Research Interests

I am a political economist focusing on Latin America at the subnational level. My research benefits from my deep in-country experience, sophisticated empirical methods, use of understudied subnational data, and prior work as a political risk analyst in the financial sector.

My main research examines political budget cycles, especially how political ambition affects subnational fiscal policy choice. In Mexico, I have observed that subnational leaders are involved in complex partisan policy networks, even though they must also compete with party colleagues in pursuit of higher-level positions. Yet, research has not yet examined how these dynamics interact. Guided by my recent research on subnational debt (Studies in Comparative International Development 2017; Governance 2017, coauthored), I examine the logic behind what I call “subnational partisan fiscal policy interdependence.” I argue that political ambition drives copartisan subnational leaders to compete with one another to appeal to higher-level party leaders’ fiscal policy preferences, in their pursuit of building successful political careers. Political careerism thus produces complex partisan networks of policy interdependence across space and time. In a first paper (Journal of Politics, forthcoming), I explain how political ambition drives vertical partisan fiscal policy interdependence. In a second paper (being prepared for submission), I explain how political ambition also drives horizontal partisan fiscal policy interdependence. This research makes an important contribution to knowledge about subnational political budget cycles by showing how partisan political ambition integrates them across space and time.

My second line of research examines how participatory political institutions contribute to governance, specifically how subnational authoritarian leaders use these institutions to strengthen their hold on power. My research in Mexico shows that participatory institutions have been used by subnational authoritarian leaders to boost their political control, producing what I call “authoritarian participatory governance.” The best-known case in Mexico is the state of Oaxaca, whose government assigned participatory institutions to many of its 570 municipalities in 1995, before the transition to national democracy (2000). I show that these institutions were assigned by state autocrats to municipalities whose mayors could be trusted to work for the state-level regime (Democratization 2017), and that these mayors used these institutions to manage electoral participation and generate winning margins (Comparative Politics 2012; Journal of Politics in Latin America 2016). This allowed Oaxaca’s subnational authoritarian rulers to survive in power even national democratization. My aim is to contribute to research on how the adoption of participatory institutions in both democratic (Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela) and non-democratic (China, Indonesia, Mexico) settings can be used by local incumbents to strengthen their hold on power.

In a new side project, I examine the impact of economic policy statements on financial markets. In an article manuscript “Does @theRealDonaldTrump Really Affect Financial Markets?” (revise & resubmit, coauthored), I examine the impact of economic policy statements made by US President Donald J. Trump (via the microblogging site Twitter) on financial markets. Research on politics and financial markets suggests that Trump’s economic policy “tweets” should not matter to markets, because each merely restates his well-known policy views. In contrast, my coauthor and I argue that Trump's policy tweets should affect financial markets because they clarify his level of commitment to his economic policy goals. We test this argument using data on Trump's Mexico-related policy tweets and the US dollar/Mexican peso exchange rate. We find that Trump's Mexico-related tweets raised US dollar/Mexican peso exchange rate volatility both when his views were first becoming known, as well as thereafter, in line with our expectations. This project builds on my prior work on the impact of presidential election polls and the stock market in Mexico, published in Political Research Quarterly 2007 and Business & Politics 2013.