Sarah F. Thompson

About me


I will spend the 2024-25 year as a postdoctoral fellow at the OSUN Forum on Democracy and Development's Colombo, Sri Lanka hub, and am an incoming Assistant Professor in Cornell University’s Department of Government.  I received my Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University. My work spans South Asia and Latin America. I utilize causal inference methods (particularly field experiments and quasi-experimental methods), in my research on the politics of marginalized groups. I also work closely with policymakers in the field.

In my research, I ask how key institutions can intervene to increase the political agency of women and indigenous populations, who are systematically excluded from state politics around the globe.

In my job market paper, I ask how states consolidate control in weak areas, encouraging citizens to adopt their gender-equitable judicial institutions instead of traditional alternatives. My setting is the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, home to an ongoing historic state expansion effort to introduce formal courts and bring the area beneath the Supreme Court's jurisdiction. I use a novel experiment with 2,100 men and women to assess how perceptions of gendered distributional consequences impact buy-in. My results show evidence of a backlash effect, where upsetting existing power dynamics eclipses the overall benefits brought by a new formal institution. My findings suggest a dilemma for states as they attempt to consolidate control in areas of limited statehood, where the distributive consequences of state-building initiatives actually weaken state legitimacy.

My research also considers:

I co-organized WPESA, the Workshop on the Political Economy of South Asia.  At Stanford, I was a member of the PovGov and ID2 labs. At Cornell, I am a Visiting Scholar with the South Asia Program.

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Contact me: sft35(at)cornell(dot)edu