Pettinicchio’s research focuses on the development of political constituencies and their ongoing interaction with political institutions. While it is often assumed that disadvantaged groups mobilize in order to pressure states to act (for instance, to pass certain policies), he focuses on the ways in which policies – often the product of political entrepreneurship – create opportunities for grassroots mobilization. In his work, he argues that the dynamic interplay between elites and so-called “outside” challengers best describes America’s disability rights revolution. The disability rights struggle in the United States highlights the fluid boundaries between insider and outsider and the ways in which these actors work around policy innovations. In related projects, Pettinicchio examines the impact of policymaking, implementation and judicial interpretation on employment and earnings outcomes among people with disabilities. That is, the context which make The Unites States a policy leader in disability rights on the one hand, but a laggard in desired outcomes, especially when it comes to improving the economic wellbeing among people with disabilities.
Compares participation in different forms of political action between natives, immigrants and non-citizen immigrants using data from thirteen European countries across six waves of the European Social Survey. Highlights problems associated with previous categorizations of political action, and finds that when political action is disaggregated and relative participation between groups is examined, that immigrants' patterns of participation are not substantially different.
Seeks to address those factors which have made describing, predicting, and examining the work experience of a person with a disability both different and difficult. Examines less frequently analyzed aspects of employment for persons with disabilities, and offer a variety of approaches to the conceptualization of work, how they differ across cultures, organizations, and types of disability.