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  • Barriers to Rural Women's Political Engagement: Evidence from Mali with Jaimie Bleck  Paper

According to many prominent theorists of democracy, citizens must be able to “formulate and signify preferences” to participate as ‘political equals’ for democracy to work (Dahl 1971). However, a gender gap in political knowledge and opinions exists across the Global South, especially in rural areas. In this paper, we study the relationship between rural women’s socioeconomic empowerment (household decision-making ability and mobility to leave the village) and political knowledge and opinions amongst rural women in Mali, a West African country with strong traditional gender norms. To reduce well-known difficulties of gaining access to rural women and reducing bystanders effects, we use simultaneous co-gender interviews of one man and one woman per household and a modified Audio-Self-Administered Questionnaire for illiterate populations. Further to reduce “satisficed” opinions, we elicit opinion justifications and measure “justified opinions.” Consistent with predictions, we find that women’s empowerment is positively associated with rural women’s political knowledge and opinions. We close by examining opinions towards one controversial policy area with redistributive consequences for men and women—the Family Code, which regulates rights of men and women in marriage, inheritance, and the family. More empowered women are more likely to support pro-woman changes.


Under First Review
  • Does Increased Mobilization and Descriptive Representation Intensify Partisanship Over Election Campaigns? Evidence from 3 US Elections with Steve Utych  Paper

We theorize that partisanship intensifies more as elections near for certain citizens due to campaign-specific factors that buoy partisan identity salience and perceived congruence with their party: (a) citizens targeted with more mobilization activities, and (b) citizens from politically-marginalized groups that share social identity with their party's nominees. Using daily cross-sectional survey data from a nationally-representative sample collected for one year prior to the US 2000, 2004, and 2008 elections, we find partisanship substantially intensifies over a campaign year (5 percentage points). The effect is larger in states receiving more mobilization activities (swing states). While black Democrats and female Republicans received increased descriptive representation from a presidential and vice-presidential nominee in 2008, respectively, only black Democrats' partisanship intensifies significantly more than comparison groups in this election. We conclude that campaigns matter because they intensify partisanship and exacerbate  polarization on partisan cleavages; who becomes more polarized, however, depends on campaign-specific factors.


Projects Underway 

  • Do Politicians Skew Resources Towards Men's or Women's Policy Priorities? A Survey Experiment with Ugandan Politicians with Guy Grossman and Sang-Eun (Cecilia) Kim  Paper

The evidence is mixed as to whether women's descriptive representation in legislative bodies leads to improvements in women's substantive representation. One possibility is that female legislators are not responsive to the expressed policy preferences of female citizens, as commonly hoped. In this study, we question whether female and male politicians are differentially responsive to female and male constituents' policy priorities regarding public service delivery.  We leverage a survey experiment conducted with 374 Ugandan politicians, of which 1/3 are women elected from women's reserved seats. Politicians hear a citizen requesting school improvements followed by a citizen requesting health clinic improvements and must decide how to hypothetically allocate a fixed budget between the two improvements. The voices of the citizens are randomly assigned to be (1) male-school, female-health, or (2) female-school, male-health. We find politicians have no differential responsiveness to service delivery requests made by same-gender or non-same gender citizens. This paper contributes to a growing literature on whether women's descriptive representation leads to substantive representation, as well as the literature on politician responsiveness to those with whom they share identity.

  • Islam, Christianity, and Attitudes Towards Women: Evidence from Mixed-Religion Countries in sub-Saharan Africa. 2017. Kellogg Working Paper Series #418. Paper with Keith R. Weghorst
What determines the success of women in attaining elected political office and socioeconomic gender equality more broadly? A recent surge in the literature on this burning question has centered around whether adherence to Islam versus Christianity, or rather politico-economic factors coinciding with these religions, is responsible for cross-national variation in gender inequality. We view religion not as fixed, but fluid - its interpretation regarding gender equality is endogenous to contextual factors such as political institutions and economic development. Our new approach is thus to conduct analyses on gender attitudes within mixed religion countries in Africa, matching Muslims and Christians on individual level socioeconomic traits to better isolate the role of religion.  We find cross-national variation in the within-country Muslim and Christian gap, whereby Muslims are either equally, more, or less conservative than Christians in sub-Saharan Africa. However, within-country gaps are small. On the other hand, the gaps between men's and women's attitudes towards women's leadership and equality are much larger.   

  • The Effect of Performance Transparency on Challenger Entry, Voter Backlash, and the Electoral Success of Incumbents: Experimental Evidence from Uganda with  Guy Grossman and Carlo Prato
In this follow up study to to "Information Dissemination, Competitive Pressure, and Politician Performance between Elections: A Field Experiment in Uganda" we examine the effect of a politician performance transparency field experimental intervention on incumbents' electoral success in the following 2016 Ugandan elections. We investigate the intervention's effect on challenger entry and vote share in the primaries and general election. (currently we are assembling electoral results data).

  • Contextual Determinants and Individual Assets in the Development of  Partisanship in Sub-Saharan Africa with  Robin Harding
While state formation and the introduction of multiparty elections in sub-Saharan Africa are relatively more recent compared to other regions, the percentage of citizens attached to political parties is on average higher (at 62%). However, it is puzzling why country levels of partisanship range to a large degree from 23% to 82%. In this study, we examine the degree to which partisanship is determined by contextual factors. We argue that high regime stability, party system institutionalization, presence of an anti-colonial liberation party, and ethnic fractionalization decrease the ``noise'' in the informational environment regarding party positioning and competence, facilitating partisanship. Further, we hypothesize that certain individual assets such as higher education, rural residence,  older age, male gender, and coethnicity with party leaders can enable individuals to overcome noisy informational environments and attach to a party. (data culled and merged, analysis underway).

  • Assessing "Good" and "Bad" Gender Gaps: Job Duty Performance and Substantive Representation Among Ugandan Politicians with Guy Grossman and Ana Garcia-Hernandez
The widespread adoption of reserved legislative seats for women has brought high hopes for incoming female politicians' performance. By collecting rich data on politicians in subnational Ugandan legislatures (where one-third of seats are reserved for women), we investigate whether female and male politicians perform job duties equally well and whether they better represent female and male citizens' policy priorities, respectively.  Unfortunately, the data show that female politicians lag behind male counterparts in job duty performance. Women's lower professional network centrality and educational attainment have the strongest explanatory power for such underperformance. Second, gender gaps in citizen policy priorities are not mirrored in politicians' policy priorities, and female politicians are no more likely to advance legislation or work in committees on female citizens' priority policies. These findings raise awareness that after years of marginalization from politics, women entering office via reserved seats in countries with high societal gender inequality may need additional training and support to realize their full potential.