Job Market Paper

Does the Left Breed Economic Informality? Party Strategies and Selective Enforcement in Brazil

Given their links to organized labor and reliance on working-class voters, leftist governments are expected to increase the number of people protected by job security rules. But do they? The long period of rule by left-leaning governments in Latin America since the early 2000s offers opportunities to test this supposition. As part of a broader project, I explore whether the left in power at the local level in Brazil uses its influence over labor inspectors to crack down on enterprises that employ non-contract, informal-sector workers. With a close-election regression-discontinuity design, I show that mayors from the Workers' Party (PT), far from encouraging a shift from unprotected (informal) to protected (formal) jobs, in fact increase the size of the informal sector. The PT's labor-market policies reflect its need to build a broad lower-class electoral coalition, one that includes both informal and formal-sector workers, whose preferences are in some ways at odds. My analysis reveals that the PT pursues a strategy of keeping barriers-to-entry to the formal sector, slowing down labor enforcement within small firms, and at the same time improving working conditions for informal-sector workers by incorporating them into worker-run informal sector enterprises

This paper contains parts of my book manuscript, The Left's Dilemma: Party Strategies and Informal Labor in Developing Economies. A summary of the book is available here.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Do the Wealthy Oppose Redistribution? Public Price Shocks and Redistributive Preferences in Buenos Aires (with L. Schiumerini and S. Stokes). Forthcoming at the British Journal of Political Science [replication files]

Argentine Presidentialism: From Crisis to Recomposition of Presidential Power, 2003–2007 (“El Presidencialismo Argentino: de la Crisis a la Recomposicion Actual, 2003–2007”), with N. Cherny and M. Novaro, in America Latina Hoy, 54, April 2010

Lula and the Partido dos Trabalhadores adaptation process (“Lula y el proceso de adaptacion del PT a la hora de gobernar”) with V. Palermo, in Revista Argentina de Ciencia Politica, 9/10, 2006

Working Papers

Electoral Accountability with Myopic Voters: Evidence from Fatal Workplace Accidents

Recent scholarship argues that "myopic" voters – those who focus almost entirely on incumbent performance in the months just before the election – do not create incentives for elected officials to act responsively. Instead I use original data to show that myopic voters in Brazil hold their mayors accountable for spikes in workplace deaths; in turn, elected officials respond by minimizing fatal accidents throughout the term. These dynamics, however, do not apply to officeholders from all political parties; as in the U.S., certain parties "own" issues and are uniquely held to account for bad outcomes in those issue areas. The findings have implications for understanding the impact of democracy on labor standards, as well as for assessing the conditions under which electoral sanctions improve incumbent performance

Sharing the Costs: Party Brands and Incumbency Spillovers in Brazil (under review)

Much of the literature in distributive politics suggests that parties are advantaged nationally when they control office at the local level. But is this invariably true? Whatever advantage control over the local patronage machinery may offer, local governments might under some conditions sully their parties' labels and thus hurt up-ticket candidates. My analysis, which features a regression discontinuity design in mayoral races in Brazil, demonstrates the critical role that party labels play in linking national and local elections. I show that the presidential tickets of parties with strong brands suffer a large electoral penalty in municipalities governed by co-partisans, especially when voters are dissatisfied with the local government. Loosely organized parties with weak party labels do not suffer from a similar disadvantage. Hence, this study shows that for programmatic parties with strong party brands, mayors can be more of a burden than an asset

Distributive Politics in Three-Level Systems: Evidence from a Large Land-Titling Program (under review)

Central governments often favor their elected district allies in distributive politics. But what happens when there are more than two relevant levels of government – e.g., a central government, the state or provincial government, and a municipality or county? Using an original dataset with information about a major South American land-titling program and a unique two-level regression-discontinuity design in close regional and municipal elections, I show that the central government gave priority to municipalities in which the mayor was an ally of the central administration but the governor was an opponent. The objective was to minimize party splits, undermine the electoral standing of governors, and gain the goodwill of squatters. I show that the program yielded an increased vote share for the president's party in both allied- and, more importantly, opposition-held provinces. Taking only the president-governor or president-mayor relationship into account in this setting would lead to biased inferences and misleading conclusions about the central government's strategy

Work in Progress

Paying Not to Vote: Pocketbook Considerations and the Shape of the Electorate (with G. Julcarimna and G. Tuñón)

Perceptions of Land Inequality and the Demand for Redistribution. Experimental Evidence from Rural Colombia (A. Montoya and V. Paniagua)

Other Publications

"Yes, U.S. election integrity could be improved. Here’s why the Pence commission probably won’t do it," Monkey Cage Blog, Washington Post, September 18th, 2017

"The U.S. could be free of gerrymandering. Here's how other countries do redistricting," Monkey Cage Blog, Washington Post, August 7th, 2017

From the Hegemonic to the Scrambled Stalemate, CLACS Working Paper, Brown University, May 2014

Gathering Beans: The Size of Legislative Coalitions in Argentina (1983-2008) (“Juntando Porotos: El Tamaño de las Coaliciones Legislativas en Argentina”), in A. Mustapic, A. Bonvecchi, and J. Zelaznik (comps.), Los Legisladores en el Congreso Argentino, Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, 2012

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