Life, Literacy, and The Pursuit of Prosperity: Party Competition & Policy Outcomes in 50 States
About the Talk:
We examine whether strenuous party competition promotes economic development and improves social outcomes, drawing on evidence from the 50 American states over the last century. Our evidence includes data on party competition, state spending, and measures of health, education, and prosperity, drawn from each of the states for the period 1880-2010.
Today, strident party competition and partisan polarization are blamed for many of the ills of national politics, and there is growing concern regarding the ways in which government dysfunction are harming the economy. But a much deeper political science tradition points to the virtues of competitive party politics. We find that states with competitive party systems do, in fact, spend more, even after controlling for an array of other variables—and specifically spend more in education and in health and sanitation. We also find that this spending leads, over a generation’s time, to longer life expectancy and higher incomes.
Thus, we conclude that party competition is not just healthy for a political system but for the life prospects of a state’s residents.
About the Speaker:
Thad Kousser studies American state and national politics, government reform, direct democracy, interest group influence, and how politicians use social media. He joined UCSD’s Political Science department in 2003. Thad is a prolific writer and his work can be found by clicking here.
Kousser has been a visiting professor at Stanford University, held the 2015 Flinders Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Political Science in Adelaide, Australia, is a recipient of the UCSD Academic Senate’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the Faculty Mentor of the Year Award, serves as co-editor of the journal Legislative Studies Quarterly, and has worked as a staff assistant in the California, New Mexico, and United States Senates.
*Political Institutions & Political Economy