Since the 1980s, the United States has experienced an alarming rise in levels of income inequality and political polarization. In this study, I examine the relationship between these variables using a mixed-method approach. Employing a series of regression analyses, I find that income inequality is the primary driver of political polarization in the United States. I then conduct two case studies examining the experiences of the United States and Germany between 1980-2018 to isolate the policy developments that have influenced the determinants of their respective levels of polarization. In the United States, unregulated hyper-globalization, reduced support for organized labor, structural adjustments to tax policy, and the heightened costs of human capital inputs are found to be the primary drivers of inequality, which, due to the homogenization of parties by income, has led to heightened political polarization. Germany, on the other hand, has been more polarized by international affairs, in particular its relations with the former Soviet Union and the European Union.


Valdez, John


Political Science


American Politics | Economic Policy | International Relations | Public Policy


Income inequality, political polarization, education, globalization

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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