Working Papers

(please email me for drafts)

"Borrowing as a Social Safety Net? How Credit Markets Substitute for Welfare States and Influence Social Policy Preferences"

In many advanced economies, household debt levels have grown considerably during the past decades. Yet we know little about the political causes and consequences of easier access to credit and rising debt. I argue that credit has become a private alternative to the welfare state. Households increasingly go into debt to smooth income losses and pay for basic social services. This credit-based insurance has policy feedback effects on individuals' social policy preferences. Using micro-level panel data in the U.S. and leveraging variation in unemployment insurance benefits and interest rates across states and over time, I first demonstrate that households borrow more in states where unemployment benefits are less generous. I then show that individuals become less supportive of social insurance policies as borrowing conditions ease. This is driven by higher-income households and respondents who favor a limited role of the government and think they pay more taxes than they should.

"The Anxiety of Precarity: The United States in Comparative Perspective" (with Kathleen Thelen and Bruno Palier)

This paper develops a new perspective on the dynamics of precarity and socio-economic risk across the most advanced industrial countries. A growing number of people are experiencing heightened risk relating to trends in labor markets, social policy regimes, and in some cases in personal finance. We situate developments in the United States in a broader comparative framework to identify the characteristics it shares with other rich democracies as well as the distinctive ways in which precarity manifests itself in the American context. We argue that the US stands out for the way it combines uncommonly high levels of individual-level exposure to risks of various sorts with low levels of collectively provided insurance to mitigate the impact of these risks. Moreover, we show that the institutions of the American political economy if anything operate to compound risk, actively promoting what we call risk amplification, as misfortune in one arena spreads to foment misfortune in others.

Work in Progress

"Why do Families Borrow? Financial Fragility and Social Policy Retrenchment"

"Household Balance Sheets and Social Policy Preferences: New Cross-National Survey Evidence" (with Jacob Gerner Hariri, Amalie Sophie Jensen, and David Dreyer Lassen) [abstract]

"Household Debt, Personal Responsibility, and Support for the Welfare State: Evidence from a Survey Experiment" (with Tess Wise)

Wealth and Policy Preferences: A Cross-National Survey Project (with Jacob Gerner Hariri, Amalie Sophie Jensen, and David Dreyer Lassen)