International Political Economy

International Interactions Volume 44, 2018 - Issue 3, pp. 582-602

Abstract: As foreign direct investment (FDI) has become increasingly important in the world economy, a large body of literature has emerged regarding the determinants of FDI flows. Some scholars argue that democracy attracts FDI through the mechanism of political constraints, which reduce the risk of negative policy changes. However, the value of policy stability should be conditional on the attractiveness of contemporary FDI-relevant policies. I therefore propose a theoretically more comprehensive argument: political constraints are attractive to investors when the host country policy environment is FDI-friendly, because these political constraints reduce the probability of negative policy changes in the future. When the policy environment is hostile to FDI, on the other hand, political constraints will have little positive effect, and, to the extent they indicate that FDI-relevant policies are unlikely to improve, may even deter FDI. This argument helps explain why the positive relationship between democracy and FDI seems to emerge after a global shift toward FDI-friendly polices. I find robust empirical support for the argument in tests covering more than 100 developing countries from 1970 to 2014, indicating significant effects using a variety of policy and political constraint measures.

Authoritarian Politics

Comparative Political Studies Volume 48, 2015 - Issue 7, pp. 915-948

Abstract: Many scholars have examined the durability of parliamentary versus presidential regimes in democracies, but the process by which authoritarian leaders are (nominally) elected is generally assumed to be irrelevant. However, even if the electoral outcome is not in doubt, the executive selection process may affect outcomes such as regime durability. I argue that, when opposition parties are allowed to participate in the executive selection process, a Parliament-based election system increases authoritarian regime durability by creating incentives for ruling party elites to work cooperatively for mutual gain. In this article, I identify dictatorships by executive selection system and find that regimes with a multiparty Parliament-based system are more durable than those with a multiparty Presidential system or an Unelected (or single party) system if the party, relative to the ruler and the military, is an important power center.

Online Appendix



Washington Post, The Monkey Cage, May 12, 2015.

Presidential Power, May 14, 2015.

Studies in Comparative International Development, April 15, 2021

Abstract: There is ample research on the incidence of coups d’etat but less on their aftermath. Why ´ do some national leaders who seize power via military coup stay in power longer than others once they unseat their predecessors? This study tests whether facial attractiveness - which we argue is a testable proxy for personal charisma - helps explain variation in coup-installed leader survival. We draw on multiple data sources of coups worldwide from 1950 to 2010, as well as original attractiveness data coded from survey responses. We find that more attractive coup-installed leaders retain power longer than their less attractive counterparts after successfully ousting the incumbent. The attractiveness advantage is particularly strong for leaders in the first five years of their tenure, those who seized power from a dictatorship as opposed to a democracy, and those who rule without parties in the legislature. We argue that leaders who take power through a military coup lack both traditional and rational-legal authority; for such cases, facial attractiveness may signal charismatic authority sufficient to survive the institutional vacuum following an unconstitutional ascent to power.

Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa

Washington Post, The Monkey Cage, May 7, 2021

Washington Post, The Monkey Cage, December 2, 2020.

Washington Post, The Monkey Cage, May 10, 2019.

Washington Post, The Monkey Cage, January 7, 2019.

Côte d’Ivoire’s 2015 Presidential Election: A Sign of Democratic Progress? (with Joseph Koné, Stéphane Koffi and Kim Yi Dionne)

Journal of African Elections Volume 15, 2016 - Issue 1, pp. 45-61

Washington Post, The Monkey Cage March 22, 2016.

Washington Post, The Monkey Cage, October 20, 2015

Washington Post, The Monkey Cage, November 26, 2015.

The 2015 Presidential Election in Togo (with Ekoutiame A. Ahlin and Kim Dionne)

Electoral Studies Volume 39, 2015, pp.168-173

Washington Post, The Monkey Cage May 4, 2015.

The Monkey Cage March 16, 2011

The Monkey Cage March 15, 2010

Electoral Studies Volume 27, 2008, pp. 558-561

Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies, Volume 33 2006 - Issue 1, pp. 57-74


Regional Trade Agreements and Democratization in Africa

Abstract: Previous research indicates that regional trade agreements (RTAs) can promote both democratic transition and democratic certain under certain conditions. Recently, a number of democratic transitions in Africa have taken place in ECOWAS countries, bringing nearly all of the countries into Freedom House’s Partly Free category, while the SADC Free Trade Area includes both stable democracies and stable dictatorships. This paper examines whether and why regional trade agreements affect democratic transition and survival in Africa. I find that Increased trade resulting from membership in a regional trade agreement (and more so in free trade agreements (FTAs) increases the probability of democratic survival. In addition, democratic countries who have deep trade relations with other democracies in either a RTA or FTA are more likely to remain democratic. Finally, democratic countries who are members of RTAs with higher “democratic density” are more likely to remain democratic than are democratic countries who are members of RTAs with generally low democracy scores. These patterns are generally robust to the inclusion of other explanations for democratic transition or survival, including income level, domestic history of democracy, democracy in nearby countries, and country fixed effects. These findings have high salience given the African Continental Free Trade Area which formally went into force recently.

Authoritarian Executive Election Systems and Military Coups

Presidential democracies have been found to be more prone to military coups than parliamentary democracies. In this paper, I explore whether formal rules for selecting the executive in authoritarian regimes affects the occurrence of military coups. I argue that a Parliament-based executive selection system (in which a prime minister or president are elected by a policy-making body elected according to multiparty rules) reduces the probability of military coups, relative to a Presidential system, in authoritarian regimes where power is centered in the ruling party. I test the argument using new (preliminary) data for executive selection systems and find some support, although the effect loses significance when a matching technique is used to eliminate cases without similar matches in both the treatment and control groups.

Aid Effectiveness and Allocation: Evidence from Malawi (with Kim Yi Dionne and Eric Kramon).

This paper measures the impact of foreign aid, conditional on how and where it is spent. If aid has diminishing marginal returns, then aid should have the greatest impact when allocated to where it is needed most. Aid allocation based on political favoritism may have less impact because the goal is merely to deliver patronage to politically important constituencies rather than to achieve development goals. Our analysis has a two-stage approach that identifies the determinants of aid allocation and then the impact of aid. We focus on how sector-specific aid projects affect outcomes in their respective sectors. We draw on multiple data sources from Malawi that measure need for development aid, geo-coded distribution of aid projects, and development outcomes.