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

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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

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John Kuk, Zoltan Hajnal, and Nazita Lajevardi. Forthcoming. “A Disproportionate Burden: Strict Voter Identification Laws and Turnout.” Politics, Groups and Identities.

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Geoff Boeing, Max Besbris, Ariela Schachter, and John Kuk. Forthcoming. “Housing Search in the Age of Big Data: Smarter Cities or the Same Old Blind Spots?” Housing Policy Debate.

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John Kuk and Zoltan Hajnal, “Democratic Party Control Reduces Gender Inequality” Accepted at Legislative Studies Quarterly

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Working Papers

Politics of Inequality

Abstract

Scholars have long considered racial attitudes as an independent factor from economic experiences. In this paper, I question this premise. I explore the impact of economic anxiety on racial attitudes and develop a theory to explain how economic anxiety activates an individual’s racial resentment. 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. Individuals 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

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

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 Census tract 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.

Gender Inequality

Abstract

Women earn less than men who work in the same job with the same level of experience. We know much about this gender wage gap but little about its political or partisan sources. In this article, we examine the effects of party control of state government on gender inequality in income, wages, unemployment, and poverty. Employing both a regression discontinuity design and a dynamic difference-in-difference analysis, we find that electing a Democratic majority to the state house leads to substantial improvement in women’s incomes, wages, and unemployment relative to men – especially in recent years. We also show that policy shifts could be driving that process. Democratic control leads to significantly more liberal policies on women’s rights and abortion. We find, however, fewer clear effects on poverty and less robust results for partisan control of the governor’s office or the state senate. Parties and politics matter, but not always.

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 Inequality

Abstract

More urban residents find their housing through online search tools than any other source and recent research has theorized the potential for online information to transform and equalize the housing search process. Yet little work has examined the quantity and quality of housing information available online. Using a corpus of millions of Craigslist advertisements for rental housing we examine whether housing search websites equalize access to information across neighborhoods. We find that, akin to other off-line information sources, housing websites present segmented and segregated information that tracks with other forms of socio-spatial inequality. Our findings have implications for understanding the structure of the rental housing market as well as the housing search process, and for theorizing how tenants form expectations about neighborhoods and landlords.

Abstract

Housing scholars stress the importance of the information environment in shaping housing search behavior and outcomes. Rental listings have increasingly moved online over the past two decades and, in turn, online platforms like Craigslist are now central to the search process. Do these technology platforms serve as information equalizers or do they reflect traditional information inequalities that correlate with neighborhood sociodemographic characteristics? We synthesize and extend analyses of millions of US Craigslist rental listings and find they supply significantly different volume, quality, and types of information about different communities. Technology platforms have the potential to broaden, diversify, and equalize housing search information, but they rely on landlord behavior and, in turn, likely will not reach this potential without a significant redesign or policy intervention. Smart cities advocates hoping to build better cities through technology must critically interrogate big data for systematic biases.

Abstract

The collateral effects of homicide--that is, tolls on individuals and communities experiencing homicides in addition to loss of life—are numerous. While previous work has documented impacts on children and intergenerational mobility, we explore the effects of violent crime on a different economic outcome. Specifically, we use a unique geocoded and timestamped data set of advertisements for rental housing to examine the effect of neighborhood homicides on local rent prices. Using a regression discontinuity approach, we find that homicide decreases the listed price of nearby rental housing. Homicide reverberates throughout communities, affecting various aspects of individual and collective experience. Additionally, since homicides, and crime more generally, are geographically concentrated, understanding their wide-ranging effects helps explain broader, systemic differences across neighborhoods and how individual residents' lives--including their economic conditions--are shaped by their geographic contexts.

Trade Shock and Congress

Political Communication and Text Analysis