Seth Hill - Party Control and Societal Outcomes in the American States

Seth Hill, Professor of Political Science at University of California, San Diego
Encina Hall West, room 400

Partisan control of state governments clearly affects government policies. But does it affect real-world societal outcomes, such as income inequality, health outcomes, and crime rates? Previous work has reached inconclusive findings on this important question largely due to daunting measurement and inferential challenges. In this paper, we address these challenges to assess how and when the partisan results of elections in the American states influence subsequent societal outcomes.  First, we assemble data on 29 societal outcomes at the state-by-year level over the past four decades.  Second, we examine them both individually and holistically using a Bayesian factor model.  Finally, we use multiple identification strategies, including RDD and panel-based methods. We find that partisan control of state government has noisy and generally small effects on outcomes in the short-term. The noisiness of these findings is not surprising given the many steps in the causal chain between elections and societal outcomes. But these effects appear to cumulate over the longer-term, such that party control of state government has a discernible long-run impact on societal outcomes.


Professor Hill studies political participation and vote choice. He is interested in American elections, representation, and citizen learning about politics. His teaching interests include American politics, voting behavior, and political methodology. His published work has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, World Politics, among others. He has received grant funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. He held a postdoctoral appointment at Yale from 2010 to 2012.