The new economic populism: How states respond to economic inequality

William W. Franko, Christopher Witko

Research output: Book/ReportBook

40 Scopus citations


While most observers and scholars of inequality focus on how the federal government has created, or at minimum failed to respond to, inequality, in this book Franko and Witko argue that this nearly exclusive emphasis on Washington, DC, is misplaced. The authors explain that this federal inaction in the face of emerging economic problems is the norm in American history because of the structure of American government and the ability of organized interests to prevent policy change in Washington. The states led the fight against new economic problems during the Progressive Era and Great Depression, and the authors argue that the states are once again leading the fight against growing inequality, a trend they call the “new economic populism.” In contrast to federal institutions and practices that encourage inactivity, because of the variation in state economic problems, public attitudes, government ideology, and political institutions, it is likely that at least some states will confront growing economic problems. Using a variety of unique data and evidence, the authors demonstrate that the public is cognizant of rising inequality and that this growing awareness is associated with more egalitarian political and policy changes, including greater government liberalism, higher minimum wages, and more progressive tax systems. In contrast to the prevailing pessimism regarding income inequality, the authors argue that if history is a guide, these incipient state actions to reduce inequality are likely to spread to other states and even the federal government in the coming decades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages232
ISBN (Electronic)9780190671013
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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