Redistribution and affirmative action

David Austen-Smith, Michael Wallerstein

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Introduction Many scholars have observed that the politics of redistribution in the US is intertwined with the politics of race. Writing in the 1950s, Lipset and Bendix (1959) argued that the “social and economic cleavage” created by discrimination against blacks and Hispanics “diminishes the chances for the development of solidarity along class lines” (1959: 106). Myrdal (1960), Quadagno (1994) and, most recently, Gilens (1999) claim that racial animosity in the US is the single most important reason for the limited growth of welfare expenditures in the US relative to the nations of Western Europe. According to Quadagno (1994), political support for Johnson's War on Poverty was undermined by the racial conflicts that erupted over job training and housing programs. Alesina et al. (1999) find that localities in the US with high levels of racial fragmentation redistribute less and provide fewer public goods than localities that are racially homogeneous. Alesina and Glaeser (2004) conclude that racial conflict is one of the most important reasons for the low level of redistribution in the US compared to Europe. The dominant approach in studies of race and redistributive politics in the US is to focus on the manner in which race affects voters' preferences regarding redistributive policies. Kinder and Sanders (1996) and Alesina and La Ferrara (2000) find that the sharpest contrast in preferences for redistributive policies in the US today is not between rich and poor or between men and women, but between whites and blacks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSelected Works of Michael Wallerstein
Subtitle of host publicationThe Political Economy of Inequality, Unions, and Social Democracy
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages47
ISBN (Electronic)9780511619793
ISBN (Print)9780521886888
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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