Soc 226: Political Sociology


University of California, San Diego
Spring 2016-17
M 11:00–1:50, SSB 101

Lane Kenworthy
Office hours: W 11–1, SSB 472
Tel: 858.860.6124

Political sociologists examine the causes and effects of politics and government policies. This course will focus on public social programs (the “welfare state”). What do they do? How well do they work? How are they changing?


April 3
Social programs and welfare state regimes

  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2017 (forthcoming). “Social Programs in the United States and Western Europe: An Introduction.” In Choices and Change in European and American Welfare State Reform, edited by Joseph Cordes and Christian Toft. Oxford University Press. LINK
  • Esping-Andersen, Gøsta. 1990. The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Princeton University Press. Pp. 9-78. LINK
  • Optional: Goodin, Robert E., Bruce Headey, Ruud Muffels, and Henk-Jan Dirven. 1999. The Real Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Cambridge University Press.
  • Optional: Howard, Christopher. 2007. The Welfare State Nobody Knows. Princeton University Press.
  • Optional: Garfinkel, Irwin, Lee Rainwater, and Timothy Smeeding. 2010. Wealth and Welfare States. Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Francis G. Castles, Stephan Leibfried, Jane Lewis, Herbert Obinger, and Christopher Pierson, eds. 2010. Oxford Handbook of the Welfare State. Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Micklethwait, John and Adrian Woolridge. 2014. “The State of the State.” Foreign Affairs.
  • Optional: Monica Prasad. 2016. “American Exceptionalism and the Welfare State: The Revisionist Literature.” Annual Review of Political Science.

April 10
Security and freedom

  • Partanen, Anu. 2016. The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life. HarperCollins. Chapters 1-3, 5, 9. LINK
  • Optional: Friedman, Milton and Rose Friedman. 1979. Free to Choose. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  • Optional: Graetz, Michael J. and Jerry L. Mashaw. 1999. True Security: Rethinking American Social Insurance. Yale University Press.
  • Optional: Tanzi, Vito. 2011. Governments versus Markets. Cambridge University Press.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Stable Income and Expenses.” The Good Society.

April 17
A decent and rising income floor

  • Jencks, Christopher. 1992. “The Safety Net.” Chapter 2 in Rethinking Social Policy. Harper. LINK
  • Jencks, Christopher. 2005. “What Happened to Welfare?” New York Review of Books. December 15. LINK
  • Jencks, Christopher. 2015. “Did We Lose the War on Poverty? Part 1.” New York Review of Books. April 2. LINK
  • Jencks, Christopher. 2015. “Did We Lose the War on Poverty? Part 2.” New York Review of Books. April 23. LINK
  • Jencks, Christopher. 2016. “Why the Very Poor Have Become Poorer.” New York Review of Books. June 9. LINK
  • Optional: Murray, Charles. 1984. Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980. Basic Books.
  • Optional: Edin, Kathryn and Laura Lein. 1997. Making Ends Meet. Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Optional: Bailey, Martha J. and Sheldon Danziger, eds. 2013. Legacies of the War on Poverty. Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Optional: Meyer, Bruce D. and James X. Sullivan. 2013.”Winning the War: Poverty from the Great Society to the Great Recession.” Working Paper 18718. National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Optional: Cantillon, Bea and Frank Vandenbroucke, eds. 2013. Reconciling Work and Poverty Reduction. Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Dollar, David, Tatjana Kleineberg, and Aart Kraay. 2015. “Growth, Inequality, and Social Welfare: Cross-Country Evidence.” Economic Policy.
  • Optional: Edin, Kathryn and H. Luke Shaefer. 2015. $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Optional: Jacques, Olivier and Alain Noel. 2016. “The Case for Welfare State Universalism, or the Lasting Relevance of the Paradox of Redistribution.” Journal of European Social Policy.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “A Decent and Rising Income Floor.” The Good Society.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Public Insurance and the Least Well-Off.” The Good Society.

April 24

  • Bernstein, Jill, Deborah Chollet, and Stephanie Peterson. 2010. “How Does Insurance Coverage Improve Health Outcomes?” Reforming Health Care Issue Brief 1. Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. LINK
  • Elias Mossialos et al, eds. 2016. 2015 International Profiles of Health Care Systems. Commonwealth Fund. Pp. 6-9, 21-30, 59-68, 69-76, 153-160, 171-179. LINK
  • Optional: Davis, Karen, et al. 2014. “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: How the Performance of the US Healthcare System Compares Internationally.” Commonwealth Fund.
  • Optional: Zunger, Yonatan. 2017. “Health Insurance: How Does It Work?” Healthcare in America.
  • Optional: Kliff, Sarah and Ezra Klein. 2017. “The Lessons of Obamacare.” Vox.
  • Optional: Pearson, Mark, et al. 2016. “Universal Health Coverage and Health Outcomes.” OECD.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Health Care.” The Good Society.

May 1
Equality of opportunity

  • Kenworthy, Lane. “Equality of Opportunity.” The Good Society. LINK
  • Esping-Andersen, Gøsta. 2009. “Investing in Children and Equalizing Life Chances.” In The Incomplete Revolution. Polity. Pp. 111-144. LINK
  • Duncan, Greg J. and Katherine Magnuson. 2013. “Investing in Preschool Programs.” Journal of Economic Perspectives. LINK
  • Optional: Ermisch, John, Markus Jantti, and Timothy Smeeding, eds. 2012. From Parents to Children. Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Optional: Landersø, Rasmus and James J. Heckman. 2016. “The Scandinavian Fantasy: The Sources of Intergenerational Mobility in Denmark and the U.S.” Discussion Paper 10000. Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Kenworthy, Lane. “Early Education.” The Good Society.

May 8
Employment (and economic growth)

  • Huo, Jingjing, Moira Nelson, and John Stephens. 2008. “Decommodification and Activation in Social Democratic Policy: Resolving the Paradox.” Journal of European Social Policy. LINK
  • Kenworthy, Lane. “Employment.” The Good Society. LINK COMING SOON
  • Optional: Esping-Andersen, Gøsta, et al. 2002. Why We Need a New Welfare State. Chapters 1-3.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2008. Jobs with Equality. Oxford University Press. Chapters.
  • Optional: Blau, Francine D. and Lawrence M. Kahn. 2013. “Female Labor Supply: Why Is the United States Falling Behind?” American Economic Review.
  • Optional: Lindert, Peter. 2016. “Are Government Social Programs Bad for Economic Growth?” In How Big Should Our Government Be? University of California Press. Pp. 34-66.
  • Optional: Bakija, Jon. 2016. “Would a Bigger Government Hurt the Economy?” In How Big Should Our Government Be? University of California Press. Pp. 67-108.
  • Optional: Hemerijck, Anton, ed. 2017. The Uses of Social Investment. Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Is Big Government Bad for the Economy?” The Good Society.

May 15

  • Helliwell, John, Haifang Huang, and Shun Wang. 2017. “Social Foundations of World Happiness.” World Happiness Report 2017. LINK
  • Anderson, Christopher J. and Jason D. Hecht. 2015. “Happiness and the Welfare State: Decommodification and the Political Economy of Subjective Well-Being.” In The Politics of Advanced Capitalism, edited by Pablo Beramendi et al. Cambridge University Press. LINK
  • Optional: Murray, Charles. 2009. “The Happiness of the People.” American Enterprise Institute.
  • Optional: Radcliff, Benjamin. 2013. The Political Economy of Human Happiness. Cambridge University Press. Pp. 110-141.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Happiness.” The Good Society.

May 22
Government effectiveness

  • Teles, Steven M. 2013. “Kludgeocracy in America.” National Affairs. LINK
  • Schuck, Peter H. 2014. Why Government Fails So Often. Princeton University Press. Chapters ?????.
  • Optional: Micklethwait, John and Adrian Woolridge. 2014. The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State. Penguin. Chapters 7-8.
  • Optional: Lindsey, Brink and Steven M. Teles. 2017. The Captured Economy. Oxford University Press.

May 29
No class: Memorial Day

June 5
Why isn’t America’s welfare state bigger?

  • Bartels, Larry. 2016. Unequal Democracy. 2nd edition. Russell Sage Foundation and Princeton University Press. Chapters 3, 5. LINK
  • Gilens, Martin and Benjamin I. Page. 2014. “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.” Perspectives on Politics. LINK
  • Hacker, Jacob and Paul Pierson. 2010. Winner-Take-All Politics. Simon and Schuster. Introduction and chapters 3-10. LINK
  • Optional: Gilens, Martin. 1999. Why Americans Hate Welfare. University of Chicago Press.
  • Optional: Hicks, Alexander. 1999. Social Democracy and Welfare Capitalism. Cornell University Press.
  • Optional: Huber, Evelyne and John D. Stephens. 2001. Development and Crisis of the Welfare State. University of Chicago Press.
  • Optional: Alesina, Alberto and Edward L. Glaeser. 2004. Fighting Poverty in the US and Europe. Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Martin, Isaac William. 2008. The Permanent Tax Revolt: How the Property Tax Transformed American Politics. Stanford University Press.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane and Leslie McCall. 2008. “Inequality, Public Opinion, and Redistribution.” Socio-Economic Review.
  • Optional: Gilens, Martin. 2012. Affluence and Influence. Princeton University Press.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “How Much Public Insurance Do Americans Want?” The Good Society.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Democracy.” The Good Society.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Taxes.” The Good Society.

June 12
Would a basic income be better?

  • Van Parijs, Philippe. 2001. “A Basic Income for All.” In What’s Wrong with a Free Lunch?, edited by Joshua Cohen and Joel Rogers. Beacon Press. Pp. 3-26.
  • Murray, Charles. 2006. In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State. AEI Press.
  • Optional: Galston, William A. 2001. “What About Reciprocity?” In What’s Wrong with a Free Lunch?, edited by Joshua Cohen and Joel Rogers. Beacon Press.
  • Optional: Bergmann, Barbara R. 2006. “A Swedish-Style Welfare State or Basic Income: Which Should Have Priority?” In Redesigning Redistribution, edited by Erik Olin Wright. Verso.
  • Optional: Widerquist, Karl. 2013. “Is Universal Basic Income Still Worth Talking About?” In The Economics of Inequality, Poverty, and Discrimination in the 21st Century, edited by Robert Rycroft. Praeger.
  • Optional: Van Parijs, Philippe. 2016. “Basic Income and Social Democracy.” Social Europe.


Readings. All of the required readings are available using the links above. Most require a password, which I’ll provide.

Class participation. This is a seminar, not a lecture course. I expect you to participate actively during class each week. There are lots of ways to do this: ask questions, comment, critique, explain, think out loud.

Written comments on the readings. Each student will write comments on the readings for four weeks (not the week of your presentation). The comments should be 1,000-3,000 words, typed single-space with 2-inch side margins. Your objective is to identify the research question, evidence, and conclusion(s) in one or more of the readings for the week and to suggest one or more other empirical analyses that might shed light on the question. Explain how your proposed empirical test(s) would help. Be specific and concise. Avoid lengthy introductions and meandering summaries of the readings. Post the comments on TritonEd by 6:00pm the day prior to class.

You can, if you prefer, write a traditional research paper instead of the five comments. See me for details.

Presentation. Each student will make one in-class presentation during the semester, on the readings for a given week. Use the standard conference presentation as your model: about 20 minutes, with slides.

Grading. Class participation, the written comments, and the presentation will each account for one-third of the course grade.