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Isaac Martin - UC San Diego. La Jolla, CA, US

Isaac Martin Isaac Martin

Professor and Chair of Urban Studies and Planning | UC San Diego


Isaac Martin's research focuses on social inequalities and politics.



Isaac Martin Publication Isaac Martin Publication Isaac Martin Publication






Martin is chair of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at UC San Diego.

Martin studies politics and inequality. He is the author of "Foreclosed America" (Stanford University Press, 2015), with Christopher Niedt; "Rich People’s Movements" (Oxford University Press, 2013); and "The Permanent Tax Revolt" (Stanford University Press, 2008). He is editor of "The New Fiscal Sociology" (Cambridge University Press, 2009), with Ajay K. Mehrotra and Monica Prasad, and "After the Tax Revolt" (Berkeley Public Policy Press, 2009), with Jack Citrin. His articles have been published in the American Journal of Sociology, Annual Review of Sociology, Law and Society Review, Urban Affairs Review, and other journals. His research has been reported in the New Yorker and the Washington Post.

His books have won awards from the American Sociological Association, the Pacific Sociological Association, and the Social Science History Association. His mentorship of graduate and undergraduate students has been honored with three teaching awards at UC San Diego.

He has held various offices within the American Sociological Association, the Pacific Sociological Association, and the Social Science History Association, and he has served as a consulting editor to journals including the American Journal of Sociology, Contemporary Sociology, Social Problems, and Sociological Science.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Tax Policy

Social Theory

Urban Sociology

Social Inequality and Poverty

Quantitative Analysis

Accomplishments (4)

Graduate Mentor of the Year Award, UC San Diego Sociology Department


Charles Tilly Award for Best Book, Collective Behavior and Social Movements Section, American Sociological Association


Distinguished Scholarship Award, Pacific Sociological Association


David R. Maines Narrative Research Award, Carl Couch Center for Social and Internet Research


Education (3)

UC Berkeley: Ph.D., Sociology 2003

UC Berkeley: M.A., Sociology 2000

Carleton College: B.A., Sociology/Anthropology 1995

Media Appearances (3)

Forty Years Later, Proposition 13 Is Proof Your Vote Matters



“Proposition 13 I think of as a really shocking event, almost like a meteor that landed in California, in a way,” said Isaac Martin, chair of the sociology department at UC San Diego and author of two books on the measure. “It had all kinds of powerful ripple effects.” Some would argue those ripples have capsized school budgets and other social endeavors in the state. It’s why some Californians have already launched a campaign to amend Proposition 13 at the ballot box in 2020.

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How Republicans Learned to Sell Tax Cuts for the Rich

The New York Times  


If anyone still believed that the Republican Party had become a party of economic populism, the tax bill that the party is set to pass in Congress will burst their bubble. This bill raises taxes on the poor and cuts taxes on the rich. Most of the American people disapprove...

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As neighborhoods gentrify, how do you help residents stay in place?



This has become a common approach for cities grappling with the effects of gentrification on neighborhoods. They roll out programs to protect homeowners from rising property taxes. “They’re often described as policies to prevent displacement of homeowners in areas where increasing investment is driving up the price of housing,” said Isaac Martin, a sociology professor at the University of California San Diego. Martin said some communities cap how much property taxes can grow; others provide a rebate. But in a recent paper, he found these policies may not do that much. He said that’s “in part because the displacement of homeowners turns out to be a lot more rare than we thought.” Instead, Martin discovered the people at risk of displacement tend to be renters. He said they have less of a financial cushion...

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Articles (5)

Taxation and Citizen Voice in School District Parcel Tax Elections

Sociological Science

Isaac William Martin, Jennifer M Nations

2018 Local taxation produces consequential resource inequalities among public school districts, but little is known about how policy design affects taxpayers’ willingness to pay for schooling. We show that voters are more likely to approve local school taxes if the policy is written to require citizen–state consultation on how the funds are spent. In a sample of 236 California school district elections, the promise of indirect consultation with a citizen advisory board was associated with a 3.7 percentage-point greater share of voters and a probability of passage that was 31 percentage points greater, whereas direct consultation with voters was associated with a 5.7 percentage-point greater share of voters and a probability of passage that was 32 percentage points greater, relative to a proposed tax increase with no consultation. These results provide evidence that citizens may trade increased taxation for increased voice even within an established democracy.

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Tax policy and tax protest in 20 rich democracies, 1980–2010

The British Journal of Sociology

Isaac William Martin, Nadav Gabay

2018 Why are some policies protested more than others? New data on protest against eight categories of taxation in twenty rich democracies from 1980 to 2010 reveal that economically and socially concentrated taxes are protested most, whereas taxes that confer entitlement to benefits are protested least. Other features of policy design often thought to affect the salience or visibility of costs are unimportant for explaining the frequency of protest. These findings overturn a folk theory that political sociology has inherited from classical political economy; clarify the conditions under which policy threats provoke protest; and shed light on how welfare states persist.

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Working-Class Power and the Taxation of Current Earnings: Danish Pay-As-You-Earn Income Tax in Comparative Perspective

Worlds of Taxation

Isaac William Martin

2018 Pay-as-you-earn taxation (PAYE) enlists the assistance of employers in assessing the provisional income tax liability and withholding it from paychecks of a majority of the labor force even before the income year is up. PAYE is one of the most important tools of macroeconomic governance in twenty-first-century capitalist states. A historical case study of Denmark, with comparisons to other states, provides evidence that working-class political power was the sufficient condition for the adoption of PAYE. Workers and their representatives favored PAYE as part of a fiscal bargain. Taxation in modern, democratic states should be conceptualized not as predation, but as part of a social contract in which citizens contribute in exchange for protection from the risks of market society.

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Policy Design and the Politics of City Revenue: Evidence from California Municipal Ballot Measures

Urban Affairs Review

Isaac William Martin, Jane Lilly Lopez, Lauren Olsen

2018 Residents of the United States rely on municipal governments to deliver important public goods but are often reluctant to pay for those goods. Can tax policy design affect voters’ propensity to say yes to local taxes? We answer this question by analyzing a new database of 929 tax increases of heterogeneous design that were proposed to California voters from 1996 to 2010. We find that voters’ willingness to raise a municipal tax varies with the choice of tax base, as well as with such policy design features as its timing and its symbolic links to particular purposes. The political limits on city revenue may vary substantially depending on how a tax is designed, and theories that assume otherwise—including several classic models of urban politics—may exaggerate the degree to which municipal revenues are constrained.

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Gentrification, Property Tax Limitation, and Displacement

Urban Affairs Review

Isaac William Martin, Kevin Beck

2016 Scholars have long argued that gentrification may displace long-term homeowners by causing their property taxes to increase, and policy makers, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have cited this argument as a justification for state laws that limit the increase of residential property taxes. We test the hypotheses that gentrification directly displaces homeowners by increasing their property taxes, and that property tax limitation protects residents of gentrifying neighborhoods from displacement, by merging the Panel Study of Income Dynamics with a decennial Census-tract-level measure of gentrification and a new data set on state-level property tax policy covering the period 1987 to 2009. We find some evidence that property tax pressure can trigger involuntary moves by homeowners, but no evidence that such displacement is more common in gentrifying neighborhoods than elsewhere, nor that property tax limitation protects long-term homeowners in gentrifying neighborhoods. We do find evidence that gentrification directly displaces renters.

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