Northwestern Events Calendar


American Politics Workshop: Prof. Charlotte Cavaille, 'Much Ado About Debt'

When: Friday, February 25, 2022
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM Central

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Stephen Monteiro   (847) 491-7451

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings, Global & Civic Engagement


Please join the American Politics workshop as they host Charlotte Cavaillé, assistant professor of public policy at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. This session will take place in person with remote attendance possible via Zoom.

Much Ado About Debt 
Understanding How People Reason About Debt (Un)Sustainability 

With sovereign debt soaring, the issues of “how much debt is too much debt” and “what to do about it” are likely to move once again from the technocratic realm of “quiet politics” into the electoral realm of “loud politics.” This study extends our understanding of the demand side of fiscal policy by mapping the constraints (if any) that voters impose on policymakers in this policy realm. We have in mind three types of constraints: ideological asymmetry in terms of preference intensity, persistent –as opposed to malleable– concerns over debt sustainability,  a shared mental model regarding the consequences of high debt for inflation, growth and social spending.  For example, deficit and debt-friendly policy elites are more constrained if they face an issue public (a plurality who strongly cares about low deficits and debt), cannot easily manipulate people’s beliefs about debt sustainability and are worried about behavioral responses to high debt (including inflation or tax expectations). Using an original data collection effort in Great Britain, we find little evidence to support the existence of such constraints. We discuss implications for future research, including the need to shift to elite-centric research strategies.  

Charlotte Cavaillé is an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Previously, she was a visiting fellow at Princeton University’s Center for the Study of Democratic Politics and an assistant professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. Through her research, which has appeared in the Journal of Politics and the American Political Science Review, Cavaillé examines the dynamics of popular attitudes towards redistributive social policies at a time of rising inequality, high fiscal stress, and high levels of immigration. She is currently turning her dissertation, which received the 2016 Mancur Olson Best Dissertation Award, into a book manuscript entitled Asking for More: Support for Redistribution in the Age of Inequality. Building on that work, she also studies the relationship between immigration, the welfare state, and the rise of populism. Cavaillé received her PhD in government and social policy from Harvard University in 2014.

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