Research

Peer-Reviewed Academic Publications

Clark, Richard and Lindsay Dolan.“Pleasing the Principal: U.S. Influence in World Bank Policymaking.” 2020. American Journal of Political Science. Forthcoming. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ajps.12531. Appendix available here. Replication data available here.

Abstract: How do policies in international organizations reflect the preferences of powerful institutional stakeholders? Using an under-utilized data set on the conditions associated with World Bank loans, we find that borrower countries that vote with the U.S. at the UN are required to enact fewer domestic policy reforms, and on fewer and softer issue areas. Though U.S. preferences permeate World Bank decisionmaking, we do not find evidence that borrower countries trade favors in exchange for active U.S. intervention on their behalf. Instead, we propose that U.S. influence operates indirectly when World Bank staff — consciously or unconsciously — design programs that are compatible with U.S. preferences. Our study provides novel evidence of World Bank conditionality and shows that politicized policies can result even from autonomous bureaucracies.

Papers Under Review

Clark, Richard. “Bargain Down or Shop Around? Outside Options and IMF Conditionality.” 2020. Invited to Revise and Resubmit at American Journal of Political Science. Draft available here.

Abstract: When do overlapping international organizations (IOs) serve as credible outside options to one another? Utilizing an original dataset on cooperation among IOs in the emergency lending regime complex, I find that outside options are only credible when IOs compete as opposed to cooperate with one another. While the literature frames the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a monopoly organization, I show that it increasingly competes with Regional Financing Arrangements (RFAs). When RFAs compete with the IMF, they become credible outside options that member states can leverage in negotiations over conditional lending at the Fund. I first offer original descriptive analysis of patterns of cooperation among these IOs. I then hypothesize that as states become members of competitive IOs, but not cooperative institutions, they ought to receive less intrusive conditionality from the IMF. A series of regressions lend support for my theory, as do supplemental interviews and text analysis.

Clark, Richard and Don Casler. “Trade Rage: Audience Costs and International Trade.” 2020. Draft available here.

Abstract: Politicians frequently issue public threats to manipulate tariffs, but they only sometimes follow through. This behavior theoretically ought to generate audience costs. We therefore test the validity of audience costs in trade war settings through a vignette-based survey experiment. The vignettes describe a hypothetical situation involving the U.S. and a second country (China, Canada, or unspecified) with whom the U.S. has a trade deficit. The president (Democrat, Republican, or unspecified) either maintains the status quo, threatens to impose tariffs and backs down, or threatens to impose tariffs and follows through. Our findings highlight differences between security and trade conflict when it comes to audience costs and presidential approval. While Americans sanction the president for issuing a threat to raise tariffs, they generally support backing down. Regression modeling and text analysis of a free response question from our surveys suggest this is because consumers are wary of paying the costs of tariffs.

Clark, Richard and Allison Carnegie. “In the Shadow of Intervention: The Political Determinants of Institutional Reform.” 2020. Draft available here.

Abstract: A large literature analyzes the determinants of change in global governance, focusing on the role of systemic political shocks. However, we take up this question in more "business-as-usual" periods, asking what leads IOs to implement reforms in the course of their daily operations and who benefits from these changes. We argue that allies of the leading stakeholder in an IO more often benefit than non-aligned countries; however, we also document that reforms sometimes contain concessions to these non-allied stakeholders. We theorize that while IOs reward major stakeholders' allies in normal times, they provide concessions to non-allies during periods of poor IO performance to stem potential unrest and/or exit. Pairing statistical analysis using an original dataset of reforms at the World Bank between 1944-2018 with qualitative evidence, we find significant support for our hypotheses. Our findings help make sense of otherwise puzzling instances of shifts in power within IOs.

Peer-Reviewed Policy Publications

Clark, Richard, Noah Zucker, and Johannes Urpelainen. 2020. “The Future of Coal-Fired Power Generation in Southeast Asia.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 121: 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2019.109650

Abstract: As both China and India are moving away from coal in the power sector, Southeast Asia has emerged as arguably the most important region for future growth in coal-fired power generation. Here we use data from the January 2017 edition of the Global Coal Plant Tracker to understand coal’s fortunes in the region. More specifically, we manipulate three key policy levers – attrition rate, capacity factor, and plant lifespan – to provide a timely update on the future of coal in Southeast Asia. Using improved estimates of the attrition rate for planned power plants and capacity factors in different countries, we find that status-quo trends in Southeast Asian coal-fired power generation would significantly hamper the region’s ability to contribute to global efforts to limit warming to 1.5 or 2.0 degrees Celsius in line with international agreements, namely the 2009 Copenhagen and 2016 Paris Agreements. Though meeting these targets may be possible if policymakers limit the entry into service of new coal power capacity and reduce use of existing units, qualitative evidence suggests that there may be a lack of political will to do so.

Clark, Richard, Noah Zucker, and Johannes Urpelainen. 2019. “Political Institutions and Pollution: Evidence from Coal-Fired Power Generation.” Review of Policy Research 36(5): 586-602. https://doi.org/10.1111/ropr.12356

Abstract: What is the relationship between political institutions and air pollution generated by the power sector? Here we focus on the association between democracy and power generated from coal, the most polluting of all fossil fuels. Using a new dataset on coal‐fired power plants commissioned between 1980 and 2016 in 71 countries, we find that the relationship between democracy and coal varies according to the environmental Kuznets curve logic. Democratic political institutions at lower levels of economic development are correlated with increased commissioning of coal power plants, as governments seek to appeal to an electorate prioritizing economic growth and affordable energy access. As a country becomes richer, democracy comes to have a negative association with coal power, as clean air becomes a more salient issue for the public.

Instructional Case Studies

Clark, Richard, Nikhar Gaikwad, and Kenneth Scheve. 2019. “Global Climate Cooperation and Conflict: Brazil and the Paris Agreement.” Stanford Graduate School of Business. Case P98. https://hbsp.harvard.edu/product/P98-PDF-ENG

Synopsis: It is March 2019, and Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's newly elected president, is deciding what to do about Brazil's participation in the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change. Bolsonaro must weigh the economic and political costs and benefits of taking drastic action to curb environmentalism and environmental protections in Brazil. Exiting from the Paris Agreement would provide far greater freedom to reboot Brazil's economy, which is one of Bolsonaro's campaign promises. Ignoring climate change would enhance Bolsonaro's ability to roll back fines and regulations aimed at protecting the Amazon Basin, the world's largest carbon sink. This move would likely boost his popularity with the agribusiness sector, but draw ire from social and labor groups in Brazil that have fought long and hard to improve environmental protection throughout the country. And there are broader international considerations: Would leaving Paris mean objections from trading partners and the broader global community?

Selected Works-in-Progress

Clark, Richard. 2020. "Pool or Duel? Cooperation and Competition Among International Organizations." Draft available here.

Abstract: International organizations (IOs) increasingly cooperate, allowing them to pool re- sources and expertise. Under what conditions do IOs cooperate rather than compete when their activities overlap? I argue that even though many cooperation decisions are made by staff possessing high degrees of autonomy from member states principals, IOs are more likely to cooperate when their leading stakeholders are geopolitically aligned. Regardless of whether member states directly oversee the negotiation of these arrangements, staff have incentives to design policies that are amenable to major stakeholders. I test this argument with network and regression analysis on an original dataset that documents patterns of co-financing and information sharing among IOs in the emergency lending and development issue areas. I further supplement these tests with interviews and an elite survey experiment deployed to bureaucrats from various development IOs. Across the board, I find evidence consistent with my theory.

Clark, Richard. 2020. "Is Cooperation Consequential? Performance and Inter-Organizational Cooperation." Draft coming soon.

Abstract: What drives the performance of international organizations (IOs)? More specifically, how does cooperation versus competition between overlapping IOs affect operational outcomes? I argue that while inter-organizational cooperation theoretically ought to lead to improved performance via the pooling of resources and expertise, collective action barriers are obstructive. Applying an Olsonian lens and focusing on the incentives facing operational staff, I suggest that as additional IOs join a project, and as their contributions become more fractionalized, staff from disparate IOs become more likely to free ride. This prevents the abstract benefits of cooperation from being realized. I contend that only when the work group faces substantial competition from out-group organizations do staff increase their effort levels, as they identify more strongly with the work group under these conditions. Regression analysis of an original dataset of co-financing patterns among development organizations offers support for this theory, as do supplemental interviews.

Clark, Richard and Ryan Brutger. 2020. "At What Cost? Power, Payments, and Public Approval of IOs." Draft coming soon.

Abstract: As the U.S. disengages from international organizations (IOs), and as China continues its ascent, substantial doubts exist about the future of the liberal world order. Mounting domestic opposition to U.S. participation in and leadership over IOs is particularly problematic, as American taxpayers disproportionately finance many of these organizations. What drives public opinion of IOs among citizens in powerful creditor states? We contend that domestic publics weigh the financial burden associated with U.S. leadership of these global coalitions against the benefits that the U.S. receives from its role in terms of influence over policymaking. Moreover, we suggest that economically insecure citizens should be more concerned with the former, while populists and conservatives can be swayed by the latter. A survey experiment administered to a representative sample of U.S. citizens offers support for this theory.