Kenneth Scheve: Economic Origins of Authoritarian Values: Evidence from Local Trade Shocks in the United Kingdom


Monday, October 30, 2017, 12:00pm to 1:45pm


Allison Dining Room

Kenneth ScheveProfessor of Political Science, Stanford University.

Authoritarian values have long been thought to be an important determinant of public opinion and political behavior, including most recently for surging waves of populist candidates across the developed world. Explanations for why some individuals have more authoritarian values than others have focused on various processes of socialization, security threats, and economic conflict. We argue that negative economic shocks cause the adoption of authoritarian values through a frustration-aggression mechanism. Large economic shocks hinder individuals' expected attainment of their goals as economic providers and consumers and this interference increases generalized aggression.

Employing an original 2017 survey representative of the British population, this paper uses local economic shocks in Great Britain induced by China's integration with the world economy to estimate the causal impact of economic change on authoritarian values. We find that individuals living in regions in which local labor markets were more substantially affected by imports from China have significantly more authoritarian values. Our estimates are robust to the inclusion of a wide variety of demographic variables as well as controls for immigration patterns. We show that this relationship is driven by the effect of the trade shock on authoritarian aggression and not other dimensions of authoritarianism such as submission or conventionalism. We interpret these results as signaling the importance of economic shocks from many sources such as technological change and macroeconomic cycles on value formation and ultimately political behavior.

View paper

About the speaker

Kenneth Scheve is Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute. He currently serves as the Director of The Europe Center at FSI.

His research interests are in the fields of international and comparative political economy and comparative political behavior with particular interest in the behavioral foundations of the politics of economic policymaking. His research has been published in numerous leading scholarly journals and has been recognized for a number of awards and grants including the Michael Wallerstein Award, the Franklin L. Burdette/Pi Sigma Alpha Award, and Robert O. Keohane Award.

Scheve is the author, with David Stasavage, of Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe, which examines the role of fairness concerns in the politics of progressive taxation from the early 19th century through contemporary debates.

Scheve is also the author, with Matthew Slaughter, of Globalization and the Perceptions of American Workers, examining American public opinion about the liberalization of trade, immigration, and foreign direct investment policies.

His current research projects also include comparative studies examining the role of social preferences in opinion formation about tax policy, trade policy, and international environmental cooperation as well as work on the political origins of changes in wealth inequality in the 19th and 20th century.

Scheve received his PhD from Harvard University and his BA from the University of Notre Dame. 

Read more about Kenneth Scheve's work
Kenneth Scheve website


scheve17.pdf4.94 MB
See also: Fall 2017