measure how an unexpected shock to the local economy engenders a higher level of racial resentment. Second, I run a survey experiment by priming respondents to think about financially stressful situations. Respondents primed with economic anxiety showed a higher level of racial resentment and ethnocentrism.

Abstract

What happens to voters’ hearts and minds when the reality of the American Dream is shifting? The United States has long been called the “Land of Opportunity” with its high levels of social mobility long considered to be the bedrock of American exceptionalism. However, recent research on intergenerational mobility has found large geographical differences within the United States. In this article, I develop a theory explaining why the level of intergenerational mobility in voters’ neighborhoods is correlated with voting behavior. I show that county level-measured mobility is positively correlated with Republican vote share and the individual probability of voting Republican. This article also provides an explanation why poor voters support Republican candidates. Low-income voters vote Republican in the presence of the prospect that hard work will offer them an opportunity to succeed. Low-income voters’ likelihood of voting Republican is more strongly correlated with intergenerational mobility than middle- and high-income voters.

Abstract

Do White Americans change their attitudes when immigrants move into their communities? Evidence from public opinion research remains mixed; finding support for both threat and contact effects, and inferring causality from cross-sectional data. Drawing from research on White flight, we instead propose a geographic sorting model: White Americans who are predisposed to dislike immigration are more likely to leave communities with growing immigrant populations and move to places with fewer immigrants. In the long run, Whites with liberal immigration attitudes remain in places with large immigrant populations, while those with more conservative attitudes move away. We offer evidence supporting the sorting model using geocoded panel data from the General Social Survey (2008-2010). The results suggest White Americans’ residential mobility may be a key mechanism linking local immigrant population size and public opinion on immigration

Voting Rights

Abstract

Critics of strict photo identification laws claim that they impose a disproportionate burden on minority voters. Yet, empirical studies assessing the impact of these laws on minority turnout have reached decidedly mixed results. This article offers a more rigorous test that will help advance the empirical literature and contribute to the legal debate in three ways: we focus on recent elections with a broad set of strict photo ID laws in place, rely on official turnout data rather than surveys, and employ a research design that assesses change over time using a difference-in-difference approach to alleviate the inference problems that plague most existing studies. We use aggregate county turnout data from 2012 to 2016 and find that the racial gap in turnout between more diverse and less diverse counties grew more in states enacting new strict photo ID laws than it did elsewhere. Strict voter ID laws appear to discriminate.

Urban Segregation

Abstract

A growing number of residents in metropolitan America live in rental housing and are increasingly searching for housing online. To better understand their housing search and selection processes, which contribute to persistent residential segregation, we focus on the information environment of the online rental market. We posit that information asymmetries in the online rental market correspond with neighborhood racial composition and socioeconomic status, and can operate to either magnify or reduce existing segregation by influencing the housing searches of prospective renters. We use conventional OLS regression and computational text analysis techniques to test the hypothesis that the language in—and thus information provided by—online rental housing advertisements varies depending on the racial/ethnic and socioeconomic characteristics of neighborhoods. We find marked, consistent, and significant differences in the ways rental units are advertised across neighborhoods in terms of both the overall amount of information provided and differences in content. These systematic information asymmetries draw attention away from conventional explanations of persistent segregation like discrimination and individual preferences. Rather, our results reveal how variance in information on available housing, and the language used in advertisements, may contribute to and reflect how neighborhoods form reputations as appropriate places for particular racial/ethnic groups. By collecting and analyzing a novel data set on the rental market, we also make a methodological contribution, revealing the efficacy of data collected online and computational social science methods for understanding urban processes.

Political Communication and Text Analysis