Dissertation project

My dissertation project investigates the construction of the mid-20th century civil rights agenda in Congress. I examine how liberals in the northern Democratic Party responded to pressures from constituents, interest groups, and social movements on issues of race during party realignment. Using an original dataset of over 3,500 civil rights bills proposed during 1933-68, I trace how certain proposals became central to northern Democrats’ agenda while others were neglected or excluded. I further analyze congressional hearings, floor debates, and archival records of politicians and interest groups to explain these agenda-setting decisions. By tracing and explaining the construction of the civil rights legislative agenda, the project sheds light on the origins and limits of mid-century “racial liberalism” as it emerged among party elites. The project also contributes to social science debates on realignment, agency, and contention in political parties.

Below is a short overview of my dissertation project, presented at the American Bar Foundation Speaker Series in September 2020:

Civil rights and social welfare policy

Connected to my dissertation’s focus on inequality and civil rights, this set of projects examines the impact of civil rights law and policy on social policy in the United States after the 1960s.

The first study investigates the distinctive gender-neutral and broad-coverage design of US family and medical leave policy, arguing that its origins lie in contestation over civil rights law. This study is published in Studies in American Political Development (ungated version here). I also wrote summaries of the research for the 3Streams blog and the Gender Policy Report.

The second study systematically examines the impact of civil rights law on social policy across multiple cases. I presented preliminary research at the 2019 NU APD/Social Policy Workshop and the 2020 Law & Society Association Conference. A working paper is available upon request.

Additional research on racial inequality

Partisanship and racial politics in the Civil War

My co-authored paper with Nathan Kalmoe examines the distinct motives of the mass public, activists, and elites in the U.S. Civil War. We argue that partisanship better explains white northerners’ war participation than their racial views, and suggest that parties can act as a potent force in mobilizing the mass public even when their preferences do not align with the goals or outcomes of a political conflict. A manuscript is available upon request.

White racial attitudes

My collaborative project with Denzel Avant and Brianna White examines the impact of knowledge about racial disparities on support for criminal justice policies among whites. We presented working papers at the 2018 Midwestern Political Science Association Conference, the 2018 Law & Society Association Conference, and the 2018 American Political Science Association Conference. A working paper is available upon request.

Immigration policy and politics

In an article co-authored with Natalie Masuoka and Jane Junn, we argue that rates of participation among Asian Americans must be interpreted in light of structural barriers that the large proportion of non-citizens in this group face. This study is published in Political Research Quarterly. We summarized the findings at the LSE US Centre’s American Politics and Policy blog.

In a working paper, I examine how the length of the period between immigrants’ arrival in the U.S. and their naturalization is a critical socialization period which affects their participation in electoral politics. In this way, immigration policy structures unequal access to political participation for immigrants.

In a research project with Matt Nelsen, we examine non-citizen political participation in two types of Chicago elections in which they are enfranchised (participatory budgeting and local school councils).

Urban politics

I conduct ongoing research with colleagues at the Chicago Democracy Project, examining local and hyper-local politics in Chicago. This includes several blog posts on the Chicago Democracy Project website with timely analysis of local politics and election results (see links here).

I also helped design and implement the Chicago Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Survey (CMANS), which included oversamples of rapidly changing neighborhoods and suburbs. CMANS was a collaborative effort with Tom Ogorzalek, Matt Nelsen, Reuel Rogers, and Traci Burch. Drawing on CMANS, I am working on a collaborative project with Tom Ogorzalek and Matt Nelsen on politics in gentrifying neighborhoods.

For a full list of working papers and conference presentations, see my CV.