Publications

Working Paper
Sreemanti Dey and R. Michael Alvarez. Working Paper. “Fuzzy Forests For Feature Selection in High-Dimensional Survey Data: An Application to the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election”. Publisher's VersionAbstract
An increasingly common methodological issue in the field of social science is high-dimensional and highly correlated datasets that are unamenable to the traditional deductive framework of study. Analysis of candidate choice in the 2020 Presidential Election is one area in which this issue presents itself: in order to test the many theories explaining the outcome of the election, it is necessary to use data such as the 2020 Cooperative Election Study Common Content, with hundreds of highly correlated features. We present the Fuzzy Forests algorithm, a variant of the popular Random Forests ensemble method, as an efficient way to reduce the feature space in such cases with minimal bias, while also maintaining predictive performance on par with common algorithms like Random Forests and logit. Using Fuzzy Forests, we isolate the top correlates of candidate choice and find that partisan polarization was the strongest factor driving the 2020 presidential election.
Christopher Blattman, Gustavo Duncan, Benjamin Lessing, and Santiago Tobón. Working Paper. “GANG RULE: UNDERSTANDING AND COUNTERING CRIMINAL GOVERNANCE ”.Abstract
Gangs govern millions worldwide. Why rule? And how do they respond to states? Many argue that criminal rule provides protection when states do not, and that increasing state services could crowd gangs out. We began by interviewing leaders from 30 criminal groups in Medellín. The conventional view overlooks gangs’ indirect incentives to rule: governing keeps police out and fosters civilian loyalty, protecting other business lines. We present a model of duopolistic competition with returns to loyalty and show under what conditions exogenous changes to state protection causes gangs to change governance levels. We run the first gang-level field experiment, intensifying city governance in select neighborhoods for two years. We see no decrease in gang rule. We also examine a quasi-experiment. New borders in Medellín created discontinuities in access to government services for 30 years. Gangs responded to greater state rule by governing more. We propose alternatives for countering criminal governance.
blattman_gang_rule.pdf
Christopher Blattman, Gustavo Duncan, Benjamin Lessing, and Santiago Tobón. Working Paper. “Gang Rule: Understanding and Countering Criminal Governance ”.Abstract
Gangs govern millions worldwide. Why rule? And how do they respond to states? Many argue that criminal rule provides protection when states do not, and that increasing state services could crowd gangs out. We began by interviewing leaders from 30 criminal groups in Medellín. The conventional view overlooks gangs’ indirect incentives to rule: governing keeps police out and fosters civilian loyalty, protecting other business lines. We present a model of duopolistic competition with returns to loyalty and show under what conditions exogenous changes to state protection causes gangs to change governance levels. We run the first gang-level field experiment, intensifying city governance in select neighborhoods for two years. We see no decrease in gang rule. We also examine a quasi-experiment. New borders in Medellín created discontinuities in access to government services for 30 years. Gangs responded to greater state rule by governing more. We propose alternatives for countering criminal governance.
blattman_gang_rule.pdf
Olle Folke, Johanna Rickne, and Daniel M. Smith. Working Paper. “"Gender and Dynastic Political Recruitment: Theory and Evidence"”.Abstract

Throughout history and across countries, women appear more likely to enter politics at the heels of a close relative or spouse. We introduce a theoretical model that integrates political selection with information asymmetry across social categories to derive predictions for the roots and impact of this dynastic bias in women's recruitment. Comparative legislator-level data from twelve democracies and candidate-level data from Ireland and Sweden support the idea that dynastic ties ll the role of overcoming information asymmetry, as indicated by a declining gender gap in dynasties over time, and following the introduction of a gender quota in Sweden. We find evidence that dynastic ties help women overcome a vote disadvantage in elections, and that the quality of predecessors may be used to recruit female dynastic successors. Finally, we show that dynastic women have higher observable qualifications than dynastic men, contradicting an alternative explanation that elites appoint dynastic women as proxies.

folkeetal2016.pdf
Oded Galor, Omer Ozak, and Assaf Sarid. Working Paper. “"Geographical Roots of the Coevolution of Cultural and Linguistic Traits."”.Abstract
This research explores the geographical origins of the coevolution of cultural and linguistic traits in the course of human history, relating the geographical roots of long-term orientation to the structure of the future tense, the agricultural determinants of gender bias to the presence of sex-based grammatical gender, and the ecological origins of hierarchical orientation to the existence of politeness distinctions. The study advances the hypothesis and establishes empirically that: (i) geographical characteristics that were conducive to higher natural return to agricultural investment contributed to the existing cross-language variations in the structure of the future tense, (ii) the agricultural determinants of gender gap in agricultural productivity fostered the existence of sex-based grammatical gender, and (iii) the ecological origins of hierarchical societies triggered the emergence of politeness distinctions.
galoretal2018.pdf
Oded Galor, Omer Ozak, and Assaf Sarid. Working Paper. “"Geographical Roots of the Coevolution of Cultural and Linguistic Traits."”.Abstract
This research explores the geographical origins of the coevolution of cultural and linguistic traits in the course of human history, relating the geographical roots of long-term orientation to the structure of the future tense, the agricultural determinants of gender bias to the presence of sex-based grammatical gender, and the ecological origins of hierarchical orientation to the existence of politeness distinctions. The study advances the hypothesis and establishes empirically that: (i) geographical characteristics that were conducive to higher natural return to agricultural investment contributed to the existing cross-language variations in the structure of the future tense, (ii) the agricultural determinants of gender gap in agricultural productivity fostered the existence of sex-based grammatical gender, and (iii) the ecological origins of hierarchical societies triggered the emergence of politeness distinctions.
galoretal2018.pdf
Joram Mayshar, Omer Moav, and Zvika Neeman. Working Paper. “"Geography, Transparency, and Institutions.”.Abstract
We propose a theory in which geographic attrubutes explain cross-regional institutional differences in (1) the scale of the state, (2) the distribution of power within state hierarchy, and (3) property rights to land. In this theory, geography and technology affect the transparency of farming, and transparency, in turn, affects the elite's ability to appropriate revenue from the farming sector, thus affecting institutions. We apply the theory to explain differences between the institutions of ancient Egypt, southern Mesopotamia, and northern Mesopotamia, and also discuss its relevance to modern phenomena.
maysharmoavneeman2017.pdf
Mark Koyama, Chiaki Moriguchi, and Tuan-Hwee Sng. Working Paper. “"Geopolitics and Asia's Little Divergence: State Building in China and Japan After 1850."”.Abstract
We provide a new framework to account for the diverging paths of political development in China and Japan during the late nineteenth century. The arrival of Western powers not only brought opportunities to adopt new technologies, but also fundamentally threatened the sovereignty of both countries. These threats and opportunities produce an unambiguous impetus toward centralization and modernization for small states, but place conflicting demands on larger states. We use our theory to study why China, which had been centralized for much of its history, experienced gradual disintegration upon the Western arrival, and how Japan rapidly unified and modernized.
koyamaetal2017.pdf
Laurent Bouton, Aniol Llorente-Saguer, and Frédéric Malherbe. Working Paper. “"Get Rid of Unanimity: The Superiority of Majority Rule with Veto Power"”.Abstract

Consider a group of agents whose goal is to reform the status quo if and only if this is Pareto improving. Agents have private information and may have common or private objectives, which creates a tension between information aggregation and minority protection. We propose a simple voting system -- majority rule with veto power -- that essentially resolves this tension, for it combines the advantageous properties of both majority and unanimity rules. We argue that our results shed new light on the evolution of voting rules in EU institutions and could guide policy reforms in cases such as juries in the US.

boutonetal2015.pdf
Gerald L. Neuman. Working Paper. “Giving Meaning and Effect to Human Rights: The Contributions of Human Rights Committee Members”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This essay discusses the multiple roles played by the members of the Human Rights Committee in giving effect to the rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It argues that the most important contribution the members make to the human rights project consists in their credible, professional elaboration of those rights, particularly by means of the Committee’s Views and General Comments, as emphasized by the International Court of Justice in the Diallo case. While the Committee members should be open to learning from the insights of other treaty bodies, they should resist urgings toward a simplistic harmonization. The texts and interpretations of other ‘core’ human rights treaties must be used with care in the members’ independent exercise of their own interpretive function.

Sunita Kotnala and Rajashree Ghosh. Working Paper. “GLOBAL SOUTH AND FEMINIST LEADERSHIP IN SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT.” ‘colonial(ist)’ and ‘white feminist’ bias in international development.Abstract

We continue to see the colonial(ist) approach in international development and the ‘white feminist’ interventions in the field-from conception to implementation of projects. We are learning a lot from established development theories, now it is time to broaden our horizons, go beyond definitions within western feminist
paradigms used in international development, to enhance and encourage alternative voices and leadership.

colonialist_and_white_feminist_bias_in_international_development_leadership.pdf
J. Vernon Henderson, Tim L. Squires, Adam Storeygard, and David N. Weil. Working Paper. “"The Global Spatial Distribution of Economic Activity: Nature, History, and the Role of Trade"”. hendersonetal2016.pdf
Elhanan Helpman. Working Paper. “"Globalization and Wage Inequality"”.Abstract
Globalization has been blamed for rising inequality in rich and poor countries. Yet the views of many protagonists in this debate are not based on evidence. To help form an evidence-based opinion, I review in this paper the theoretical and empirical literature on the relationship between globalization and wage inequality. While the initial analysis that started in the early 1990s focused on a particular mechanism that links trade to wages, subsequent studies have considered several other channels, and the quantitative assessment of the size of these influences has been carried out in multiple studies. Building on this research, I conclude that trade played an appreciable role in increasing wage inequality, but that its cumulative effect has been modest, and that globalization does not explain the preponderance of the rise in wage inequality within countries.
helpman2016.pdf
Cevat Giray Aksoy, Sergei Guriev, and Daniel S. Treisman. Working Paper. “"Globalization, Government Popularity, and the Great Skill Divide"”.Abstract
How does international trade affect the popularity of governments and leaders? We provide the first large-scale, systematic evidence that the divide between skilled and unskilled workers worldwide is producing corresponding differences in the response of political preferences to trade shocks. Using a unique data set including 118 countries and nearly 450,000 individuals, we find that growth in high skill intensive exports (of goods and services) increases approval of the leader and incumbent government among skilled individuals. Growth in high skill intensive imports has the opposite effect. There is no effect on political approval among the unskilled. To identify exogenous variation in international trade, we exploit the time-varying effects of air and sea distances in bilateral trade flows. Our findings suggest that the political effects of international trade differ with skill intensity and that skilled individuals respond differently from their unskilled counterparts to trade shocks.
aksoyetal2018.pdf
Leonardo Baccini and Stephen Weymouth. Working Paper. “Gone For Good: Deindustrialization, White Voter Backlash, and U.S. Presidential Voting”. baccini_weymouth.pdf
Leonardo Baccini and Stephen Weymouth. Working Paper. “Gone For Good: Deindustrialization, White Voter Backlash, and U.S. Presidential Voting”. baccini_weymouth.pdf
Margaret E. Peters. Working Paper. “Government Finance and Imposition of Serfdom after the Black Death”.Abstract
After the Black Death, serfdom disappeared in Western Europe while making a resurgence in Eastern Europe. What explains this difference? I argue that serfdom was against the interests of the sovereign and was only imposed when the nobility, most of whom needed serfdom to maintain their economic and social standing, had leverage to impose their will. One way the nobility gained this power was through financing the military. Using data from the fourteenth to through the eighteenth centuries, I show that serfdom was imposed in areas where sovereigns had few other resources to pay for war or defense. This paper addresses the causes of a historical institution that scholars from Moore (1966) to Acemoglu and Robinson (2006) have argued played an important role in the development, or lack thereof, of democracy and long-term economic growth. 
peters2019.pdf
Sonal Pandya, Luca Cian, and Raj Venkatesan. Working Paper. “Grocery Shopping for America: External vs. Internal Threats to National Identity”.Abstract
Nationalist political strategies capitalize on the psychology of external threats to justify harshness towards outgroups. We hypothesize that while external threats strengthen national identication, harshness towards outgroups that degrades in-group's constituent values (internal threat) weakens national identication. We test the causal effects of US war casualties (external threat) and Abu Ghraib torture scandal (internal threat) on national identication using weekly sales of American-sounding supermarket brands, a behavioral proxy for national identification. In our sample spanning over 8,000 brands and 1,100 supermarkets, the market share of American-sounding brands increased in stores following the death of a solider from the same county. These same brands' national market shares
declined during Abu Ghraib. A July 2018 lab experiment reveals that Chinese import competition (external threat) strengthens Americans' national identication but backlash against refugee family border separations (internal threat) weakens identication. Our ndings suggest that nationalist political strategies can backfire if pushed too far.
pandyatal2019-abughraib.pdf
Laurent Bouton, Paola Conconi, Francisco Pino, and Maurizio Zanardi. Working Paper. “"Guns, Environment, and Abortion: How Single-minded Voters Shape Politicians' Decisions"”.Abstract
We study how electoral incentives aect policy choices on secondary issues, which only minorities of voters care intensely about. We develop a model in which office and policy motivated politicians choose to support or oppose regulations on these issues. We derive conditions under which politicians flip-flop, voting according to their policy preferences at the beginning of their terms, but in line with the preferences of single-issue minorities as they approach re-election. To assess the evidence, we study U.S. senators' votes on gun control, environment, and reproductive rights. In line with our model's predictions, election proximity has a pro-gun effect on Democratic senators and a pro-environment effect on Republican senators. These effects only arise for non-retiring senators, who represent states where the single-issue minority is of intermediate size. Also in line with our theory, election proximity has no impact on senators' decisions on reproductive rights, because of the presence of single-issue minorities on both sides.
boutonetal2018.pdf
Steven D. Levitt. Working Paper. “"Heads or Tails: The Impact of a Coin Toss on Major Life Decisions and Subsequent Happiness."”.Abstract
Little is known about whether people make good choices when facing important decisions. This paper reports on a large-scale randomized field experiment in which research subjects having difficulty making a decision flipped a coin to help determine their choice. For important decisions (e.g. quitting a job or ending a relationship), those who make a change (regardless of the outcome of the coin toss) report being substantially happier two months and six months later. This correlation, however, need not reflect a causal impact. To assess causality, I use the outcome of a coin toss. Individuals who are told by the coin toss to make a change are much more likely to make a change and are happier six months later than those who were told by the coin to maintain the status quo. The results of this paper suggest that people may be excessively cautious when facing life-changing choices.
levitt2016.pdf

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