Welcome! I study the politics of inequality and social policy in the Global South, with a focus on the causes and consequences of privatized service provision. This has led me to study why politicians may adopt different means to expand service provision. When do politicians adopt state-centric or market-centric (private or hybrid modes of service delivery) to expand or reform social policy? Much of my research is sector-specific, with a focus on education reform. My broader research agenda aims to better understanding the politics of policy formation and feedback effects from the micro-level.
I also study survey methodology. My research examines how we can field better survey instruments and better interpret our own survey data. To this end, I am interested in developing methods to measure and improve attentiveness in surveys, and to better understand how respondents engage with survey instruments. These projects help us understand how to more accurately process the data we gain from public opinion surveys and connect it to the broader phenomena that interest us.
Education Politics in Hybrid Public Goods Regimes
My dissertation traces the political roots of a profound change in social policy across the Global South: the hybridization of education – that is, the expansion of private schooling, leading to a mix of public and private providers in education. In many low- and middle-income countries, private schooling has expanded dramatically, fundamentally transforming how schooling is provided. This hybridization often occurs along racial, ethnic and class lines, as sectarian or identity-based groups embrace the opportunity to operate their own schools and teach their own (often political) lessons. I study the roots of this transformation in India, centering my work on the policy decisions of local politicians. To understand why politicians may mobilize either the public or the private sector to expand education, I focus on three threats that dominant politicians face in many ethnically diverse, developing democracies – electoral competition, minority population growth, and political violence – to model how threats faced by political elites create distinct strategic logic for education centralization or hybridization.
Job Market Paper:
The Electoral Logic of Education Hybridization: Evidence from India
Governments typically assume responsibility for mass education. Yet particularly in the Global South, this trend has reversed: religious organizations, NGOs, political parties, and sectarian groups are increasingly educating citizens. When and why do governments cede authority over education to private providers? Existing theories emphasize state capacity and economic incentives, overlooking the political roots of private education. I argue that hybridization – increased private involvement in the traditionally-public education sector – results from the electoral incentives that politicians face in competitive elections. I draw on evidence from India's primary education sector, one of the largest education sectors in a country where over 100 million children are educated by private providers. Using a school census of 1.2 million primary schools and electoral data from 1977-2015, I demonstrate that electoral competition is associated with hybridization. Places with more competitive elections have more private providers. This result is driven by more recent years in the panel, constituencies are that unaligned with the ruling party, and the dynamics of incumbency. I use evidence from a regression discontinuity design, original interview data, and case studies to illustrate the mechanisms that drive hybridization. These findings challenge the idea that provision service provision is a transitional phenomenon that arises out of state weakness, instead showing that the private provision of education follows a consistent political logic, and help us understand the politics of education in a context where inequality, intolerance, and incohesion have increased in tandem with the explosion of private providers.