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The current focus of political science and political economy research in less developed countries lies with problems of governance, with a strong focus on clientelism and specifically on vote buying. With the exception of the Metaketa research on information campaigns, investigations into these topics have proceeded without formal coordination and, for the most part, via individually-designed case studies. Despite this disjointedness and informality, some findings seem to have cumulated. I argue that the main novel results to have emerged from this research stream come from uncovering new facts rather than articulating new causal questions or providing new answers to established questions. Thanks to the use of relatively standardized survey instruments and improved sampling methods, case studies now provide precise quantitative estimates of the frequency of vote buying. However, the wide range of new data points suggests we may need to rethink our understanding of previous causal investigations into vote buying.

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Updated: Dec 20, 2022

The Personal Backgrounds of National Legislators in the World’s Democracies

Co-authored with Nicholas Carnes, Joshua Ferrer, Esme Lillywhite, Noam Lupu, and Eugenia Nazrullaeva

This note describes the Global Legislators Database (GLD), a new crossnational dataset on characteristics — political party, gender, age, education, and occupational background — of the roughly 20,000 lawmakers in the world’s democracies. The database includes 97 democ- racies (of 103) with populations over 300,000, with information about the 99.9 percent of legislators who held office in each country’s lower chamber or unicameral legislature during one legislative session in 2016 or 2017. The GLD is the largest individual-level biographical database on national legislatures ever assembled, and it has a wide range of potential applica- tions. In this note, we show that the GLD’s estimates of characteristics such as female repre- sentation are strongly validated by alternative estimates; we preview one potential application by conducting tests of hypotheses about gender, education, and occupationally-based gaps in reelection rates; and we discuss other possible uses for this one-of-a-kind resource for studying representation in the world’s democracies

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Updated: Oct 24, 2022

Co-authored with Mats Ahrenshop, Saad Gulzar, and Luke Sonnet.

We report results of a forecasting experiment about a randomized controlled trial that was conducted in the field. The experiment asks Ph.D. students, faculty, and policy practitioners to forecast (1) compliance rates for the RCT and (2) treatment effects of the intervention. The forecasting experiment randomizes the order of questions about compliance and treatment effects and the provision of information that a pilot experiment was conducted which produced null results. Forecasters were excessively optimistic about treatment effects and unresponsive to item order as well as to information about a pilot. Those who declare themselves expert in the area relevant to the intervention are particularly resistant to new information that the treatment is ineffective. We interpret our results as suggesting that we should exercise caution when undertaking expert forecasting, since experts may have unrealistic expectations and may be inflexible in altering these even when provided new information. Download the full paper below.

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