Trade and American Politics

What You See Out Your Back Door: How Political Beliefs Respond to Local Trade Shocks (2019) Job Market Paper

What effect does trade have on American politics? Until recently, the answer to this question was "not much". Trade has been viewed as a low-salience issue since the 1970s -- its once-important status among the policy dimensions superseded by issues such as abortion, gay rights, and gun control. However, recent research and the election of Donald Trump has thrust trade back into the spotlight. In this paper, I document a causal relationship between localized trade shocks and individual policy preferences, highlighting the importance of sociotropic concerns at the local level. In addition, I show that policy preferences on free trade are bundled with opinions on immigrants and US global leadership, assembling to create a nativist response to trade-related economic shocks. These findings further our understanding of how free trade's unequal economic consequences explain variation in the political economy of trade.

Responsive Politicians: Local Trade Shocks and Congressional Support for Free Trade (2017) Working Paper

Do politicians adjust their positions on trade policy in response to trade shocks? I examine the effect of trade shocks on US Congressional support for free trade between 1994 and 2005, finding that members of the House of Representatives are less likely to support free trade legislation following trade-related layoffs in their District. This effect is stronger during election years and in contested Congressional Districts, suggesting that electorally vulnerable politicians are more responsive to their constituents than those in "safe seats". Importantly, the changes in roll call votes I identify are produced by Representatives changing their position on trade (a responsiveness mechanism), and not by voters replacing free traders with protectionists (a selection mechanism). I supplement these findings with text analysis of politician speeches, finding that those given by representatives of import-exposed districts talk about trade, China, and immigrants in a more negative light.

The decline in crime rates over the last three decades has enlivened the debate over the preferred methods of combating deviant behavior. Simple regressions of crime on income have documented a strong negative relationship, suggesting that crime is a problem of the poor. However, this research has been unable to adjudicate between the competing theories for this negative relationship. One of the most entrenched debates is over the mediating effects of the state. Do changes in income cause declines in deviant behavior because the government is better able to deter crime with expanded budgets? Or is the causal effect primarily the result of increased opportunity costs? I test these competing theories on county-level crime data from the United States between 1982 and 2007, using trade shocks as a source of exogenous variation in income. I conclude that the majority of the income-crime relationship is explained by the direct effects of opportunity costs. However, there is evidence of a small but significant mediation effect in the form of government expenditures on police.

International Political Economy

The Millennium Development Goals and Education: Accountability and Substitution in Global Assessment with James R. Hollyer, James Raymond Vreeland, and Peter B. Rosendorff (2019) International Organization

Precise international metrics and assessments may induce governments to alter policies in pursuit of more favorable assessments according to these metrics. In this paper, we explore a secondary effect of global performance assessments (GPAs): Insofar as governments have finite resources and make trade-offs in public goods investments, a GPA that precisely targets the provision of a particular public good may cause governments to substitute away from the provision of other, related, public goods. We argue that both the main effect of the GPA (on the measured public good) and this substitution effect vary systematically based on the domestic political institutions and informational environments of targeted states. Specifically, we contend that both the main and substitution effects of GPAs should be largest for governments that are least accountable (opaque and non-democratic) and should be smallest for those that are most accountable. We test these claims using data on primary and secondary enrollment rates across 114 countries. We find that countries substitute toward primary (which is targeted by the MDGs) and away from secondary (which is not), and that these effects are mitigated as accountability rises.[Paper]

Decompensating Domestically: The Political Economy of Anti-Globalism, with Layna Mosley, Tom Pepinsky, and B. Peter Rosendorff (2019) Revise and resubmit

The rise of populism across advanced industrial countries presents a challenge to the institutions and norms that make up the current global order and threatens to undo the global system that has enabled decades of free trade and investment. We outline in this paper a domestic political economy account of the contemporary crisis of the global order, rooted in disenchantment with the redistributive bargain between globalization’s winners and losers. We present individual and local-level evidence that is consistent with this account, first documenting the decline of the embedded liberal compromise over the past 40 years in Europe, and then providing individual-level evidence from the United States of growing protectionism and xenophobia in response to import exposure, particularly among respondents whose occupational profile is most risk-exposed.

The Political Economy of Trade's Winners: Protectionism, Xenophobia, and Isolationism Among Those Who Win, with Thomas Keating (2019) Working Paper

Recent research has documented two important dimensions of the political economy of free trade: the losers lose big and they turn against liberal views of the global system. But do the same patterns play out in reverse among free trade's winners? Or does the nativist backlash against globalism operate according to a ratchet effect? In this paper, we connect opinion survey data with free trade's winners to show that those who live close to firms that receive loans from the Export-Import Bank hold more positive views of free trade, immigration, and globalization. These findings offer a note of hope for supporters of the contemporary international order who see rising nativism across advanced industrial democracies as a portent of future decline.

Political Methodology

Local Instruments, Global Extrapolation: External Validity of the Labor Supply-Fertility Local Average Treatment Effect with Rajeev Dehejia, Cristian Pop-Eleches, and Cyrus Samii. Journal of Labor Economics (2017) vol. 35, no. S1

We investigate the external validity of local average treatment effects (LATEs), specifically Angrist and Evans’ (1998) use of same sex of the two first children as an instrumental variable for the effect of fertility on labor supply. We estimate their specification in 139 country-year censuses using Integrated Public Use Micro Sample International data. We compare each country-year's actual LATE to the extrapolated LATE from other country-years. We find that, with a sufficiently large reference sample, we extrapolate the treatment effect reasonably well, but the degree of accuracy depends on the extent of covariate similarity between the target and reference settings. [Paper]

Testing Social Science Network Theories with Online Network Data: An Evaluation of External Validity with Jennifer M. Larson. American Political Science Review (2017) 1-20

To answer questions about the origins and outcomes of collective action, political scientists increasingly turn to datasets with social network information culled from online sources. However, a fundamental question of external validity remains untested: are the relationships measured between a person and her online peers informative of the kind of offline, "real-world" relationships to which network theories typically speak? This article offers the first direct comparison of the nature and consequences of online and offline social ties, using data collected via a novel network elicitation technique in an experimental setting. We document strong, robust similarity between online and offline relationships. This parity is not driven by shared identity of online and offline ties, but a shared nature of relationships in both domains. Our results affirm that online social tie data offer great promise for testing long-standing theories in the social sciences about the role of social networks. [Paper]

BARP: Improving Mister P using Bayesian Additive Regression Trees American Political Science Review (2019) 1-6

Multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) is the current gold standard for extrapolating opinion data from nationally representative surveys to smaller geographic units. However, innovations in non-parametric machine learning methods can further improve the researcher's ability to extrapolate opinion data to a geographic unit of interest. I test an ensemble of machine learning algorithms and find that there is room for substantial improvement on the multilevel model via more sophisicated methods of regularization. I propose a modified version of MRP that replaces the multilevel model with a non-parametric approach called Bayesian Additive Regression Trees (BART or, when combined with post-stratification, BARP). I compare both methods across a number of data contexts, demonstrating the benefits of applying more powerful regularization methods to extrapolate opinion data to target geographical units. I provide an R package that implements the BARP method.