Working papers

The Political Consequences of "Source Country" Operations: Evidence from Crop Eradication in Mexico
[Paper] [Supplementary materials]

Abstract. When crafting law enforcement policy, drug-producing - or ''source''- countries must adjudicate between domestic security priorities and international pressure to curb drug supply. What are the political consequences of prioritizing supply reduction? I analyze the case of illicit crop eradication in Mexico, where the army destroys thousands of fields yearly. While fundamental for ensuring conditional US aid, residents of crop-growing communities understand eradication as an unjust federal policy. I argue that residents negatively update on the trustworthiness of law enforcement after eradication and are discouraged from attempting to change federal policy through electoral means, decreasing turnout. To test, I construct a novel eradication measure using the universe of satellite-detected illicit fields. Using exogenous variation in location and timing, I show eradication depresses turnout in federal elections and trust in the army. Supply reduction might come at the cost of eroding trust in law enforcement and undermining domestic accountability in source countries.

Class and the Development of Trust in Police in Latin America (with Tara Slough)

[Draft available upon request]

Abstract. In the United States, trust in police is positively correlated with socio-economic status. We show that this is not the case in Latin America. In 147 surveys spanning 20 Latin American countries, we find that trust in police is weakly negatively correlated with socio-economic status—a fact that neither regional experts nor subject-matter experts anticipated. By way of explanation, we propose that rich people everywhere are more likely to interpret everyday experiences as signals about the police. Because bad experiences like crime victimization and bribe solicitation are more common in Latin America than in the US, rich people’s tendency to interpret poor security outcomes as signals of police (un)trustworthiness should lead to a lower trust–SES gradient in Latin America relative to the US. In our account, cross-country differences in the trust–SES gradient are driven not by cross-country differences in how people update but rather by cross-country differences in policing outcomes, together with universal class-based differences in people’s readiness to see the world around them as a signal about police.


The Political Consequences of Crime Victimization Reconsidered

Abstract. Extant work on the political consequences of victimization finds that crime politicizes. In this paper, I argue that interpreting such findings as causal requires the implausible assumption that crime is (conditionally) exogenous from political outcomes. Conversely, I recast victimization as the result of an endogenous process driven by politics that produces victims and non-victims who differ in their beliefs and preferences before victimization. I discover evidence consistent with endogenous selection into victimization in canonical results, finding residualized participation is systematically related to victimization. Additionally, I leverage seven years of a unique rotating panel survey from Mexican cities and show that crime victims behaved differently before victimization in ways that are systematically related to their politics; they were less trusting, more mobile, interacted more often with bureaucrats, and were more exposed to crime and conflict than their neighbors. Results suggest that victimization might politicize, but only the previously political.