Jesse Yoder - How Wealthy Are Local Elected Officials? Evidence from Candidates' Housing Wealth (Job Talk Practice)

Mon, Oct 12 2020, 11:30am - 12:50pm

How much wealthier are local elected officials in the United States than those they represent, and why?  I create a new dataset on candidate wealth by linking candidates for state and local offices in California from 2007-2018 to their housing records.  Candidates for nearly all local offices live in higher-value homes than their constituents.  While most previous work on candidate wealth focuses on the U.S. Congress, here I show that because wealth disparities appear even at the earliest stages of the candidate pipeline to higher office, policies designed to increase economic representativeness should start at the local level.  Next, I show that this wealth gap cannot be entirely explained by constraints on the supply of potentially qualified, lower-wealth candidates: the wealth gap remains large even when comparing candidates to non-candidates with similar backgrounds, like candidates for judicial positions to similarly aged lawyers who attended the same law school, for example.  Finally, I show that the wealthy are over-represented in local offices in part because elections favor them over lower-wealth candidates.  I show that local-level reforms to campaign finance and to at-large election systems, which seem to especially favor wealthy candidates, may increase economic representativeness across many levels of government.


I am a PhD candidate in Political Science at Stanford University.

My research studies the political economy of elections and voting behavior in the United States, focusing on how and when individuals choose to participate in politics, and how these factors contribute to inequality in political participation and representation.

Specifically, I focus on three inter-related tracks: 1) linking voters' economic incentives to their political participation, 2) understanding wealth inequality in political representation, and 3) estimating the effects of election administration changes on elections and turnout. To do so, I link large administrative datasets on personal economics, voting, government policies, and election outcomes. I then use modern causal inference techniques to study how and when these factors produce inequalities in political participation and representation.

I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016 with a B.A. in Political Science and Economics.