Representation and Household Risk Exposure: Attention to Access and Quality in Domestic Policy

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Representation and Household Risk Exposure: Attention to Access and Quality in Domestic Policy

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Title: Representation and Household Risk Exposure: Attention to Access and Quality in Domestic Policy
Author: Chattopadhyay, Jacqueline
Citation: Chattopadhyay, Jacqueline. 2012. Representation and Household Risk Exposure: Attention to Access and Quality in Domestic Policy. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Research Data: http://hdl.handle.net/1902.1/18102
Abstract: This project defines a concept, “attention to quality,” and proposes that legislative attention to quality is a dependent variable that political science can use to evaluate the content of representation the political system offers, specifically to trace a means by which politics may influence household exposure to financial risk and possibly income inequality. Upstream of regulation or other formal policy solutions, attention to quality is observable consideration of the possibility that a good poses risk, or fails to shield consumers from risk, due to features of its own design. The project studies congressional attention to quality for three privately-vended, middle-class goods with the capacity to impact household risk exposure: health insurance, home loans, and prescription drugs. It also examines attention to quality in risk-modulating pieces of the welfare-state, taking Medicare as an example. The project explicitly contrasts attention to quality with attention to access for each good. Second, based on original datasets, this project reports robust evidence that legislative attention to access exceeds legislative attention to quality for the privately vended goods, particularly insurance and loans. It finds the reverse true of welfare-state goods. In doing so, the project contributes new quantitative evidence to the emergent body of research in American politics on how political processes, as opposed to strictly the macro-economy, may influence household financial insecurity. Third, the project makes progress in uncovering the underpinnings of quality attention. It finds senator attention to quality linked to partisan considerations—particularly the other political party’s degree of dominance in quality talk—in ways that appear to depress quality attention for privately-vended goods but buoy it for welfare-state goods. Quality’s visibility to the public appears to heighten the degree to which legislators consider the other party’s degree of dominance in quality talk when deciding whether to give quality attention. These patterns occur against a backdrop of what appears to be electorally-minded access attention: incumbents attend to the access facet of privately-vended goods as reelection dates approach, while not exhibiting such behavior around the quality facet. These findings have implications for research on congressional agenda setting and representation.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10330312
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