Research

Publications

Randomization Inference with Rainfall Data: Using Historical Weather Patterns for Variance Estimation.” Political Analysis 25.3 (2017): 277-288.

Many recent papers in political science and economics use rainfall as a strategy to facilitate causal inference. Rainfall shocks are as-if randomly assigned, but the assignment of rainfall by county is highly correlated across space. Since clustered assignment does not occur within well-defined boundaries, it is challenging to estimate the variance of the effect of rainfall on political outcomes. I propose using randomization inference with historical weather patterns from 73 years as potential randomizations. I replicate the influential work on rainfall and voter turnout in presidential elections in the United States by Gomez, Hansford, and Krause (2007) and compare the estimated average treatment effect (ATE) to a sampling distribution of estimates under the sharp null hypothesis of no effect. The alternate randomizations are random draws from national rainfall patterns on election and would-be election days, which preserve the clustering in treatment assignment and eliminate the need to simulate weather patterns or make assumptions about unit boundaries for clustering. I find that the effect of rainfall on turnout is subject to greater sampling variability than previously estimated using conventional standard errors.

“Monitoring & Evaluation Manual in Fragile States.” With Alexander Hamilton, Craig Hammer, Tara Slough, and Erin York. World Bank. Under Review.

This evaluation manual seeks to identify best practices for program monitoring and evaluation, with a focus on fragile and conflict-affected states, to facilitate evidence based decision-making. The target audience is statisticians working in the public sector, university students, and civil society members. I wrote or contributed to the following chapters: Theory of Change and Evaluation Overview, Observational Approaches, Qualitative Methods, and Disseminating the Findings of Evaluations. It has been revised and resubmitted and is in the process of copy-editing; it is expected to be published by December 2017.

Working Papers and Projects

Participatory Measurement, Monitoring, and Management of Groundwater in Northeast Brazil.” With Brigitte Zimmerman Seim and Alexandra (Sasha) Richey. EGAP Metaketa III: Natural Resource Governance Field Experiment

http://egap.org/metaketa/metaketa-iii-natural-resource-governance

The study uses a RCT methodology to evaluate two programs in Northeast Brazil, a semi-arid region that faces declining water availability from prolonged drought, municipal growth, and unsustainable use of existing water supplies. The sample is 120 communities across 10 randomly selected municipalities of Ceará. The two programs will be:

1. Workshop about groundwater use with all community members; Selection of a community water committee by community members; Training of the community water committee to measure well levels, share weekly measurements on groundwater levels with research team and community members, and distribute monthly summaries created by research team.
2. Training of the community water committee to conduct monthly household visits with community members to discuss water use and make water use plans to encourage sustainable water use. (Additive to first program)

As Co-PI, I have conducted preliminary interviews in the field with state agencies and rural citizens; written a majority of the baseline survey and coded the ODK tablet software; piloted the survey; conducted municipal sample selection based on hydrogeological, governance, and size characteristics; conducted community sample selection; recruited, trained, and managed two four-person teams of baseline survey enumerators in the field; conducted multiple field visits; and will oversee the recruiting, training, and management of workshop trainers for the main intervention.

“(Un)Natural Disasters: Distributive Politics in Northeast Brazil.” Working paper.

https://blog.mpsanet.org/2016/09/13/distributive-politics-in-ne-brazil/

Natural disasters are predicted to become more frequent and severe, but we know very little about how natural disasters affect long-term political relationships between voters and politicians. This paper analyzes the role of political discretion and electoral cycles in the municipal distribution of drought aid in Brazil from 1999-2012. I find that timing and partisanship matter; drought relief is most likely during mayoral election years and in municipalities aligned with the ruling Worker’s Party (PT), during both drought and, surprisingly, high rainfall conditions. Incumbents are more likely to be re-elected when they declare a drought during the election year. These findings are robust to controls for rainfall shocks, temperature, agriculture and cattle, and municipal and year fixed effects. The results are consistent with reports of vote-buying or responsiveness to political targeting. Natural disasters can provide electoral and economic opportunities for local politicians; when electoral budget cycles and disasters overlap, there can be drastic consequences for the efficient and responsible distribution of critical public resources. This study highlights the relationship between distributive politics and local impacts of climate change across the developing world.

This paper received the Westview Press Award for best paper delivered by a graduate student at MPSA Conference 2015 and the Giancarlo Doria Prize by Columbia Political Science, an annual award for the best paper in any subject in political science submitted by a candidate for the Ph.D. in political science who has not yet received the M.Phil (1st-3rd year students). It has been presented at AGU 2016, Fundação Getúlio Vargas – RJ 2016, APSA 2015, MPSA 2015, Americas South Seminar (Columbia).

“Religious and Racial Diversity: Studying Public Goods Access in Brazil.” With Tara Slough. Working paper.

Over the past two decades, a large literature has emerged that examines the effects of diversity on public goods provision, broadly construed, in different settings. This literature has focused heavily on ethnic or racial diversity. We argue that in some cases, religious diversity increases public goods provision–opposite to the the majority of existing findings about ethnic diversity and public goods provision. In particular, religious competition may motivate congregations to mobilize congregants to mobilize for these goods in the streets or at the ballot box. In order to test our theory, we examine the association between municipal-level racial and religious heterogeneity and provision of electricity, water, waste collection, and sanitation in Brazil. We utilize both municipal-level census data and individual-level census microdata from the Brazilian censuses of 2000 and 2010. This data enables us to estimate a multilevel model to study how municipal diversity affects access of individuals from different groups to these critical public goods.

“Divine Punishment or Bad Politics: The Effects of Religion on Investment in Public Goods” With Allison Carnegie and Lindsay Dolan. Working paper.

An extensive literature in political science investigates the conditions under which politicians invest in public goods benefiting their citizens, finding rampant instances of under-investment. In this paper, we focus on the domain of natural disaster preparedness to argue that this literature has overlooked an important moderator of accountability processes: citizens’ religious beliefs. Motivated by evidence that non-trivial portions of the population imbue natural disasters with religious significance, we propose a formal model of political accountability and demonstrate how the predictions regarding politicians’ investments in public goods change when these religious beliefs are introduced. We support our claims about how religious and non-religious populations process information regarding government performance differently through the use of a unique survey experiment. We then test the model using both case study evidence along with data on religious beliefs from the United States and find strong evidence for our key predictions.

Research and Work Experience

Academic Research Assistant                              

Drs. Gordon Hanson, Joshua Graff Zivin, Gordon McCord (UCSD2012)
Climate and Worker Productivity in Mexico and Brazil using ArcGIS

Dr. Alberto Díaz-Cayeros (UCSD, 2012)
Public Goods Provision and Municipal Governance in Mexico

NGO Consulting

Analysis Research Consulting (2013)
Provided statistical analysis for a large-scale governance and development intervention in Afghanistan using baseline and follow-up surveys

International Rescue Committee, San Diego (2011-2012)
Managed team of analysts and evaluated a park safety program through surveys and data analysis

United Nations Development Program, Tripoli, Lebanon (2009-2010)
Wrote annual project report for UNDP ART GOLD regional economic development program; evaluated first phase of Akkar regional development initiative