Sarah Anzia wearing brown blazer in outside environment

Research Expertise and Interest

American politics, public policy, interest groups, state politics, local politics, election timing, voter turnout, public pensions, public sector unions, collective bargaining

Research Description

Sarah Anzia is a political scientist who studies American politics with a focus on state and local government, elections, interest groups, political parties, and public policy. She is the author of Local Interests: Politics, Policy, and Interest Groups in US City Governments (University of Chicago Press, 2022), which evaluates the political activity of interest groups in US local governments and how interest groups shape local public policies on housing, business tax incentives, policing, and public service provision more broadly.

Her first book, Timing and Turnout: How Off-Cycle Elections Favor Organized Groups (University of Chicago Press, 2014), examines how the timing of elections can be manipulated to affect both voter turnout and the composition of the electorate, which, in turn, affects election outcomes and public policy. She has also written about the political activity and influence of public-sector unions, the politics of public pensions, policy feedback, women in politics, political parties, and the historical development of electoral institutions. Her work has been published in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, and other scholarly journals. She has a PhD in political science from Stanford University and an MPP from the Harris School at the University of Chicago.

In the News

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
September 9, 2019
Michelle Singletary
Associate public policy and political science professor Sarah Anzia recently wrote about the pension crisis currently threatening local government services for the Washington Post. In it, she said that "over the past few decades, policymakers from California to Wyoming have made public pension benefits ever more generous -- while setting aside too little money to pay for them." She also pointed to a Pew report finding that governments have underfunded their pensions by more than $1.28 trillion. Her analysis comes up in this story for its reassurance that public plans have not been defaulting on pension benefits, although the rising costs are putting public services at risk. Professor Anzia had written: "Current state and local government employees and retirees will almost certainly get their pensions. ... Out of the public eye, public-sector pension expenditures are quietly and persistently eating into local government budgets. As a result, local government workforces in many places are shrinking. This doesn't just mean fewer government jobs to go around. It means that all those who rely on local government services are in danger of losing those supports. Many Americans take for granted that their local governments will provide public services like police protection, fire protection, street sweeping and refuse collection. But it may well become harder for local governments to carry out those basic functions -- because of rising pension costs."
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August 20, 2019
Dan Walters, CALMatters
Public pension costs are escalating unsustainably for local governments nationwide, finds a new study by associate public policy and political science professor Sarah Anzia. "My analysis ... shows that as local governments spend more on pensions, they have fewer public-sector jobs to offer -- an implication that is not positive for government employees or their unions," she wrote in her report. She predicts a "pension-induced transformation of local government" and suggests that "the future of local government may look very different than the past" as a result. Her paper is available at the Goldman School of Public Policy.
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