Fortunato receives top awards, reflects on lessons learned in the classroom

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Amid his numerous research accolades, David Fortunato still learns new things from his students every quarter

Since joining the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) in 2020, associate professor David Fortunato has continued to expand his diverse research interests, examining how people can make sense of complicated political economic processes, exploring how investing in legislative capacity can shape real policy outcomes in the U.S., and writing a book about how partisan politics stymy the process of governing — complete with an accompanying comic

The book won the 2022 Best Book Award from the American Political Science Association — and the accolades continue for Fortunato and his collaborators’ work. 

Fortunato, along with coauthors Diana O’Brien and Timm Betz, recently won the Southern Political Science Association’s Marian Irish Award for the best paper on gender and politics and the Best Paper Award overall for a manuscript called “Representation and the Trade Roots of the Gender Pay Gap.”

“It’s awesome to have someone tell you that you’re doing a good job, especially for a working paper,” Fortunato said. “This thing still needs a lot of work and, while Diana, Timm and I are pretty sure it’s worthwhile, it makes it more fun to know that other people are into it, too.”

The paper shows that domestic governments are more likely to use tariffs to protect industries employing higher numbers of men than they are to protect industries that are more reliant on women for labor. 

“So, the more men you employ, the more international versions of your product will be taxed at import, giving you an advantage over your international competitors,” Fortunato explained. “We call this ‘gendered protectionism.’” 

The paper posits that observed levels of gendered protectionism explain about 10% of the global gender wage gap — in other words, that women earn less on average than men in part because their governments expose their jobs to more international competition than men’s jobs. 

Fortunato and his coauthors also compare gendered protectionism to women’s representation in government and find that as women approach parity in government representation, these gendered differences in protectionism nearly zero out.

“This is important because the paper demonstrates that trade policy choices can have real consequences for domestic inequality,” Fortunato said. “The analyses also imply that political equity can facilitate economic equity, at least along gender lines.”

From real-world research to the classroom

The courses Fortunato teaches cover a variety of policy topics, including Policy Making Processes (PMP). 

“We just submitted grades for Policy Making Processes, and I’m certain our first-year students will be happy to be finished with our cold calls,” Fortunato joked. 

In the spring, he will teach a course on state policymaking processes that focuses on institutional differences across state legislatures and how that affects policy design and outcomes, as well as a course on informal institutions and policy. 

“The course on informal institutions is a fun class that analyzes how people make decisions collectively outside of formal governing institutions or firms that have coercive powers,” Fortunato explained. “Some of the cases we have covered in the past include lobster fishing in Maine, prison gangs and British pub culture.”

Fortunato said he is looking forward to teaching the smaller spring courses, compared to the much larger PMP course. He added that one of his favorite things about GPS is getting to know a bit about our students. 

“It’s interesting to learn about the experiences of students that have worked in government in other countries, to see how students with STEM backgrounds react to social sciences, or to hear about how students have solved governance problems in their own lives,” Fortunato said. “For example, in the course of teaching the informal institutions class, I’ve learned from my students the etiquette of mahjong tournaments, rules for rotating rider order in cycling groups, and how drug use policy is enforced by a Burning Man group. This is fun stuff.”

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Virginia Watson is the communications editor for the School of Global Policy and Strategy. She has spent her entire career in editing, writing and design, both in industry and higher education. She holds a master's in technical and professional communication from Auburn University and a B.S. in journalism with a minor in graphic design from Troy University.
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