Published Work

Shah, Paru and Nicholas R. Davis. 2017. Race and Guessing Games: Comparing Three Methods to Classify the Race of Candidates. Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics. 2(1): 124-139. 10.1017/rep.2016.27

In this research note, we explore compare and contrast three methods for measuring race. We utilize as our baseline, or “true”, measure expert coded racial categories, and to this compare two alternatives. The first is a hybrid Bayesian analysis of racial/ethnic surname lists and population distributions, which allow us to develop a race probability score for each candidate. The second is a novel and innovative crowdsourcing method that allows many contributors to classify the racial identity of candidates. We analyze and discuss the potential benefits, pitfalls, and tradeoffs of each method. We conclude with the implications of these new measures for future election research as well as race and politics scholarship more broadly.

Work in Progress

Decisions, Decisions: Re-examining the Trade-Conflict Nexus with Christopher Schwarz

Despite trade being recognized as an important factor in the contemporary study of interstate conflict, no consensus has been reached on the causal direction of this effect. We enter this debate by examining the ways in which the various research designs employed by authors interact to condition their reported results. Towards this end, we review two large ongoing and unresolved debates in the literature: spatiotemporal sample selection and measurement of key concepts. We then conduct a meta-analysis of the existing literature to generate testable hypotheses, showing how the findings of authors are conditioned by the decisions they make in designing their research. We then empirically re-evaluate the effect of trade on conflict by performing a series of 48 logistic regressions, specified by iterating over various spatiotemporal domains and operationalizations. Our findings suggest that the support for the liberal perspective may be overstated.


The Logic of Authoritarian Reaction to Foreign Relief with Bann Seng Tan

While natural disasters do not respect political boundaries, states' responses do. We argue that authoritarian regimes strategically choose from aid facilitation, obstruction or diversion depending the political relevance of the disaster victims and the need for performance legitimacy. When key supporters of the regime are afflicted by the disaster and the regime needs performance legitimacy, it is in the interest of authoritarian regimes to facilitate foreign relief. When neither holds true, they opt to obstruct aid. Between the two policy extremes, we expect a policy mix of facilitation with aid diversion.

We are currently collecting news stories about major disasters affecting Asian autocracies between 2000 and 2010. Using text analysis, we will create a measure of response to offers of foreign aid. Funded by internal grants from Bogăziçi University.


With a Little Help from Our (Autocratic) Friends: The Aid-Democratization Nexus and Chinese Development Assistance

Does foreign aid from authoritarian donors stabilize autocracy? Extant research has explored how aid from western democracies affects democratization. However, due to data collection problems there has not been much attention to the effect of foreign aid from nonwestern, nondemocratic states. Rising regional powers such as China increasingly are seeking to exert their influence globally, yet these states cannot be expected to use their development assistance like the west, for democracy promotion. The literature suggests that foreign aid is likely to have a stabilizing effect rather than a democratizing effect, unless aid is conditional on democratization. The theory presented here represents a first take at the motivations of authoritarian donors, including their expectations of the outcome of providing aid to different types of regimes and the decision calculus authoritarian donors use to select targets. To test this new explanation of persistent authoritarianism, I utilize a unique research design that incorporates a new dataset of Chinese foreign aid to over forty African states from 2000 to 2010 and Bayesian modeling that is sensitive to the limitations and quality of that data. I find that Chinese development assistance has a substantively small and surprisingly negative effect on regime duration. Trade dependence with China has a larger positive effect on authoritarian persistence in Africa, however.


The Diffusion of Political Liberalism: What We Can Learn From Regime Responses During the Arab Spring

This paper examines the diffusion of political liberalism. Past research has focused on endogenous or exogenous structures related to patterns of comparative democratization, or the diffusion of policy contributing to democratization. I improve upon past research by examining the diffusion of liberal political reforms in the Middle East and North Africa region, first by utilizing a cross-national quantitative study to confirm the presence of diffusion effects separate from regional clusters of domestic factors affecting liberalization trends. I then implement a qualitative analysis of three cases from the MENA region which have recently experienced demands for liberalization during the Arab Spring in order to explore two potential mechanisms: hegemonic coercion and neighbor emulation. Results of this mixed design demonstrate that diffusion is indeed a force in global and MENA region samples. The coercion mechanism explains initial diffusion of political liberal reforms, while neighbor emulation better explains subsequent liberalization and even retrenchment.

Project Affiliations

Costs of Contention at Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
January 2017 - Current
Project information page at PRIO

The Costs of Contention project seeks to understand how diverse forms of political conflict and violence (e.g. genocide, civil war, human rights violations) influence diverse political and economic outcomes (e.g., the type of political system, mass participation, economic development, happiness and foreign direct investment).

I provide research assistance for the principal investigators by replicating various contention and costs measures from existing studies.


Laboratories of Democracy
August 2016
Project website

I consulted on a data collection effort for Laboratories of Democracy, running a survey and experiment at the 2016 National Conference of State Legislatures meeting in Chicago.


CandidateD Crowdsourcing
September 2013 - May 2014

I was a research assistant and data manager on a Research Growth Initiative funded pilot project to create and maintain a web-based system of candidate characteristics such as gender or race entered by local "experts," effectively "crowdsourcing" information on candidates. Principal project investigator is Paru Shah (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee). CandidateD seeks to revolutionize the way social scientists collect data, taking advantage of web technology to get local citizens to share knowledge, learn about candidates, and become involved in local politics.


Candidate Emergence in the States
September 2012 - August 2013

Developed by Paru Shah and Eric Juenke (Michigan State University) to assess several aspects of candidacy that remain unclear despite advances in candidate-centered research. I administered a survey of several thousand state-level candidates running in the 2012 November general election. CES seeks to contribute to our knowledge of candidacy as well as race and ethnicity effects in elections.


Local Elections in America Project (LEAP)
September 2011 - May 2012
Project website

I was a project assistant on LEAP, an NSF-funded project that will provide a path-breaking solution to the problem of collecting, digitizing and disseminating data on local elections. Principal project investigators are Paru Shah and Melissa Marschall (Rice University).


Conference Presentations

It's Never That Simple: Unpacking the Simultaneous and Conditional Effects of Foreign Aid, Political Institutions, Economic Development, and Political Violence with Christopher Schwarz
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association in Baltimore, February 2017

The Logic of Authoritarian Reaction to Foreign Relief with Bann Seng Tan
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in Philadelphia, September 2016

Persistent Authoritarianism and the Stabilizing Effect of Resource Wealth
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in Philadelphia, September 2016

With a Little Help from Our (Autocratic) Friends: The Aid-Democratization Nexus and Chinese Development Assistance
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, April 2016

Decisions, Decisions: Re-examining the Trade-Conflict Nexus with Christopher Schwarz
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association in Atlanta, March 2016

Trading Faces: How Trading Partners Affect Changes in Governing Institutions
Presented at the American Political Science Association in San Francisco, September 2015

Sex and Race in Statehouse Elections: Press Coverage of Women and Minority Candidates at the Entry Level with Newly Paul, Paru Shah, Johanna Dunaway, Brook Spurlock, Brooksie Chastant, Tina Cota-Robles, Liz Lebron, and Sonny Marchbanks
Presented by coauthors at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in San Francisco, September 2015

Democracy, Inclusion, and Communal Rebellion: Understanding Violence Against the State 1980–2006
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, April 2015

Teaching the Rebels a Lesson: Education Provision and Civil Conflict
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association in New Orleans, February 2015

The Diffusion of Political Liberalism: What We Can Learn From Regime Responses During the Arab Spring
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, April 2014

Evaluating Three Theories of Democratization in the Middle East and North Africa with Bann Seng Tan
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, April 2014

Race and Guessing Games: Comparing Three Methods to Classify the Race of Candidates with Paru Shah and Michael Tofias
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, April 2014

Major Theories of Democratization Reexamined: Replacing Garbage Can Regression Models with Mixture Models
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, April 2013

The Supply Side of Minority Representation: When do Minority Candidates Run, and When do they Win?with Paru Shah and Melissa Marschall
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, April 2012