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Department of Political Science

Grant Recipients Fall Semester 2022

We are proud to fund and present a diverse and compelling set of research projects on the Politics of Inequality. Please find more information below.

Information coming soon..

Recipients and Project Descriptions


Garret Binding & Judith Spirig

Home economics courses and gendered domestic labor

There is a persistent gender gap in domestic labor. Existing research proposes several drivers of the gender gap in domestic labor, one being that children’s experiences with domestic labor at home might be gendered. This raises the question whether interventions that familiarize both young men and women with some of the basics of housework, such as home economics classes in school, can increase their contribution to housework later in their lives and thereby reduce the domestic labor gender gap. We shed new light on this question by leveraging the quasi-random variation in home economics classes (“Husi”) across Swiss gymnasiums. Drawing on the Social and Economic Conditions of Student Life (SSEE) survey and student registry information about where and when respondents graduated from gymnasium obtained from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, we can compare self-reported housework time of students who went to gymnasium between 1999 and 2018 with and without home economics. Funding will be used to collect data on Swiss-wide gymnasium-level home economics class provision and curricula.


Daniel Chachu & Michael Danquah & Rachel Gisslquist

Towards Understanding Drivers of Variations in Local Government Performance in Developing Countries: The case of Ghana

The arguments for decentralization is premised on its potential to promote inclusiveness, democratization, good governance and local development. While there are various measures of sub-national institutional performance, most measures focus on outputs and outcomes related to the delivery of public goods and services. There is however yet scope for exploring theory-driven approaches of composite measures of sub-institutional performance to reflect the complexity of the concept of local governance but also contribute to our understanding of inequality in local government performance. The quest to understand the evolution of sub-national institutional performance and factors that drive it have often been constrained by a lack of comprehensive data on local government processes, functions and performance. Our project aims to contribute towards filling this gap by contributing new sub-national data in a developing country context – specifically, district-level data for Ghana, where local governance and decentralization have been topics of significant recent public debate. We adopt a theory-driven approach in conceptualizing and measuring local government performance. Next, we explore the extent to which sub-national institutional accountability mechanisms correlate with and explain variations in local government performance. We examine mechanisms such as the quality of local government Annual Progress Reports – product of sub-national monitoring and evaluation processes that capture the development status of districts, including their mobilization and use of public resources. Finally, we use local government case-studies to examine the de-facto institutional accountability process in Ghana and how that relates to sub-national institutional performance.

Michele Fenzl

Michele Fenzl

Processing (Political) Information in Unequal Times

Previous research highlights that inequality affects the way in which citizens behave and think about their polities. Yet, we don't exactly know why. This project suggests one important mechanism that influences the formation of political attitudes and the development of political behavior: the processing of political information. The main research question of the project therefore is: Does inequality affect our understanding of political information? The main theoretical expectations are that inequality may reduce our ability to process political information and, conversely, increase the likelihood of biased information processing. These hypotheses, which will be tested through an online survey experiment to be fielded in Italy and the UK, could shed light on a fundamental mechanism (the processing of political information) able to explain why inequality can influence both political behavior and the formation of attitudes — as the observational literature on the politics of inequality has suggested.

Verena Reidinger

Verena Reidinger

Descriptive Representation, Group Belonging and Perceptions of Democratic Institutions

The representation of social groups in democratic institutions, also defined as descriptive representation (Pitkin 1967), is crucial for people's attitudes towards these institutions. By sending cues of improved deliberation in the interest of social groups within society (Mansbridge 1999), descriptive representation affects how well voters perceive themselves represented by these institutions and how fair they perceive the process of decision-making. For instance, the degree to which women are represented signals improved deliberation in the interest of women to voters (male and female). Previous studies have investigated the effect of descriptive representation on perceptions of representation and procedures. However, in sum, empirical findings remain inconclusive. They do not allow us to answer the question of when and why descriptive representation is relevant for evaluations of institutions. I aim to answer these questions by using group identity theory and connecting it to existing theories of representation. I posit that the degree to which voters identify with their own in-group and the status they perceive the group to have within society predicts how they perceive and process collective descriptive representation of the in- and out-group. I use the concept of political group identity, which defines the degree to which a voter grounds her political preferences in her group identity. I argue that the stronger political group identity is, the more likely voters are to take the cue sent by descriptive representation as signal of improved deliberation. To test this theory, I will collect original survey data, including an online conjoint experiment, in Germany and the UK.