Benjamin Enke (Alesina Seminar)


Thursday, January 27, 2022, 4:30pm to 5:45pm


CGIS Knafel, room K354

Ben Enke (Department of Economics), “Morals as Luxury Goods and Political Polarization”


This paper develops a theory of political behavior in which moral values are a luxury good: the relative weight that voters place on moral rather than material considerations increases in income. This idea both generates new testable implications and ties together a broad set of empirical regularities about political polarization in the U.S. The model predicts (i) the emergence of the ``gauche caviar''; (ii) that more rich than poor people vote against their material interests; (iii) that within-party heterogeneity is larger among Democrats than Republicans; (iv) well-known realignment patterns such as that rich-and-morally-liberal voters switch to the Democrats, while poor-and-morally-conservative  voters swing Republican; and (v) that the correlation between people's economic and social policy views (``ideological constraint'') increases both in income and over time. Assuming that parties set policies by aggregating their supporters' preferences, the model also predicts increasing party polarization on social issues over time. We relate these predictions to known stylized facts, and test our new predictions empirically.

Co-sponsored by FAS and IQSS, the Program on Political Economy (PE) supports research-related activities that integrate the study of economics and politics, whether by studying economic behavior in the political process or political behavior in the marketplace. In general, positive political economy is concerned with showing how observed differences among institutions affect political and economic outcomes in various social, economic, and political systems and how the institutions themselves change and develop in response to individual and collective beliefs, preferences, and strategies.

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See the seminar's full schedule at the Program on Political Economy page.

All interested faculty and students are invited to attend.