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. Canonical work finds that crime catalyzes civic and political engagement. 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 conceptualize victimization as the result of an endogenous process that produces victims and non-victims who differ in their political beliefs and behavior before victimization. To test, I replicate and extend results showing that self-reported victimization covaries positively in political participation across Latin America. However, I find these cross-sectional analyses likely conflate baseline differences in attitudes and behavior with the causal effect of victimization. By examining a panel survey of Mexican city dwellers, I demonstrate that individuals who later become victims were less trusting, more mobile, and more exposed to crime than their neighbors. Results emphasize how good/bad experiences with public service provision are not random. Thus, the causal effect of such experiences, when identifiable, is local to a subpopulation that is a priori difficult to characterize and might not be of substantive theoretical interest.