Working Papers

Observational Open Science: An Application to the Literature on Irrelevant Events and Voting Behavior (with Matthew H. Graham, Gregory A. Huber, and Neil Malhotra)

Replication and transparency are increasingly important in bolstering the credibility of political science research, yet open science tools are typically designed for experiments. For observational studies, current replication practice suffers from an important pathology: just as researchers can often “p-hack” their way to initial findings, it is often possible to “null hack” findings away through specification and case search.We propose an observational open science framework that consists of extending the original time series, independent data collection, pre-registration, multiple simultaneous replications, and collaborators with mixed incentives. We apply the approach to three studies on “irrelevant” events and voting behavior. Each study replicates well in some areas and poorly in others. Had we sought to debunk any of the three with ex-post specification search, we could have done so. However, our approach required us to see the full, complicated picture. We conclude with suggestions for future refinements to our approach.

The Impact of Incidental Environmental Factors on Vote Choice: How Wind Speed Leads to More Prevention-Focused Voting (with Jon M. Jachimowicz, Jochen I. Menges, and Adam D. Galinsky)
[Available upon request]

Many theories of democracy propose that individuals deliberate their voting decisions. The current research challenges this notion by exploring how incidental environmental factors infiltrate voting decisions. We present a causal model for how wind speed on Election Day affects voting: Higher wind speed prompts a psychological prevention focus that sways voters more to select prevention-focused (e.g., reflecting a concern to avoid loss) over promotion-focused (e.g., reflecting a motivation to make gains) options when such a choice exists. Using a mixed-method approach—archival analyses (the “Brexit” vote, the Scotland independence referendum, 10 years of Swiss referendums, and 100 years of U.S. presidential elections), one field study, and one experiment—we find that individuals exposed to higher wind speed become more prevention-focused and more likely to support prevention-focused electoral options. The findings highlight the importance of incidental environmental factors for voting decisions, and speak to the benefit of non-voting day voting administration.

Can Natural Disasters Have a Rally ‘Round the Flag Effect? The Political Consequences of Nepal’s 2015 Earthquake (with Margaret Boittin and Stephen Utych)
[Available upon request]

Natural disasters have been shown to influence support for incumbent governments and political systems in a variety of circumstances. We argue that natural disasters can exhibit a “Rally ‘Round the Flag” effect, boosting support for incumbent governments, similar to that observed in international conflict. Leveraging an in-process data collection effort in Nepal that was interrupted by a major earthquake in April 2015, we find evidence that this disaster induced a rally effect. Post-earthquake, support for the political system in Nepal increased. We find this effect implementing both a quasi-experimental propensity score matching design and a pre-post test in which the same individuals were interviewed immediately before and after the earthquake. Moreover, this effect is mediated by increased feelings of national pride caused by the earthquake, demonstrating that a rallying effect is taking place. Our findings suggest that natural disasters can lead to at least a short-term boost in system support.

What is the Effect of Teaching in Underserved Schools on Beliefs About Education Inequality and Reform? Evidence from Teach for America (with Katharine Conn and Virginia Lovison)
[Available upon request]

What insights into education policy can we gain from individuals who teach in underserved schools? We take the case of Teach for America (TFA), and conduct a regression discontinuity analysis of an original survey of the 2007-2015 TFA cohorts to ask whether teaching in low-income communities alters individuals’ beliefs about education inequality and reform. We find that first-hand experience in underserved schools reduces beliefs that low-income students themselves (or their families) are to blame for income-based differences in educational achievement. Rather, TFA participants believe that widespread social inequality exacerbates income-based achievement gaps. When evaluating education reform strategies, TFA participants are no more likely, and at times less likely, than non-participants to believe that certain politically-charged policy levers can effectively reduce these inequalities. For instance, TFA participation decreases support for school choice policies. Instead, TFA participants are more optimistic about teachers’ potential to foster student learning, and are more supportive of early childhood education and wraparound services for low-income children. TFA participation also elicits greater optimism that the achievement gap is a solvable problem.

Works in Progress

“The Impact of Youth Service on Beliefs, Mindsets, and Life Pathways: Evidence from Teach For All” (with Katharine Conn)

“The Double-Edged Consequences of Gender Empowerment Messages: The Case of Tajikistan” (with Katrina Kosec)

“Engendering Empathy Through Virtual Reality” (with Dan Archer)

“Social Protection, Poverty, and Citizen Attitudes Toward Government” (with Katrina Kosec)

“Law Enforcement and Human Trafficking Vulnerability: The Case of Nepal” (with Margaret Boittin)

“Hard Problems” (Jonathan Bendor)

“Human Trafficking Vulnerability: An Experimental Intervention Using Mass Media to Change Norms and Behaviors in Nepal” (with Margaret Boittin)

“The Etiology of Human Trafficking in Guatemala: Testing the Standard Narrative with Survey Data on Trafficking Survivors” (with William Mishler)

“Tolerance for Labor Exploitation: An Experimental Intervention Using Awareness Campaigns in China” (with Margaret Boittin)

Other Policy Relevant Working Papers

“The Influence of Friends on Educational Attainment: How Having Friends with Educated Parents Promotes College Attendance” (with Elena Grewal)
[Available upon request]

“The Effect of Anti-Smoking Messages Volume and Sources on Motivation to Quit” (with Jon Krosnick and Neil Malhotra)
[Available upon request]