Samantha Vortherms, Ph.D.

University of California, Irvine

Country: United States (California)

About Me:

My research focuses on comparative political economy, development, and social welfare. My current book project, Between the Center and the People: Localized Citizenship in China, examines sub-national variation in access to citizenship rights in China. From 2014-2016, I was a Visiting Research Fellow at the National School of Development's China Center for Health Economics Research at Peking University.My research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education through the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad, and the Social Science Research Council's Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship, among others.Before completing my Ph.D., I received my M.A. in International Relations at the University of Chicago, A.M. in Public Policy from University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy, and a B.A. from the University of Richmond.Before completing my Ph.D., I received my M.A. in International Relations at the University of Chicago, A.M. in Public Policy from University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy, and a B.A. from the University of Richmond.

Research Interests

Asian Politics

Political Economy

Comparative Political Institutions

Immigration & Citizenship


Research Methods & Research Design

Countries of Interest



Journal Articles:

(2019) Disaggregating China's Political Budget Cycles: `Righting' the U, World Development

Tags: Asian Politics, Non-Democratic Regimes

What impact does spending time horizon have on political budget cycles? While traditional political budget cycles increase visible spending with immediate gains before political turnover, I hypothesize that spending in categories with less-immediate gains categories increases when opportunity costs are lower. In this article, I build on existing literature on budget cycles in both democracies and non-democracies to disaggregate types of budget cycles: those with long-run versus short-run benefits. In China, after central-level reforms, welfare targets, with long-run gains, became visible to local leaders' constituents, the central leaders above them. Local leaders then had an incentive to provide welfare, but only when it was the least costly in terms of opportunity costs. Using fixed-effects models panel data from China's 333 municipalities for 1994-2012, I find welfare spending minimizes both relatively and absolutely around year three, and maximizes at the beginning and end of a politician's tenure, when opportunity costs and probability of political advancement are lowest. These cycles are the most dramatic in western provinces, where education is a particularly important tool for ideological spread. Health and Social Security spending also see expansion at the end of mayor's tenures, although the cycles are less pronounced than in education spending. This study expands the literature on political budget cycles by disaggregating government spending and considering the impact of timeliness on cycles.

(2017) China's Health Reform Update: A Review of Policies, Evidence, and Outlooks, Annual Review of Public Health

Tags: Asian Politics, Health Politics and Policy

China experienced both economic and epistemological transitions within the last few decades, greatly increasing demand for accessible and affordable healthcare. These shifts put significant pressure on the outdated, highly-centralized bureaucratic system. Adjusting to growing demands, the government pursued a new round of health reforms since the late 2000s, with central tasks of reforming healthcare financing, essential drug policies, and public hospitals. Healthcare financing reform led to universal basic medical insurance, while the public hospital reform experienced more complex measures ranging from changes in regulatory, operational, and service delivery settings to personnel management. This paper reviews these major policy changes and the literature-based evidence of these reforms effect on cost, access, and quality of care. It then highlights the outlook for future reforms. We argue that a better understanding of the unintended consequences of reform policies and how the interests of practitioners and patients can be better aligned is essential for the success of reforms.

Book Chapters:

(2015) Localized Citizenships: Household Registration as an Internal Citizenship Institution, Lexington Books

Tags: Asian Politics, Immigration & Citizenship

This chapter explores the ways in which the China's household registration system (hukou) acts as a sub-national localized citizenship regime and in which ways it does not. While scholars have long recognized the relationship between hukou and citizenship, most focus on the urban areas and do not consider the hukou system as a whole with rural hukou holders entitled to rural citizenship rights. After defining localized citizenship, this chapter explores the development of China’s modern day hukou institution and the gradual localization of state-society relations. I then explore how the hukou defines local citizenship from the four key elements defining citizenship: rights, responsibilities, identity, and membership. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of the reforms of the 2000s and early 2010s and how the reforms are likely to weaken some aspects of localized citizenship while strengthening others.