THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF DEVELOPMENT, WATER,
ENERGY, AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Many recent papers in political science and economics use rainfall as a strategy to facilitate causal inference. Rainfall shocks are as-if randomly assigned, but the assignment of rainfall by county is highly correlated across space. Since clustered assignment does not occur within well-defined boundaries, it is challenging to estimate the variance of the effect of rainfall on political outcomes. I propose using randomization inference with historical weather patterns from 73 years as potential randomizations. I replicate the influential work on rainfall and voter turnout in presidential elections in the United States by Gomez, Hansford, and Krause (2007 and compare the estimated average treatment effect (ATE) to a sampling distribution of estimates under the sharp null hypothesis of no effect. The alternate randomizations are random draws from national rainfall patterns on election and would-be election days, which preserve the clustering in treatment assignment and eliminate the need to simulate weather patterns or make assumptions about unit boundaries for clustering. I find that the effect of rainfall on turnout is subject to greater sampling variability than previously estimated using conventional standard errors.
Deep Decarbonization of Energy Systems in India and the United States
with Elke Weber, Robert Keohane, Eric Larson, Simon Levin, Chris Greig, Atul Kohli,
Sara Constantino, Vitor Vasconcelos, Gregg Sparkman, Joe Lane, et al.
Rapid deep decarbonization of the world’s energy systems is arguably the most critical of global technological infrastructure transformations. Through sub-national and cross-national comparative studies in India and the United States, we pair original survey data with electoral and climate data to understand why voters have different energy policy preferences, how interest groups and politicians represent those preferences, and why some states achieve policy reforms. Since I began in June 2019, colleagues and I designed online and household surveys to study voter preferences, political behavior, and social norms through methods including a conjoint experiment, dynamic systems analysis, and tools from behavioral economics and psychology. I will travel to India to conduct interviews with policymakers and residents, and we are designing large-scale surveys to study the barriers and opportunities for changing individual preferences, shaping social norms, and designing effective energy policy.
Participatory Measurement, Monitoring, and Management
of Groundwater in Northeast Brazil
In an interdisciplinary field experiment, we combine hydrologic sciences with public policy to better understand common pool resource management, collective action, and local water resources. We randomly assigned communities in Ceará, Brazil to two programs: one to improve community awareness of groundwater levels, and another to enable local social structures to transform this awareness into individual behavioral change. Drawing on my relationships and the hydrology expertise of American and Brazilian colleagues, we designed workshops with local residents to devise participatory management plans. The WSU Engineering Lab designed and manufactured a low-cost water level measurement device appropriate for this context, which we distributed to rural communities. I was in the field to manage the baseline survey in 120 rural communities in 2017, and I oversaw treatment implementation of community workshops in 2018 and the endline survey in 2019.
Emergency spending is often exempt from campaign period restrictions and procurement guidelines, making it attractive for opportunistic politicians, but natural disasters are seen as outside political business cycles. However, droughts are frequent but challenging to measure, so politicians can leverage discretion for electoral gain. This paper analyzes electoral cycles, term limits, and partisan targeting around municipal drought declaration in Northeast Brazil. Two sources of exogeneity (rainfall shocks, electoral calendar) isolate the effect of non-climatic factors on drought declarations. I find that drought declarations, which trigger relief, are more likely in mayoral election years. Incumbents are more likely to win re-election if they declare a drought in the election year, during below or above average rainfall. The results are consistent with interviews suggesting voters reward competent mayors and mayors trade relief for votes. This study highlights the interaction between distributive and environmental politics, which has increasing consequences due to climate change. This paper received the Westview Press Award at the 2016 Midwest Political Science Association Annual Conference for best paper delivered by a graduate student.
Drivers of Successful Common Pool Resource Management: A Conjoint Experiment on Groundwater Management in Brazil (with Sasha McLarty and Brigitte Seim)
Carefully designed common-pool resource management programs can improve water security, but many NGO and government policies do not have the resources and capacity to implement all features of such a program at once. Users’ perception of the program is also important to increase buy-in. Which aspects of a commons management program do users perceive to be most important? We conduct a conjoint survey experiment about groundwater management with rural residents in the semi-arid region of Northeast Brazil. We vary five features of a water management system: discussion among individuals, social sanctions for over-use, water use rules and penalties, payment for water, and monitoring and dissemination of water resource conditions. We find that each of the features increases perception of community well management and individual water conservation by 6-20 percentage points. Our results have implications for how to study local water governance in other regions and how to design management programs to improve water security in similar contexts.