Research

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Publications

Abstract: Non-uniform compliance with public policy by citizens can undermine the effectiveness of government, particularly during crises. Mitigation policies intended to combat the novel coronavirus offer a real-world measure of citizen compliance, allowing us to examine the determinants of asymmetrical responsiveness. Analyzing county-level cellphone data, we leverage staggered roll-out to estimate the causal effect of stay-at-home orders on mobility using a difference-in-differences strategy. We find movement is significantly curtailed, and examination of descriptive heterogeneous effects suggests the key roles that partisanship and trust play in producing irregular compliance. We find that Republican-leaning counties comply less than Democratic-leaning ones, which we argue underlines the importance of trust in science and acceptance of large-scale government policies for compliance. However, this partisan compliance gap shrinks when directives are given by Republican leaders, suggesting citizens are more trusting of co-partisan leaders. Furthermore, we find that higher levels of social trust increase compliance; yet these gains attenuate or intensify depending upon community-level partisan sentiments. Our study provides a real-world, behavioral measure that demonstrates the influence of partisanship, social trust, and their interaction on citizen welfare. Finally, we argue that our results speak to how trust in government may impact successful containment of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working Papers

  • “Reversals of State Capacity: Norms and Political Disruption”

Abstract: State capacity research generally focuses on improvements to a government’s ability to deliver on its policy-goals. Yet, in recent years, leaders in a number of nations have undermined high-functioning public sectors. To understand reversals of state capacity, it is necessary to examine the formal and informal dynamics at play within a nation’s bureaucracy. A formal model highlights the three trajectories a bureaucratic agency may follow in response to disruption by a political leader: temporary capture, erosion, and resistance. By prioritizing policy that is captured by special interests rather than one aligning with an agency’s legally-codified mission, leaders may undermine state capacity. Bureaucrats who care deeply about an agency’s mission can be driven to leave the public sector, thereby eroding underlying bureaucratic capacity and durably reversing high-levels of state capacity. However, agency culture may coalesce to form a norm that bolsters mission-compliance, facilitating resistance to extreme shifts and stabilizing long-term capacity.

Abstract: The physical costs of war – who fights and experiences casualties – are borne unequally in the United States. Yet, little is known regarding how informing individuals of this disparity affects preferences over how to address it. We introduce a framework of `policy corrections,’ which differentially allocates to socioeconomic groups the costs associated with public good provision. A survey experiment demonstrates how informing Americans that low-income communities disproportionately bear the physical costs of U. S. wars impacts their support for specific policy corrections. We find enhanced support for greater military recruitment on the richest half of Americans (a direct correction) but unaltered preferences for increasing taxes on this group (an indirect correction). Effects are consistent regardless of respondents’ income, partisanship, or race. Our results suggest that war casualties transcend socioeconomic in-group calculus and, moreover, even individuals who benefit from present policies support redressing the unequal costs associated with the provision of defense.

Abstract: Observational evidence suggests that social trust, i.e., trust in others, and the closely related concept of social capital play a critical role in compliance with government policy, particularly in regards to public responsiveness to measures intended to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. We use a survey experiment to causally estimate the impact of altering social trust on compliance with a range of policies intended to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Utilizing an instrumental variable approach, we are able to alter reported social trust, but find null effects in regards to compliance with COVID-19 mitigation measures. We speculate on several explanations for this finding.

Works in Progress

(Please contact me if you’re interested in a draft)

  • “Under the Cover of Crisis: Electoral Accountability and Policy License”
  • “Inflection Points: Social Norms and Voting for Democracy”
  • “Discretion, Efficiency, and Trust in European Public Procurement” (with Johannes Wiedemann)
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