How can we equitably supply the public goods society needs, but few people want nearby?

From a behavioral perspective, I study the effects of framing and persuasive messaging on voter support for policies with locally concentrated costs as well as support for institutional reforms to local control. From an institutional perspective, I assess how local electoral systems affect racial and geographic representation. Doing so, I show how institutions which centralize power or favor the majority tend to channel these public goods into disadvantaged communities. Combining these behavioral and institutional approaches, I seek political solutions that will push beyond the supply–equity trade-off and instead pursue both goals in policymaking.

Journal Articles

6. Justin de Benedictis-Kessner and Michael Hankinson. "How the Identity of Substance Users Shapes Public Opinion on Opioid Policy." Forthcoming at Political Behavior.

Preprint | Replication Files | Winner of the 2023 Lupia-Metz Outstanding Publication Award, Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS)

How do the identities of potential policy beneficiaries sway public support for these policies in a public health setting? Using a factorial randomized vignette experiment fielded on a high-quality nationally-representative survey sample, we show that the racial identity of substance users depicted in a news story shapes public opinion on policies to address the opioid overdose crisis. People display biases in favor of members of their own racial identity group that manifest in their support of treatment-based policies. However, racial identity-based biases are less uniform in attitudes towards punitive policies to address the opioid crisis. We show that these biases are unlikely to be explained by the common theoretic mechanism of differential perceived blame. Similar ingroup preferences are not observed for gender or residential context. These results highlight the continued centrality of race in the formation of public policy preferences.

5. Nicole E. Wilson, Michael Hankinson, Asya Magazinnik, and Melissa Sands. "Inaccuracies in Low Income Housing Geocodes: When and Why They Matter." Forthcoming at Urban Affairs Review.

Preprint | Replication Files

Scholars across disciplines frequently employ data on housing developments subsidized by the National Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). We find that the geographic coordinates for these developments, generated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), are frequently inaccurate. Using both the population of data from California and a national sample, we find that HUD-provided geocodes are inaccurate nearly half the time while Google-generated geocodes are almost always more accurate. However, while Google's geolocation is more likely to be accurate, when it is inaccurate, it deviates from the true location by a much greater distance than HUD. We therefore recommend that scholars use Google-generated geocodes for most research applications where the localized environment matters; however, in studies where observations are aggregated to a larger area, researchers may prefer to use HUD geocodes, which are more frequently inaccurate but typically by smaller distances.

4. Michael Hankinson and Asya Magazinnik. 2023. "The Supply–Equity Trade-off: The Effect of Spatial Representation on the Local Housing Supply." The Journal of Politics 85(3): 1033-1047.

Preprint | Replication Files | Media coverage in City Journal, UCLA Housing Voice, Sightline, California City News | Cited in Montgomery County, MD Charter Review Commission (2019)

While the institutions that structure spatial representation vary widely across U.S. municipalities, the distributive consequences of local electoral rules have not been adequately studied through a spatial lens. We leverage the California Voting Rights Act of 2001, which compelled over one hundred cities to switch from at-large to district elections for city council, to causally identify how equalizing spatial representation changes the permitting of new housing. District elections decrease the supply of new multifamily housing, particularly in segregated cities with sizable and systematically underrepresented minority groups. But we also find evidence that district elections end the disproportionate channeling of new housing into minority neighborhoods. Our findings highlight a trade-off: at-large representation may facilitate the production of goods with diffuse benefits and concentrated costs, but it does so by forcing less politically powerful constituencies to bear the brunt of those costs.

3. Justin de Benedictis-Kessner and Michael Hankinson. 2019. "Concentrated Burdens: How Self-Interest and Partisanship Shape Opinion on Opioid Treatment Policy." American Political Science Review 113(4): 1078-1084.

Preprint | Replication Files | Media coverage in LSE American Politics and Policy Blog, Political Science Now

When does self-interest influence public opinion on contentious public policies? The bulk of theory in political science suggests that self-interest is only a minor force in public opinion. Using nationally-representative survey data, we show how financial and spatial self-interest and partisanship all shape public opinion on opioid treatment policy. We find that a majority of respondents support a redistributive funding model for treatment programs, while treatment funded by taxation based on a community's overdose rate is less popular. Moreover, financial self-interest cross-pressures lower-income Republicans, closing the partisan gap in support by more than half. We also experimentally test how the spatial burden of siting treatment clinics alters policy preferences. People across the political spectrum are less supportive when construction of a clinic is proposed closer to their home. These results highlight how partisanship and self-interest interact in shaping preferences on public policy with concentrated burdens.

2. Michael Hankinson. 2018. "When Do Renters Behave Like Homeowners? High Rent, Price Anxiety, and NIMBYism." American Political Science Review 112(3): 473-493.

Preprint | Online Appendix | Replication Files | Media coverage in New York Times, New York Times - The Upshot, Bloomberg, City Journal, Mother Jones, The Science of Politics

How does spatial scale affect support for public policy? Does supporting housing citywide but ``Not In My Back Yard'' (NIMBY) help explain why housing has become increasingly difficult to build in once affordable cities? I use two original surveys to measure how support for new housing varies between the city-scale and neighborhood-scale. Together, an exit poll of 1,660 voters during the 2015 San Francisco election and a national survey of over 3,000 respondents provide the first empirical measurements of NIMBYism at the individual-level. While homeowners are sensitive to housing's proximity, renters typically do not express NIMBYism. However, in high-rent cities, renters demonstrate NIMBYism on par with homeowners, despite continuing to support large increases in the housing supply citywide. These scale-dependent preferences not only help explain the deepening affordability crisis, but show how institutions can undersupply even widely supported public goods. When preferences are scale-dependent, the scale of decision making matters.

1. Jackelyn Hwang, Michael Hankinson, and K. Steven Brown. 2015. "Racial and Spatial Targeting: Segregation and Subprime Lending within and across Metropolitan Areas." Social Forces 93(3): 1081-1108.

Preprint | Replication Files | Media coverage in Quartz | Cited in Amicus Brief, Bank of America Corp. v. City of Miami, 581 U.S. 189 (2017)

Recent studies find that high levels of black-white segregation increased rates of foreclosures and subprime lending across US metropolitan areas during the housing crisis. These studies speculate that segregation created distinct geographic markets that enabled subprime lenders and brokers to leverage the spatial proximity of minorities to disproportionately target minority neighborhoods. Yet, the studies do not explicitly test whether the concentration of subprime loans in minority neighborhoods varied by segregation levels. We address this shortcoming by integrating neighborhood-level data and spatial measures of segregation to examine the relationship between segregation and subprime lending across the 100 largest US metropolitan areas.

Working Papers

Michael Hankinson, Asya Magazinnik, and Melissa Sands. "The Policy Adjacent: How Affordable Housing Generates Policy Feedback Among Neighboring Residents." Invited to revise and resubmit to the American Journal of Political Science.

Winner of the 2023 Best Paper on American Political Economy Prize, APSA American Political Economy Section

While scholars have documented feedback effects among a policy's direct winners and losers, less is known about whether such effects can occur among the indirectly affected — ``the policy adjacent.'' Using 458 geocoded housing developments built between two nearly identical statewide ballot propositions funding affordable housing in California, we show that policy generates feedback effects among neighboring residents in systematic ways. New, nearby affordable housing causes majority-homeowner blocks to increase their support for the housing bond, while majority-renter blocks decrease their support. We attribute the positive effect among homeowners to the housing's replacement of blight and improvement of property values. The negative effect among renters is driven by gentrifying neighborhoods. Not receiving an affordable housing unit despite their likely eligibility, these renters may attribute the new development to further increasing the rising rents around them. In turn, policy implementation can undermine support for expansion even among the policy's intended beneficiaries.

Michael Hankinson and Justin de Benedictis-Kessner. "How Self-Interest and Symbolic Politics Shape the Effectiveness of Compensation for Nearby Housing Development." Invited to revise and resubmit to the Journal of Public Policy.

Policy with concentrated costs often faces intense localized opposition. Both private and governmental actors frequently use financial compensation to attempt to overcome this opposition. Using the policy of new housing production, we measure the effectiveness of financial compensation in winning policy support. We build a novel survey platform that shows respondents images of their self-reported neighborhood with hypothetical renderings of new housing development superimposed on existing structures. Using a sample of nearly 600 Bostonians, we find that compensating nearby residents increases their support for nearby market-rate housing construction. However, compensation does not influence support for affordable housing. We theorize that the inclusion of affordable housing activates symbolic attitudes, decreasing the importance of self-interest and thus the effectiveness of compensation. Our findings suggest greater interaction between self-interest and symbolic politics within policy design than previously asserted. Together, this research points to opportunities for creative coalition building by policy entrepreneurs when facing opposition due to concentrated costs.

Michael Hankinson and Asya Magazinnik. "Districting Without Parties: How City Council Maps Increase Minority Representation." Under review.

District elections have long been considered a tool for promoting minority representation in local government. But surprisingly little is understood about how electoral maps themselves shape political outcomes. We collect over one hundred new districting plans from cities across California that converted from at-large to district elections in the wake of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. Applying a state-of-the-art automated redistricting simulator, we find that most of these cities could not feasibly produce a plan with even one Latino-majority seat, though those that could generally tried to maximize this quantity. We introduce alternative metrics of descriptive representation that are tailored to a city's political dynamics and risk tolerance around securing at least one Latino seat. Contrary to intuitions from partisan districting, we see no conflict between the goals of guaranteeing minimal representation and maximizing seats overall; rather, we find that concentrating Latino voters within districts often achieves both goals and at no expense for Latinos' substantive representation.

Michael Hankinson. "Racial Demographic Change Increases Support for Voters' Veto Power Over Affordable Housing."

Racial demographic change can induce group-based threat among those of the majority racial group. At the local level, such demographic change may cause white residents to use ostensibly race-neutral zoning to maintain economic — and therefore racial — segregation. In response, advocates for integration have pursued institutional reforms which would limit this local control over land use and housing policy. How does local racial demographic change affect voters' support for such reforms? Using ballot referendum vote share from nearly 4,000 precincts in Los Angeles County, I find that an increase in the local non-white population increases precinct-level support for protecting the control of direct democracy over affordable housing. I argue that voters' unwillingness to give up this ''voters' veto'' is grounded in the goal of excluding poor, largely non-white citizens from their community. Thus, local demographic change can entrench existing tools of exclusion, despite larger movements for institutional reform. These findings underscore the tension between integration and local democratic control in a diversifying society.

Book Project

Michael Hankinson and Asya Magazinnik. The Supply–Equity Trade-off.

Works in Progress

Michael Hankinson and Asya Magazinnik. "Experience Vacuums: Why New Majority-Minority Districts Increase the Latino Turnout Gap."

Michael Hankinson and Ethan Porter. "Experimental Evidence for the Voters' Veto over Affordable Housing."

Anna Weissman, Michael Hankinson, and Asya Magazinnik. "Local Interest Group Participation in the Housing Entitlement Process."

Carsten Andersen, Michael Hankinson, Martin Vinæs Larsen, Asya Magazinnik, and Peter Bjerre Mortensen. "Wind Turbines and Municipality Borders."

Joseph Lofreddo, Michael Hankinson, and Asya Magazinnik. "Incumbents and the Drawing of Local Districts."

Søren Damsbo-Svendsen, Michael Hankinson, Martin Vinæs Larsen, Kasper Hansen, and Asya Magazinnik. "Wind Turbines and Local Political Behavior."

Ryan Baxter-King, Justin de Benedictis-Kessner, Brian Hamel, Michael Hankinson, and John B. Holbein. "Electoral Accountability and the Opioid Epidemic."

Other Publications

Michael Hankinson. 2013. "Externalities or Extortion? Privatizing Social Policy through Community Benefits Agreements." Harvard Journal of Real Estate 6-13.

From design to approval to construction, the development process provides countless junctures of ethical risk, particularly in mitigating aproject’s negative externalities. These externalities, ranging from congestion to gentrification, have been a constant source of friction between developers and neighboring residents. Indeed, the management of such externalities has required government intervention in the form of zoning and permit approval. Like any political process, permit approval consists of negotiating, bargaining, and promise making, actions inherently based on an ethics of trust and transparency. Recently, bargaining innovations have sought to lessen the role of government as a mediator between developers and community groups, potentially increasing the risk of violations of trust and transparency. In this article, I analyze these bargaining innovations to understand how investors, community advocates, and concerned citizens can better navigate the ethical risks of the development process.