Faculty Findings, fall 2022

December 19, 2022

Governing for revolution

In her 2021 book, new Ford School professor Megan Stewart describes how, during the Chinese Civil war in the 1940s, Chairman Mao and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) established a new model for governing as they took up armed rebellion against the Chinese Nationalist Party. Rather than waiting until after they achieved control of the state to restructure society, the CCP implemented projects relating to its grand, transformative ambitions for Chinese society during the war itself. They took on intensive, costly projects to massively transform and restructure sociopolitical institutions, including courts, schools, hospitals, political bodies, police, legal codes, land reform, and market interventions. Since then, she says, other revolutionary leaders have imitated this approach.

Stewart’s book highlights the influence of rebel group behavior, in particular the CCP. Organizations that mimic the CCP tend to have revolutionary goals; social transformation is as important as defeating the governments they are fighting. They also hope to gain international legitimacy or material support from other select states, transnational advocacy groups, and diaspora organizations.

Using archival data from six countries, primary rebel sources, fieldwork, and quantitative analysis, Stewart identifies and defines the scope of rebel governance models. She then examines the characteristics of rebel groups that mimic the CCP’s extensive and intensive wartime governance model.

She points to Al-Qaeda strategists who have studied and explicitly advocated for the adoption of the CCP’s Chinese Civil War revolutionary template to an Islamic context. These strategists have influenced jihadist movements and sought to transform Islamic society during the Syrian Civil War. Stewart concludes that we cannot understand the nature of modern-day revolutionary conflicts without considering why and how certain rebel groups take on social transformation.

» Read Governing for Revolution: Social Transformation in Civil War. March 2021.

Photo of a young family on the couch, smiling, watching something off to the side
Photo by Kampus Production / Pexels

Revising the EITC: Meeting the needs of complex families

When the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was established in 1975, the average family looked very different from the average family today. Beneficiaries of the program are low-income working parents who meet strict requirements around their child’s age, relationship to the tax filer, and residency. But dramatic shifts over the past half-century—with more children living with unmarried or cohabitating parents, extended or step-families, or in blended families—add ambiguity for those filing taxes and make it more difficult for families to claim valuable credits.

New research from professors Katherine Michelmore and Natasha Pilkauskas finds that more than 60 percent of children in lower-income families reside in households where multiple adults can potentially claim the same child and create confusion among tax filers. Among lower-income families, approximately 80 percent of Black children had one nonresident parent, highlighting significant racial inequities.

The authors contend that reducing the complexity of the EITC would make it easier for families to follow the rules and allow parents to tap into the resources that improve their economic stability and the well-being of their children. Michelmore and Pilkauskas consider two reforms: establishing a federal noncustodial parent EITC, and expanding the existing “childless EITC.” 

The researchers conclude that these policies would reduce tension and confusion over which caretaker should claim the EITC. Ultimately, benefits would reach their intended demographic and reduce child poverty.

» Read “The Earned Income Tax Credit, Family Complexity, and Children’s Living Arrangements” in RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences. August 2022.

Police lights
Photo by Edward Kimmel (CC BY 2.0)

A framework for shrinking the police footprint 

Progressive police reform activists have advocated for reassigning police duties to alternative institutions in the hope of resolving problems less violently and more effectively. Professor David Thacher draws on philosophy, history, and social science case studies to consider an important strategy for shrinking the police footprint.

Thacher argues that the police mandate is much more complex than crime control or law enforcement, and reforms that have failed to recognize that complexity have failed in the past. Thacher explains that because the role of the police is to manage crises that other institutions cannot handle on their own, they inevitably become involved in a wide range of social problems.

In the course of doing that work, however, the police develop expertise that helps them identify and repair the institutional breakdown that sparked the crises in the first place. Successful reform efforts have leveraged this expertise to “identify significant incident types, analyze how existing practices contribute to crises, and reform those practices to prevent similar incidents from recurring.” They reduce the scope of the police role by focusing on context-specific categories that precisely define the problems rather than broad incident categories–such as “low-value theft from two area Walmarts” versus “theft”.

By breaking down the problems in this way, Thacher says it is easier to devise non-police alternatives. This strategy, he says, comprises an essential part of the police mission to minimize the use of coercive force in society and can potentially play a central role in the police-reform agenda today.

» Read “Shrinking the Police Footprint” in Criminal Justice Ethics. April 2022

» Read more about these “faculty findings,” and many others, at fordschool.umich.edu/faculty-publications.

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