Nathan J. Kelly

Professor of Political Science, The University of Tennessee-Knoxville
Chapter Leader: Tennessee SSN
Areas of Expertise:

About Nathan

Kelly's research examines the connections between public opinion, partisan politics, public policy, and economic inequality in the United States and around the world. He is interested in how decisions made by elected leaders affect income inequality and how the preferences of citizens respond to changes in inequality.


Financial Deregulation, U.S. Party Politics, and Rising Income Inequality

  • Giovanny D. Pleites-Hernandez
  • Eric Reed Keller

How Roadblocks to Voting Make Income Inequality Worse

  • William W. Franko
  • Christopher Witko

In the News

Opinion: "How Institutional Gridlock and Racism Increase Income Inequality," Nathan J. Kelly, 3 Streams, January 27, 2021.
Research discussed by Tracy Crane, in "Fisher Grad's Work on Income Inequality Yields Major Payday," News-Gazette, May 2, 2017.
Opinion: "How Republicans and Democrats Enhanced Inequality by Undermining Financial Regulation ," Nathan J. Kelly (with Eric Reed Keller), LSE American Politics & Policy Blog, July 8, 2015.
Research discussed by Sean McElwee, in "For the Effects of Voting, Look to Policy, Not Elections," Demos, March 27, 2015.
Research discussed by Sean McElwee, in "If Everyone Voted, Progressives Would Win," Al Jazeera America, March 17, 2015.
Research discussed by Sean McElwee, in "The 1% are More Likely to Vote Than the Poor or the Middle Class, and It Matters — A Lot," Vox, October 24, 2014.
Interviewed in "Inequality and Politics: An Interview With Nathan Kelly," Demos, July 14, 2014.
Opinion: "How the Filibuster (and Gridlock) Only Helps the Rich," Nathan J. Kelly, Talking Points Memo, December 6, 2013.
Guest on WATE-TV’s “Talk Back” , September 2012.
Guest on AM 760’s “David Sirota Show”, October 2010.
Guest on WATE-TV’s “Tennessee This Week", October 2012.
Guest on NewsTalk 98.7's "The Phil Show", October 2012.
Opinion: "There Aren't That Many Takers in America," Nathan J. Kelly, The Monkey Cage, September 27, 2012.
Guest on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “At Issue with Ben Merens", September 19, 2012.
Opinion: "How Politics Makes the Market, Altering the Gap between Rich and Poor," Nathan J. Kelly, Huffington Post, February 4, 2011.


"Partisan Politics, Financial Deregulation, and the New Gilded Age" (with Eric Reed Keller). Political Research Quarterly (2015).

Examines how financial deregulation and the partisan underpinnings of deregulation shaped the path of income inequality in the United States.

"Conditional Status Quo Bias and Top Income Shares: How U.S. Political Institutions Benefit the Rich" (with Peter K. Enns, Jana Morgan, Thomas Volscho, and Christopher Witko). Journal of Politics (2014).

Analyzes income share of the top 1 percent in the United States from 1940-2008. Finds that American institutions that make policy change difficult exacerbate inequality, and that status quo bias is more likely to reinforce rising inequality than falling inequality.

"Federalism and American Inequality" (with Christopher Witko). Journal of Politics 74, no. 5 (2012): 414-426.

Analyzes the level of inequality across U.S. states from 1976-2006. Finds that that the liberalism of state governments is associated with lower levels of inequality, particularly since the devolution of more social welfare policymaking power to the states in the mid-1990s.

"The Rise of the Super-rich: Power Resources, Taxes, and the Dynamics of Top Income Shares, 1949-2008" (with Thomas Volscho). American Sociological Review 77, no. 5 (2012): 679-699.
Analyzes income share of the top 1 percent in the United States. Finds that party control of Congress as well as tax and monetary policies have played a central role in the recent rise in inequality.
"Inequality and the Dynamics of Public Opinion: The Self-Reinforcing Link between Economic Inequality and Mass Preferences" (with Peter K. Enns). American Journal of Political Science 54, no. 4 (2010): 855-870.

Analyzes the response of public opinion to rising inequality. Finds that as inequality increases the liberalism of the public’s mood decreases, thereby making policy action to reduce inequality less likely.

"The Politics of Income Inequality in the United States " (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
Analyzes inequality from 1947-2000, showing that inequality has increased more under Republican administrations than Democratic administrations. This effect is driven more by partisan differences regarding equality of opportunity in the marketplace than by differences in redistributional policies.