EUI Comparative Politics Seminar Series

The Comparative Politics Seminar Series in the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute is a venue for the presentation of work in progress by scholars from across the subfield of comparative politics.

It usually takes place on Thursdays from 17:00 to 18:30 at Seminar Room 2, in Badia Fiesolana (Fiesole). See below or sync the calendar for the exact location for each meeting. See previous events.

The series is organized by Elias Dinas, Miriam Golden, Simon Hix, and Filip Kostelka, with support by Daniel Urquijo and Pau Grau.

Upcoming Events

Speakers during Spring 2024

Thursday 04 April 2024 | Seminar Room 2

Lauren E. Young (UC Davis)

The ethics of asking about violence: Early evidence from a multisite experiment


Political violence – including civil war, organized crime, and violent extremism – is a major driver of human suffering around the world. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 100 million people, or one in every 78 people on earth, were displaced because of conflict or violence in 2022. Over the past two decades, there has been a proliferation of research involving human participants on the topic of violence in the social and behavioral sciences. However, we have surprisingly little evidence about how participating in research that asks about violence affects participants and whether we are effectively adhering to principles around respect for persons when doing research on this especially sensitive and high-stakes topic. This talk will present preliminary evidence from a systematic review and multisite experiment to measure the effects of participating in research on violence and develop new methods to maximize adherence to the ethical principles of respect for persons and beneficence.

Thursday 18 April 2024 | Seminar Room 2

Pablo Fernandez-Vazquez

Undoing Insulation: Politicization and Revolving Doors in a Closed Weberian Bureaucracy


Academic and policy discussions regarding the bureaucracy often advocate for robust civil service systems, incorporating meritocratic entrance exams, competitive salaries, and lifelong tenure in order to curb political influence and promote effective governance. Using a unique and comprehensive administrative dataset covering the selection and careers of various elite civil service corps in Spain from 1940 to 2023, we unveil striking patterns that challenge conventional wisdom about Weberian bureaucracies. First, our findings reveal that a substantial portion of elite civil servants depart from the corps to pursue roles in the private sector or assume high-level political positions. Second, we identify pronounced partisan patterns in the recruitment of elite civil servants for top-tier political appointments, with certain corps consistently aligned with the left while others lean towards the right. Third, we show that while these elite civil service corps have become more diverse in terms of gender, they remain largely biased in their socioeconomic profile. In summary, our study demonstrates that the formal insulation and meritocratic principles of Weberian bureaucracies can coexist with enduring socioeconomic biases and the integration of bureaucratic, political, and corporate career paths.

Friday 26 April 2024 | Sala del Capitolo

Rachel Bernhard (Oxford)

A Rich Woman’s World? Wealth and Gendered Paths to Office


We introduce and seek to explain a new and surprising fact about members of the US Congress: since at least the 1980s, Congresswomen have been substantially wealthier than Congressmen serving in the same party and decade. We articulate three mechanisms that could explain this gender wealth gap, and use new data on the backgrounds and families of members of Congress to evaluate each mechanism. We find no evidence that the wealth gap arises because districts likely to elect women also elect wealthier members, or because women had more lucrative pre-Congressional careers. We do find evidence that the gap can be explained by women facing steeper challenges that wealth helps them overcome—particularly related to caregiving—and by Congresswomen’s spouses earning more money than Congressmen’s spouses. Our analysis sheds light on how obstacles facing ambitious women can lead to apparently counterintuitive advantages among the women who manage to succeed.

Thursday 02 May 2024 | Seminar Room 2

Eric Dickson (NYU)

Public Knowledge of Political Psychology and Its Electoral Consequences


Politicians use a variety of psychological techniques to sway voters and win support in elections. For instance, politicians often attempt to instill fear in members of the public, or grossly exaggerate (or willfully minimize) potential threats to society. Political psychology studies the ways in which such campaign techniques can potentially affect voters. Crucially, people are often unaware (or incompletely aware) of their emotional states, the effects their emotions have on their political judgments, or how political actors attempt to manipulate their emotions. Can educating members of the public about ideas from political psychology improve their awareness of these psychological phenomena? Would such awareness have downstream impact on the effectiveness of such manipulative campaigning techniques, and voters’ evaluations of politicians who employ them? This talk presents ideas for an experimental design exploring these questions. A future goal of the project will be the development of a behavioral game-theoretic model of emotional manipulation in election campaigning that would highlight the mechanisms through which higher public awareness of ideas from political psychology could potentially shape politicians’ incentives to use manipulative campaign techniques (or not to) in equilibrium.

Thursday 16 May 2024 | Seminar Room 2

Anselm Hager (Humboldt)

Mutual Knowledge of Social Norms and Political Activism


Social norms are important drivers of human behavior. Problematically, when individuals hold incorrect beliefs about others’ opinions, a norm may be sustained even if a majority is against it (pluralistic ignorance). However, it may not be sufficient to correct such misperceptions as citizens may continue to believe that others do not share the updated beliefs. In this case, creating mutual knowledge about social norms may be necessary to induce behavioral change. We implement a field experiment in Kyrgyzstan to test this hypothesis. We vary i) whether women are provided with information on high social support for female political engagement, and ii) whether women are informed that this information is also provided to other women (“mutual knowledge”). We find that providing information about high societal support has no effect on women’s political engagement. However, women become less engaged when we also experimentally create mutual knowledge about the social norm opposing female engagement. Yet, there is no positive effect on female engagement when providing mutual knowledge about high social support. Using vignette experiments, we show that the asymmetry arises because women fear community punishment—in case they are more active than socially desired—more so than potential community praise when they become active when more engagement is desired.

Thursday 06 June 2024 | Seminar Room 2

Jacob Nyrup (University of Oslo)

Paths to power: A new dataset on the social profile of governments (with Carl Henrik Knutsen, Peter Egge Langsæther, and Ina Lyftingsmo Kristiansen, University of Oslo)


Systematized information on the background of cabinet ministers across long time-periods and all geographical regions remains limited. Hence, many questions related to the role of class, education, occupation, and geography in political representation remain hard to address. To enable such studies, we introduce Paths to Power (PtP), a dataset on the educational, occupational, and social background of cabinet ministers. PtP contains detailed individual- level data for cabinet members from 130 countries across 1966-2021. We first detail the data gathering process and discuss validity properties. We then demonstrate how PtP can be used to gain new insights using descriptive statistics and two applications. In the first application, we consider variation in cabinet working class representation, suggesting that autocratic regime ideology and party composition of democratic governments shape this. Next, we replicate the established finding that democracies have more educated leaders than autocracies, and then find that autocracies have similarly well-educated cabinet ministers.