Working papers


Ebola, Elections, and Immigration (with Claire Adida and Kim Yi Dionne)
Abstract: Do infectious disease threats affect attitudes toward immigration? Scholarship investigating the determinants of individual attitudes toward immigration has found that, across a wide range of contexts, cultural threats increase exclusionary attitudes toward immigrants. Yet much of this literature ignores the link between immigrants and disease that has characterized immigrant exclusion for decades. Further, existing work that does investigate the relationship between immigrants and disease does not consider how political entrepreneurs might exploit such threats to move public opinion on immigration. Our paper leverages the Ebola crisis in the United States, which coincided with the 2014 midterm elections, and which politicians sought to manipulate for political gain, to assess the impact of the politicization of a public health crisis. We ran a survey experiment between November and December 2014 to measure the American public’s response toward Ebola and immigration. Our results confirm that public opinion on immigration is easily swayed by political entrepreneurs, and that this effect is not merely driven by partisanship.
Religion, Patriarchy and the Perpetuation of Harmful Social Conventions: The Case of Female Genital Cutting in Egypt. (with Lisa Blaydes)
Abstract: How are harmful social practices brought to an end? Female genital cutting (FGC) — also known as female genital mutilation or female circumcision — is among the most widespread forms of physical violence committed against children, worldwide. This paper describes the social and religious determinants of FGC in Egypt as well as differential trends in abandonment of the practice across different religious and societal groups. While FGC remains a nearly ubiquitous practice among ever-married women in Egypt, significant declines in the practice have been witnessed among a cohort of younger women and girls. We find that although FGC was nearly universal among a previous generation of Coptic Christian women, the Coptic community has seen much steeper declines in the practice over time compared to Muslims despite a narrowing of the educational attainment gap between Christians and Muslims in Egypt. We also find that women who have more sons relative to daughters — an indicator with an exogenous component — are more likely to circumcise their daughters and to state their support for the continuation of the practice in the future. Women with more sons relative to daughters are also less likely to “change course” across daughters with regard to the practice; in other words, while some families have older daughters who were circumcised and younger daughters who were not, this is pattern is observed less frequently in families with a larger percentage of sons. We hypothesize that having sons invests mothers, to some degree, in patriarchal values that impact outcomes for female siblings in the family.
Africa’s Health Tragedy? Ethnic Diversity and Health Outcomes.
Abstract: Does ethnic diversity affect health outcomes? This paper examines the effect of ethnic diversity on a broad range of health outcomes in a global sample of countries, as well as by region and income level, with particular emphasis on the sample of sub-Saharan African countries. The paper also includes an analysis of the relationship between ethnic diversity and health care provision at the sub-national level within Uganda. In the global model, with a wide range of controls, greater ethnic diversity is associated with poorer health outcomes, including higher infant and child mortality, and lower public health expenditure. However, the determinants of health outcomes, and the relationship between ethnic diversity and health outcomes, varies by region and income level. Within Africa, variation in health outcomes is explained primarily by access to health facilities, as well as the quality of institutions. Within Uganda, more ethnically diverse districts tend to have lower provision of health services but the same amount of physical health infrastructure as their homogeneous counterparts.


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