Who Perceives Government’s Role in Their Lives?


Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 4:10pm to 5:30pm


124 Mt. Auburn Street, Suite 200-North, Cambridge, MA

Suzanne MettlerSocial Policy Design and Its Implications for American Democracy

Suzanne Mettler, Cornell University

Co-sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy

About the Seminar
When asked by pollsters if they had “ever used a government social program,” the majority of Americans said they had not, yet when later asked about usage of 21 specific policies, nearly all reported that they had used at least one or more policies. What explains such widespread denials of government’s role in people’s lives? And, what are the political implications of such attitudes? This seminar will explore the significance of policy visibility – the extent to which people have utilized policies designed to make government’s role fairly obvious versus those that obscure it by channeling benefits through the tax code or other market mechanisms. In addition, Mettler will examine whether perceptions of government social program usage are influenced by views about the deservingness of particular groups of citizens, broader ideological views, or political knowledge. Finally, she will assess the political implications of such perceptions by probing their impact on views about social policy reform and taxation.

About the Speaker
Suzanne Mettler is the Clinton Rossiter Professor of American Institutions in the Government Department at Cornell University. Her interests include public policy (including social welfare, tax, health, and education), American political development, political behavior and civic engagement, and inequality. Her books include: The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Programs Undermine American Democracy (University of Chicago, 2011); Dividing Citizens: Gender and Federalism In New Deal Public Policy (Cornell, 1998), and Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation (Oxford University Press, 2005). She has also published in the American Political Science Review, Perspectives on Politics, British Journal of Political Science, Studies in American Political Development, and Journal of Health Policy, Politics, and Law, among others. Mettler’s work has been supported by the Russell Sage Foundation, Spencer Foundation, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Her current projects include analyses of the politics of student aid policy, how health care reform influences public opinion, and how changes in social provision since 1980 have affected American's attitudes about government and participation in politics.