Matthew Mahutga
Co-Lead, 2018-19 Political Economy Seminars and the Globalization, Populism and the International Order Symposium

Department: Sociology
Rank: Associate Professor
Years at UCR: 10+
Favorite thing: My favorite past-time is just about anything on the Central California coast.
Fishing, hiking, food and wine are right at the top!
Text I would take to a desert island: How to Survive a Desert Island by Tim O’Shei (Capstone Press, 2019).

Hiking with friend Mark Martinez at Montaña de Oro State Park.

Q. Your research agenda summed up in one sentence:

My research examines the socio-economic consequences of political and economic change.

Q. Is your work purely theoretical, or does it have real-world implications?

Broadly speaking, I want to understand how political and economic processes that operate well beyond the control of the individual shape the life chances of individuals.

Q. What project are you working at present?

In my field, we are often working on multiple projects simultaneously. The two current projects closest to my heart examine income inequality. One focuses on both the predominant shape of income inequality, as well as its drivers. A key finding emerging from this project is that (a) distributional change in rich democracies is best described as income polarization and (b) this polarization is driven primarily by economic and political changes that work through labor markets in the “real” economy (i.e. through wages and salaries) , as well as extra-labor market processes (passive income of various kinds) that benefit top incomes (e.g. the 1%). The second project focuses squarely on the United States. Here we decompose household income inequality into a “within” and “between” racial group components to compare the impacts of socio-economic changes on household income across racial groups.

Q. If you had the authority to make one economic policy change in the U.S., what would it be and why?

My preferred policy changes in the US address the most important macro-economic changes since the late 1970s—globalization, technological change and financialization. These processes disproportionately benefit high-skill workers. Some of them also penalize low skill workers. Skills are correlated with pre-tax and transfer incomes. My one (well, maybe two) policy change would be (a) a significantly more progressive federal tax code and (b) larger transfer payments targeted at geographic areas most hard-hit by these processes. The more progressive tax code would extract revenue from those who disproportionately benefit from these macro-economic changes. The targeted transfers would help to redevelop areas that have been disproportionately harmed by these macro-economic changes.

Q. What about the other aspect of your work: teaching?

The most valuable lesson that teaching taught me is that most people (including students) don’t find the content of my work or pedagogy inherently interesting. This has caused me to consistently focus on how to be a better, more engaging teacher.

Q. Where can we find out more about your range of interests?

Interested readers can read most of my published research by visiting

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