Soc 290: Comparative Political Economy

University of California, San Diego
Winter 2014-15
Th 9:30–12:20, SSB 414

Lane Kenworthy
Office hours: Th 8:30–9:30, 2–3, SSB 472
Tel: 858.860.6124

What institutions and policies are conducive to liberty, economic security, opportunity, a vibrant economy, shared prosperity, social cohesion, health, happiness, and other desirable features of a modern society? To what extent are there tradeoffs? We’ll examine the history and performance of key policies and institutions in the United States and other affluent nations.


January 8. Introduction

  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2013. “Macrocomparative Research.” LINK
  • Optional: Lieberman, Evan. 2005. “Nested Analysis as a Mixed-Method Strategy for Comparative Analysis.” American Political Science Review 99: 435-452. LINK
  • Optional: Shalev, Michael. 2007. “Limits and Alternatives to Multiple Regression in Comparative Research.” Comparative Social Research 24: 261-308. LINK

January 15. Effect of social policy on economic security

  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2015. “A Decent and Rising Income Floor.” The Good Society. LINK
  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2015. “Public Insurance and the Least Well-Off.” The Good Society. LINK
  • Nelson, Kenneth. 2012. “Counteracting Material Deprivation: The Role of Social Assistance in Europe.” Journal of European Social Policy 22: 148-163. LINK
  • Optional: Esping-Andersen, Gøsta. 1990. The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Princeton University Press. Pp. 1-78. LINK
  • Optional: Goodin, Robert E., Bruce Headey, Ruud Muffels, and Henk-Jan Dirven. 1999. The Real Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Cambridge University Press. LINK
  • Optional: Moller, Stephanie, David Bradley, Evelyne Huber, Francois Nielsen, and John D. Stephens. 2003. “Determinants of Relative Poverty in Advanced Capitalist Democracies.” American Sociological Review 68: 22-51. LINK
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2004. Egalitarian Capitalism. Russell Sage Foundation. Pp. 94-124. LINK
  • Optional: Marx, Ive, Pieter Vandenbroucke, and Gerlinde Verbist. 2012. “Can Higher Employment Levels Bring Down Relative Income Poverty in the EU? Regression-Based Simulations of the Europe 2020 Target.” Journal of European Social Policy 22: 472-486. LINK

January 22. Equality of opportunity

  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2015. “Equality of Opportunity.” The Good Society. LINK
  • Corak, Miles. 2013. “Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 27(3): 79-102. LINK
  • Esping-Andersen, Gøsta. 2009. “Investing in Children and Equalizing Life Chances.” Pp. 111-144 in The Incomplete Revolution. Polity. LINK
  • Optional: OECD. 2010. “A Family Affair: Intergenerational Social Mobility across OECD Countries.” Pp. 3-20 in Economic Policy Reforms: Going for Growth, Part 2. LINK
  • Optional: Ermisch, John, Markus Jantti, and Timothy Smeeding, eds. 2012. From Parents to Children. Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Optional: Bingley, Paul and Niels Westergard-Nielsen. 2012. “Intergenerational Transmission and Day Care.” Pp. 190-203 in From Parents to Children, edited by John Ermisch, Markus Jantti, and Timothy Smeeding. Russell Sage Foundation. LINK
  • Optional: Mazumder, Bhaskar. 2015. “Inequality in Skills and the Great Gatsby Curve.” Chicago Fed Letter 330. LINK

January 29. Economic growth

  • Tanzi, Vito. 2011. Governments versus Markets. Cambridge University Press. Pp. 3-35. LINK
  • Hall, Peter A. and Daniel W. Gingerich. 2009. “Varieties of Capitalism and Institutional Complementarities in the Political Economy: An Empirical Analysis.” British Journal of Political Science 39: 449-482. LINK
  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2014. Social Democratic America. Oxford University Press. Pp. 81-98, 101-109. LINK
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2006. “Institutional Coherence and Macroeconomic Performance.” Socio-Economic Review 4: 69-91. LINK
  • Optional: Baumol, William J. Robert E. Litan, and Carl J. Schramm. 2007. Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity. Yale University Press. Pp. 60-92. LINK
  • Optional: Acemoglu, Daron, James Robinson, and Thierry Verdier. 2012. “Can’t We All Be More Like Scandinavians? Asymmetric Growth and Institutions in an Interdependent World.” Working Paper 12-22. Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. LINK
  • Optional: Hanushek, Eric A. and Ludger Woessmann. 2012. “Do Better Schools Lead to More Growth? Cognitive Skills, Economic Outcomes, and Causation.” Journal of Economic Growth 17: 267-321. LINK
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2010. “Institutions, Wealth, and Inequality.” Pp. 399-420 in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Institutional Analysis, edited by Glenn Morgan, John L. Campbell, Colin Crouch, Ove Kaj Pedersen, and Richard Whitley. Oxford University Press. LINK

February 5. Shared prosperity

  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2015. “Shared Prosperity.” The Good Society. LINK
  • Bailey, Jess, Joe Coward, and Matthew Whittaker. 2011. “Painful Separation: An International Study of the Weakening Relationship between Economic Growth and the Pay of Ordinary Workers.” Commission on Living Standards, Resolution Foundation. LINK
  • Baker, Dean and Jared Bernstein. 2013. Getting Back to Full Employment. Center for Economic and Policy Research. Pp. 1-20. LINK
  • Optional: Leonhardt, David and Kevin Quealy. 2014. “The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest.” New York Times, April 22. LINK
  • Optional: Western, Bruce and Kieran Healy. 1999. “Explaining the OECD Wage Slowdown: Recession or Labour Decline?” European Sociological Review 15: 233-249. LINK
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2011. “When Does Economic Growth Benefit People on Low to Middle Incomes — and Why?” Commission on Living Standards, Resolution Foundation. LINK
  • Optional: Schmitt, John. 2012. “Low-Wage Lessons.” Center for Economic and Policy Research. LINK
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2013. “Rising Incomes and Modest Inequality: The High-Employment Route.” Pp. 31-43 in The Squeezed Middle: The Pressure on Ordinary Workers in America and Britain, edited by Sophia Parker. The Policy
    Press. LINK
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2013. “How to Achieve Shared Prosperity Even if Wages Aren’t Rising.” Pp. 67-74 in Progressive Governance: The Politics of Growth, Stability, and Reform. Global Progress and Policy Network. LINK

February 12. Effect of wage levels on employment

  • Howell, David R., Bert M. Azizoglu, and Anna Okatenko. 2012. “Confronting Low Pay: Minimum Wage Policy and Employment in the US and France.” Working Paper 2012-5. Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis. New School for Social Research. LINK
  • Dube, Arindrajit, T. William Lester, and Michael Reich. 2010. “Minimum Wage Effects Across State Borders: Estimates Using Contiguous Counties.” Review of Economics and Statistics 92: 945-964. LINK
  • Clemens, Jeffrey and Michael Wither. 2014. “The Minimum Wage and the Great Recession: Evidence of Effects on the Employment and Income Trajectories of Low-Skilled Workers.” Working Paper 20724. National Bureau of Economic Research. LINK
  • Optional: Card, David and Alan Krueger. 1994. “Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.” American Economic Review 84: 772-793. LINK
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2008. Jobs with Equality. Oxford University Press. Pp. 57-114. LINK
  • Optional: Schmitt, John. 2013. “Why Does the Minimum Wage Have No Discernible Effect on Employment?” Center for Economic and Policy Research. LINK
  • Optional: Neumark, David, J.M. Ian Salas, and William Wascher. 2013. “Revisiting the Minimum Wage-Employment Debate: Throwing Out the Baby with the Bathwater?” Working Paper 18681. National Bureau of Economic Research. LINK
  • Optional: Plunkett, James and Alex Hurrell. 2013. “Fifteen Years Later: A Discussion Paper on the Future of the UK National Minimum Wage and Low Pay Commission.” Resolution Foundation. LINK
  • Optional: Wren, Anne, Mate Fodor, and Sotiria Theodoropoulou. 2013. “The Trilemma Revisited: Institutions, Inequality, and Employment Creation in an Era of ICT-Intensive Service Expansion.” Pp. 108-146 in The Political Economy of the Service Transition, edited by Anne Wren. Oxford University Press. LINK

February 19. Effects of income inequality

  • Wilkinson, Richard and Kate Pickett. 2009. The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. Bloomsbury Press. Pp. 15-30, 73-87. LINK
  • Boushey, Heather and Carter C. Price. 2014. “How Are Economic Inequality and Growth Connected?” Washington Center for Equitable Growth. LINK
  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2015. “Is Income Inequality Harmful?” The Good Society. LINK
  • Optional: Jencks, Christopher. 2009. “The Poor Die Young: What’s Killing Them?” Harvard Kennedy School. LINK
  • Optional: Stiglitz, Joseph. 2012. The Price of Inequality. W.W. Norton. Pp. 83-145. LINK
  • Optional: Fairbrother, Malcolm and Isaac W. Martin. 2013. “Does Inequality Erode Social Trust? Results from Multilevel Models of US States and Counties.” Social Science Research 42: 347-360. LINK
  • Optional: Gilens, Martin and Benjamin I. Page. 2014. “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.” Perspectives on Politics 12: 564-581. LINK

February 26. Family

  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2015. “Families.” The Good Society. LINK
  • Iversen, Torben, Frances Rosenbluth, and David Soskice. 2005. “Divorce and the Gender Division of Labor in Comparative Perspective.” Social Politics 12: 216-242. LINK
  • Kearney, Melissa S. and Phillip B. Levine. 2012. “Why is the Teen Birth Rate in the United States So High and Why Does It Matter?” Journal of Economic Perspectives 26(2): 141-166. LINK
  • Optional: Castles, Francis. 2003. “The World Turned Upside Down: Below Replacement Fertility, Changing Preferences, and Family-Friendly Public Policy in 21 OECD Countries.” Journal of European Social Policy 13: 209-227. LINK
  • Optional: Popenoe, David. 2008. “Cohabitation, Marriage, and Child Wellbeing: A Cross-National Perspective.” National Marriage Project, Rutgers University. LINK
  • Optional: Adema, Willem, Nabil Ali, and Olivier Thévenon. 2014. “Changes in Family Policies and Outcomes: Is There Convergence?” Social, Employment, and Migration Working Paper 157. OECD. LINK

March 5. Health

  • Wilkinson, Richard and Kate Pickett. 2009. The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. Bloomsbury Press. Pp. 89-102. LINK
  • Offer, Avner, Rachel Pechey, and Stanley Ulijaszek. 2010. “Obesity Under Affluence Varies by Welfare Regimes: The Effect of Fast Food, Insecurity, and Inequality.” Economics and Human Biology 8: 297-308. LINK
  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2014. “Weight Moderation.” The Good Society. LINK

March 12. Happiness

  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2015. “Happiness.” The Good Society. LINK
  • Stevenson, Betsey and Justin Wolfers. 2013. “Subjective Well-Being and Income: Is There Any Evidence of Satiation?” University of Michigan. LINK
  • Radcliff, Benjamin. 2013. The Political Economy of Human Happiness. Cambridge University Press. Pp. 110-141. LINK
  • Optional: Inglehart, Ronald, Roberto Foa, Christopher Peterson, and Christian Welzel. 2008. “Development, Freedom, and Rising Happiness: A Global Perspective.” Perspectives on Psychological Science 3: 264-285. LINK
  • Optional: Layard, Richard, Dan Chisholm, Vikram Patel and Shekhar Saxena. 2013. “Mental Illness and Unhappiness.” Pp. 38-53 in World Happiness Report 2013, edited by John F. Helliwell, Richard Layard, and Jeffrey Sachs. Sustainable Development Solutions Network. LINK
  • Optional: Glaeser, Edward L., Joshua D. Gottlieb, and Oren Ziv. 2014. “Unhappy Cities.” Working Paper 20291. National Bureau of Economic Research. LINK


Readings. All of the required readings are available using the links above. Some 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. A number of the readings are by me, so you’ll need to quickly get over any reluctance you may have to criticize the professor.

Written comments on the readings. Each student will write comments on the readings for three of the ten weeks (not the week of your presentation). The comments should be 2,000-3,000 words, typed single-space with 2-inch side margins. Your objective is to highlight one or more of the central issues addressed in the readings, to locate the authors’ positions vis-à-vis those issues, and to comment critically on the state of the debate and the value of the individual contributions to it. You won’t be able to cover all of the conceivable issues and need not place equal emphasis on each of the readings. Avoid lengthy introductions and summaries of the readings. Your comments should be organized around an argument — a statement about the most fruitful way to study the topic at hand, an adoption of a particular position in a debate, or a critique of some existing line of argument. What’s right? What’s wrong? What’s missing? How could they have done it better? How would you go about doing it if you had the resources? Email the comments to me by 6:00pm the day prior to class.

You can, if you’d prefer, write a traditional research paper instead of the three 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. See the guidelines for the written comments.

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