Seminar with Dr Pavithra Suryanarayan (Johns Hopkins University)

Dr Pavithra Suryanarayan will present her book project "Social-Status and Redistributive Politics".


Summary of the book

Canonical political economy models have emphasized the centrality of income in shaping preferences for redistribution. Yet,  in many parts of the world, empirical studies have shown a weak or no relationship between income and redistributive outcomes. In this book, I argue that an identity cleavage called ``social-status" mediates the relationship between income and redistributive preferences. In societies with hereditary ranked distinctions between groups - with some individuals ranked as "high-status" and others as "low-status" at birth -  the rise of lower-status group in politics not only portends a redistribution of income, but also a desegregation of public goods and spaces. Facing the specter of desegregation, wealthy upper-status elites are able to persuade poor high-status members into anti-redistribution coalitions. In this book I define social-status, describe its salient features, and explain why identities such as class and ethnicity are insufficient for explaining politics in some contexts. I use examples from contemporary and Colonial India, as well as post Civil-War United States to demonstrate when we observe social-status in politics, and how it comes to shape redistributive outcomes such as tax capacity, public good preferences, and vote choice.

Published May 29, 2019 3:23 PM - Last modified May 29, 2019 3:23 PM