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Department of Political Science Presents

How Obama's Race to the Top Refashioned State Policy Making

4/24/17, 3:30 PM

About this event

Unable to either legislate or decree, presidents can pursue policy change via another method, about which insufficient scholarly attention is paid: they can directly engage the states. Extending the existing literatures on lawmaking, unilateral action, and vertical diffusion, this paper investigates the specific ways in which presidents influence state policy-making processes over which they wield no formal independent authority. Focusing on Barack Obama’s Race to the Top Initiative (RttT), we evaluate the president’s ability to leverage two resources — money and attention — in order to advance a policy agenda among the states. Coming on the heels of the Great Recession, RttT’s financial incentives had a clear impact on state participation rates, the kinds of policy commitments made in applications, and the willingness of states to subsequently implement education reforms. By focusing public attention on a well-defined set of education reforms, RttT also encouraged states to consider these policies with newfound energy and commitment; Obama’s association with RttT, however, infused state deliberations with heightened partisan discord. Taken as a whole, our results reveal how two commonly recognized mechanisms of federal control operate when put into the hands of presidents.

Professor William Howell of the University of Chicago will present his talk titled "The Mechanisms that Propel Executive Federalism: How Obama's Race to the Top Refashioned State Policy Making" for the American Politics Colloquium.
Event Location
  • 1450 Social Science
  • 267 19th Ave S Ste 1450
  • Minneapolis MN
  • USA