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IFS/STICERD/UCL Development Work in Progress Seminar

Zero-Sum Thinking and the Roots of US Political Divides

Sandra Sequeira (LSE), joint with Sahil Chinoy, Nathan Nunn, and Stefanie Stantcheva

Thursday 25 May 2023 13:00 - 14:00

Many of our seminars and public events this year will continue as in person or as hybrid (online and in person) events. Please check our website listings and Twitter feed @STICERD_LSE for updates.

Unless otherwise specified, in-person seminars are open to the public.

Those unable to join the seminars in-person are welcome to participate via zoom if the event is hybrid.


About this event

We examine the causes and consequences of an important cultural and psychological trait: the extent to which one views the world in zero-sum terms – i.e., that benefits to one person or group tend to come at the cost of others. We implement a survey among approximately 15,000 individuals living in the United States that measures zero-sum thinking, political preferences, policy views, and a rich set of characteristics about their ancestry. We find that a more zero-sum mindset is strongly associated with more support for government redistribution, less support for immigration, and more support for race- and gender-based affirmative action. We find that zero-sum thinking can be explained by the experiences of an individual’s ancestors (parents and grandparents), including the amount of intergenerational upward mobility they experienced, whether they immigrated to the United States or lived in a location with more immigrants, and whether they were enslaved or lived in a location with more enslavement. The findings underscore the importance of psychological traits, and how they are transmitted intergenerationally, in explaining current political divides in the United States.

This seminar series is jointly organized by the IFS, STICERD, and UCL.

IFS/STICERD/UCL Development Economics Work In Progress seminars are held on Thursdays in term time at 13:00-14:00, at the IFS, unless specified otherwise.

Seminar organisers: Oriana Bandiera (STICERD, LSE), Imran Rasul (UCL), Britta Augsburg (IFS) and Jonathan Weigel (LSE).

For further information please contact Britta Augsburg: britta_a@ifs.org.uk.

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