Research

Working Papers

"Politician Family Networks and Electoral Outcomes: Evidence from the Philippines(with Cesi Cruz and Julien Labonne) [Download PDF

In this paper, we test whether the family networks of politicians affect electoral outcomes in consolidating democracies. We argue that family networks facilitate the use of clientelistic practices by making use of extended norms of loyalty and reciprocity that greatly reduce the importance of informational and agency problems in vote-buying transactions. We have secured access to a unique 20 million person dataset in 709 municipalities of the Philippines. Local naming conventions allow us to use this data to assess the intermarriage links between families and to reconstruct all links in the family networks. We establish that politicians are disproportionately drawn from more central families and that more central candidates receive a higher vote share during the elections. We then use a more detailed dataset of voters, candidates, and policy preferences to explore mechanisms behind this effect. We find that centrality allows candidates to mobilize voters through vote-buying.

"When do Parties Buy Turnout? How Monitoring Capacity Facilitates Voter Mobilization in Mexico(with Horacio Larreguy and John Marshall) [Download PDF] Revised and Resubmitted, American Political Science Review

Despite its prevalence, little is known about when parties buy turnout. We emphasize the problem of parties monitoring local brokers with incentives to shirk. Our model suggests that parties extract greater turnout buying effort from their brokers where they can better monitor broker performance and where favorable voters would not otherwise turn out. Exploiting exogenous variation in the number of polling stations—and thus electoral information about broker performance—in Mexican electoral precincts, we find that greater monitoring capacity increases turnout and votes for the PAN and the PRI. Consistent with our theoretical predictions, the effect of monitoring capacity on PRI votes varies non-linearly with the distance of voters to the polling station: it first increases because rural voters—facing larger costs of voting—generally favor the PRI, before declining as the cost of incentivizing brokers increases. This non-linearity is not present for the PAN, who stand to gain less from mobilizing rural voters.


"The Role of Labor Unions as Political Machines: Evidence from the Case of the Mexican Teachers' Union(with Horacio Larreguy and Cesar Montiel) [Download PDF

In this paper we analyze the electoral role of the Mexican teacher's union as a political machine.  To study its effect on electoral outcomes, we exploit variation across time in its political alliances, whether polling stations are located in schools which facilitates the machine's operation and its strength across Mexican states. Our findings suggest that the candidates supported by the machine of the teacher's union experience a significant increase in their vote share when a polling station is located in a school.However, such an effect is only present in the areas where the leadership of the teacher's union exerts influence over its affiliates.  We also show evidence that is consistent with the fact that SNTE uses electoral results at a low level of aggregation to monitor school directors and teachers.

"Political Reform and Elite Persistence: Term Limits and Political Dynasties in the Philippines" [Download PDF] (Under Review)

Research in political economy emphasizes the tendency of elites to persist and reproduce their power over time, potentially undermining the effectiveness of institutional reforms. One particular form of elite persistence is illustrated by the existence of political dynasties. A natural question is whether certain political reforms can break dynastic patterns and open up the political system. In this paper I study the extent to which the introduction of term limits by the 1987 Philippine Constitution effectively broke the hold of incumbent families on power. The ability of term limits to dismantle political dynasties is not obvious, as term-limited incumbents may be replaced by relatives or may run for a different elected office. Whether these strategies undermine the direct effects of term-limits in reducing the time an individual can hold office is an empirical question. I find no evidence of a statistically significant impact of term limits on curbing families' persistence in power. Moreover, term limits deter high-quality challengers from running prior to the expiration of an incumbent's term. Challengers prefer to wait for the incumbent to be termed-out and run in an open-seat race. As a consequence, incumbents are safer in their early terms prior to the limit. These results suggest that political reforms that do not modify the underlying sources of dynastic power may be ineffective in changing the political equilibrium.

Media Coverage: The Guardian

"Family and Politics: Dynastic Incumbency Advantage in the Philippines" [Download PDF]  (Under Review)

In many democracies a small subset of individuals enjoy, de facto, an electoral advantage. The existence of political dynasties, where individuals from a narrow set of families obtain larger vote shares and are more likely to access office illustrates this phenomenon. In this paper, I study political dynasties in the Philippines and provide evidence of what I define as dynastic incumbency advantage. More precisely I provide evidence of a causal effect of incumbency on the probability of having future relatives in office. Using a regression discontinuity design based on close elections, I find that candidates who barely win their first election by a small margin are around 5 times more likely to have a relative in office in the future, than individuals who barely lose and do not serve.


Recent Publications

"The Control of Politicians in Normal Times and Times of Crisis: Wealth Accumulation by U.S. Congressmen, 1850-1880" (with James M. Snyder, Jr.) Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 2013 (8), p.409-450. [Download PDF] [Download Appendix PDF]

“The Desire to Return during Civil War: Evidence for Internally Displaced Populations in Colombia” (with Ma. Alejandra Arias and Ana María Ibáñez), Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy, 2014, Volume 20, Issue 1, p. 209-233.

“The Returns to U.S. Congressional Seats in the mid-19th Century” (with James M. Snyder, Jr.) in Aragones, E., Bevia, C., Llavador, H., Schofield, N., Eds. The Political Economy of Democracy, BBVA, Barcelona, 2009. [Download PDF]

“When Does Policy Reform Work? The case of Central Bank Independence” (with Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson and James A. Robinson), Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (Spring 2008): 351-421 [Download PDF] [Data]

“Economic and Political Inequality in Development: the case of Cundinamarca, Colombia” (with Daron Acemoglu, Maria Angelica Bautista and James A. Robinson) in Elhanan Helpman, ed Institutions and Economic Performance, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2008 [Download PDF]