“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 and Evaluation Manual in Fragile States. (Forthcoming). The World Bank. With Tara Slough, Erin York, and Alexander Hamilton.

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.

Under Review

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

Manuscript available: Cooperman (Un)Natural Disasters and Appendix

MPSA blog:

Since natural disasters are often seen as ‘random,’ politicians can declare states of emergency and justify targeting disaster relief toward specific populations for political advantage. This paper analyzes the role of political discretion and electoral cycles in municipal declaration of drought in Brazil. I use two sources of exogeneity (rainfall shocks and a fixed electoral cycle) to isolate the effect of non-climatic factors on drought declarations. I find that drought declarations, which trigger drought relief, are more likely in mayor election years and for mayors from the prominent PT party. Incumbents are more likely to run for re-election and win when they declare a drought in the election year, during drought or high rainfall. The results are consistent with qualitative findings that mayors trade drought relief for votes. This study highlights the long-term relationship between politics and natural disasters in the distribution of critical resources.

This paper received the Westview Press Award at the 2016 MPSA Conference for best paper delivered by a graduate student and the Giancarlo Doria Prize from the Columbia University Department of Political Science for best paper in any subject in political science by a 1st-3rd year Ph.D. student.

Working Papers

“Participatory Measurement, Monitoring, and Management of Groundwater in Northeast Brazil.” With Brigitte Seim (University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill, Public Policy) and Alexandra (Sasha) Richey (Washington State University, Civil and Environmental Engineering). EGAP Metaketa III: Natural Resource Governance Field Experiment


Does natural resource governance improve when citizens and communities monitor resource use? This study is part of broader project studying this question in six countries regarding water or forest governance. We use 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. With the WSU Engineering Lab, we design and manufacture a low-cost water level measurement device appropriate for this context. The two programs are:

1. Improve community awareness of groundwater levels: 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. Enable the community social structures to transform this awareness into individual behavioral change: Training of the community water committee to conduct monthly household visits with community members to discuss water use and make individual and communal water use plans to encourage sustainable water use. (Additive to first program)

As Co-PI, I have contributed to multiple aspects of design and implementation:

  • Coordinated implementation of the intervention between field teams, local research coordinators, and Co-PIs (May-August 2018)
  • Oversaw the recruiting, training, and management of workshop trainers for the main intervention
  • Recruited, trained, and managed two four-person teams of baseline survey enumerators in the field (May-September 2017)
  • Wrote a majority of the baseline survey and coded the ODK tablet software
  • Piloted the survey in the field with the enumerators
  • Conducted municipal sample selection based on hydrogeological, governance, and land area characteristics and conducted community sample selection
  • Visited multiple field sites and conducted preliminary interviews with state agencies and rural citizens

“Drivers of Successful Common Pool Resource Management: A Conjoint Experiment on Groundwater Management in Brazil.” With Brigitte Seim and Alexandra (Sasha) Richey.

Studies suggest that carefully designed common-pool resource management programs can improve water security; for example, Elinor Ostrom (1990, 1992) identified key features of self-governed institutions, the resource, and its appropriators that increase the likelihood of self-governance of scarce resources. However, many NGO and government policies do not have the ability to address all important features at once. In addition, users’ perception of management systems is important to increase buy-in and adoption of a new program.

Which aspects of a commons management program do users perceive to be most important? To answer this challenging question, we conducted a conjoint survey experiment about groundwater management with rural residents (n=1949) in the semi-arid region of Northeast Brazil. A conjoint experiment is a tool initially used in marketing research to compare features of a product against one another, and we adapt this technique to the topic and context by creating pictogram booklets with five varying features of a water management system: 1) interaction among individuals regarding the water resource (high/low), 2) social sanctions for over-use of water (yes/no), 3) water use rules and penalties (both/only rules/neither), 4) payment for water use (yes/no), 5) monitoring and dissemination of water resource conditions to users (yes/no).

Rural residents were shown two randomly selected profiles and asked to choose which community they believe is least likely to sustainably manage water and which community is most likely to conserve water. Our results have implications for how to study local water governance in other regions and how to design participatory management programs to improve water security in similar contexts.


“Does Crime Drive Citizens Towards Law and Order Candidates? A Natural Experiment of Bank Explosions and Elections in Brazil.”

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

“Gender and Municipal Politics: Candidacy, Public Opinion, and Policymaking in Brazil.” With Aline Santos Martins.

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