Current Research

Regional economic disparity spurs interesting political dynamics in the redistribution of public resources. I investigate effects of regional disparity on redistribution.  This sub-national politics receives relatively little attention from the field of Political Science. Using various measures of regional disparity that are cross-nationally comparable, I explore that regional disparity interacts with political institutions to affect the allocation of government spending.

Particularly, my research focus is on differing policy outcomes of individual income inequality and geography region-based income inequality. One of policy areas that interests me is education spending, which is at variance across countries over time. I look to distinguish policy incentives derived by individual income inequality from those by regional income inequality. Using empirical data on general public education spending as well as sectoral educations spending policies, I test this expectation conditional on the institutions of political competition such as federalism and partisan polarization.  

Overall, my research can contribute to a better understanding of how economic inequality derives public spending policies. Some of the listed working papers below are in that particular research direction in one way or another.

Published Papers

  • Dar, Luciana, and Dong-wook Lee, 2014. “Partisanship, Political Polarization, and State Higher Education Budget Outcomes.” Journal of Higher Education 85(4):469-498. [JHE Download]

Abstract: in this article, we explore how partisanship affects state higher education policy priorities and expenditures. We assumes that party coalitions are heterogeneous and policy preferences / priorities differ via mediating  factors. We find that Democratic Party strength positively affects state funding for higher education but that the effect diminishes as political polarization or unemployment increases.

  • Ha, Eunyoung, Dong-wook Lee, and Puspa Amri, 2014. “Trade and Welfare Compensation: The Missing Links.”  International Interactions.  40: 631-656[International Interactions Download]

Abstract: this study uses theory from embedded liberalism to reorient the debate over efficiency versus compensation in the trade and welfare literature. We detail the causal mechanisms and provide empirical results that show how welfare spending can be a necessary condition to further trade liberalization. We argue that increases in welfare compensation lead to stronger public support for trade, which allows states to further advance along the path toward trade liberalization. Based on the 1995 and 2003  ISSP (International Social Survey Program) for ten OECD countries, our multilevel statistical analyses (individual and country level) show that (1) workers in import-exposed sectors tend to strongly oppose trade, but this effect is substantially diminished when they receive unemployment compensation, and (2) public support for free trade is significantly associated with higher levels of trade openness.

  • Lee, Dong Wook, and Melissa Rogers, Forthcoming.  “Inter-regional  Inequality and the Dynamics of Government Spending.” Journal of Politics.

Abstract: The structure of economic inequality shapes patterns of government spending. We examine the distribution of economic productivity (dispersion and skew) across sub-national regions as a factor explaining the level and allocation of central expenditure. As regional productivity becomes more dispersed, the preferences informing national decision-making should diverge, thus impeding agreement to expand the central state. However, if regional productivity becomes more rightly skewed, an increasing number of less productive regions may be able to press for greater central outlays. Both structural features of inter-regional inequality also shape the allocation of centralized spending. With growing economic dispersion across regions, decision-makers are more likely to agree to fund policy categories that aid qualified citizens in all regions over those that are locally targeted. By contrast, with inter-regional inequality skewing farther to the right, the central expenditure is likely to become more locally targeted. We find strong evidence for these propositions in error correction models using new measures of inter-regional inequality and government policy priorities for a sample of 24 OECD countries

Under Review 

  • “Partisan Politics and Redistributive Policies in South Korea: Evidence from National Level Data Analysis” (with Eunyoung Ha, Lisa Piergallini). R & R at the Journal of East Asian Studies

Abstract: This paper examines the impact of partisan politics on social expenditures—namely, social security and welfare (SSW), education, and health—in regional governments of South Korea from 2002 to 2013. We find that the central government tends to transfer more subsidies to the regional governments that are politically aligned with the incumbent party (i.e., those that have the same party affiliation). The subsidies then provide considerable fiscal room for the regional governments to expand social expenditures. We also find that regional governments affiliated with the centrist party (Saejeongchi minju yeonhap or The New Politics Alliance for Democracy) tend to spend significantly more for SSW and education than do those affiliated with the rightist party (Saenuri-dang or The New Frontier Party). Our findings suggest that partisan politics play a significant role in the allocation of resources to the subnational governments and, in turn, to their constituents.

  • “Measuring Regional Inequality for Political Research” (with Melissa Rogers)

Abstract: Political scientists are increasingly interested in the role that geography plays in shaping political preferences and outcomes. At the center of many of these questions is the existence of economic disparities across geographic political units, such as nations, sub-national regions, urban and rural areas, and electoral districts. In this research note, we briefly review recent research examining the relationship between economic and political geography to show its growing impact in the field of political science. Next, we discuss how existing measures of regional inequality from research in economics fit the concepts and units of political geography. We compare measures of regional economic inequality according to their theoretical and empirical properties and show their value in replications of existing scholarly research. Furthermore, we introduce a new measure of regional inequality that is consistent across the scope and scale of political units.

Works in Progress:

  • Ha, Eunyoung and Dong-wook Lee. “The Impact of Government Ideology and Exchange Rate Regime on Currency Crisis” (Draft)
  • Ha, Eunyoung, Dong-wook Lee, and Jennifer Merolla. “Globalization and Citizens’ Political Ideology” (Draft).
  •  Lee, Dong-wook. “A Political Economy of Sectoral Public Education Spending (1991-2005): Partisan Politics Revisited in Industrialized Democracies” (Draft).
  • Lee, Dong-wook and Melissa Rogers. “Uneven Development, Unequal Education: The Divergent Effect of Federalism on Education Spending” (Draft).
  • Rogers, Melissa and Dong-wook Lee. “Electoral Geography, Inequality, and Representation” (Draft)
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