Ongoing research

Disentangling the modern gender vote gap – a refinement of women’s political alignment

In this SNF-Ambizione Project, starting in August 2016, I examine women's changing political alignment in Western Europe. Have women’s policy preferences really changed or have they only switched their political affinity? Do we observe a divergent pattern of both political preferences and voting behavior among different sub-groups of female voters? Which role do parties and their programmatic orientations play in the realignment between women and parties.

By answering these questions, the project seeks to provide a comprehensive analysis of women’s political realignment by providing a refined and in-depth analysis of women’s interests and preferences and accounting for the ideological orientation of parties. First, I study whether the gender vote gap is accompanied by a corresponding gender preferences gap that explains the link between women and parties. Second, I disaggregate the analysis political orientation by taking into account the household or family constellation. Third, I integrate the supply side of political competition, i.e. parties and their ideological orientation, into the study of women’s political realignment.

Inequality, representation and the welfare state

Economic inequality is on the rise in most advanced democracies. This is even more worrisome as economic inequality is related to a number of social and political disadvantages. I study the nexus between various forms of political, social and economic inequalities and their origins in a comparative European perspective. Having worked extensively on the origins and political implications of labor market inequality, I focus now the links between economic deprivation and political inequality as well as the role of political parties and electoral institutions in mediating this link.

One of the questions I am interested in is the rise of the AfD. Until recently, the resilience of the German party system to such a party has been an exception to this general trend. The establishment of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in the wake of the Eurozone crisis put an end to this German exceptionalism. Together with Philip Manow, I test the ‘losers of modernization’-thesis, one of the most dominant explanations for right-wing populist voting, for the case of the AfD. Based on district level data from the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development and official data on electoral outcomes, we examine whether the socio- economic characteristics of a district yield any explanatory power for the AfD’s electoral success in the federal elections. The findings suggest that the modernization thesis bears little relevance for the success of the populist right in Germany. By contrast, we find a strong correlation between the AfD’s electoral success and the success of radical right parties in previous elections in the same district. We explain this intriguing finding with a “tradition of radical right voting” and a specific political culture on which the AfD has been able to draw once the broader political and social context allowed for the creation of a right-wing populist party in Germany.

Changing welfare state policies

The declined capacity of social policy to cushion market inequality and a widespread liberalization trend of labor markets (although often at the margins of labor markets) is an important driver of inequality. Together with Desmond King and Jane Gingrich, I trace the dark side of the `activation turn' of unemployment compensation over the last decades in a case based study of four Continental countries. As a result of the dominance of the neo-liberal paradigm and the corresponding changes of in social coalitions, we argue that unemployment benefts have not only become more unemployed-centered but also more conditional on proving deservingness, thus reducing the social right of receiving unemployment compensation also in Continental and Northern Europe. But introducing conditionality is not sucient to move the unemployed back into the labor market. We argue that a) conditionality has to be actually enforced by the means of sanctions, and b) that this enforcement depends on the state's capacity to monitor the unemployed and the labor market's capacity to absorb the unemployed (low wage sector). The selection of cases selection motivated by similarity in reform pressure but variation in capacity and enforcement of conditionality: Germany, France, United Kingdom and Italy.

Completed projects

Welfare democracies and party politics: Explaining electoral dynamics in times of changing welfare capitalism

Europe’s political landscapes are in turmoil; new radical parties challenge the established political order. The book locates Europe’s contemporary challenges within the longer economic and political trajectories of its “welfare democracies”. The book argues that it is imperative to understand the specific structures of political competition and voter–party links to make sense of the political and economic turmoil of the last decades. In four distinct European welfare democracies (Nordic, Continental, Southern and Anglo-Saxon), the political economy, the party system, and the structure of the political space are co-determined in a specific way. Accordingly, different packages of policies and politics and distinct patterns of alignment between core electoral groups and political parties exist in the four welfare democracies and shape the reactions of European welfare democracies to the current turmoil. The book provides an analytical framework that links welfare states to party systems, combining recent contributions to the comparative political economy of the welfare state and insights from party and electoral politics. It states three phenomena:
1) concerning electoral politics, the book identifies a certain homogenization of European party systems, the emergence of a new combination of leftist socio-economic and rightist socio-cultural positions in many parties, and, finally, the different electoral success of the radical right in the north of Europe and of the radical left in the south.
2) The contributions to this book indicate a confluence toward renewed welfare state support among parties and voters.
3) We find that the Europeanization of political dynamics, combined with incompatible growth models, has created pronounced European cleavages.

The volume includes contributions by Alexandre Afonso, Ben Ansell, Patrick Emmenegger, Jane Gingrich, Silja Häusermann, Torben Iversen, Philip Manow, Kimberly Morgan, Bruno Palier, Johannes Lindvall, Jon Polk, Line Rennwald, Jan Rovny, Allison Rovny, David Rueda, Hanna Schwander and David Soskice.

Effects of the Transformation of the Welfare State on Political Party Competition (2012-2015)

Because party competition is at the core of democratic politics, it is one of the principle means of establishing nation state legitimacy. But how robust is it in the contemporary, transformed state? Political party systems have been in flux since the 1970s, when the lines of conflict around which they were established began to lose their significance. The fact that this process is mediated by the welfare state has, to date, been neglected in analyses of party systems and welfare states. Research on changes in party systems often emphasizes the effects of standard long-term social trends, while neglecting the welfare state's influence on those trends. Comparative welfare state analyses, for their part, examine the role played by political parties in the development of the welfare state, but treat them as an independent variable, ignoring the effects that welfare state changes can have on the party system.

We examine how restructuring the welfare state affects social structures and electorates' party preferences, and, ultimately, party systems. We focus on the two historically most important conflicts in Western European politics: between labor and capital, and between church and state. In the first case, the shift to a service economy has generated voter blocks with new interests in labor market and public employment policy. Likewise, the waning of church-state conflict has reshuffled voter alignments and, in particular, made women's social policy concerns more relevant for party competition.

The project was part of the CRC 597 "Transformations of the State" at the University of Bremen.

The Politicization of Insider‐Outsider Divides in Western Europe: Labor Market Vulnerability and its Political Consequences’ (2008-2012)

My PhD project focuses on the political consequences of the unequal distribution of labour market vulnerability and segmentation (or ‘dualization’) of advanced capitalist societies into insiders and outsiders. I ask how labour market vulnerability (‘outsiderness’) affects political preferences (with respect to the labor market and the welfare state in general) and how it affects party strategies and electoral choices. Due to structural change in the economy and political policy decisions (de‐industrialization, tertiarization, feminization of the workforce, labour market deregulation), the trend towards dualization is widespread across European labor markets but the questions asked in this project have been only marginally addressed by research. As it turns out, the political potential of the insider‐outsider divide is rather limited, although the divide is of increasing importance (at the time of writing). Despite the fact that labour market vulnerability is concentrated among certain socio‐structural groups and that insiders and outsiders have divergent political preferences, a full politicization of the insider‐outsider divide is unlikely to manifest itself. The composition of the two groups is too heterogeneous, and in the countries, where they are most divided structurally, they cohabit in the same households, which neutralizes their conflict potential. Moreover, the social democratic parties, who would be crucial for the mobilization of this divide, do not focus their mobilization attempts on either one of the two groups, but try to mobilize larger electoral coalitions composed of both groups, even if, as the analysis of the electoral behavior of the two groups showed they are not always successful at that. Only as an opposition party are the social democrats able to mobilize both groups to the same extent.

Who is in and who is out? The political representation of insiders and outsiders in Western Europe (2011-2013)

In this project, we want to know to what extent, why and with which political and electoral consequences post-industrial societies become more and more divided in insiders and outsiders. In this project, we developed a novel and more fine-grained measure of individuals exposed to high labor market vulnerability - so-called labor market outsiders -, based on individuals’ risk of being atypically employed or unemployed. Thus, in contrast to the previously existing literature on insider/outsider divides, which relies on the current employment status to measure insiders and outsiders, we consider outsiders as individuals with a particularly high risk for unemployment and atypical employment. The new measurement provides us with a stable and realistic measure of an individual’s labor market situation, and it also allows us measure to what extent outsiders are out, what we call “outsiderness”. With this new measure, we investigate insiders' and outsiders' social policy preferences. Expanding the analytical focus on preferences that are beyond immediate interest to the insider/outsider distinction but have broader distributive implications, we analyzed preferences for different distributive logics of welfare states. Our results that labor market vulnerability has a consistent and strong effect on social policy preferences motivated us to engage more profoundly in the literature on the relationship between labor market risks and political preferences. We analyzed the interaction between education level and outsiderness on welfare state preferences and took into account the conditioning effect of household composition on the importance of outsiderness on welfare state preferences.

Welfare State Transformations in the 21st Century: Effects on Social, Economic and Political Inequality in OECD Countries

This project studies how recent welfare state transformations across advanced democracies have shaped social and economic disparities. The authors observe a trend from a compensatory paradigm towards supply oriented social policy, and investigate how this phenomenon is linked to distributional outcomes. How – and how much – have changes in core social policy fields alleviated or strengthened different dimensions of inequality? The authors argue that while the market has been the major cause of increasing net inequalities, the trend towards supply orientation in most social policy fields has further contributed to social inequality. I contributed a chapter on how dualizing welfare state reforms contributed to a labor market inequality. Relying on several waves from the EU-SILC (2005-2011), I examine patterns of labor market risks and their distribution between groups with different skill and age levels and the interaction of these two factors in four Continental European countries: Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

Are outsiders equally out everywhere? The economic disadvantage of outsiders in cross-national perspective

Despite intense policy debate over labour market dualization, research on cross-country differences in the ‘outsider penalty’ is still in its infancy. In this article, we assess two explanations for cross-national variation in the disadvantages affecting temporary workers (‘outsiders’), measured by the chances of regular employment and risk of unemployment: their socio-economic composition and the effect of labour market institutions (employment protection regulation and the strength of unions). Our findings suggest that variation in the outsider penalty is not caused by the socio-economic composition of the outsider group, but rather by the institutional setting of a country. Outsiders are more disadvantaged in countries with strong employment protection legislation. In contrast, strong unions do not reinforce but mitigate insider/outsider divides in at least some dimensions, a finding that adds to recent research about unions’ reorientation towards mobilizing outsiders.