Populism, Inequality and Institutions


A project funded by the NORFACE Dynamics of Inequality Across the Life-course: structures and processes (DIAL) Programme


The Project

By contrast to the politically-dominant view that populism is primarily a consequence of immigration, Populism, Inequality and Institutions (PII) investigates the argument that the underlying driver is lifetime shifts in economic inequality, caused by on-going economic transformation through technological change and import competition. Our fundamental hypotheses are that the underlying dynamics of long-term economic structural transformation display similar patterns of change across advanced European countries. However, the pattern of populist attitudes may differ across countries, depending on how such long-term change can be mediated through institutions, education, retraining and upgrading; and how the effect of populist attitudes on politics is magnified via the configuration of electoral and party institutions. We address these hypotheses in comparative analysis combining theory with unique administrative and life-course data, combining insights from economics and political science. Research examining these hypotheses should have a major impact on rethinking education and training strategies and on how labour markets work.


Project Overview


Project Theme A

Wage Stagnation and Dynamic Inequalities

The project Theme Wage Stagnation and Dynamic Inequalities seeks to provide a cross-country perspective on wage growth trends, the winners and losers of job polarization, the dynamics of job displacement, and the role of home ownership in mitigating or exacerbating societal inequalities, over the past 25 years.

Project Theme B

Training, Retraining and Labour Market Institutions

Which policies can be implemented to mitigate the economic losses for the losers of technological change, trade expansion and globalization? This is the focus of the second project Theme Training, Retraining and Labour Market Institutions.

Project Theme C

Populism – A Life Cycle Approach

The development of populist attitudes is becoming a defining and deeply concerning aspect of contemporary society, and there are many different theories in the media and the academy of why it has come about. But there has been remarkably little work based on the life (and education, training and retraining and labour market) histories of populist identifiers.



London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Professor David Soskice is leading the LSE team that contributes to Themes A1. Real Wage Stagnation, A4. Housing, B2. Apprenticeships, B3. Retraining, B4. Minimum Wages, C1 Life Course Identifiers of Populism and C2. Populist Attitudes, Party Reconfiguration and Political Systems. Other team members include Dr Jo Blanden, Professor Sara Hobolt, Professor Steven Machin and Professor Sandra McNally.

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Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), UCL

Professor Uta Schönberg leads the CReAM team contributing to Themes A1. Real Wage Stagnation, A2. Winners and Losers, A3. Job Displacement, A4. Housing, B2. Apprenticeships, B4. Minimum wages, C1. Life Course Identifiers of Populism, C2. Populist Attitudes, Party Reconfiguration and Political Systems. Other team members include Professor Christian Dustmann, Professor Thomas Cornelissen, Dr Hyejin Ku and Dr Attila Lindner.


Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI), Stockholm University

Professor Anders Björklund leads the SOFI team that contributes to Themes A3. Job Displacement, B1. Upper Secondary Education, C1. Life Course Identifiers of Populism, C2. Populist Attitudes, Party Reconfiguration and Political Systems. Other team members include Professor Dan-Olof Rooth, Professor Markus Jäntti, Dr Anders Stenberg, Dr Jan Sauermann and Dr Magnus Carlsson.

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Dr Henning Finseraas leads the NTNU team and contributes to Themes A3. Job Displacement, C1. Life Course Identifiers of Populism and C2. Populist Attitudes, Party Reconfiguration and Political Systems. Other team members include Dr Øyvind Skorge.


Progress Meetings

April 2018 - Kick off Meeting

In April 2018 the PIs had a Skype meeting to signify the start of the project.

January 2019 - First Progress Meeting

In January 2019 the four teams met in London at a meeting hosted by University College London. The four PIs and their teams reported on their progress on the projects and took decisions on future events (Progress Meetings and Scientific Workshops).

March 2020 - Second Progress Meeting

In March 2020 the four teams will meet to report on their progress on the projects and decide on future events (Progress Meetings and Scientific Workshops).


Scientific Workshops

26-27 September 2019 - First PII Scientific Workshop

The First PII Scientific Workshop will be hosted by London School of Economics. The keynote speakers will be Johanna Rickne (Yale University) and Italo Colantone (Bocconi University). Attendance to this workshop is by invitation only. You can access the programme of the Workshop here.



LSE Team

Bell, Brian, Pawel Bukowski, and Stephen Machin (2019), “Rent sharing and inclusive growth”. DIAL Working Paper No. 2 2020

Bukowski, Pawel, and Filip Novokmet (2019), “Between Communism and Capitalism: Long-Term Inequality in Poland, 1892-2015”. DIAL Working Paper No. 1 2020

CReAM / UCL Team

Alice Kügler, Uta Schönberg, Raghhild Schreiner  (2018), “Productivity Growth, Wage Growth and Unions”. Price and Wage-Setting in Advanced Economies, European Central Bank Conference Proceedings

SOFI / Stockholm University Team

Anders Björklund (2020), "Can We Really Rely on Income Distribution Statistics? Some Issues in the Swedish Data", DIAL Working Paper No. 7 2020

Hernrik Andersson and Sirus H Dehdari (2020), "Workplace Contact and Support for Anti-Immigration Parties", DIAL Working Paper No. 5 2020

Anders Björklund and Markus Jäntti (2019), “Intergenerational Mobility, Intergenerational Effects, Sibling Correlations and Equality of Opportunity: A comparison of four approaches”, forthcoming Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. Presented at the DIAL conference in Turku June 2019. Also published as DIAL Working Paper No. 17 2019

Norwegian University of Science and Technology Team

Finseraas, Henning. (2019) “Understanding the education gap in immigration preferences across countries over time: A decomposition approach”. Electoral Studies. vol. 61

Sebastian Ellingsen, Øystein Hernæs and Øyvind Skorge (2019), “Broadband and mass polarization: Evidence from a Norwegian reform”. Working paper

Henning Finseraas and Anthony Kevins (2019), “The Structure of Inequality and Support for Redistribution”. Working paper


Contact Populism, Inequality and Institutions

Get in touch with Populism, Inequality and Institutions to learn more about our work.