Research

Please click on a bold title to read project abstract

Working Papers

  1. Refugee Populations and Political Behavior: Evidence from post-World War II Germany
    Abstract: Could refugee populations produce a durable political behavior legacy within receiving areas? I investigate this question by focusing on the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe into West Germany at the end of World War II. The expellees wanted to regain their lost lands and for broader society to acknowledge their suffering. In time, such demands for recognition and restitution received little support outside far-right parties. Leveraging district-level data from 32 elections spanning 100 years, I find that communities which received a greater share of expellees remain more likely to support the far right in the short, medium, and long term. This durable and robust relationship, nevertheless, appears sensitive to temporal changes in how World War II is remembered within Germany. Moreover, analyses of expellee subgroups suggest that behavioral legacies from conflict-induced resettlement can be heterogeneous. Specifically, the observed relationship between expellee share and far-right support is driven primarily by districts that received greater shares of the expellee subgroup that experienced the most trauma.
    [featured in the popular press]
  2. Invisible Scars: Maoist Era Upheaval and Political Engagement in China
    Abstract: This paper identifies violence, indoctrination, mobilization, and an atmosphere of fear and anxiety as distinct channels capable of shaping a generation’s long-term political engagement. We test our theoretical expectations in China, employing six nationally representative surveys and a georeferenced database of violence during the Cultural Revolution. Our analyses reveal a distinct Maoist era generation, characterized by heightened political engagement compared to the post-Mao generation. This generational difference persists over a twenty-year period and is absent among neighboring countries, mitigating concerns that our results constitute a life-cycle effect. While past research has emphasized the lasting impact of violence on political attitudes, our findings demonstrate that enduring legacies can also manifest among peers not directly exposed to such experiences. Thus, applying the concept of political generations to post-conflict settings can facilitate the identification of meaningful social groupings and help distinguish channels through which societal upheaval shapes societies.
    (with Jiannan Zhao)
  3. Historical Warfare and Long-Run State Development in India
    Abstract: We analyze the relationship between pre-colonial warfare and long-run development patterns in India. We construct a new geocoded database of historical interstate conflicts on the Indian subcontinent, from which we compute measures of local exposure to pre-colonial warfare. We document a positive and significant relationship between pre-colonial conflict exposure and local economic development across India today. The main results are robust to numerous checks, including controls for geographic endowments, initial state capacity, colonial-era institutions, ethnic fractionalization, and colonial and post-colonial conflict, and an instrumental variables strategy that exploits variation in pre-colonial conflict exposure driven by the cost distance to the Khyber Pass. Using both archival and secondary data, we show that local pre-colonial and colonial-era state-making, greater political stability, and investments in irrigation infrastructure are channels through which pre-colonial warfare has influenced local economic development.
    (with Mark Dincecco, James Fenske, and Shivaji Mukherjee)
  4. Bringing Back the Good Old Days: The effect of evoking the past on political attitudes
    Abstract: Populist leaders often depict the past in a positive light and build their campaigns around the promise of returning to such halcyon times. However, academic discourse on the factors contributing to populist success largely ignores the rhetorical strategies employed by populist leaders. Their narratives are usually dismissed as epiphenomenal rationalizations, adopted by those who feel culturally and/or economically threatened, and are assumed to have no independent causal effect on support. The current paper attempts a systematic test of this proposition. Findings from a survey experiment provide cautious support for the effectiveness of such appeals to the past. Vague rather than specific appeals appear more efficacious in moving public opinion. The effectiveness of such appeals also appear more pronounced among those with less rigid ideologies and lower levels of education

Work in Progress

  1. Shadow of the Past: Political thought and action in Northern Ireland
    Based on extensive field research in Northern Ireland, this project investigates how individuals and communities are grappling with the legacy of the Troubles. I have, thus far, conducted over 90 interviews with individuals from diverse backgrounds (security services, politics, victims groups, civil society, education, paramilitaries, and media), many of them either intimately involved with the conflict or with the post-conflict processes.
  2. The Varieties of Populists and their Implications
    Abstract: Why do political actors like Vladimir Putin adopt populist platforms? To address this question, we conceptualize two dimensions that have been under-theorized to date: a political actor’s position within the political landscape (outsider versus insider) and level of ideological commitment (true believer versus opportunist). The resulting original typology of populists yields four ideal types: Pivot, Strategic, Classical, and Oppositional. It allows us to clearly distinguish among the myriad actors who have either laid claim to the populist mantle or been identified as such without focusing solely on their position along the political spectrum. This increased conceptual clarity, we argue, reveals fundamental differences among populist types concerning the electoral strategies they adopt, the aspirations they pursue once in office, and their prospects for success. Finally, the typology also provides insight into why populists might evoke the past, how such evocations might differ across the different types, and why this matters.
     (with Pauline Jones)
  3. David or Goliath: Changing landscape of American Jews’ support for Israel (with Yehonatan Abramson & Alon Yakter)
  4. Ostalgie: Does an East-West Divide in Germany manifest through semantic memory? (with Pedro L. Rodríguez & David Halpern)
  5. Integrated Book Review (with Kirill Zhirkov & Nicholas Valentino)
    • Uncivil Agreement (Lilliana Mason)
    • Enchanted America (Eric Oliver & Thomas Wood)
    • Them: Why We Hate Each Other – and How to Heal (Ben Sasse)
    • Identity Crisis (John Sides, Michael Tesler, & Lynn Vavreck)