Houses, Parties and Wealth

In her most recent article, Assistant Professor of Political Science Lindsay Flynn and co-author Herman Mark Schwartz analyze the unexpected reversal of a decades-long trend of young people meeting commonly desired lifestyle milestones like leaving the parental home, partnering, and starting a family.

Data gathered from the developed world show that an increasing proportion of young adults remain in their family homes longer than previous generations, delaying the other subsequent transitions too. Increasing income inequality and public policies regarding housing finance largely drive this trend.

In addition to comparing millennials’ housing choices to those of earlier generations, Flynn and Schwartz investigate variations within the near-retirement generation, where income inequality and housing finance make it more difficult for some to exit into retirement. Flynn and Schwartz observe how current economic and social forces challenge the expectation that social safety nets will expand to pool social and financial risk. It is hardly surprising, they note, that as these social systems weaken “families are seeking shelter from the market by huddling together in their remaining shelter.”

Read more in:

Flynn, Lindsay B. and Herman Mark Schwartz. “No Exit: Social Reproduction in an Era of Rising Income Inequality”, Politics and Society, Sage Journals, Volume 45 No 4, December 2017.

In another piece, Flynn and her co-author Piotr Paradowski match wealth data with political party affiliation using innovative statistical methods, filling a data vacuum that often hampers political science research. Most research examining the effect of economic resources on voting behavior utilizes income as a measure, and finds that those with higher incomes more commonly affiliate with more conservative parties.

Wealth disparities are even greater than income disparities, but surveys on political participation lack wealth data. Flynn and Paradowski statistically matched microdata from individuals’ US party affiliation to microdata from the Luxembourg Wealth Study Database (LWS) as a way to ‘impute’ this missing data.

The data display a shift in US party affiliation among the wealthiest Americans. For example, within the wealthiest quartile, there was a greater percentage of “strong Republicans” in 2000, and a larger percentage of “strong Democrats” in 2012. The authors were able to use the imputed data to highlight the significance and usefulness of this statistical approach to wealth and politics, providing an avenue to determine whether wealthy Americans are shifting their political affiliations.

Read more in:

Flynn, Lindsay and Piotr Paradowski. “Can Unequal Distribution of Wealth Influence Vote Choice? A Comparative Study of Germany, Sweden, and the United States” in David K. Jesuit and Russell Alan Williams (Eds.), Public Policy, Governance and Polarization: Making Governance Work. Routledge Critical Studies in Public Management (2017).

Paradowski, Piotr and Lindsay Flynn. “Can political scientists make use of the LWS data? A brief note on party identification and wealth in the United States.” LIS Newsletter, Issue 2017-2 (June 2017).