Assistant Professor of Public Policy

Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan

cavaille   (AT)


I am an Assistant Professor at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Before moving to Michigan, I was an Assistant Professor at the School of Foreign Service, at Georgetown University. I was also a fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University.

I received a PhD in Government and Social Policy from Harvard University in November 2014. Some of my work appeared in Political Behavior, The Journal of Politics and the American Political Science Review.

My research examines the dynamics of popular attitudes towards redistributive social policies at a time of rising inequality, high fiscal stress and high levels of immigration.

Current projects (January 2023) include:

“Why do Some Hold More Punishing Attitudes than Others? Implications for Social Policy Preferences.”

“Measuring Preference Intensity: Quadratic Voting for Survey Research versus Conjoint Analysis Applied to Welfare Chauvinism”

“Social Solidarity in France During the Great Depression: Did Immigration Hinder the Creation of Unemployment Funds.” (With Anne Degraves and Victor Gay)

“World War I and Women’s Political Rights: Why Did France Fail to Pass Universal Suffrage?” (With Victor Gay)

“Can Machine Learning Help With Theory Generation?” (With Sabina Tomkins)

My book, entitled Fair Enough? Support for Redistribution in the Age of Inequality, is forthcoming at Cambridge University Press (Comparative Politics Series). Fair Enough proposes a new account of social policy preferences that explains why, in countries where inequality has increased the most, such as Great Britain and the United States, voters are not asking for more income redistribution.

In my work, I have had to grapple with the difficulties of measuring policy preferences. My most recent project tests a new survey tool aimed at jointly measuring what people think on a given issue and how much they care about this issue. This project, joint work with Karine van Der Straeten and Daniel L Chen from the Toulouse School of Economics, is partially funded by the IAST multidisciplinary prize rewarding “scientifically exciting and ambitious endeavors.”

Building on the theory developed in Fair Enough, I also study the relationship between immigration, the welfare state and the rise of populism. A review essay, forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Literature, summarizes some of the key issues in this literature. A paper on this topic, co-authored with Jeremy Ferwerda from Dartmouth University, is published in the Journal of Politics and was the winner of the 2017 Best Paper Award for the APSA Migration and Citizenship section. 

Fair Enough puts a strong emphasis on moral reasoning and fairness considerations. In a second follow-up project, I focus on one important facet of fairness considerations, namely concerns over free riding.

My other research interests include the study of American politics in a comparative perspective, with a focus on the political consequences of growing income inequality and the analysis of social policy reform, especially in Continental Europe. In the past, I have also done research in the UK and France on state policy towards Muslim minorities.

Before moving to the US, I did my undergraduate and master’s degrees at Sciences-po in Paris where I graduated with an M.A in Political Science (with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies). I spent my third year at the University of Chicago, an experience that introduced me to the world of American academia.