Jana Morgan - Department of Political Science



My research agenda focuses on issues pertaining to inequality, exclusion, and representation. One of the primary goals of my work is to understand how economic, social, and political inequalities affect marginalized groups and shape democratic institutions and outcomes. In my research, I draw upon a variety of data sources and analytical techniques.

Below I discuss the details of some of the major ongoing research projects within this overarching agenda.

Inequality and Exclusion

Economic Inequality: Two major ongoing projects connect to the overarching theme of economic inequality and representation. In the first,  I am analyzing how institutions of representation interact with social structures of inequality based on ethnic, racial, regional, and gendered divides to influence patterns of political engagement and democratic legitimacy in Latin America and the Caribbean. I have published three articles [with Nathan Kelly] related to this line of research, one that analyzes how policymakers use markets to condition patterns of inequality, one that analyzes how public attitudes regarding crime and inequality are inter-related, and another piece that demonstrates how ethnoracial inequality and patterns of partisan competition fundamentally influence attitudes toward state efforts to redistribute, particularly among sectors of society that have experienced long legacies of exclusion. The overarching project pairs the sort of quantitative cross-national analysis featured in these articles with more in-depth case-based analyses focused on exploring the mechanisms that connect the social structures of exclusion to political processes and outcomes. The overall project will yield several additional journal articles as well as a book.

The second project on economic inequality, which has received significant funding from the Russell Sage Foundation, is concerned with how inequality and associated campaign financing patterns shape political rhetoric and public opinion toward economic issues in the United States. One article associated with this coauthored project has appeared in the Journal of Politics, and we are in the process of a major data collection effort that will allow use to detail the connections between campaign finance, elite rhetoric, and economic issue attention and policymaking. My collaborators and I are developing a book manuscript exploring how the relative power of competing interests shape the congressional agenda and through this agenda-setting mechanism influence the policymaking process and outcomes.

Gender Inequality: My work on gender inequality explores the causes and consequences of women's economic and political marginalization in Latin America. One article in the American Political Science Review (coauthored with Melissa Buice, University of Tennessee PhD) uses multilevel modeling to assess the individual and contextual factors that shape public support for female politicians across Latin America. Another article, published in Politics & Gender, examines changes in attitudes about women's participation in politics in the Dominican Republic. Both papers emphasize the significance of gendered cues from elites in shaping attitudes about women in politics, particularly among men. A chapter analyzing gender differences in Latin American voting behavior has appeared as a chapter in The Latin American Voter (University of Michigan Press, 2015; edited by Ryan Carlin, Matthew Singer, and Elizabeth Zechmeister). Another piece (coauthored with Magda Hinojosa) demonstrates how Latin American political parties remain largely ineffective at furnishing substantive representation for women despite recent advances in their descriptive representation. The chapter is under review as part of a volume on Women, Representation and Politics in Latin America edited by Leslie Schwindt-Bayer.

Representation and Party System Change

My first book, Bankrupt Representation and Party System Collapse (Penn State, 2011), examines a question central to the viability and quality of democratic regimes throughout the world: why do some party systems collapse when faced with considerable pressures while similar systems confronting equally insurmountable obstacles endure? I argue that party systems collapse when linkage fails. Party system collapse occurs when 1) party systems encounter an onslaught of new demands that challenge the core linkage profile of the party system and 2) these foundational demands develop in a context that cripples the capacity of the party system to adapt and respond. As pressures for representation mount, linkage fails and the party system collapses. To demonstrate how linkage failure causes party system collapse, I carry out a detailed examination of a critical case – Venezuela, and I conduct cross-national analysis comparing Venezuela to other instances of party system collapse in Italy, Bolivia, and Colombia as well as places where party systems survived despite serious challenges in Argentina, Belgium, India, and Uruguay. The data include dozens of public opinion surveys; records of legislative activity; content analysis of news coverage; nearly 100 interviews with current and former political elites and party leaders; party archives; as well as election data and economic and social statistics. I employ quantitative content analysis of news reports and government documents, qualitative analysis of interviews, historical analysis of secondary sources, and large-N statistical analysis of survey data. Bankrupt Representation and Party System Collapse has received the Van Cott Award for Outstanding Book from the Political Institutions Section of the Latin American Studies Association and Honorable Mention for the biennial Fernando Coronil Book Award from the Venezuelan Studies Section of the Latin American Studies Association and was supported by funding from the Fulbright-Hays program and the Pew Foundation.

In addition to the book, portions of my argument concerning the Venezuelan case appeared in a 2007 Latin American Research Review article. I have also written a book chapter on party deterioration and ongoing political polarization in Venezuela, which appears as a chapter in Party Systems in Latin America: Institutionalization, Decay and Collapse (edited by Scott Mainwaring, Cambridge University Press). Two other papers under review explore 1) how institutional reform and economic crisis interact to produce political party decay and 2) how my theory of bankrupt representation illuminates the process of political party decay underway in Chile. Another article forthcoming at Latin American Research Review explores how institutional changes during times of crisis pose serious challenges to established political parties.

I have also connected the dynamics of collapse to the features of party system stability in a 2011 Latin American Politics and Society article (with Rosario Espinal and Jonathan Hartlyn), and I have used the bankrupt representation framework to understand threats to stable party systems in a 2017 Journal of Politics in Latin America piece (with Carlos Melendez).

Democracy in the Dominican Republic

This project takes advantage of nine, nationwide public opinion surveys conducted in the Dominican Republic during a period of 20 years which have been pivotal in the emergence of this young democracy (1994-2014). In different aspects of this project, my coauthors and I explore facets of Dominican democracy including trust in government, attitudes towards women’s participation in politics, political interest, and the party system. Articles based on this research have been published in Comparative Political Studies, Latin American Politics and Society, Politics & Gender, International Political Science Review, among others.