NOVAFRICA Seminar: Zero-sum Thinking and the Roots of US Political Divides

On Wednesday, April 05th, at 3pm (Lisbon time), on Room B 133 the NOVAFRICA Center welcomes Sandra Sequeira from London School of Economics to present her work on “Zero-sum Thinking and the Roots of US Political Divides”.

Sandra Sequeira

We examine the causes and consequences of an important cultural and psychological trait: the extent to which one views the world in zero-sum terms – i.e., that benefits to one person or group tend to come at the cost of others. We implement a survey among approximately 15,000 individuals living in the United States that measures zero-sum thinking, political preferences, policy views, and a rich set of characteristics about their ancestry. We find that a more zero-sum mindset is strongly associated with more support for government redistribution, less support for immigration, and more support for race- and gender-based affirmative action. We find that zero-sum thinking can be explained by the experiences of an individual’s ancestors (parents and grandparents), including the amount of intergenerational upward mobility they experienced, whether they immigrated to the United States or lived in a location with more immigrants, and whether they were enslaved or lived in a location with more enslavement. The findings underscore the importance of psychological traits, and how they are transmitted intergenerationally, in explaining current political divides in the United States.

Find more about this seminar here.