Research Interests

My research interests include income inequality, social stratification, political sociology, and quantitative research methods.

Broadly speaking, my research explores how national-level conditions influence the relationship between social class and political and economic values. Some more specific research projects are listed below:

Class Identification and Awareness

My research explores class identification and awareness in modern democracies. Some of this work considers the national-level conditions under which class awareness is strongest (see Andersen and Curtis, 2012; Curtis, 2013; Curtis, 2016). This research also examines the political and policy implications of class awareness (Curtis and Andersen, 2015). I find that when income inequality rises it polarizes class identities, and leads to a cross-class desire to reducing income and wealth differences.

The Public Opinion and Policy Relationship

I am also interested in attitudes toward social policy and the welfare state. I am exploring the relationship between policy and public opinion toward social spending (Curtis and Parbst, 2016; Andersen and Curtis, 2013). Faced with growing globalization and concomitant concerns about economic competitiveness in the global market, governments seem to have been compelled to cut spending regardless of public demand. This SSHRC funded research project explores whether governments have instead been responding to the attitudes of some groups– such as those related to income, class, or gender– and how this attention may have shifted over time.

Income Inequality and the Life Course

Some of my other research looks at income inequality over the life course (Curtis and McMullin, 2016a; Dong, Curtis and Parbst, 2016). One project in particular explores trends in retirement income inequality in Canada (Curtis and McMullin, 2016b). Previous research shows that after several decades of very high income inequality, Canada’s public pension system successfully reduced large income disparities and poverty among Canadian seniors in the 1980s and early 1990s. However, since the 1990s this trend has reversed and income inequality has steadily risen for retired Canadians. This is because, in part, levels of private retirement income have dramatically risen, thus changing the landscape of income inequality for Canadian seniors. Although Canada’s public system is effective at keeping seniors out of poverty—in fact, by international standards the poverty rate is still very low— Canada’s public pension system is no longer an effective counterbalance for market-based retirement income inequality. That inequality has grown so sharply for Canadian seniors since the 1990s suggests that Canadian policy makers must act quickly if they wish to keep Canada a cross-national pension program success story in the years to come.


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