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A Sociology of Fiscal and Financial Policy in the United States

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Abstract

This dissertation explores the social structures of state-level financial and fiscal policies in the United States seeking to uncover how these policies and their evaluation processes influence inequality outcomes. In three papers, each comprising a chapter of the dissertation, I explore the social structures influencing outcomes for state-level financial literacy, income tax, and tax expenditure evaluation policies, respectively. In the first chapter, I present a discourse analysis of state-level financial literacy legislation between 1997 and 2017. During this time, financial literacy reforms maintained near-universal support, while they persistently failed to meet their intended outcomes. I extend Meyer and Zucker’s (1989) theory of permanently failing organizations toward a theory of permanently failing government reform. The second chapter employs a panel model analysis to predict the progressivity of state-level individual income tax rates during the time period of 1981 through 2015—a period characterized as the “permanent tax revolt” (Marin 2008). Findings suggest that higher income inequality is associated with more progressive income tax structures, while states with a higher share of the population that is nonwhite tend toward less progressive structures. In the third chapter, drawing from Oregon income tax expenditure evaluation between 1995 and 2018, I find that formal policy evaluation processes are embedded in their institutional, political, and economic environments. This suggests that evaluation reporting alone may be insufficient to overcome policy ‘lock-in effects’ (Pierson 1993).

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174 pages

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Date Issued

2020-12

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Keywords

Financial Literacy; Fiscal Sociology; Political Sociology; Public Policy; Taxation

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Committee Chair

Cornwell, Benjamin T.

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Committee Member

Berezin, Mabel M.
Young, Cristobal

Degree Discipline

Sociology

Degree Name

Ph. D., Sociology

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document

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dissertation or thesis

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