My research focuses on the politics of education in the developing world. Specifically, I study how choices with regards to the education sector are the result of interactions between the political alignments of interest groups and electoral incentives. A second area of research of mine is political economy. To investigate these topics, I make use of mixed quantitative and qualitative methods, including interviews, archival work, large-N statistical work, and survey experiments. My newer area of focus is mis and disinformation in rich democracies.
Much research suggests democracies invest more in human capital formation than dictatorships. In particular, scholars have suggested that democracies outspend autocracies on education, due to electoral and interest group pressure. However, some democracies spend no more on education - and some spend much less - than autocracies. What explains this variation within democracies? The answer is the influence of landed agricultural elites. Urban industrial elites support human capital investment because it leads to higher rates of return even if wages increase. Yet greater education spending encourages out-migration from the countryside, reducing the supply and increasing the price of agricultural labor. Given the differential impact of education spending across economic sectors, the effect of democracy on education spending may be conditional on the power of landed elites. We test this argument in two ways. First, we run a series of time series cross sectional regressions on data from 107 countries for the period 1970 to 2000. Second, we conduct a difference-in-difference analysis, comparing countries that democratize at high versus low levels of land inequality, for 73 countries for the same time period. Results confirm a negative relationship between the power of landed elites and investment in public education under democracy, adding important and novel insight into the sources of differences in public-goods spending and human capital investment both within across political regimes.
Gendered citation patterns in political science resemble those in many other disciplines (e.g., economics, sociology, linguistics, ecology) and show a tendency for men/mixed gender author teams to cite research by women less frequently than women authors. This citation behavior generates a citation gender gap for traditional citation metrics (e.g., citation counts, h-index). These dynamics contributed to the development of Altmetrics, one measure that captures the quantity and quality of online attention to research in multiple outlets such as news coverage, blog posts, and social media. These non-academic venues enable scholars to promote their work more actively to broad audiences. Given that women academics are as active on social media as men, Altmetrics may display fewer gender gaps. However, whether these new measures translate into better research impact using traditional citation metrics remains unclear. Our paper analyzes the relationship between Altmetrics scores (and Tweet counts) in 2017 and citations in 2021 for 8,493 articles in 21 political science journals while controlling for authors’ gender. Consistent with previous literature, we find that higher online attention scores significantly increase articles’ citation counts. We also find that solo authored pieces show the strongest marginal effects, and that solo women and women author teams accrue more citations as Altmetrics scores increase. Our results suggest that online promotion of political science research will help to shrink the gender citation gap.
What explains why some governments advanced decentralized education in the 1990s while others shied away from such efforts? Some arguments suggest that decentralization was pursued to improve the coverage and quality of education. Others point to partisanship, ideology, or diffusion. Drawing on a case study of El Salvador and Paraguay, I argue instead that governments pursued education decentralization in part because it could be deployed as a political weapon to weaken teachers’ unions affiliated with the opposition, thus depressing mobilization and votes for their rivals. These findings contribute to the literature on decentralization by highlighting a new political motivation fueling decentralization efforts across the developing world—the demobilization of the opposition.
Do citizen perceptions of local state capacity shape evaluations of the national government in a crisis and public compliance with emergency rules? Recent social scientific research on COVID-19 draws on work conducted in rich countries to suggest a number of factors driving government actions, societal behavior, and health outcomes in response to the pandemic. In Latin America, where political parties are weak and poverty more rampant, other more basic factors likely matter more. Perhaps most importantly, in countries across the region state capacity tends to be weaker or more fragmented than in rich countries. We argue that subjective perceptions of state capacity, based on how citizens view the effectiveness of local services, strongly shape how they evaluate the national government’s response to COVID-19. We leverage an online survey across two Mexican states, including an embedded framing experiment, to support this argument. Our finding suggest that governments that need to rapidly build public confidence in policy responses when they need it the most—during the onset of a major crisis—should be concerned about the persistence of pockets of weak state capacity at the local level and its effects on citizens’ view of the national government.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Latin American countries reformed public education in the 1990s in response to a crisis of coverage and quality. Yet, in terms of access, Latin American countries had achieved relatively high enrolment and completion rates by 1990. With regards to quality, there was simply no high-quality evidence showing weak or lowering standards. In short, by the early 1990s, there was very little scientific evidence of a crisis of public education in Latin America. By uncovering these patterns, this paper argues that political scientist should revisit the origins of education reform efforts in the 1990s.