Democracy and Voting

The Democracy and Voting Working Group endeavors to develop and operationalize the concept of “civic wealth” measurable at both the individual and the group level. The group charts both sides of the wealth ledger: civic assets and civic liabilities. On the one hand, they consider assets such as political knowledge, political efficacy and social networks. On the other hand, they gauge liabilities such as racial segregation, “bad neighborhoods,” economic inequality and voter suppression. Civic wealth is a composite measure that incorporates both assets and liabilities into a single measure. Much of the initial work involves delineating the conceptual boundaries of civic wealth, making decisions about how to measure each of its components at the individual and community level, determining the appropriate weights for each component, and identifying appropriate data sources that we can use for creating the measure. Civic wealth is more than a measure of voting, political participation or civic engagement. Civic wealth is a larger set of resources that the working group hypothesizes will translate into political power and lead to crucial public policy outcomes.
The objective of the Democracy and Voting Working Group is to equip scholars and practitioners with knowledge they can use to improve U.S. democratic practices. Once the group have operationalized the concept of civic wealth, they will leverage it to shed light on a number of crucial outcomes and processes.  The initial questions pursued by the group are descriptive and  rooted in initial gender, race, and class inequalities in the distribution of civic wealth, intersectional gaps in civic wealth continue and shape the lives of children and family in powerful and often negative ways in that regard include the following: 
  • What is the relationship between civic wealth and economic wealth? 
  • How do civic wealth gaps vary across (geographic) communities? 
  • How do civic wealth gaps vary across demographic groups (race/gender) and at their intersections (race and gender)? 
  • What material outcomes correlate with civic wealth gaps: do communities fare better when they are equipped with more civic wealth (ceteris paribus)? 
  • What political outcomes correlate with wealth gaps: do communities have their policy interests better represented when they have more civic wealth? 
Leadership Team
William Darity, Jr., Duke University
Nancy MacLean, Duke University
Jamila Michener, Cornell University
Shauna Shames, Rutgers University
Avi Green, Executive Director, Scholars Strategy Network
Eladio Bobadilla, Ph.D. Candidate, Duke University