In the project economic and political inequality I investigate the changes in the educational and professional backgrounds of politicians and how these changes affect representation and policy. In a paper "Cabinet ministers and inequality", I investigate whether the changes in the background of the political elites reflect changes in the society. In the paper "Revolving door politics and income inequality", I investigate whether finance ministers with a background in the financial sector are more likely to lower taxes and lead to higher income inequality.
In the "Ideologues, Partisans and Loyalists: Cabinet Ministers and Social Welfare Reform in Parliamentary Democracies", published in Comparative Political Studies, I find that the political and professional background of social welfare ministers predict changes in welfare insurance generosity more than party ideology or party platforms. The policy role of cabinet ministers is further generalised in my book, Ideologues, Partisans and Loyalists, published by Oxford University Press where I also investigate the portfolio of Employment and I undertake in-depth case studies in Ireland, the Netherlands and Greece. There I show that ministers' background and political clout are both strong predictors of policy change.
Economic and political crises have deep effects on societies and their political systems. In the project Technocrats and Economic Policy, I investigate the role of technocrat finance ministers in democracies. I start by reviewing the literature and defining technocrats and technocrats in the article "Technocratic Government and Economic Policy" published by the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. In a working paper "When Technocratic Appointments signal Credibility" we show that international markets reward the appointments of technocrats during financial crises. In the article "Commitment or Expertise:?Technocratic Appointments as Responses to Economic Crises", published in the European Journal of Political Research, we find that technocrats are more likely to be appointed during financial crises in political systems where voters can directly reward and punish politicians through a personal vote. Finally, in the working paper "Who’s to blame?
How financial crises and technocrats change (or not) the welfare state in Europe", I empirically investigate through mediation analysis the extent to which financial crises or/and the appointments of technocrats are responsible for the retrenchment of the welfare state in West European democracies.
Voters have increasingly turned against career politicians and prefer more political outsiders to represent them. In the project the "Professionalisation of politics", I investigate this process through the collection of data on the background of politicians across 18 parliamentary democracies during the last sixty years. In the working paper "Professionalisation and Expertise in Parliamentary Cabinets", I show that the number of professional politicians has increased substantially since the eighties and that the biggest shift has happened within Social-democratic parties where professional politicians have replaced working class politicians. In other projects, I look into the effects of political trust and income inequality in the election of outsider politicians and politicians with a background in Business.
Expanding on this work, we link intra-party politics with cabinet appointments. In two separate working papers "The party on the ground and in government", and "Appointing ministers in multiparty governments", we show that intra-party divisions directly impact government formation. Building on these works, we are investigating how government composition affects party changes and in turn, intra-party conflict affect governance.
In the article “In Search of Successful Reform: The Politics of Opposition and Consensus in OECD Parliamentary Democracies,” published in West European Politics, I address the puzzle that although economists predict than single-party majority cabinets are the best type of government to enact policy reform, the countries that enacted the most politically controversial reforms in the 1980s and 1990s have been typically governed by large multiparty cabinets or small minorities. Going beyond theories of corporatist economic organization, I advance the argument that governments are more successful in pushing forward with politically controversial reforms when they can co-opt opposition parties and isolate militant trade unions.
In the article “Finding Political Capital for Monetary Tightening: Unemployment Insurance and Partisan Monetary Cycles,” published in the European Journal of Political Research I resolve the puzzle that while partisan theories predict that left parties are hurt electorally during periods of monetary stabilization, there is no empirical evidence of partisan monetary cycles. I show that partisan monetary cycles exist, but only when unemployment insurance is low. When unemployment benefits are low and of short duration, Social Democratic parties are less aggressive in their resolve to stabilize inflation.
In our article “Platforms, Portfolios, Policy: How Audience Costs Affect Social Welfare Policy in Multiparty Cabinets,” published in the journal Political Science Research and Methods we explain an empirical puzzle in the literature: if clarity of responsibility is low in multiparty cabinets, why do parties follow through with their promises? We advance a novel theory, which provides the conditions under which political parties can bargain for their preferred policy. Political parties have more bargaining power when they face high audience costs for failing to deliver on their electoral promises. These costs increase with the control of the relevant portfolio, the strength of the policy commitment, and the saliency of the policy issue to party voters. Specifically, we find that Social democratic parties can defend and even advance welfare benefits as long as they have made a strong pledge, control the portfolio of social affairs and are not constrained by a finance minister whose party has pledged to cut down benefits.
Over fifty million people in the European Union are energy poor according to the European Commission. Energy poverty, defined as the inability to attain materially necessitated domestic energy services that ensure the wellbeing of a household, is a major social problem that aggravates health and environmental inequalities. It is associated with poor physical and mental health, such as excess winter deaths, respiratory illnesses, stress, anxiety, and depression. Also, it reduces governments’ capacity to meet their environmental targets. In January 2018, the European Commission set up the Energy Poverty Observatory (EPOV) to help member states address energy poverty. Yet energy poverty is a complex problem that requires coordinated action, as it is affected by a plethora of factors including income, housing conditions and energy prices.
Together with Prof. Michael Aklin at the University of Pittsburgh, we seek to compare and evaluate how governments coordinate (or not) across different policy areas to address energy poverty.
We advance the hypothesis that governments can most effectively address energy poverty (and in turn health and environmental inequalities) when energy, housing, and environment policies are coordinated at the ministerial level.