Research

Research Interests: 

South Asia, gender, state and non-state governance, indigenous politics, political participation, Latin America

Job Market Paper:

State-building, Traditional Institutions, and Gender: Experimental Evidence from Pakistan

How do states consolidate control in weak areas, encouraging citizens to adopt their institutions instead of traditional alternatives? The Pakistani state recently undertook historic state expansion in its tribal areas, bringing key judicial institutions and standards to residents for the first time. I use a novel experiment with 2,100 respondents and a costly behavioral outcome to assess how state-building efforts like improving performance and appealing to minoritized groups impact the decision to comply. 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.

Publications:

Can Party Elites Shape the Rank and File? Evidence from a Recruitment Campaign in India  - With Saad Gulzar (Stanford), Durgesh Pathak (Aam Aadmi Party), and Aliz Tóth (LSE). Forthcoming at APSR.

Recruiting a large number of ground workers is crucial for running effective modern election campaigns. It is unclear if party leaders can shape the quality and quantity of the unpaid rank-and-file force as they can with prized nominations for candidates. We analyze a field experiment conducted by an Indian party that randomized recruitment messages reaching 1% of a 13-million person electorate to join its rank-and-file. Contrary to concerns that parties can only attract a few poor-quality volunteers, we show that elite efforts can shape the rank-and-file. In fact, specific strategies can increase the size, enhance the gender and ethnic diversity, and broaden the education and political skills of recruits. Recruitment strategies that signal gender inclusiveness have a lasting impact up to three years later across multiple campaign cycles. Taken together, this paper provides the first causal evidence that rank-and-file recruitment is an opportunity for elites to shape long-term party development.

Working Papers:

State-evading Solutions to Violence: Organized Crime and Governance in Indigenous Mexico - With Kristóf Gosztonyi and Beatriz Magaloni (Stanford). Under review.

The monopoly of violence in the hands of the state is conceived as the principal vehicle to generate order. A problem with this vision is that parts of the state and its law enforcement apparatus often become extensions of criminality rather than solutions to it. We argue that one solution to this dilemma is to "opt out from the state." Using a multi-method strategy combining extensive qualitative research, quasi-experimental statistical analyses, and survey data, the paper demonstrates that indigenous communities in Mexico are better able to escape predatory criminal rule when they are legally allowed to carve a space of autonomy from the state through the institution of "usos y costumbres." We demonstrate that these municipalities are more immune to violence than similar localities where regular police forces and local judiciaries are in charge of law enforcement and where mayors are elected through multiparty elections rather than customary practices.

The Gendered Calculus of Voting: Explaining Women's Turnout in Pakistan - With Natalya Adam-Rahman (Stanford). Under review.

Women’s turnout in Pakistan lags significantly behind men’s. We introduce mobility, the experience of traveling to and from voting, as an explanation for this gender gap in political participation. We do so by analyzing the impact of electoral administration—specifically polling station assignments that generate variation in travel patterns to vote—on turnout. Using data from the 2018 national election, we show that a third of the gender turnout gap is explained by women’s chance assignments to polling stations where they cannot coordinate travel within their household, risk harassment, and are unfamiliar with the route and destination. A survey experiment and qualitative evidence provide direct evidence for the mechanism of gender differences in mobility. Taken together, these results demonstrate not only the impact of mobility constraints on turnout in South Asia but also how the implementation of electoral policies can interact with a gender-specific voting calculus to suppress women’s political participation.


Work in Progress:

A Field Experiment to Improve Women's Mobility in Pakistan (RCT in progress)

Despite high rates of familial poverty in Pakistan, the country has low rates of women's labor force participation compared to countries with similar GDPs. Similarly, women's political participation from turnout in national elections to attendance at neighborhood council meetings remains low. This project uses an experiment to alleviate a key constraint to women's participation in activities outside of the home: access to safe and reliable transportation. In partnership with a microfinance organization, local NGOs, and a motorcycle training institute in Karachi, the study randomizes women's access (training and loans) to motorcycles, the most commonly used way by which men arrive to work in this context. With survey data, weekly SMS data collection, and monthly odometer checks, it will assess how this shock women's mobility can affect LFP and agency. Given the study's setting in Pakistan's largest city, the results of this study will have broader implications for rapidly urbanizing areas across South Asia and other developing countries.


A Randomized-Controlled Trial of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and its Gender-Based Violence Reduction Potential for Adolescents in Ecatepec, Mexico - With Madison Dalton, Kim Juarez-Jensen, and Beatriz Magaloni (RCT conducted in early 2023)

Over 70% of women and girls in Mexico have experienced violence, with Mexico City holding the highest rates in the country. Prominent instances of femicide and intimate partner violence have led to mass protests, and demonstrate the urgency of combatting machista culture that enables gender-based violence (GBV). Social psychologists point out that perceived acceptability of violence amongst peers can be even more important than one's own attitudes in predicting violent behaviors. We design an intervention that incorporates this insight and targets individuals at a formative age to understand how modifying perceived community norms can reduce gender-based violence. Based in urban Mexico City, we analyze a field experiment conducted among teenaged students (n=875) that tests the influence of social referents and cognitive behavioral therapy on the incidence of gender-based violence. We aim to identify under what conditions both first- and  second-order beliefs about GBV can be shifted, and to trace the role of social networks in transmitting norms and producing attitudinal changes.