Trade and American Politics

What is Out Your Back Door: How Policy Preferences Respond to Local Trade Shocks (2018) Under Review

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Trade has been viewed as a low-salience issue since the 1970s -- its once-important status among the policy dimensions superseded by issues such as abortion, gay rights, and gun control.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). However, the responsiveness of elected politicians is muted as they receive more funding from interest groups.

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 (2017) Conditionally accepted at IO

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.

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 (2018) Under review

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 unit of interest. I propose a modified version of MRP that replaces the multilevel model with a non-parametric classifier called Bayesian Additive Regression Trees (BART or, when combined with post-stratification, BARP). I compare both methods across a number of data contexts, finding that BARP consistently outperforms MRP. I provide an R package that applies the BARP method to user-provided data.