A Signaling Theory of Distributive Policy Choice: Evidence From Senegal. (with Jessica Gottlieb, Horacio Larreguy, Benjamin Marx)
* Journal of Politics*, 2019, 81(2): pp. 631-647.
A recent literature emphasizes political economy factors behind the wave of administrative splits across the developing world. While previous studies have focused on why some groups are more likely to obtain new administrative units, they do not explain why vote-maximizing incumbents use this arguably less efficient policy in the first place. We contribute to this literature by embedding administrative splits within incumbents’ broader electoral strategy of distributive policies. We develop a model in which incumbents target local public goods to groups for whom this is a credible signal of commitment, namely, those with a history of reciprocal relationship. When incumbents face increased electoral competition, however, other groups require a stronger signal, which is emitted by the costly creation of new units that reduces the cost of future transfers to those groups. We test our theory using electoral and public goods data from Senegal and find robust support for its predictions.
 Government Fragmentation and Public Goods Provision. (with Jan H. Pierskalla, Emma Boswell Dean)
Journal of Politics 2017, 79(3): pp. 823-840.
We investigate the effects of territorial government fragmentation on the quality of public services. We argue that an increase in the number of regional governments has two effects: (1) it redistributes fiscal and administrative resources to underserved regions and (2) encourages yardstick competition. Extreme government fragmentation, however, limits efficiency gains by reducing administrative capacity, economies of scale, and enabling capture. We test this argument using original data on the number of regional governments in sub-Saharan Africa (1960–2012). Consistent with our theoretical expectations, we find robust evidence for an initial increase in the quality of services provision following regional government splits, which levels off at high levels of regional fragmentation. Three distinct difference-in-difference analyses of microlevel, georeferenced data on health outcomes in Malawi, Nigeria, and Uganda further support our theoretical argument.
 Administrative Unit Proliferation. (with Janet I. Lewis)
American Political Science Review, 2014, 108(1): pp. 196-217.
Numerous developing countries have substantially increased their number of subnational administrative units in recent years. The literature on this phenomenon is, nonetheless, small and suffers from several theoretical and methodological shortcomings: in particular, a unit of analysis problem that causes past studies to mistakenly de-emphasize the importance of local actors. We posit that administrative unit proliferation occurs where and when there is a confluence of interests between the national executive and local citizens and elites from areas that are politically, economically, and ethnically marginalized. We argue further that although the proliferation of administrative units often accompanies or follows far-reaching decentralization reforms, it likely results in a recentralization of power; the proliferation of new local governments fragments existing units into smaller ones with lower relative intergovernmental bargaining power and administrative capacity. We find support for these arguments using original data from Uganda.