Alicia D. Eads
Department of Sociology Cornell University
Dissertation description: In my dissertation, I delve into the complex case of the policy response to the housing market collapse in the recent financial crisis in the U.S., which provides useful empirical ground to explore a theoretical puzzle: how does culture affect policy action? I examine this theoretical question from three angles in the dissertation. First, how do cultural meaning structures affect the interpretation of economic events and the policies developed in response? I collect unique data – transcribed speeches from officials – and, methodologically, I use computational text analysis techniques and network analysis to address this question. I find that different government agencies constructed the crisis differently, which impacted the policies they advocated. In a second part of the dissertation, I test the extent to which the cultural meaning that economic events take on affect policy independently of other important factors such as economic conditions and political ideology. I analyze the foreclosure prevention policies enacted by some U.S. states, finding that how events are portrayed affect states’ likelihood of passing policy. Finally, I examine how convergence or divergence of cultural meaning affect actors’ ability to coordinate policy actions.