Melissa Rogers, Ph.D.

melissa.rogers@cgu.edu


Associate Professor

Claremont Graduate University

Year of PhD: 2010

City: Claremont, CA, California - 91711

Country: United States

About Me:

Melissa Rogers is an associate professor and department chair of international studies in the Division of Politics & Economics at Claremont Graduate University. She is the Co-Director of the Inequality and Policy Research Center at CGU and the Associate Dean of the School of Social Science, Policy, and Evaluation. She is a specialist in comparative politics, political geography, political economy, Latin American politics, and comparative political institutions. Her work focuses on state institutional and economic development, with particular application to developing nations. Rogers earned her PhD from the University of California, San Diego, and her BA from Brown University.
Rogers’ specialty is the political economy of inequality and fiscal policy. Her work focuses on the territorial incidence of inequality and its effects on national policymaking, national state-building, and the development of the fiscal state. Her first book examined the role of political institutions in shaping distribution of resources to economic classes and geographic regions. Two of her articles were recently published in The Journal of Politics. The first is focused on the long-run development of fiscal capacity. The second, co-authored with a former CGU PhD student, examines the effects of inter-regional inequality on public spending. She also published an article on measuring geographic distribution in Political Analysis and on spatial inequality in Regional Studies. Rogers’ recent publications in the Political Research Quarterly and the Latin American Research Review analyze state efforts to reduce inequality in developing nations. She is currently writing two books, Geography, Capacity, and Inequality, in progress with the Cambridge University Press Elements Series, and Limits to Equality, both with Pablo Beramendi.

Research Interests

Political Economy

Class, Inequality, and Labor Politics

Comparative Political Institutions

Representation and Electoral Systems

Development

Research Methods & Research Design

Latin American And Caribbean Politics

My Research:

Rogers’ specialty is the political economy of inequality and fiscal policy. Her work focuses on the territorial incidence of inequality and its effects on national policymaking, national state-building, and the development of the fiscal state. Her first book examined the role of political institutions in shaping distribution of resources to economic classes and geographic regions. Two of her articles were recently published in The Journal of Politics. The first is focused on the long-run development of fiscal capacity. The second, co-authored with a former CGU PhD student, examines the effects of inter-regional inequality on public spending. She also published an article on measuring geographic distribution in Political Analysis and on spatial inequality in Regional Studies. Rogers’ recent publications in the Political Research Quarterly and the Latin American Research Review analyze state efforts to reduce inequality in developing nations. She is currently writing two books, Geography, Capacity, and Inequality, in progress with the Cambridge University Press Elements Series, and Limits to Equality, both with Pablo Beramendi.

Publications:

Journal Articles:

(2020) Fiscal Decentralisation and the Distribution Incidence of the Great Recession, Regional Studies

We argue that fiscal decentralisation is one important explanation for variation in dis- tributive outcomes following the Great Recession. Using a difference in differences approach, we examine how fiscal decentralisation mediated the link between spatial distribution, redistributive effort, and interpersonal inequality in 21 OECD cases in the years following the Great Recession. We find that fiscally decentralised nations saw increased interpersonal inequality and lower redistribution, but lower inter-regional inequality. We attribute these results to the weaker redistributive mechanisms in fiscally decentralised nations, which increased interpersonal inequality while preserving market-driven productivity declines in high productivity areas that temporary increased regional convergence.

(2019) Measuring Geographic Distribution for Political Research, Political Analysis

Political scientists are increasingly interested in the geographic distribution of political and economic phenomena. Unlike distribution measures at the individual level, geographic dis- tributions depend on the “unit question” in which researchers choose the appropriate political sub-division to analyze, such as nations, sub-national regions, urban and rural areas, or elec- toral districts. We identify concerns with measuring geographic distribution and comparing distributions within and across political units. In particular, we highlight the potential for threats to inference based on the modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP) whereby measuring concepts at different unit aggregations alters the observed value. We offer tangible options for researchers to improve their research design and data analysis to limit the MAUP. To help manage measurement error when the unit of observation is unclear, or appropriate data are not available, we introduce a new measure of geographic distribution that accounts for fluctuations in the scale and number of political units considered. We demonstrate using Monte Carlo sim- ulations that our measure is more reliable and stable across political units than commonly used indicators because it reduces measurement fluctuations associated with the MAUP.

(2019) Inter-regional Inequality and the Dynamics of Government Spending, Journal of Politics

We examine the distribution of economic productivity across sub-national regions as a factor explaining the level and allocation of central government expenditure. As regional productivity becomes more dispersed, the preferences influencing national decision-making should diverge, thus impeding agreement to expand the central state. However, if regional productivity becomes more right-skewed, an increasing number of less productive regions may be able to press for greater central outlays. Dispersion and skew of inter-regional inequality also shape the allocation of centralized spending. With growing economic dispersion across regions, decision-makers are more likely to agree to fund policy categories that aid qualified citizens in all regions over those that are locally-targeted. By contrast, with the distribution of regional productivity skewing farther to the right, central expendi- ture is likely to become more locally-targeted. We find strong evidence for these propositions in error correction models using new measures of inter-regional inequality and government policy priorities for a sample of 24 OECD countries.

(2019) Intra-Elite Competition and Long-run Fiscal Capacity, Journal of Politics

This paper exploits an original database that spans 30-plus developed and developing nations between 1870 and 2010 to perform the first empirical analysis of the relationship between historical levels of intra-elite competition and fiscal development over the long run. We argue that the timing of industrialization affects the extent of historical competition between agricultural and capitalist elites, which in turn helps shape key initial decisions over fiscal size and structure. Under “early” industrialization, intra-elite competi- tion levels tended to be greater, promoting fiscal development characterized by high overall taxation and tax progressivity. Under “late” industrialization, by contrast, agricultural elites were more likely to retain political dominance, promoting fiscal states characterized by low overall taxation and tax regressivity. We show evidence for a positive, statistically signifi- cant, and robust relationship between historical intra-elite competition levels and long-run fiscal development. This focus on intra-elite competition improves our understanding of the fundamental determinants of cross-national fiscal differences today.

(2018) Disparate Geography and the Origins of Tax Capacity, Review of International Organizations

We establish a conceptual and empirical link between the geographic distribution of economic endowments within a nation and long-run fiscal capacity. Economic geog- raphy informs elites’ incentives to facilitate large-scale central taxing bureaucracies. Sectoral economic advantage also provides them with leverage to transform these state-building incentives into policy and stable institutional equilibria. We argue that unequal economic endowments across the geography of a nation exacerbate distributive tensions. Political disagreement over the size and the scope of the state hinder centralized investments in state capacity to collect taxes. Using detailed sub-national data and indicators of geographic distribution, we demonstrate global patterns of sub-national economic geography, and how these patterns are related to sub-national variation in economic productivity. We show that divergence in sub-national economies varies across the world and is related to predictable differences in the size of the fiscal state.

(2017) What’s Left to Tax? Partisan Reallocation of Trade Taxation in Less Developed Countries, Political Research Quarterly

Trade liberalization has reduced trade tax revenue in most less developed countries (LDCs). The options to replace this tax, which has historically been LDCs’ primary source of tax revenue, are limited by competitive pressures in the global economy. Using time-series error correction models, we assess how partisan politics shaped the reallocation of taxes in thirty-eight LDCs from 1975 to 2009. We argue that leftist governments have a vested interest in recovering lost revenue to fund spending that benefits their constituencies but they are highly constrained by the market signaling effects of increasing taxes. We find that leftist governments retained higher levels of falling tax revenue and offset trade tax losses with progressive personal income taxes (PITs). Nonetheless, leftist governments appeared reluctant to increase revenue from corporate income or social security taxes, which impose costs on business. To make up for the trade revenue loss, leftists instead relied more heavily on regressive consumption taxes, which are the most lucrative and market-friendly supplements to preferred PIT. Leftist parties in LDCs demonstrate redistributive concerns, but their tools and the lasting effects of their reforms are limited by strong market constraints.

(2017) Barriers to Egalitarianism: Distributive Tensions in Latin American Federations, Latin American Research Review

Latin America’s largest federations have significantly reduced their levels of income inequality in recent years, perhaps reflecting a structural change toward egalitarianism. However, we argue that the political geography of federalism in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico strongly shapes preferences against centralized redistribution likely to promote equity in the long term. While federalism does not necessary lead to lower redistribution in theory, the geographic spread of income and malapportioned political institutions limit egalitarianism in these nations. These dynamics help explain why fiscal structures are distinct in Latin American federations as compared to federations in high-income countries. First, we show that the territorial structure of inequality and malapportionment are associated with lower redistributive effort in the global context and that the Latin American federations have extreme values for both variables. Second, using a new data set of income distributions within and across Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico over time, we demonstrate that the conditions that favor fiscal transfers from the national to subnational governments are consistently strong, but conditions are rarely favorable for centralized policies to equilibrate national income. Unequal income patterns are reinforced by legislative malapportionment, which encourages interregional transfers to regions and limits the political voice of more populated and unequal regions that would benefit from centralized redistribution.

(2017) Analysis of Panamanian DMSP/OLS nightlights corroborates suspicions of inaccurate fiscal data: A natural experiment examining the accuracy of GDP data, Remote Sensing Applications Society and Environment

Governments have incentives to misreport their economic productivity to advance their political goals. These incentives have long been understood, but the validity of government data has been difficult to estimate in the absence of viable external estimates. Using historic Defense Meteorological Satellite Program's Operational Linescan System nightlights imagery we corroborate reports that Panama's government data has been increas- ingly politicised since the handover of the Panama Canal on 31 December 1999. The Canal Handover represents a “natural experiment” in which the production of government data changed in Panama for reasons separate from the desire to manipulate that data. The amount of light a country produces at night, known as nightlight production, has been shown to strongly correlate with GDP. Using subnational Panamanian nightlight pro- duction from 1996 to 2012, we detect a significant divergence between the relationship of subnational reported GDP and nightlights before the Canal handover (when the U.S.A. was very involved in their statistical agencies) and the correlation after the handover (with no U.S. involvement). Our results indicate that between 2000 and 2012, Panama reported approximately 19% more GDP than what was expected by their nightlight production from 2000 to 2012, or a total of around 40 billion U.S. dollars. Our results suggest governments may engage in political manipulation of government statistics to improve the appearance of government performance. While indirect data can never definitely confirm economic phenomena, this analysis presents a unique research design and application of historic satellite imagery to corroborate reports of GDP misreporting.

(2014) Taxing with Dictators and Democrats: Regime Effects, Transfers and Revenue in Argentina’s Provinces, Journal of Politics in Latin America

Political institutions strongly influence incentives to tax. In this article, I examine differences across national regimes in provincial taxation in Argentina from 1959–2001 and compare them to sub- national regimes under national democracy. I argue that elections fundamentally shape taxation by guiding career incentives of provincial leaders. Under autocratic regimes, sub-national leaders have strong moti- vation to tax because they answer to national leaders who reward extrac- tion. I find that national autocrats tax at higher levels, using more difficult taxes. In democratic systems, governors judged by local constituents use political resources to avoid taxation. Governors in closed electoral regimes generally collect less tax revenue than governors in competitive provinces, but this effect is largely driven by national coalition-building and privileged access to national resources. An important difference across sub-national regime type is incidence – closed provinces extract disproportionately from the dependent business sector.

(2014) Income taxation and the validity of state capacity indicators, Journal of Public Policy

State capacity is a key concept for research in public policy and political science. Despite its importance, there is no broadly accepted measure of state capacity in the existing literature, and frequently used measures of capacity have not been examined for their validity. We begin with an explicit definition of state capacity – the state’s ability to implement public policy – and connect this definition to a measurable outcome of state capacity – the state’s taxation of income. We show that this measure, income taxes as a percentage of total tax revenue, is a useful indicator of state capacity and meets higher standards of measurement validity than other tax-based indicators. We also compare our measure to the most common existing indicators of state capacity to show that income taxation is a better theoretical and statistical measure of states’ effectiveness in policy implementation.

Books Written:

(2016) The Politics of Place and the Limits to Redistribution, Routledge

Numerous scholars have noticed that certain political institutions, including federalism, majoritarian electoral systems, and presidentialism, are linked to lower levels of income redistribution. This book offers a political geography explanation for those observed patterns. Each of these institutions is strongly shaped by geography and provides incentives for politicians to target their appeals and government resources to localities. Territorialized institutions also shape citizens’ preferences in ways that can undermine the national coalition in favor of redistribution. Moreover, territorial institutions increase the number of veto points in which anti-redistributive actors can constrain reform efforts. These theoretical connections between the politics of place and redistributive outcomes are explored in theory, empirical analysis, and case studies of the USA, Germany, and Argentina.