Aside from my dissertation and fragmentation-related projects, my research focuses on democratic transitions, political corruption, and gender and politics.
Democratic Transitions, Authoritarian Reversals, and Cross-Level Political Regime Dynamics The study of political regimes and the transitions between them are of utmost interest to scholars of com- parative politics. Yet, despite intense interest in democratic and authoritarian regimes and proven implications of political regime type for economic development and political representation, for example, scholars have been slow to update some political regime metrics. In ongoing research, Lorena Barberia (University of São Paulo) and I have updated Cheibub, Gandhi, and Vreeland’s (2010) Democracy and Dictatorship (DD) dataset for the Latin American region.
We utilize this update in our own research on political budget cycles in Latin American presidential regimes. Using time series analyses, we find that governments increase only certain forms of social spending (e.g. social security spending) in presidential election years that coincide with democratic transitions. We interpret our finding as evidence that Latin American presidents presiding over political transitions manipulate social spending in an attempt to placate well-off voters with the ability to influence the course of political regimes during uncertain democratic transitions. In turn, as democratic political regimes become cemented, presidents halt fiscal manipulations in electoral years. This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2018 American Political Science Association (APSA) Annual meeting.
While our update has enhanced our understanding of political budget cycles in democratic transitions and post-transitional elections, many important and interesting questions that our dataset can help to address remain unexplored. What factors contribute to the Latin American democratic recession observed in recent years? Are political dynamics at the subnational level at play? How do national-level political transitions map onto or relate to subnational political transitions? We have applied for a Ford-Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Special Project grant to fund research designed to address these questions. Specifically, our proposed project will consider the dynamics between political regimes at the national and subnational levels of government in Latin America.
Understanding and Combatting Political Corruption: Assessments of Vertical and Horizontal Accountability
Contemporary Latin America is no stranger to corruption. High-profile corruption scandals have permeated politics in the region for decades, and Latin American voters consistently perceive corruption to be one of the most pressing issues in the region. In two books chapters on political corruption in Brazil, I bring new evidence to bear on vertical and horizontal accountability in Brazil.
In the Routledge Handbook of Brazilian Politics, Matthew Winters (University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign), Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro (Brown University), and I use an original time series to assess both overall attitudinal trends and the evolution of individual-level determinants of attitudes about corruption. We find that concern with corruption spikes in the midst of corruption scandals and that gender, socioeconomic status, and corruption victimization are the most important individual-level predictors of the extent to which Brazilians are concerned with corruption.
In the Handbook on Geographies of Corruption, Matthew Winters (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and I survey national corruption scandals and the variation in local pervasiveness of corruption, analyze whether accountability-enhancing institutions effectively combat malfeasance, and depict the political and political behavioral consequences of corruption revelation. In this chapter, we argue that accountability-enhancing institutions have made important strides in combatting the rampant corruption in Brazilian politics and that further improvements may be brought about with further public mobilization and involvement.
Moving forward, I intend to advance this research and refine scholars’ understandings of the predictors of and deterrents to political corruption as well as the broad effects of corruption revelation. The next section provides some detail on one of these projects in the development stage.
Gender and Politics
Although women comprise more than half of the world’s population, they remain severely underrepresented politically across the globe. In this line of research, I contribute to a growing literature on gender and politics in developing countries and work to understand the impact of political institutions - such as municipal audits and gender quotas - on the gendered distribution of vote shares and on female candidates’ propensities of winning electoral contests. Ultimately, I seek to enhance scholars’ and policymakers’ understandings of the requisites for descriptive, substantive, and symbolic representation of women in the developing world.
In a paper coauthored with Rodrigo Schneider (Skidmore College), I leverage the quasi-random experiment afforded by the random outbreak of the 2015-2016 Zika Epidemic in Brazil to estimate the effect of exposure to the Zika virus and accompanying challenges for infant health on the gendered distribution of the vote share in the 2016 Brazilian municipal elections. Using difference-in-difference models, we find that exposure to the Zika virus increases the female vote share. We interpret our results as evidence that exposure to “women’s issues” increases political support for female candidates and that gender stereotypes help to shape voters’ electoral choices. We substantiate this interpretation with an analysis of public opinion data in which we find that voters exposed to the Zika virus were more likely to disagree with the statement that “men are better politicians than women.” This paper is currently under review. I am currently developing two additional projects relating to gender and politics in the developing world. The first builds on my published research on political corruption in Brazil and aims to assess whether voters punish politicians revealed to be corrupt differently on the basis of their genders, and the second seeks to study variation in the effectiveness of gender quotas in contributing to gender parity across Brazilian political parties and states. Specifically, it assesses whether the presence of local female incumbents depresses the ubiquitous “phantom female candidates” placed on electoral ballots as a result of imposed gender quotas.
**Samples of research are available upon request.