Working Papers

“Race and Representation in Campaign Finance” with Alexander Sahn (invited to revise and resubmit): Racial inequality in voter turnout is well-documented, but we know less about racial inequality in another important form of political participation: campaign contributions. Using new data on the racial identities of over 27 million donors, we find a highly unrepresentative contributor class. Black and Latino share of contributions is smaller than their share of the population, electorate, and elected offices, and has not changed appreciably since 1980. However, we find strong evidence of coethnic contribution behavior. Results from regression discontinuity and difference-in-difference designs show that the presence of ethnoracial minority candidates increases the share of minority contributions in U.S. House elections. By orders of magnitude, candidate race is a stronger predictor of the racial distribution of donors than is district racial composition. We find little evidence of a white donor backlash from either party to minority candidates. The results suggest that the nomination of minority candidates can increase the ethnoracial representativeness of campaign contributions without costs to fundraising.

“Interest Group Activists, Party Insiders, and the Polarization of State Legislatures” (invited to revise and resubmit): Theories in campaign finance research suggest that interest group contributions moderate, whereas individual contributions polarize, state legislators. However, interest groups are comprised of individuals, and public opinion data suggests that group-affiliated individual donors are more politically active have more extreme attitudes. This article investigates the relationship between group-affiliated donors and legislative polarization in the U.S. states. In recent years, individual donors have become more closely tied to national activist organizations, such as environmental and anti-abortion groups. Prevalence of these group-affiliated donors better predicts legislative extremism than overall contributions from interest groups or individual donors. In contrast, party insiders, individuals affiliated with national party committees, show no consistent relationship. Using a novel dataset of state legislative primary dates, I confirm that this relationship is concentrated in the nomination process. Although the potential for endogeneity merits caution, the findings highlight the importance of breaking down the theoretical firewall between individuals and organizations in research on parties, interest groups, and campaign finance.

“Rock the Registration: Same Day Registration Increases Turnout of Young Voters” with Charlotte Hill (under review). Studies find positive effects of same day registration (SDR) laws on turnout. However, we know less about which kinds of voters are most affected by SDR. Because SDR reduces the cost of voter registration but not the cost of voting itself, we theorize that SDR should increase turnout most among young people, who are disproportionately burdened by traditional registration laws. Reforms that reduce the cost of voting, such as early voting laws, should be less effective at increasing turnout of young people. We test the effect of SDR and early voting laws on turnout across age groups using expanded data and recent advances in difference-in-differences and matching estimation. SDR disproportionately increases turnout among individuals age 18-24, producing a younger electorate. The effect of SDR on young voters is especially pronounced in presidential elections. By contrast, early voting appears to decrease turnout among all except older individuals.

“When Governments Learn from Copartisans: Partisan Policy Diffusion” (winner of Best Paper in Public Policy at APSA 2018; under review): Louis Brandeis' theory of states as laboratories of democracy suggests that governments engage in learning, emulating successful policies from other states and rejecting unsuccessful ones. However, Brandeis' theory did not address the role of parties. Politicians have incentives to avoid implementing successful outpartisan policies, as this may improve the outparty brand. Furthermore, organizations, such as party-aligned interest and expert groups that provide policymakers with information, may bias institutional learning against outpartisan policies. In turn, state governments may not converge on politically or economically successful policies. This article tests theories of partisan policy learning using a large dataset of policies in the U.S. states. Emulation of successful policies is more likely to occur between governments controlled by the same party. Consistent with the nationalization of party coalitions, success interacts more weakly with geography. The findings have implications for our understanding of the incentives of federalism in the context of partisan polarization.

“Are Large Corporations Politically Moderate? Using Money in Politics to Infer the Preferences of Business” with Paul Pierson (manuscript available upon request): The political preferences of business interests has been a topic of debate for decades. Recent measures of the political preferences of large corporations have focused on campaign contributions to legislative candidates from corporate political action committees (PACs). We investigate an alternative source of evidence: contributions to politically-engaged intermediary organizations. We argue that these expenditures—often substantially larger than traditional PAC expenditures—are important sources of information about corporate political preferences. Compared with traditional analyses, they suggest a corporate community that is both more conservative and more closely aligned with the Republican Party.

“Testing City Limits: The Rise of Healthy San Francisco”: Dominant theories argue that cities have a hard time passing redistributive policies, so what explains the development of Healthy San Francisco, a local public health option and employer mandate to provide health care to uninsured workers?