Publications

The Tortuga Disease: The Perverse Effects of Illicit Foreign Capital (with Steven Oliver and Justin Hastings). Forthcoming, International Studies Quarterly.

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Supplementary Appendices
Replication Files

Transnational crime brings substantial foreign capital into a number of fragile and developing states. Yet the economic and political impacts of such capital have rarely been studied, due to the challenges of obtaining accurate data on illicit activities. We overcome this challenge by compiling a dataset on the amount and disbursement dates of ransom payments made by ship owners and insurers to Somali pirates from 2005 to 2012, along with sub-national commodity prices and trade flows in Somalia. Using a difference-in-differences strategy, we find that ransoms have effects similar to those associated with the Dutch Disease. These effects include appreciating the local currency, decreasing export competitiveness, and increasing import dependence. Our results illuminate a new and distinct channel through which illicit capital can undermine long-term economic development and foster an economic and political dependency on illicit sectors.
Captain Phillips and the Causes of Piracy on LSE Africa Blog

Surviving Elections: Election Violence, Incumbent Victory and Post-Election Repercussions (with Emilie Hafner-Burton and Susan Hyde). Forthcoming, British Journal of Political Science.

Pre-Publication Version
Supplementary Appendices
Replication Files

It is often assumed that government-sponsored election violence increases the probability that incumbent leaders remain in power. Using cross-national data, this article shows that election violence increases the probability of incumbent victory, but can generate risky post-election dynamics. These differences in the consequences of election violence reflect changes in the strategic setting over the course of the election cycle. In the pre-election period, anti-incumbent collective action tends to be focused on the election itself, either through voter mobilization or opposition-organized election boycotts. In the post-election period, by contrast, when a favorable electoral outcome is no longer a possibility, anti-government collective action more often takes the form of mass political protest, which in turn can lead to costly repercussions for incumbent leaders.

Did Aid Promote Democracy in Africa? The Role of Technical Assistance in Africa’s Transitions (with Clark Gibson and Barak Hoffman). World Development 68 (April 2015).

Ungated Version
Supplementary Appendix
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Did foreign aid impede or catalyze democratization in Africa in the 1990s? We argue that after the Cold War, donors increased their use of technical assistance in aid packages, improving their monitoring capacity and thus reducing autocrats’ ability to use aid for patronage. To remain in power, autocrats responded by conceding political rights to their opponents—from legalizing opposition parties to staging elections. We test our theory with panel data for all sub-Saharan African countries. While other factors played pivotal roles in Africa’s political liberalization, we find technical assistance helps to explain the timing and extent of Africa’s democratization.

How Aid Target Votes: The Effect of Electoral Strategies on the Distribution of Foreign Aid. World Politics 66.2 (April 2014):293-330.

Ungated Version
Supplementary Appendix
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Despite allegations that foreign aid promotes corruption and patronage, little is known about how recipient governments’ electoral incentives influence aid spending. This article proposes a distributional politics model of aid spending in which governments use their informational advantages over donors in order to allocate a disproportionate share of aid to electorally strategic supporters, allowing governments to translate aid into votes. To evaluate this argument, the author codes data on the spatial distribution of multilateral donor projects in Kenya from 1992 to 2010 and shows that Kenyan governments have consistently influenced the aid allocation process in favor of copartisan and coethnic voters, a bias that holds for each of Kenya’s last three regimes. He confirms that aid distribution increases incumbent vote share. This evidence suggests that electoral motivations play a significant role in aid allocation and that distributional politics may help explain the gap between donor intentions and outcomes.

When Do Governments Resort to Election Violence? (with Emilie Hafner-Burton and Susan Hyde). British Journal of Political Science 44.1 (Jan. 2014): 149-179.

Ungated Version
Supplementary Appendix
Replication Files
When are governments most likely to use election violence, and what factors can mitigate government incentives to resort to violence? How do the dynamics of election violence differ in the pre- and post-election periods? The central argument of this article is that an incumbent’s fear of losing power as the result of an election, as well as institutionalized constraints on the incumbent’s decision-making powers, are pivotal in her decision to use election violence. While it may seem obvious to suggest that incumbents use election violence in an effort to fend off threats to their power, it is not obvious how to gauge these threats. Thus, a central objective of this article is to identify sources of information about the incumbent’s popularity that can help predict the likelihood of election violence. The observable implications of this argument are tested using newly available cross-national evidence on elections, government use of pre- and post-election violence, and post-election protests from 1981 to 2004.
What Makes Some Elections Violent, Monkey Cage Blog, Washington Post

The Political Economy of Plunder: Economic Opportunity and Modern Piracy (with Steven Oliver). Journal of Conflict Resolution 57.4 (Aug. 2013): 682-708.

Ungated Version
Supplementary Appendix
Replication Files
Maritime piracy is a growing scourge on the international community—imposing large costs on maritime states and the shipping industry, as well as potentially undermining state capacity and funding terrorism. Using original data on over 3,000 pirate attacks, the authors argue that these attacks are, in part, a response to poor labor market opportunities. To establish this, the authors take advantage of the strong effect of commodity prices on labor market opportunities in piracy-prone states. Consistent with this theory, the authors show that changes in the price of labor- and capital-intensive commodities have consistent and strong effects on the number of pirate attacks in a country’s territorial waters each month. The authors confirm these results by instrumenting for commodity prices using monthly precipitation levels.

Short Pieces

Review of Democratic Trajectories in Africa: Unravelling the Impact of Foreign Aid ed. Danielle Resnick and Nicolas van de Walle, in Journal of Modern African Studies. 52.2 (June 2014)