My research focuses on the provision of public education in the developing world, with attention to the political origins of education systems. I emphasize how political choices regarding education are a result of the interaction between the political alignments of interest groups, electoral incentives, and international factors such as policy diffusion. I also specialize in the political economy of development, studying how inequality (of income and land) is related to redistribution and democratization. To study these topics I make use of quantitative and qualitative methods, including interviews, archival work, large-N statistical work, and survey experiments.

Dissertation Project: 

Tentative Title: Political Parties, Teachers’ Unions, and Diffusion: The Political Economy of Education Reform in Latin America

My dissertation examines why and how Latin American countries reformed their education systems in the 1990s. Drawing on a statistical analysis of 18 countries over 20 years, in-depth case studies of three countries supported by interviews and archival work, and a conjoint experiment performed on education bureaucrats, I conclude that education reform in Latin America was driven in part by political processes that had little to do with public education itself. Two political logics propelled education reform in the region. First, an internal political logic in which incumbents used education reforms to weaken teachers’ unions that were aligned with the opposition. Second, an external political logic in which international organizations with significant leverage over countries proposed and funded changes to education systems. These political factors, not the underlying strengths and weaknesses of the education system, drove reform.

Working Papers (papers by request):   

  • The Need to Reform: Re-Assessing The State of Latin American Education by the 1990s.

  • Democracy, Landed Elites, and Human Capital Formation, with David Samuels.

  • The Non-Redistributive Effects of Constitutional Courts on Educational Outcomes in Latin America.

  • Capital Mobility and Democratization: The Role of the Foreign Elites, with Carly Potz-Nielsen.

  • Human Rights Reports and the Organizations that Produce Them, with Carly Potz-Nielsen and Robert Ralston.

  • Bleeding But Not Leading?: US Political Dynamics and Bias in International Event Data, with Sarah Parkinson and Ben Bagozzi.