Selected Working Papers

Making Policies Matter: Voter Responses to Campaign Promises (with P. Keefer, J. Labonne, and F. Trebbi). Under Review.

We elicit multidimensional policy platforms from political candidates in consecutive mayoral elections in the Philippines and show that voters who are randomly informed about these promises rationally update their beliefs about candidates, along both policy and valence dimensions. Those who receive information about current campaign promises are more likely to vote for candidates with policy promises closest to their own preferences. Those informed about current and past campaign promises reward incumbents who fulfilled their past promises, as they perceive them to be more honest and competent. Voters with clientelist ties to candidates do not respond to information on campaign promises. We estimate a structural model that allows us to disentangle campaign information effects on beliefs (through updating) and psychological effects on preferences (through making policy salient to voters). Both effects are present in the data. Counterfactual exercises also demonstrate that policy and valence play a significant quantitative role in explaining vote shares. Finally, although these campaign promises have a significant impact, a cost-benefit analysis reveals that vote buying is more cost effective than information campaigns, establishing a rationale for why candidates in these environments do not use them in practice.


Social Fragmentation, Electoral Competition and Public Goods Provision (with J. Labonne and P. Querubin). Under Review.

In this paper we show that social fragmentation can trigger increased electoral competition and improved provision of public goods. We test these effects using large-scale data on family networks from over 20 million individuals in 15,000 villages of the Philippines. We take advantage of naming conventions to assess intermarriage links between families and use community detection network algorithms to identify the relevant clans in all of those villages. We show that there is more public goods provision and political competition in villages with more fragmented social networks, a result that is robust to controlling for a large number of village characteristics and to alternative estimation techniques. Using original survey data collected in 284 villages after the 2013 local elections, we also show that fragmented villages are associated with a broader distribution of political influence.

Winner, Best Conference Paper, Political Networks Section, American Political Science Association


Buying Informed Voters: New Effects of Information on Voters and Candidates (with P. Keefer and J. Labonne). Under Review.

A theoretical model and two experiments in the Philippines show that information about the mere existence of government programs influences both voter and candidate behavior. Theory predicts that incumbents shirk when voters are unaware of programs. Consistent with this, in the survey experiment, information indicating the availability of municipal development funds significantly reduces support for incumbent mayors. The field experiment distributed similar information to voters prior to municipal elections, with the full knowledge of candidates. Incumbent mayors increased vote buying in treatment areas to counteract the decrease in voter support. Effects were strongest in villages with fewer incumbent-provided public goods.

Pre-Analysis Plan:
American Economic Association (AEA) Registry for Randomized Control Trials
J-PAL Hypothesis Registry


Gender, Social Recognition, and Political Influence (with C. Tolentino). Under Review.

What determines political influence? While the literature on gender and political engagement focuses on individual motivations, traits, attitudes, and participation in political activities, we argue that how these factors translate to political influence is fundamentally a social process, with important implications for women in politics. Using a new dataset on networks of political influence in Philippine villages, we show that even after controlling for indicators of socioeconomic status or political participation, women are still markedly less likely to be recognized as politically influential. Furthermore, we show that the commonly understood factors that correspond to political influence apply primarily to men, and that for women, the determinants of political influence are more complex: embeddedness in the community and participation in non-political community activities are more important than political connections or wealth. In addition, we highlight important mechanisms of political influence for women and key differences in the ways that women use their social networks for political ends.