My research takes an interdisciplinary comparative social policy angle to study important political science and public policy research questions. I uncover and seek to answer these questions by harnessing my expertise in school systems, their inequalities, and their politics in Western Europe.
- Comparative Social Policy
- Public Policy Change
- Educational Inequalities
- Political parties
- Qualitative Research Methods for Political Science
What political forces contribute to the structure of educational inequalities that divide our societies and their politics today? How can understanding the politics of the particularly status-quo oriented policy field of education help us develop theories of public policy change and stability?
Find more details on my work in each of these two research strands below:
1 – Educational inequalities: political origins and consequences
Doctoral dissertation: The Politics of Equal Opportunities in Education: Partisan Governments and School Choice Reform in Sweden, England, and France, 1980-2010
How does politics shape educational inequalities? The sorting of students into schools of different quality provides unequal opportunities at the compulsory secondary education level. The thesis innovates with a two-dimensional analysis of Student Sorting Institutions: parental choice of school, and school selectiveness. Parties’ positions on Student Sorting Institutions reflect their aim to widen educational opportunities for children of their core electoral support coalitions. Which policy governments adopt depends on partisanship and on the new electoral cleavages flowing from educational expansion in the population. The vast amount of observations from elite interviews, primary archival documents, and secondary sources, analyzed with cutting-edge process tracing methodology, provides empirical evidence for this theory of partisan realignment. This explains commonalities in policy change in Sweden, England, and France, 1980-2010.
Outputs: “Old Priorities, New Programmes”, under review; book project, in progress.
Intergenerational mobility and Britain’s new electoral cleavages (with Andrew McNeil):
How does the stark educational expansion, coupled with occupational upgrading and skill-biased technological change in the British economy over the past half century structure the political cleavages of today? At present overlooked, these developments have generated absolute intergenerational mobility within the population, which contributes to the dividing lines between ‘winners’ of the economic policy consensus of the past four decades, and the ‘left-behind’. We show that intergenerational mobility contributes to the structure to two important cleavages. 1) the Brexit divide: alongside voters’ occupational and educational destination position, their social origins also matter. Amongst the “educated”, those with low parental education were more likely to vote Leave. 2) parents’ aspirations for their children’s education: this matters for today’s coalitions of social investment policies and for children’s educational opportunities, which will shape political cleavages over future generations. How does parents’ experience with intergenerational mobility shape these preferences and behaviours?
Outputs: “Intergenerational Mobility and the Brexit vote”, under review; “Past Mobility, Present Opportunities, and Future Cleavages”, working paper.
2 – Policy change against all odds: Understanding the drivers of policy stability in education, and identifying opportunities for policy change
The politics of long-term policy-making (with Pieter Tuytens)
We contribute to the social and public policy research agenda (see e.g. Jacobs 2016, Annual Review of Political Science) on the role of intertemporal trade-offs in the politics of policy change. Reforms to address long-term policy challenges (climate change, skill formation, population ageing) often engender significant costs in the short run, while intended benefits only materialise in the long run. We theorize that when governments re-evaluate these intertemporal trade-offs, they do not only assess changes in short term costs but also change their ideas about long-term benefits. When the narrative about the future changes, their understanding of future costs to the status quo changes, too. This can be a powerful trigger for policy change. Our case studies of school marketisation reforms by the British Conservative governments of the 1980s and pension reforms of the British Labour government of the 2000s support this dynamic approach to changes in policy-investment decisions.
Output: “Re-imagining the future”, working paper
Who can make a policy-change when teacher unions and middle class voters aren’t unhappy?
Teacher labour markets fail to deliver high quality teacher recruitment and retention in schools that educate children of predominantly low socio-economic origins. This is a similar problem in very different teacher employment systems. Governments in Western Europe have put policies to incentivize teachers to stay in disadvantaged schools onto their school policy agenda, but changes have only occurred at the margin. I argue that organized interests and electoral interests work together to maintain the status quo. In the case of teacher sorting, teacher unions and middle class parents (often antagonists in the politics of school reform), are aligned. A first paper reviews the multi-disciplinary literature in the field and develops a theory of how alignment between teacher unions and middle-class parents constrains policy change. A second project is to collect and analyse data to empirically test the theory. A third, longer-term project seeks to understand and explain sub-national variation in the policy problem, and asks whether alternative coalitions have triggered policy change at the local level, and how these can be harnessed to bring about change at the national level.
Outputs: working paper; research projects
I co-organised three early-career workshops on the Politics of Education with Dr Julian Garritzmann in 2016 (Konstanz), 2018 (Oxford), 2019 (UCL Institute of Education). More information on the network here.
Member of APSA Education Politics and Policy Section, PSA Social Policy and Politics Special Interest Group, CES Political Economy and Welfare Research Network