Democratizing the Administrative State with Lived Experience

Barriers and Opportunities for Administrative Participation Among Food Assistance Applicants

In-Person Event

Ash Center Seminar Room, Room 225 Suite 200N, 124 Mount Auburn Street
12:00 pm – 1:15 pm EST

You’re invited to join Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, for an American Politics Speaker Series discussion sponsored by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and the Center for American Political Studies.

Registration is encouraged but not required. This event series will not be recorded.

This event is open to Harvard ID holders only. Lunch will be served. 


Federal rulemaking has become the dominant form of policymaking, yet research shows administrative policymaking is often heavily tilted towards advantaged interests. I examine barriers social program beneficiaries face to participating in administrative decision-making with an original survey of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) applicants. SNAP applicants do not lack relevant opinions about the SNAP application process. Instead, applicants lack access to organizations that could connect their experiences to government; knowledge of the administrative process; and trust in how their input will be used. I also report on an experiment embedded in the survey to encourage public commenting by SNAP applicants by lowering the costs of commenting. I find null effects, but high rates of commenting overall. These results have implications for understanding what it will take to democratize the administrative state. They also help bridge literature across the politics of the welfare state, participation, bureaucracy, and political inequality.

About the Series

The United States is a crossroads. How can Americans connect to each other in deep and meaningful ways, despite holding drastically different political world views? What are the causes and consequences of our nation’s historic levels of partisan polarization? Just how far can democratic backsliding go? The American Politics Speaker Series (APSS) aims to bring together scholars who are doing research on these and other important questions. Hosted jointly with the Center for American Political Studies and chaired by Professors Benjamin Schneer and Justin de Benedictis-Kessner, each session will highlight a scholar whose research is at the forefront of the study of American politics.

Event Details

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