Government ideology and unemployment in the U.S. states

Nathan J. Kelly, Christopher Witko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Research shows that when the more liberal Democratic Party controls the national government, unemployment is lower, but whether liberal state governments are associated with lower unemployment has not been examined. We argue that more left-leaning governments in the U.S. states have the same preference for and willingness to use government to reduce unemployment, but that the greater resource and policymaking constraints that the states face during economic downturns limit their ability to shape unemployment to economic growth periods. We find evidence for these arguments in an analysis of the U.S. states for the period of 1975–2010. Specifically, when economic growth is low, liberal state governments are associated with increases in unemployment rates similar to or even somewhat higher than conservative governments, but when growth is moderate to high, liberal state governments are associated with greater-than-expected reductions in unemployment. We also provide some evidence that different state spending decisions between liberal and conservative state governments may explain these patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-413
Number of pages25
JournalState Politics and Policy Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Political Science and International Relations


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