"Borrowing as a Social Safety Net? How Easier Access to Credit Affects Social Policies in U.S. States"
Credit to households is rarely seen as part of the welfare regime, but it increasingly fulfills social policy functions. I argue that easier access to credit enables fiscally-constrained policymakers to devote fewer public resources toward social insurance policies, because it allows families to borrow as a private alternative to welfare programs during times of income loss. Drawing on the exogenous and differential timing of bank branching deregulation across U.S. states as an instrument for changes in interest rates, I show that policymakers respond to easier access to credit by shifting fiscal resources away from unemployment insurance programs. Furthermore, I use micro-level data to demonstrate that families not only borrow more in states where unemployment benefits are less generous, but also perceive the growing availability of credit as a form of private self-insurance, thereby becoming an alternative to government transfers and reducing families' demand for public social insurance.
"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)