Research Interests

As a historically oriented social scientist, I probe the ways in which political conflicts and public policies are shaped at the intersection of social structures and governmental institutions. In early comparative-historical research, I probed the roots of social revolutions in peasant societies governed by monarchies or colonial authorities, and sought to explain why, despite reformist hopes for liberal outcomes, such revolutions resulted in more centralized authoritarian regimes. Over the past two decades, I have developed an innovative explanation for the distinctive patterning and sequencing of social welfare and public insurance programs in the nineteenth and twentieth-century United States compared to Western Europe; and I have also analyzed the roots and consequences of repeated abortive efforts to establish national health insurance in the United States. My research group on Civic Engagement in American Democracy has documented the growth and transformation of U.S. voluntary associations and interest groups from 1790 to the present, with special emphasis on the shift from membership-based to professionally managed organizations that occurred after 1960. Currently, I am studying the impact of U.S. social programs and higher education policies on equality and opportunity and, more broadly, launching a systematic analysis of the challenges and opportunities faced by public sector reformers responding to economic crisis and political realignment in the emerging Obama era compared to the New Deal of the 1930s and 1940s.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 53: Social and Political Sciences