My work focuses on how societally agreed upon rules succeed or fail in a comparative context. I study the formal institutions that influence these outcomes. I have two primary projects in which I have explored this topic, my dissertation and a co-authored project on constitutions. In both projects, I analyze the interdependence between institutional change and existing institutional structures. In my dissertation, I examine the flexibility and specificity of legislation and the institutional capacity of the actors implementing or policing the rules using the lens of European Union member countries and their compliance with EU legislation. In a co-authored project, I explore how constitutions are amended or replaced. In both projects, the focus is on why agreements between parties are successful in some instances—the longevity of the US Constitution and the above-average performance of Nordic countries in the EU, but not others, such as the many, many different constitutions of the Dominican Republic and Portugal and Greece’s compliance in the EU. The theme of institutional adaptation and change guides my research agenda, which I explore using different methodological approaches.
My dissertation focuses upon member state noncompliance in the European Union. Approximately 26% of directives enacted between 1978 and 1999 have been cited by the European Commission for noncompliance. Existing approaches to non-compliance associate noncompliance with actors, preferences, and institutions, but these explanations produce contradictory findings in the literature. Because delay and infringements have been treated interchangeably, the literature has not generated consistent expectations regarding the roles of actors, institutions, and the emergence of noncompliance. I distinguish between two types of infringement, late infringement for delayed implementation and substantive infringement for noncompliance with the text of the directive.
My distinction between the two clarifies the relationship between actors, preferences, and noncompliance: ministerial disagreement and institutional veto players contribute to late infringement while the implementation paths used and discretion permitted in the directive contribute to substantive infringements. I demonstrate that approaches that conflate the two kinds of compliance fail to explain the incidence of noncompliance. My results suggest that ministers and veto players affect time delays while the pathway for implementation (type of legislative measure) and design of directive affect violations. Thus, noncompliance stems from the difficulty of actors grappling with complex material: support for policy design may be insufficient to remedy the compliance gap and the increasing involvement of parliaments in implementation may further exacerbate compliance problems, given that directives are likely to become more complex over time, not less.