Published and Accepted
Is policy equally responsive to public health crises that affect white communities and public health crises that affect nonwhite communities? I approach this question by studying states’ policy responses to mass shootings. I argue that states are more likely to tighten firearm laws in response to mass shootings where victims are disproportionately white compared to mass shootings where victims are disproportionately nonwhite. Using a staggered difference-in-difference with a 30-year state panel dataset, I find support for this claim. The models predict that 10 white mass shooting fatalities lead to an additional 1.6 restrictive firearm laws on average while 10 nonwhite mass shooting fatalities have no statistically significant effect of state firearm policy change. Importantly, the findings are robust to various model specifications and the differential effect of race exists irrespective of the partisan composition of state governments.
This paper studies the effect of spatially proximal pre-election police killings on voter turnout. Proximity to police killings increases the likelihood that voters know about the incidents and feel threatened by police violence, making local policing practices salient. But does this demobilize voters by teaching anti-democratic political lessons or mobilize voters by highlighting amenable social injustices? Observing the 2016 presidential election, I test these competing perspectives using geolocated voter data and a difference-in-difference design with naturally matched groups. I find that police killings reduce voter participation rates by 2.9 percentage points in the killings’ one-mile radius but have no effect on voters living one to two miles away from the killings. Importantly, space and race matter. Police killings of Black victims reduce voter participation rates by 8 percentage points in the killings’ half-mile radius, but turnout remains unchanged when police kill White and Latino victims, regardless of the distance.
Low and uneven turnout is a serious problem for local democracy. Fortunately, one simple reform — shifting the timing of local elections so they are held on the same day as national contests — can substantially increase participation. Considerable research shows that on-cycle November elections generally double local voter turnout compared to stand-alone local contests. But does higher turnout mean a more representative electorate? On that critical question, the evidence is slim and mixed. We combine information on election timing with detailed micro-targeting data that includes voter demographic information to provide the first direct test of how election timing influences voter composition in city elections. We find that moving to on-cycle elections in California leads to an electorate that is much more representative in terms of race, age, and partisanship — especially when these local elections coincide with a presidential election. Our results suggest that on-cycle elections can improve local democracy.
When we understand the source of policy opposition in legislators’ constituencies, then we can design policy interventions that facilitate policy change to solve pressing problems. Using original survey data from U.S. state legislators, we find that those legislators whose constituents would be most affected by an increased gas tax – those whose constituents drive more – are more likely to oppose increases to the gas tax. Raising taxes on gasoline is an important policy tool for reducing carbon to mitigate climate change because transportation accounts for nearly a quarter of the world’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. This unique data on lawmakers reveals the potential for investments in public transit to have both direct effects on carbon emissions and indirect effects by enabling policy change that would otherwise be made difficult by the responsiveness of decision makers to the costs their constituents would pay for carbon mitigation.
This chapter provides recent data on group differences in the political participation of Black Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans in the United States and discusses advances in our understanding of the processes (e.g., mobilization, legal reforms, experiences of minorities with the carceral state) and mechanisms (e.g., resources, group consciousness, identity) that account for such differences. The reviewed research focused on, and in light of similar studies conducted outside of, the United States supports the argument that political participation of marginalized groups reflects the costs and benefits imposed by the broader political and historical contexts in addition to the typical individual-level factors considered in standard participation models. Thus, generalizing our understanding of race, ethnicity and participation across different political systems and social contexts requires a nuanced understanding of country-specific histories and efforts to draw broad, systematic comparative conclusions regarding race and ethnicity as determinants of participation can be highly problematic.
Work under review
The prominent “voter myopia” debate investigates the electorate’s reactions to economic conditions or natural disasters to determine whether voters are myopic or far-sighted. We test whether voters are myopic when it comes to criminal justice, a salient policy realm in which the media often covers only short-term crime trends. While previous studies suggest that voters substitute “the end” for “the whole,” we find that voters take long-term data into account even when presented with countervailing short-term trends. Our evidence comes from an original survey experiment conducted on a sample of 2,979 respondents from California in 2022. Survey respondents who were randomly selected to view long-term trends as well as the recent short-term rise in California’s crime rates were more likely to support the incumbent attorney general and less likely to favor a tough-on-crime policy then those presented with only short-term spikes in crime, evidence that voters are not purely myopic.
"Who Wins? Election Timing and Minority Representation." with Zoltan Hajnal and Vladimir Kogan. (Submitted for initial review).
Despite longstanding efforts, racial and ethnic minorities remain greatly under-represented in public office. We examine whether changing the dates of local elections — which prior work has shown increases overall turnout and shrinks the turnout gap between racial and ethnic minorities and White voters — can also increase descriptive representation and reduce this representational shortfall. Leveraging changes in the timing of city council elections in California, we find that moving to November even-year elections is a potentially important pathway to greater representation, but results vary significantly by racial minority group. Our analysis demonstrates how, when, and for whom election timing matters. Representational gains accrue most for Latinos, whose turnout increases most during on-cycle elections, but at the cost of White and, potentially Black, representation. These effects tend to be greater when more co-ethnic candidates run and where Latinos constitute a larger share of the population. Finally, gains are greatest when local elections are coupled with presidential contests and when changes in timing cause Latino turnout to increase the most.
"Racial Boundaries of Protection: How Victims' Race and Ethnicity Shape Political Responses to Mass Shootings." Book Project.
"Local Election Timing and Up-Ballot Races." with Kevin Morris and Sara Loving
Do on-cycle local elections increase up-ballot turnout? Prior research shows that holding local elections on the same day as state and federal elections increases turnout in local contests and promotes a more representative electorate. However, little is known about the impact of moving local races to on-year cycles on up-ballot turnout. This study aims to fill this gap by examining how consolidating elections affects turnout in state and federal contests. Using individual-level voter file data and a difference-in-differences approach, we analyze the case of municipalities in California that recently transitioned to on-year local elections. We complement this analysis with a regression discontinuity in space design to ensure causal validity. We find that the switch to on-cycle elections has a marginal positive effect on voter turnout and driven by increases in Latino particpation.
"Racial Disparities in U.S. Policy Responsiveness: Racial Threat in the Senate." with Zoltan Hajnal, Jacob Hacker, and Mackenzie Lockhart.
This research paper investigates the extent to which public policy in the United States is equally responsive to racial and ethnic minorities as it is to White Americans, and seeks to uncover the underlying factors contributing to any observed disparities. We contend that U.S. federal policy exhibits a higher degree of responsiveness to White Americans in comparison to racial and ethnic minorities. Furthermore, we posit that the U.S. Senate plays a pivotal role in driving these disparities in policy responsiveness.
To conduct our study, we leverage data from the Cooperative Elections Study (CES), encompassing the public preferences of nearly 500,000 voters over a period of 17 years across a diverse range of congressional bills. This dataset is meticulously paired with congressional roll call data, policy outcomes, and census demographic data, facilitating a comprehensive examination of dyadic representation and policy responsiveness.
Our findings reveal that U.S. policy outcomes align more closely with the preferences of White Americans than with those of racial and ethnic minorities. These disparities are predominantly a result of decisions made in the Senate, not the House of Representatives. Black Americans and Latinos, in particular, experience inferior representation in comparison to White Americans from their elected Senators. Notably, our research indicates that Republican Senators represent Black Americans and Latinos less effectively when these groups constitute a larger proportion of their respective state populations. This suggests a significant role played by racial threat perceptions in shaping U.S. policymaking.
"Who Represents Me? The Impact of Descriptive Representation on Substantive Representation in the US Federal Government." with Zoltan Hajnal, Jacob Hacker, and Mackenzie Lockhart.
“Shades of Green: Racial and Ethnic Minorities’ Environmental Policy Preferences”
“Who Benefits? Local Election Timing and Racialized Policy Reform” with Zoltan Hajnal and Vladimir Kogan