Elizabeth Rigby

The George Washington University
Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration

805 21st Street, N.W.
Suite 601C
Washington,, D.C.

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My research examines the interplay of politics, policy, and inequality in current debates over health policy and the broader social safety net. Current projects examine the politics of redistribution during this era of increasing income inequality, public support and opposition to redistribution, and the state vs. market discourse surrounding implementation of the federal health reform bill.

Rigby, Elizabeth, Jennifer Hayes Clark, and Stacey Pelika (2014). “Party Politics and Enactment of ‘ObamaCare’: A Policy-Centered Analysis of Minority Party Involvement.” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 39(1):57-95.
Abstract: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) passed with no Republican votes and was accompanied by intense criticism that the reform was ‘‘rammed through’’ the legislative process by the majority party. By contrast, many Democrats emphasized the extensive year-long debate over health care reform and argued that the final bill represented a compromise of good ideas from both parties. We undertake a policy-centered analysis to help reconcile these conflicting reports of this legislative episode. Drawing on real-time accounts published in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, we compare the success of Democratic and Republican parties’ policy proposals in terms of centrality to the policy agenda and inclusion in the enacted legislation. Our findings indicate that Republican-backed proposals were more present on the policy agenda than in the final legislation—although both were dominated by Democratic policy proposals. In this case, the major limit on majority party power seemed to be intraparty conflict, rather than opposition from the minority party.
Rigby, Elizabeth and Jake Haselswerdt (2013). “Hybrid Federalism, Partisan Politics, and the Early Implementation of State Health Insurance Exchanges.” Publius: The Journal of Federalism, 43(3):368-391.
Abstract: A central provision of the Affordable Care Act is establishment of state-level health exchanges. While states are given the opportunity to develop and administer these private insurance marketplaces, their plans must meet certain minimum standards or risk preemption by the federal government. This policy design establishes a hybrid model of intergovernmental policy making, which may serve to heighten conflict during implementation and further polarize states’ policies. Using new data on states’ efforts to establish exchanges and repeated-events duration modeling, we examine states’ early exchange implementation—identifying a key role for ideological and partisan considerations, as well as the implications of a federal policy design that puts conservative states in the difficult political position of choosing between resisting a law they oppose and preventing further federal intrusion.
Rigby, Elizabeth and Gerald C. Wright (2013). “Political Parties and Representation of the Poor in the American States.” American Journal of Political Science, 57(3):552-565.
Abstract: Abstract: Motivated by recent work suggesting that low-income citizens are virtually ignored in the American policymaking process, this paper asks whether a similar bias shapes the policy positions adopted by political parties at the earlier campaign stage. Although the normative hope is that parties serve as linkage institutions enhancing representation of those with fewer resources to organize, the resource-dependent campaign environment in which parties operate provides incentives to appeal to citizens with the greatest resources. Using newly-developed measures of state party positions, we examine whether low-income preferences get incorporated in parties’ campaign appeals—finding little evidence that they do. This differential responsiveness was most pronounced for Democratic parties in states with greater income inequality; it was least evident for Republicans’ social policy platforms. We discuss the implications of these findings for representation in this era of growing economic inequality.
Rigby, Elizabeth (2012). “State Resistance to ObamaCare.” The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, 10(2):5.
Abstract: Despite its historic nature, passage of federal healthcare reform in March of 2010 represented only one step forward in a multistep policy-making process. The locus of policy-making has now shifted to the states, a key venue for implementing health care exchanges and other central provisions of the law. Yet, rather than moving forward on implementation of the law, the majority of states have resisted federal reform in one form or another. This paper examines this state-level resistance to “ObamaCare” during its first two years and considers potential explanations, identifying a much larger role for political factors than for economic considerations.
URL: http://goo.gl/2LSkr
Blackshear, Erika, Elizabeth Rigby, and Claire Espy. 2010. "Public Values, Health Inequality, and Alternative Notions of a 'Fair' Response." Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 35 (6): 889-920.
Abstract: The fact that disadvantaged people generally die younger and suffer more disease than those with more resources is gaining ground as a major policy concern in the United States. Yet we know little about how public values inform public opinion about policy interventions to address these disparities. This article presents findings from an exploratory study of the public's values and priorities as they relate to social inequalities in health. Forty-three subjects were presented with a scenario depicting health inequalities by social class and were given the opportunity to alter the distribution of health outcomes. Participants' responses fell into one of three distributive preferences: (1) prioritize the disadvantaged, (2) equalize health outcomes between advantaged and disadvantaged groups, and (3) equalize health resources between advantaged and disadvantaged groups. These equality preferences were reflected in participants' responses to a second, more complex scenario in which trade-offs with other health-related values maximizing health and prioritizing the sickest were introduced. In most cases, participants moderated their distributive preferences to accommodate these other health goals, particularly to prioritize the allocation of resources to the very sick regardless of their socioeconomic status.
URL: http://goo.gl/WS1yV
Rigby, Elizabeth, and Melanie J. Springer. 2011. “Does Electoral Reform Increase (or Decrease) Political Equality?” Political Research Quarterly 64 (2): 420-434
Abstract: Over recent decades, the American states have implemented electoral reforms that make it easier for citizens to register and vote. This article examines the equality effects of these reforms: the degree to which reform serves to equalize or further skew participation rates between the rich and poor. Using the Voter Supplement to the Current Population Survey, the authors generate state-level estimates of income bias in registration and voting for elections from 1978 to 2008. Findings support their theory that some electoral reforms promote equality, while others further stratify the electorate, particularly when state registration rolls are already unrepresentative in terms of income groups.
URL: http://goo.gl/LBU9R

Substantive Focus:
Economic Policy
Governance PRIMARY
Health Policy
Social Policy SECONDARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY
Agenda-Setting, Adoption, and Implementation
Public Opinion SECONDARY