top of page

Social Policy & Inequality

Inequality is a policy choice. There are strong pressures for policymakers to create beneficial policies for positively constructed groups and punitive policies for those groups that are associated with many negative stereotypes. As such, people of color, women, poor people, and immigrants are likely to be systematically disadvantaged in the American political system. Smith seeks to test theories of inequality with rigorous data analysis in order to speak to policy solutions.

"Contraception Deserts"

Smith with a team of collaborators, including Rebecca Kreitzer, Kellen Kane, and Tracee Saunders, are all working to define, measure, and explain the existence of what Kreitzer and Smith call "contraception deserts"--places where access to reproductive health care is inequitably distributed.

We have written about it on a number of occasions, including: 

"‘Contraception deserts’ are what you get when you cut off this little-known federal program" in the Washington Post

"Variation in Title X Leads to Contraception Deserts" in the Gender Policy Report

We are working on a long term project to map all 50 U.S. states and D.C. and to develop a book length manuscript on our findings. 

"An Empirical Assessment of the Social Construction of Politically Relevant Target Groups"

“Reproducible and Replicable: An Empirical Assessment of the Social Construction of Politically Relevant Target Groups” with Rebecca Kreitzer. PS: Political Science & Politics. 2018.

Schneider and Ingram introduced the pivotal theory of social construction of target populations in the American Political Science Review nearly 25 years ago. There, they developed four ideal type groups: advantaged, contenders, dependents, and deviants. They noted that there may be contention around the construction of the groups but implied an expectation of consensus. There has not been, however, a systematic categorization of politically salient target groups based on these categories, nor has there been an empirical assessment of whether or the extent to which consensus around the social constructions of salient target groups exists. We revisit this theory to offer a novel perspective and do so by leveraging advances in technology and methodological strategies. By crowdsourcing the task of evaluating the social construction of various target populations, we are able to assess underlying assumptions of theory as well as outline avenues for future research on policy design.

(Based on a paper that won the 2018 Kenneth J. Meier Award for Best Paper in Bureaucratic Politics, Public Administration or Public Policy)

Check out Professor Smith's CV for more research on Social Policy and Inequality.
bottom of page