New evidence that increasing economic inequality rises out of political partisanship

Political scientists at the University at Buffalo and Pennsylvania State University have published new research investigating how partisan differences in macroeconomic policy have contributed to substantial and rising economic inequality in the United States.

The negative consequences of such policy decisions, researchers found, have a greater impact on people at the lower end of the economic spectrum, but are “significantly more muted” for those at the higher end of the spectrum.

The study, “Partisan Differences in the Distributional Effects of Economic Growth: Stock Market Performance, Unemployment, and Political Control of the Presidency,” appeared in the Journal of Elections, Public Opinions and Parties on Feb. 15, 2015.

The authors are Harvey D. Palmer, PhD, associate professor of political science at UB, and Bryan J. Dettrey, a recent UB PhD graduate, now teaching at the School of Public Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg.

“All incumbents have the incentive to create economic growth in order to win re-election,” Palmer says, “and they use a variety of policies to achieve this growth. Their policy choices – including those designed to manage the national economy – are usually in harmony with the demands of the core constituent groups of their party.

“We hypothesized that some groups benefit more and some less from the sets of policies chosen by the incumbent government to stimulate growth,” he says.

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