Woodrow Wilson

Department of Politics

Leonard Schoppa

My research examines the politics and political economy of Japan in comparative context. I have an ongoing interest in the political economy of low fertility rates in Japan, looking at: 1) how the decisions of couples not to have children feeds into the policy process as an “exit” signal that individuals are not happy with a system that puts the burden of child-rearing almost entirely on mothers; and 2) how policymakers respond to that signal through changes in welfare and work policies.  The former was the focus of my 2006 book Race for the Exits.  I looked at the latter in a 2020 article in Social Science Japan Journal.

More recently, I have been examining how the level of residential mobility afforded by housing markets affects civic engagement at the local level in Japan and the United States. What explains why Japanese join the PTA at twice the rate of Americans and “volunteer” to maintain the safety of their communities (from traffic, crime, fire) at much higher levels? This project has resulted in the publication of an article in Comparative Political Studies (Sept 2013) under the title “Residential Mobility and Local Civic Engagement in Japan and the United States: Divergent Paths to School,” as well as the documentary film “Slow Way Home,” which was broadcast on many PBS stations in May and June of 2016. The trailer for the film can be found here: http://spinfilm.wix.com/slowwayhome. I am currently writing a book on this topic.

My most recent book-length project was a volume I edited, titled The Evolution of Japanese Party Politics (Toronto, 2011). It explains how and why Japan has seen one of the two major parties in its party system shrink to fringe-party size and be replaced by a new party, the Democratic Party of Japan.  Such major changes in the typically “frozen” party systems of advanced industrialized democracies are rare, so Japan’s experience sheds light on the forces that can disrupt established systems and shape the new party systems that emerge.

Prior to the projects summarized above, I focused on other aspects of the political economy of Japan and the United States, including trade bargaining in my book Bargaining With Japan: What American Pressure Can and Cannot Do (Columbia, 1997); and Education Reform in Japan (Routledge, 1991). Refereed articles growing out of these projects have been published in International OrganizationComparative Political StudiesSocial Science Japan Journal, the Journal of European Social Policy and the Journal of Japanese Studies.

I earned my DPhil in Politics from Oxford in 1989 and have been employed at the University of Virginia since 1990.


S461 Gibson Hall
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