Are Quotas in Two Dimensions Better than One? Intersectional Representation & Group Relations in India” (with Aliz Toth). Revise and Resubmit at The American Political Science Review.

Abstract: Do quotas mandating descriptive representation dismantle social hierarchy? Quotas are typically utilized as solutions to a single form of political exclusion. But systemic oppression occurs on multiple dimensions. Thus, mandating political inclusion on one identity may strengthen exclusion along others. Are quotas mandating representation on two dimensions of identity better? We posit that two-dimensional quotas disrupt cross-cutting discrimination, improving inter-group relations comprehensively. Exploiting their quasirandom allocation, we analyze the causal effect of the world’s largest quota system for women, disadvantaged ethnic groups (Scheduled Tribes), and women from these ethnic groups in India. Utilizing multiple datasets covering all of mainland India since quotas’ imposition, we find that one-dimensional quotas magnify social barriers to interactions and increase inter-group conflict. In comparison, two-dimensional quotas consistently improve relations and diminish conflict. Suggestive evidence indicates this relationship travels globally. Our results demonstrate the necessity, and limitations, of using descriptive representation to transform social relations.

“Climate Shocks & Gendered Political Transformation: How Crises Alter Women’s Political Representation.”
R&R at Politics & Gender.

Abstract: Do climate shocks fundamentally destabilize gendered power systems catalyze female political representation and forge new paths for women into representative politics? I conceptualize climate shocks–unpredictable, extreme weather including droughts and floods–as “gendered shocks” with potential to increase the supply of and demand for female representation because they catalyze three factors: (1) male out-migration from disaster zones, simultaneously (2) increasing opportunity for and the necessity of women’s economic autonomy and (3) expanding the scale of women’s “care work” to ensure familial and local communities’ survival.

I develop a theory of climate shocks’ gendered political impact using three stylized facts. First, male out-migration increases women’s physical mobility and autonomy in extra-household economic and political systems of production, expanding the supply of viable female political candidates; in-migration has the converse effect. Second, women’s economic autonomy enables substantive political engagement, consequently generating distinctive female political agendas that create new demand for female politicians. Historically, these drivers of female representation have been in conflict, particularly where European colonial powers encouraged male out-migration from agriculture while narrowing female opportunities for economic autonomy, as in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. However, crises that disproportionately harm vulnerable groups may initiate large-scale demands for systemic change. Third, climate shocks can catalyze female political engagement and subsequent representation if they simultaneously initiate disparate gendered burdens for women to ensure collective survival, which increases women’s demand for structural change. When combined with male out-migration, women’s new roles offer them the requisite economic autonomy and substantive engagement with local governance to realize political agendas, increasing the supply of women candidates.  

Positive impacts on women’s representation are thus expected where climate shocks generate significant male out-migration in regions with strict gender norms of seclusion (rural South Asia and North Africa). Negative impacts are expected where shocks catalyze male in-migration, reifying conservative gender norms (urban South and East Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of the US). No impact is expected where women’s economic autonomy already enjoys strong social and political support, such that female labor force participation, and associated female levels of mobility and financial autonomy, are already high (Western Europe and parts of North and Latin America, Eastern Africa, and South East Asia). 

“When Quotas Are Not Enough: Inequalities and Political Representation in Rural India” (with Simon Chauchard and Alyssa Heinze). Under Review. Pre-Analysis Plan registered with EGAP. Available upon request.

Research on representative democracy often assumes that elected officials from disadvantaged and dominant groups are equally influential once in office. Drawing on an original survey in 319 Indian village councils, we leverage both reputational measures and behavioral observations to show that this assumption does not hold. Women elected through gender quotas do not equally affect decision-making in village councils after their election. Analyses suggest that gender disadvantage can be magnified or mitigated by inequalities on other dimensions. Recognition of this underappreciated form of political inequality is imperative for scholars to accurately identify the strengths and limitations of descriptive representation. From a policy standpoint, this suggests that reforms aiming to increase the representation of members of disadvantaged groups (e.g. quotas) may not alone suffice to enable individuals from traditionally excluded groups to affect policy.

“Covid, Climate Shocks & Women’s Economic Engagement: Experimental Evidence on Crisis-Induced Coordination in Bangladesh” (with Akshay Dixit). Pre-Analysis Plan registered with EGAP. Available upon request.

“Proxy Politics: Representation and Political Inequality in Rural India” (with Simon Chauchard and Alyssa Heinze). Book Manuscript. Pre-Analysis Plan registered with EGAP. Available upon request.