Research

Can welfare policies generate welfare chauvinism? I propose that, despite reducing scarcity, welfare expansion can generate welfare chauvinism when the immigrant-native divide is salient because the allocation of resources is framed around inter-group competition. I test this hypothesis in France, and exploit the staggered roll-out of a public housing policy around a population threshold. I show that municipalities with large pre-policy exposure to immigration react to public housing expansion by voting more for the National Front, i.e., the only party with an explicit welfare-chauvinist platform. An analysis of newspaper circulation reveals that, in the same places, local public opinion perceives a nexus between public housing and immigration. Conversely, municipalities with low pre-policy exposure to immigration respond to the policy with lower support for the National Front and a weaker association between public housing and immigration. Overall, the evidence suggests a role for anticipated (but not actual) competition over welfare benefits to be the driving force behind the results, and sheds new light on the challenges of adapting the welfare state to increasingly diverse societies.

We study the effect of televised broadcasts of floor debates on the rhetorical choices of U.S. Congress Members, focusing on a measure of emotionality constructed using computational linguistics methods. First, we show in a differences-in-differences analysis that the introduction of C-SPAN broadcasts in 1979 increased emotionality in the House relative to the Senate, which did not introduce televised floor debates until later. Second, we use exogenous variation in C-SPAN channel positioning as an instrument for C-SPAN viewership by Congressional district, and show that House Members from districts with higher C-SPAN viewership speak with more emotionality in floor debates. Contra accountability models of transparency, however, C-SPAN has no effect on measures of legislative effort on behalf of constituents. We then compare the effects of direct transparency via C-SPAN to that of mediated transparency via local news coverage of Congress. News coverage has the opposite effect of C-SPAN, increasing legislative effort but with no effect on emotional rhetoric. These results highlight the importance of audience and mediation in the political impacts of higher transparency.

The urban rural divide in voting for anti immigration parties is one of the most striking patterns in contemporary Western democracies. Why are cities different? In large cities, segregation reduces the probability of contact between immigrants and natives and, hence, it reduces the salience of the immigration issue in the decision of how to cast a ballot. I show that citizens of large cities in France are more likely to vote more for far-right parties in response to immigration when segregation is low. The effect fades away as segregation increases. When the electoral response to immigration is analysed at the polling station level, i.e. when segregation is naturally controlled for, then standard results in the literature appear; more immigration is associated with more far-right vote, and more so if immigrants compete with natives for welfare.

Can international confrontation create incentives for regime change? If so, under what conditions? And in which direction? I propose a formal model of regime transition where the leader’s incentives to regime change depend on threats of international conflict and domestic audience costs. In the first period, the leader decides on whether to change regime. In the second, he or she decides how to act in the international conflict. In the third, the selectorate decides on whether or not to re-select the leader. For each opponent regime type, I obtain probabilities of regime transition that depend on exogenous institutional settings and endogenous probabilities of aggression. I find that threat of conflict always generates a positive probability of further power centralization. However, when an autocratic regime faces a democracy, there is also a window of opportunity for political liberalization. Across cases, institutional reforms are used to insulate the leader from possible domestic audience costs, or as a commitment to a conflict strategy.

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