Areas of Expertise
- State and Local Politics and Policy
- Public Sector Unions
- Electoral Institutions
- Women in Politics
Sarah Anzia is a political scientist who studies American politics with a focus on state and local government, elections, interest groups, political parties, and public policy. Her forthcoming book, Timing and Turnout: How Off-Cycle Elections Favor Organized Groups, examines how the timing of elections can be manipulated to affect both voter turnout and the composition of the electorate, which, in turn, affects election outcomes and public policy. She also studies the role of government employees and public sector unions in elections and policymaking in the U.S. In addition, she has written about the politics of public pensions, women in politics, the historical development of electoral institutions, and the power of political party leaders in state legislatures. Her work has been published in the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, the Quarterly Journal of Political Science, and American Studies in Political Development. She has a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University and an M.P.P. from the Harris School at the University of Chicago.
GSPP Working Paper (August 2012)
GSPP Working Paper (August 2012)
GSPP Working Paper (August 2012)
As recent political battles in Wisconsin, Ohio, and a number of other states attest, public sector unions are among the most active interest groups in American politics. They are also different from other interest groups in two key respects: they engage in collective bargaining, and are thus in a position to shape the organization of government in ways that other groups are not, and their members are the government’s own employees—its bureaucrats—who
not only influence government from the inside through their official roles, but also from the outside through their unions. For all of these reasons, public sector unions are eminently worthy of scholarly attention, and yet political scientists have almost never studied them. This paper is an attempt to make some headway. Our focus is on how unions and collective bargaining in the public sector affect the costs of government. We present three separate studies, using different datasets from different historical periods, and we examine a range of cost-related outcomes: wages and salaries, health benefits, employment levels, and pension liabilities. In all three studies, our findings show that strong unions and collective bargaining do tend to increase the
costs of government, and the impacts are both substantively and statistically significant. In presenting these findings, we hope to encourage other scholars to view public sector unions as important subjects of analysis.
Anzia, Sarah F., and Molly C. Jackman. 2013. "Legislative Organization and the Second Face of Power: Evidence from U.S. State Legislatures." Journal of Politics 75 (1): 210-224.
Do legislative institutions give majority parties gatekeeping power? In this
paper, we exploit variation in U.S. state legislative institutions to test whether
majority party gatekeeping rights aect majority roll rates. We begin by developing
hypotheses about the institutional features of legislatures that could enable the
majority party to block bills. Then, we test these hypotheses using an original
dataset on the legislative organization and majority party roll rates of the 99 U.S.
state legislative chambers. Our findings show that the presence of majority party
gatekeeping rights at various stages of the legislative process is negatively and
signicantly associated with majority roll rates. Specically, in legislatures where
majority-appointed committees can decline to hear bills or decline to report them
to the floor, or where the majority leadership can block bills from appearing on the
calendar, majority roll rates are signicantly lower than in legislatures where those
veto points are absent.
Anzia, Sarah F. 2012. "The Election Timing Effect: Evidence from a Policy Intervention in Texas." Quarterly Journal of Political Science. 7 (3): 209-248.
Recent studies have argued that the low voter turnout that accompanies off-cycle
elections could create an advantage for interest groups. However, the endogeneity of election
timing makes it difficult to estimate its causal effect on political outcomes. In this paper, I
examine the effects of a 2006 Texas law that forced approximately 20 percent of the state‟s
school districts to move their elections to the same day as national elections. Using matching as
well as district fixed effects regression, I estimate the causal effect of the switch to on-cycle
election timing on average district teacher salary, since teachers and their unions tend to be the
dominant interest group in school board elections. I find that school districts that were forced to
switch to on-cycle elections responded by granting significantly lower salary raises to teachers,
supporting the hypothesis that school trustees were less responsive to the dominant interest group
after the switch.
Anzia, Sarah F. 2012. "Partisan Power Play: The Origins of Local Election Timing as an American Political Institution." Studies in American Political Development 26 (1): 24-49.
Eighty percent of American cities today hold their general elections on different days than
state and national elections. It is an established fact that voter turnout in these off-cycle local elections is
far lower than turnout in local elections held concurrently with state and national elections. In this paper,
I demonstrate that the timing of city elections has been an important determinant of voter turnout since
before the Civil War. By examining three large American cities over the course of the 19th century, I find
that American political parties regularly manipulated the timing of city elections in order to secure an
edge over their rivals. I show that the decisions to change the election dates of these cities were
contentious, partisan, and motivated by an expectation of subsequent electoral gain. The Progressive
municipal reformers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries continued in this tradition when they
separated city elections from state and national elections, and the local election schedule they
implemented has largely persisted until today.
Anzia, Sarah F., and Christopher R. Berry. 2011. "The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect: Why Do Congresswomen Outperform Congressmen?" American Journal of Political Science 55 (3): 478-493.
We argue that the process of selection into political office is different for women than it is for men, which results in important differences in the performance of male and female legislators once they are elected. If voters are biased against female candidates, only the most talented, hardest working female candidates will succeed in the electoral process. Furthermore, if women perceive there to be sex discrimination in the electoral process, or if they underestimate their qualifications for office relative to men, then only the most qualified, politically ambitious females will emerge as candidates. We argue that when either or both forms of sex-based selection are present, the women who are elected to office will perform better, on average, than their male counterparts. We test this cen-tral implication of the theory by using legislators’ success in delivering federal spending to their home districts as our primary measure of performance. We find that congresswomen secure rough-ly 9 percent more spending from federal discretionary programs than congressmen. This amounts to a premium of about $49 million per year for districts that send a woman to Capitol Hill. Finally, we find that women’s superiority in securing particularistic benefits does not hurt their performance in policymaking: women also sponsor and cosponsor more bills per congress than their male col-leagues.
Anzia, Sarah F. 2011. "Election Timing and the Electoral Influence of Interest Groups." Journal of Politics 73 (2): 412-427.
It is an established fact that off-cycle elections attract lower voter turnout than on-cycle
elections. I argue that the decrease in turnout that accompanies off-cycle election timing creates a
strategic opportunity for organized interest groups. Members of interest groups with a large stake in an
election outcome turn out at high rates regardless of election timing, and their efforts to mobilize and
persuade voters have a greater impact when turnout is low. Consequently, policy made by officials
elected in off-cycle elections should be more favorable to the dominant interest group in a polity than
policy made by officials elected in on-cycle elections. I test this theory using data on school district
elections in the U.S., in which teacher unions are the dominant interest group. I find that districts with offcycle elections pay experienced teachers over 3 percent more than districts that hold on-cycle elections.