Job Market Profile

You have arrived at the job market website for Adlai Newson, a PhD candidate from the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia. Find my CV here.

I am an applied microeconomist who studies advertising and campaign expenditures in a political context. I also have interests in clientelism and democratization in developing countries.

Job Market Paper: Link

My paper looks at the effects of political advertisements on voter behaviour. Specifically, I exploit variation in television ad viewership induced by media market boundaries to identify the causal effects of ad quantity, tone, and content on US Congressional vote share at the county level.


you can contact me at, my supervisor Francesco Trebbi at, and the VSE placement director at Vadim Marmer at My committee consists of Francesco Trebbi (UC Berkeley), Patrick Francois (UBC), Matilde Bombardini (UC Berkeley), and Thorsten Rogall (UBC). Click here to go to my personal website.

Which Political Ads Matter?

Job Market Paper. Link.

The spending on political advertising during campaigns in the US has increased more than five-fold over the past twenty years, yet our understanding of the causal effect of these ads is still incomplete. This paper exploits discontinuities in advertising at geographic media market boundaries that partition Congressional districts to causally estimate the effects of source, content, and tone of political advertising on Congressional candidate vote shares over the period 2004-2018. I find that advertising is indeed a powerful tool of persuasion, but that these effects are conditional on the source and content of the advertisement. Voters sharply discount ads from upticket races, but are persuaded by ads from their own and weakly from other Congressional candidates. Candidates are the most effective source of persuasion, followed by outside groups, while ads from party committees have a precisely-estimated null effect. Negative advertising is particularly effective, and does not appear to demobilize the electorate.


with Francesco Trebbi. Canadian Journal of Economics, 2018. Link.

We explore the role of ruling elites in autocratic regimes and provide an assessment of tools useful to clarify the structure of opaque political environments. We first showcase the importance of analyzing autocratic regimes as non-unitary actors by discussing extant work on nondemocracies in Sub-Saharan Africa and China, where the prevailing view of winner-take-all contests can be clearly rejected. We show how specific biographical information about powerful cadres helps shed light upon the composition of the inner circles that empower autocrats. We further provide an application of these methods to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), one of the most personalistic, opaque, and data-poor political regimes in the world today. Employing information from DPRK state media on participants at official state events, we are able to trace the evolution and consolidation of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un around the transition period following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il. The internal factional divisions of the DPRK are explored during and after this transition. Final general considerations for the future study of the political economy of development are presented

with Chris Kam. Elements in Political Economy, Cambridge University Press, 2019. Link

This Element examines how the changing economic basis of parliamentary elections in nineteenth century England and Wales contributed to the development of modern parties and elections. Even after the 1832 Reform Act expanded the British electorate, elections in many constituencies went uncontested, party labels were nominal, and candidates spent large sums treating and bribing voters. By the end of the century, however, almost every constituency was contested, candidates stood as representatives of national parties, and campaigns were fought on the basis of policies. We show how industrialization, the spread of literacy, and the rise of cheap newspapers, encouraged candidates to enter and contest constituencies. The increased expense that came from fighting frequent elections in larger constituencies induced co-partisan candidates to form slates. This imparted a uniform partisan character to parliamentary elections that facilitated the emergence of programmatic political parties.

Working Papers

The Evolution of Electoral Competition in Victorian England

with Chris Kam. Working paper. Link

We develop a model in which the rise of literacy contributes to the onset of electoral competition in early periods of democratization. Our model predicts literacy to spark electoral competition by reducing the electoral advantage enjoyed by incumbents. A counterintuitive product of our model is a positive correlation between literacy and the marginal effect of candidates’ spending on their probability of winning. We test our model against data on electoral competition in English and Welsh parliamentary districts between 1820 and 1906; our empirical results are consistent with the predictions of our model.

Work in Progress

The Latent Partisan Structure of Nonprofit Organizations

Work in Progress.

Since the Citizens United ruling in 2010, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on lobbying and political campaigning by "dark-money" groups - nonprofit organizations under IRS tax code section 501(c). These groups are generally not required to disclose the source of their donations, raising alarm bells for scholars and the public alike about untraceable money in politics. By collecting and digitizing the tax filings of these organizations, I am able to reconstruct a latent inter-nonprofit network of contributions which facilitates evasion of the Federal Election Commission regulation requiring these groups to spend less than half of their revenue on political activities. Using an unsupervised community detection algorithm on this contributions network I uncover a strong partisan structure, and contrast this structure with those found in other types of nonprofit which are completely barred from campaign spending.

How is Development Shared in Africa?

Work in Progress.

Ethnic politics are widely understood to be a primary driver in many African states’ development outcomes. In particular, the inclusion or exclusion of ethnic groups from access to state power has recently been subject of intensive study. Existing large-sample studies typically relate leader ethnicity to improvement in coethnic development outcomes, or provide case-study evidence. I provide the first systematic evidence for the importance of inclusion into government along both the intensive and extensive margin for development outcomes, using granular ethnicity data on cabinet appointments and subnational regions. I further find strong evidence that group population size is a crucial moderating force for this development effect, and relate this finding to the theoretical literature on the importance of group size.