working papers

The Electoral Consequences of Cellphone Coverage Expansion. (with Shuning Ge, Katrina Kosec, Apoorva Lal, Benjamin Laughlin)
Revise & Resubmit at Political Science Research and Methods, 2023. drawing

Abstract Using the case of Ghana, we analyze the electoral effects of cellphone coverage expansion in a developing country setting. We construct constituency-level panel data of electoral results for Ghana’s six general elections during 1996--2016 and combine these with high-resolution geocoded annual coverage information using a difference-in-differences design. We find that cellphone coverage benefited incumbents in both presidential and parliamentary elections. This effect appears to be due to cellphone coverage expansion improving both citizens' wealth and faith in the economy as opposed to general perceptions of government performance, political knowledge, or vote-buying. The results highlight the potential for even basic information and communications technologies to make retrospective voting more common in settings where ethnic voting, clientelism, and vote-buying are common.

Turnout Turnaround: Ethnic Minority Victories Mobilize White Voters. (with Stephanie Zonszein)
Revise & Resubmit at American Political Science Review, 2022. drawing

Abstract In many countries, the number of ethnic minority representatives has been steadily increasing. How is such a trend shaping electoral behavior? Past work has generally focused on the political engagement of ethnic minorities as a response to having a co-ethnic on the ballot. In contrast, less attention has been devoted to assessing whether an ethnic minority incumbent shapes the electoral behavior of majority-group members. We argue that increased political representation of minorities can be experienced as an external threat to a historically white dominant political context. This in turn may politically activate white constituents aiming to revert their (perceived) disempowerment. We test this argument employing a novel dataset that characterizes candidates' ethnicity, covering four UK Parliamentary general elections, and a regression discontinuity design of close elections between ethnic minority and majority-group candidates. Comparing constituencies that are otherwise identical, except for being represented by a minority Member of Parliament (MP), we find that an MP's ethnicity matters for electoral participation: turnout in constituencies narrowly represented by an ethnic minority MP is 3.6 percentage points larger than in constituencies narrowly represented by a white MP. Consistent with our argument, we find that such difference in turnout is driven by majority-white constituencies, and that voters in these constituencies choose the party of the minority incumbent’s strongest white opponent. However, this dynamic does not overpower minorities' incumbency advantage, but it contributes to polarizing the electorate along ethnic lines. Our findings have important implications for intergroup relations, political behavior, and recent political dynamics more broadly.

Voted In, Standing Out: Public Response to Immigrants’ Political Accession. (with Stephanie Zonszein)
Revise & Resubmit at American Journal of Political Science, 2022. drawing drawing

Abstract What is the reaction of the host society to immigrants’ political integration? We argue that when they win political office, immigrants pose a threat to natives’ dominant position, triggering hostility from a violent-prone fringe, the mass public and the elites. We test these dynamics across UK general elections, using hate crime police records, public opinion data, and text data from over 500,000 newspaper articles. We identify the public’s reactions with a regression discontinuity design of close elections between minority-immigrant and dominant group candidates. Our findings suggest a public backlash against ethnic minority immigrants’ integration into majority settings.

Gender Gap in Politician Performance and its Determinants. (with Ana Garcia-Hernandez, Kristin Michelitch)
Revise & Resubmit at PLOS One, 2022. drawing drawing

Abstract Women politicians face barriers that can undermine their performance relative to men. Using original micro-data from Uganda, we test for gender gaps in performance across different job duties in subnational legislatures. We hypothesize, and find, that performance gender gaps are greatest in job duties that require greater peer interaction (legislative duties), while no such gaps exist in more individually-performed duties (e.g., meeting with the electorate, facilitating constituency development). Fine-grained net- work data reveals women’s informal exclusion in politician networks, and this exclusion holds explanatory power in explaining job duties requiring interaction with fellow politicians. Further, qualifications and previous experience also determine part of the gender performance gap in more intricate tasks. Moving forward, advocacy organizations may consider holding trainings and simulations with politicians on performing job duties in ways that encourage cross-gender professional network ties.

When Refugee Exposure Increases Incumbent Support through Development: Evidence from Uganda. (with Yang-Yang Zhou)
2022. drawing drawing

Abstract In higher-income democracies, studies have found that refugee shocks cause voters to punish incumbents and turn to far-right parties. Yet there is a dearth of studies on the electoral consequences of refugee-hosting in low-income countries, where most refugees reside. Combining information on refugee settlements with four waves of national elections data in Uganda, we find that a one standard deviation increase in refugee presence leads to a 7.4 percentage point increase in incumbent support. Original longitudinal data on healthcare, schools, and roads coupled with national survey data suggest that the mechanism is positive externalities of refugee-hosting on local public goods.

Can Community Policing Improve Police- Community Relations in an Authoritarian Regime? (with Rob Blair, Anna Wilke)
2021. drawing

Abstract Throughout the developing world, citizens distrust the police and hesitate to bring crimes to their attention — a suboptimal equilibrium that makes it difficult for the police to effectively combat crime and violence. Community policing has been touted as one solution to this problem, but evidence on its efficacy in developing country contexts is sparse. We present results from a large-scale field experiment that randomly assigned a home-grown community policing intervention to police stations throughout rural Uganda. Drawing on administrative crime data and close to 4,000 interviews with citizens, police officers, and local authorities, we show that community policing had limited effects on core outcomes such as crime, insecurity, and perceptions of the police. We attribute these findings to a combination of turnover, treatment non-compliance, and resource constraints. Our study draws attention to the limits of community policing’s potential to reduce crime and build trust in the developing world.