Areas of Expertise
- Criminal Justice
- Public Opinion
- American Bureaucracy
- Political Behavior
Professor Lerman is a political scientist who writes widely on issues related to political engagement, public opinion, and public policy. Her recent work examines the ways that growing economic inequality, persistent racial bias, and the rise of the carceral state influence citizens’ political beliefs, racial identities, and rates of political participation. She is particularly interested in the political attitudes and behavior of the low-income, youth, and racial minorities. Professor Lerman is the author of two books on criminal justice policy, The Modern Prison Paradox (Cambridge University Press) and Arresting Citizenship (The University of Chicago Press). She also writes on American bureaucracy, privatization, and public/private partnerships. Her current book project, The Public Competency Crisis, explores the micro-politics of privatization, assessing the ways that citizens understand and form preferences toward public versus private provision of goods and services. Professor Lerman’s scholarship can be found in a variety of journals, including the American Political Science Review, Perspectives on Politics, Public Opinion Quarterly, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and Punishment and Society. She received her PhD in 2008 from the University of California, Berkeley.
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GSPP Working Paper (April 2018)
Party polarization is a central feature of American political life, and a robust literature has shown that citizens engage in partisan-confirmation bias when processing political information. At the same time, however, recent events have highlighted a rising tide of anti-government populism that manifests on both sides of the aisle. In fact, data show that large proportions of both Democrats and Republicans hold negative views of government. Using an original set of survey experiments, we examine the psychology of public-sector evaluation. We find that citizens engage in a process of confirmation bias when they encounter new information, which is driven not by party and ideology but by beliefs about the quality and efficiency of government. Taken together, our findings suggest important limitations to citizens’ capacity to learn about public administration, and expand our understanding of what drives confirmation bias with respect to public and private service provision.
Lerman, Amy E. and Vesla M. Weaver. Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control. The University of Chicago Press, 2014.
Lerman, Amy E. The Modern Prison Paradox: Politics, Punishment, and Social Community. Cambridge UP, 2013.
In The Modern Prison Paradox, Amy E. Lerman examines the shift from rehabilitation to punitivism that has taken place in the politics and practice of American corrections. She argues that this punitive turn has had profoundly negative consequences for both crime control and American community life. Professor Lerman's research shows that spending time in America's increasingly violent and castigatory prisons strengthens inmates' criminal networks and fosters attitudes that increase the likelihood of criminal activity following parole. Additionally, Professor Lerman assesses whether America's more punitive prisons similarly shape the social attitudes and behaviors of correctional staff. Her analysis reveals that working in more punitive prisons causes correctional officers to develop an “us against them” mentality while on the job, and that the stress and wariness officers acquire at work carries over into their personal lives, straining relationships with partners, children, and friends.
Articles and Op-Eds
Slate, December 23, 2014
USA Today, June 14, 2017
The Marshall Project, June 14, 2017
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