Research

In Progress:

State Building, Elite Ideas, and the Making of Education Leviathans since the 19th Century (Dissertation)

What explains cross-national variation in the development of national education regimes? This project examines the timing and centralization of mass education—e.g. the laws and institutions governing primary and lower-secondary education—during early periods of state-building. For this project, I constructed an original data set of educational laws and institutions from 1800-1970 in forty-six countries in Europe, North America, Latin America, and Asia. This research employs both comparative-historical analysis of Argentina and Chile and econometric methods to show how state capacity and elite ideology explain patterns of control over public education, and the long-term implications of early educational development. This project aims to contribute to scholarship on state-building, political development, and the growing literature on the comparative political economy of education.

Legitimacy, Corruption, and Preferences for Redistribution in the Developing World: Survey Evidence from Afghanistan (with James D. Long)

What determines preferences for redistribution among poor citizens in developing nations? Prior approaches have looked at individual and national level factors related to income, ideology, taxation, and overall inequality. We contribute to this literature by examining the effects of individual exposure to state institutions, and beliefs that those institutions are legitimate and not corrupt. We hypothesize that holding income and inequality constant, individuals are more likely to favor redistribution where they deem formal state institutions (such as local governing councils and the police) as functioning and not corrupt. Conversely, individuals are less likely to favor redistribution where they deem these institutions as ineffective and corrupt. We test our hypotheses using multiple rounds of novel survey data and other administrative data sources from Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest countries with large geographic variation in the existence and performance of state institutions. We believe our results contribute important evidence for studies examining preferences for redistribution in the developing world, and the role that perceptions of government legitimacy play in “quasi-voluntary compliance” in fragile states.

Managing Decentralization, Resisting Markets: Teacher Unionism, Partisan Constraints, and Education Reform in Advanced Democracies 

Why do some countries adopt decentralizing and market-oriented public sector reforms to a greater degree than others? A robust body of literature on the welfare state contends that electoral and fiscal constraints force both center-left and center-right governments to enact major public sector reforms. However, much of this research discounts the role of public sector unionism as an extra-institutional constraint on partisan agendas. In this article, I examine the politics of education reform and argue that teacher unionism plays an important role in the policy process. The autonomy of incumbent governments to adopt contentious reforms is shaped in part on how education unions are organized nationally. The influence of teacher unions on the reform process rests on the cohesion of teacher unionism at the national level, which shapes the bargaining position of unions vis-à-vis incumbent governments. Where union membership is concentrated within a single peak trade association, or not otherwise split between competing organizations that exclusively represent the primary or secondary education sector, the state is less likely to implement a far-reaching education reform agenda. Evidence from Finland and Sweden in the 1980s and 1990s shows that the organizational cohesion of teacher unionism in the former constrained the government’s adoption of reforms. Alternatively, the primary and secondary teachers’ unions in Sweden failed to coordinate on a unified response to the center-right government’s agenda, instead competing for favorable concessions. The cases suggest that partisan theories of school reform should take the role of teacher unions more seriously when examining institutional change and stability in national education.