Design and Analysis of the Randomized Response Technique (with Graeme Blair and Kosuke Imai). Journal of the American Statistical Association, Volume: 110, Issue: 511 (September 2015), pages 1304 - 1319.

The randomized response method is a survey technique that seeks to reduce potential bias due to non-response and social desirability when asking questions about sensitive behaviors and beliefs. This survey methodology asks respondents to use a randomization device, such as a coin flip, whose outcome is unobserved by the enumerator. By introducing random noise, the method conceals individual responses and consequently protects respondent privacy. While numerous methodological advances have been made, we find surprising few applications of this promising methodology. In this paper, we address this gap by (1) reviewing standard designs available to applied researchers, (2) developing various multivariate regression techniques for substantive analyses, (3) proposing power analyses to help improve research designs, (4) presenting new robust designs that are based on less stringent assumptions than those of the standard designs, and (5) making all described methods available through open-source software. We illustrate some of these methods with an original survey about militant groups in Nigeria.

Presented at MPSA 2015. Links: (Paper) (Replication materials) (Slides)


How Refugees Affect Conceptions of Citizenship in Africa.

As forced migration reaches unprecedented levels, understanding how it impacts local, host communities is critical. This article examines how the presence of refugees affects the ways natives conceptualize citizenship. Using new data on refugee sites provided by the UNHCR and 35,000 geo-referenced Afrobarometer respondents across 22 countries, I find that citizens who live near refugees in their country are more likely to endorse restrictions on citizenship access, especially with respect to granting birthright citizenship. A placebo test using future refugee sites supports the claim that this relationship is causal. Citizens near refugees also report lower confidence in the national economy and less interpersonal trust, suggesting that they feel threatened both economically and symbolically. These findings have implications for border politics and boundary-making in African nation-states.

Presented at ISA 2014, APSA 2014, CAPERS Spring 2015, WZB Conference on Migration and Diversity 2015, USC Political Science Dept. 2017, Penn State's New Faces in Political Methodology IX.

Efficacy and Active Citizenship in Development: Experimental Evidence on Validated Participation in Tanzania              (with Evan Lieberman)

A great deal of scholarly research has highlighted the importance of self-efficacy, the perception that one can be an influential agent of change, as a determinant of an individual’s level of political participation and other behaviors. Since efficacy is generally predicted by socio-economic status (SES), it is not surprising that poor people in poor countries often lack self-efficacy. And in turn, this may explain some degree of the lack of active citizenship in poor, African contexts. While SES is difficult to change in the short run, we theorize that the link from high SES to efficacy may be explained by opportunities to experience successful episodes of participation. If so, it may be possible to boost efficacy and active citizenship among poor, low-efficacy citizens by exposing them to such opportunities. We consider these propositions in the context of rural Tanzania. First, we detail observational evidence demonstrating a strong relationship between individual feelings of self-efficacy and active citizenship behaviors; and we show that a novel meeting-based intervention – Validated Participation, which affords parents a unique opportunity to discuss evidence, share inferences and arguments, make decisions, and to have these activities validated by an authority figure – causes a large boost in feelings of efficacy among poor parents. Although we find limited evidence of behavior change from our intervention as measured largely through self-reported behaviors; we do find suggestive evidence from qualitative research.

Presented at WGAPE NYU Abu Dhabi 2016 and APSA 2017. Links: (Pre-Analysis Plan)

Reducing Insurgent Support Among At-Risk Populations: Experimental Evidence from Cash Transfers and Livelihood Training in Afghanistan (with Jason Lyall and Kosuke Imai)

Governments, militaries, and aid agencies use economic interventions to win "hearts and minds" among vulnerable populations in wartime. Yet rigorous evidence of whether these programs can reduce support for insurgents remains scarce. We experimentally evaluate a program of livelihood training and one-time unconditional cash transfers on combatant support among 2,579 at-risk youths in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Employing survey methodologies for sensitive questions, we find that training alone has little effect on attitudes towards combatants. Cash initially increases pro-government sentiment, but these effects dissipate by seven months. When combined with livelihood training, cash increased support for the Afghan government while marginally decreasing pro-Taliban sentiment. Our evidence suggests that combatant support is mostly driven by political dynamics, including politicians'ability to capture credit for delivering the program itself, rather than opportunity costs of rebellion.

Presented at APSA 2017. Links: (Working Paper) (Pre-Analysis Plan)

Do Refugees Spread or Reduce Conflict? (with Andrew Shaver)

As the number of forcibly displaced individuals around the world reaches record highs, understanding how their presence affects conflict is a major outstanding academic and policy question. Using new geo-coded data on refugee sites and conflict data at the subnational level from 1989 to 2008, we find no support for claims that refugee settlement increases the likelihood of conflict onset or incidence. Instead, we find that, conditional on having no other refugee sites present in the same country-year, provinces hosting refugee sites experience substantively large decreases in their likelihood of both conflict onset and incidence. We confirm these findings when examining heterogeneous effects of formal refugee camps and informal settlements. To exclude the possibility of unobserved confounders, we use placebo tests to show that there are no effects of future refugee sites on past conflict outcomes. We theorize that the influx of humanitarian and government attention, assistance, infrastructure to refugee sites may increase the stability of these settlement areas; we use nighttime lights satellite data and case studies to explore this further.

Presented at ISA 2014 and APSA 2015.


How Refugees Can Shape National Boundaries by Challenging Them: Evidence from Tanzania.

A common claim about contemporary African politics is that citizens feel low attachment to their nation relative to subnational identities such as ethnicity. This project offers a theory of boundary-making in which pressures generated from weak borders lead citizens in border regions to stengthen their attachment to their national identity. Through elite interviews, focus groups, and an original geo-coded survey experiment of over 2000 citizen respondents living around a rapidly expanding refugee camp in rural Tanzania, this project finds that the presence of refugees substantially increases local citizens’ attachment to their national identity and decreases their attachment to ethnic identities. Whether this increase in national solidarity leads to more active citizenship is unclear; only when nearby citizens are informed about the conflict that displaced refugees are they more likely to demand for or contribute to better public goods provision for their own communities.

Presented at MPSA 2017 and APSA 2017. Links: (Pre-Analysis Plan)

Studying Sensitive Questions (with Graeme Blair, Kosuke Imai, and Yuki Shiraito)

The Impact of Community Development Projects on Violence in Afghanistan (with Kosuke Imai and Jason Lyall)

Measuring Identities on Surveys as Baskets of Beads