John Ahlquist

John S. Ahlquist

Associate Professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California, San Diego
Chapter Member: San Diego SSN, California SSN
Areas of Expertise:

About John

Ahlquist has done substantial work examining the political and economic behavior of labor unions. His work to date focuses on how legal and political institutions interact with unions’ organizational rules to affect union behavior and public policy. More generally he is concerned with how societies balance desires for fairness and equity with dynamic growth and innovation. Ahlquist teaches classes on the interactions between markets and government, the politics of income inequality, and applied statistics.


Can U.S. Unions Learn to Mobilize Workers in New Ways?

  • Margaret Levi

In the News

John S. Ahlquist quoted on effects of unionization on earnings by German Lopez, "I was Skeptical of Unions. Then I Joined One." Vox, August 19, 2019.
John S. Ahlquist quoted by Phil McCausland and Melanie Bencosme, "High Teacher Turnover Helps Fuel Educators' March on Statehouses" NBC News, April 8, 2018.
"Hungarians Go to the Polls Today. But are Voters Enough to Protect Democracy?," John S. Ahlquist (with Nahomi Ichino, Jason Wittenberg, and Daniel Ziblatt), The Washington Post, April 8, 2018.
John S. Ahlquist quoted by Editorial Board, "The Success of the Voter Fraud Myth" New York Times, September 19, 2016.
"SCOTUS Looks at Labor Unions. Unions are Worried. Here's Why," John S. Ahlquist, Monkey Cage, The Washington Post, January 14, 2016.
"The Future of Work: Risk Bearing and Risk Sharing," John S. Ahlquist, Pacific Standard, September 3, 2015.
Interview on political parties John S. Ahlquist, Bloomberg, July 31, 2015.
John S. Ahlquist quoted on fee that non-union members pay by Sarah McHaney, "Is Right-to-Work the Kiss of Death for Labor Unions?" PBS Newshour, March 9, 2015.
John S. Ahlquist quoted on how dockworkers cannot be outsourced by Chris Kirkham and Andrew Khouri, "Dockworker Union Protected Pay, Clout as Trade Grew" Seattle Times, March 5, 2015.
John S. Ahlquist quoted on the impact of right-to-work laws, "Right-to-Work Legislation is Pure Politics" Daily Cardinal, March 2, 2015.
Guest to discuss the impact right-to-work laws have on unions on NBC The Big Story, John S. Ahlquist, February 23, 2015.
"AFL-CIO Takes a Big, but Necessary, Leap of Faith," John S. Ahlquist (with Margaret Levi), Detroit Free Press, September 17, 2013.
John S. Ahlquist's research on out-of-state donations to Wisconsin's gubernatorial recall election discussed by Sam Bollier, "Stage Set for U.S. Showdown over Recall Vote," Al-Jazeera, June 4, 2012.


"In the Interests of Others: Leaders, Governance, and Political Activism in Membership Organizations" (with Margaret Levi) (Princeton University Press, 2013).

Develops a new theory of leadership and organizational governance to explain why some organizations expand their scope of action to include political activism, especially around issues that have little to do with members’ immediate economic interests. Finds that the evidence drawn from an extensive study of transport industry unions in the United States and Australia is largely consistent with this theory and difficult to explain using other competing accounts; also uncovers evidence that participating in activist organizations can induce profound transformations in rank-and-file members’ beliefs about their political efficacy.

"Provoking Preferences: Unionization, Trade Policy, and the ILWU Puzzle" (with Amanda B. Clayton and Margaret Levi). International Organization 68, no. 1 (2014): 33-75.

Examines several competing explanations for the fact that the Internal Longshore and Warehouse Union opposes trade liberalization although these workers have benefited from the growth of trade. Evaluates them by tracing the union's stance on trade over several decades. Indicates that the political support for trade depends not just on voters' structural positions in the economy but also on the organizations and networks in which they are embedded.

"Taking Credit: Redistribution and Borrowing in an Age of Economic Polarization" (with Ben W. Ansell). World Politics 69, no. 4 (2017): 640-675.

Proposes a theory in which fiscal redistribution dampens the willingness of citizens to borrow to fund current consumption. Finds that countries with limited histories of left-wing participation in government are significantly more likely to see credit expansion as prefisc inequality grows compared to those in which the political left has been more influential. 

"Alien Abduction and Voter Impersonation in the 2012 U.S. General Election: Evidence from a Survey List Experiment" (with Kenneth R. Mayer and Simon Jackman). Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy 13, no. 4 (2014).

Finds no evidence of widespread voter impersonation, even in the states most contested in the presidential or statewide campaigns. Shows that states with strict voter ID laws and states with same-day voter registration are no different from others in the (non)existence of voter impersonation. Indicates that the proportion of the population reporting voter impersonation is indistinguishable from that reporting abduction by extraterrestrials.

"How Do Voters Perceive Changes to the Rules of the Game? Evidence from the 2014 Hungarian Elections" (with Nahomi Ichino, Jason Wittenberg, and Daniel Ziblatt). Journal of Comparative Economics (forthcoming).

Studies whether partisanship colors voters' assessments of institutional changes. Provides the first experimental evidence that partisan-motivated reasoning applies not only to public policy under fixed institutions but also to changes to the institutional rules of a political system. 

"Dependency Status and Demand for Social Insurance: Evidence from Experiments and Surveys" Political Science Research and Methods 5, no. 1 (2017): 31-53.

Indicates that (1) willingness to vote in favor of a social insurance policy is highly responsive to unemployment risk, (2) symmetric, mutual dependence is unrelated to support for insurance, but (3) asymmetric dependence (being dependent on someone else) increases support for social insurance.