I am a visiting fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. I have a Ph.D. in politics from New York University. My primary areas of research include economic sanctions and civil conflict.

Peer-Reviewed Publications

HIV/AIDS, Life Expectancy, and the Opportunity Cost Model of Civil War

Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming

This paper finds that declines in life expectancy decrease the opportunity cost of dying in combat, thereby increasing the probability of civil war. Expand abstract »

This paper views death in battle as an opportunity cost whose size is determined by the number of years a rebel would have lived as a civilian. As civilian life expectancy declines, this opportunity cost does too, increasing the probability of rebellion. The theory is tested with a tragic natural experiment: the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Using male circumcision rates as an instrument for life expectancy, the analysis shows that a one-year increase in life expectancy decreases the probability of civil war by 2.6 percentage points. This supports the theory that opportunity costs are important determinants of conflict onset and that non-pecuniary opportunity costs should be taken into account. The paper concludes by noting that cost-benefit analyses of public health interventions should include decreases in the probability of civil war, and the attendant benefits in terms of lives saved and material damage prevented, in their calculations.
Gated version | Ungated version | Online appendix | Replication files

Economic Considerations in Designing Emergency Management Institutions and Policies for Transboundary Disasters

Public Management Review, 2013 with Adam Rose

This article provides an economic framework for designing transboundary emergency management institutions and policies to address transboundary crises. Expand abstract »

An increasing number of disasters are generating consequences that extend beyond political boundaries. This article provides an economic framework for designing transboundary emergency management institutions and policies to address these transboundary crises. It emphasizes the importance of economic considerations in two ways. First, we disaggregate economic losses into direct and indirect components, which vary in terms of their transboundary potential. Second, we apply economic principles such as scale economies, externalities and public goods in analysing European cooperation in emergency management. The article concludes by identifying the type of consequences that might best be addressed by a wider geographic and political authority.
Gated version

Working Papers

Sanctioning the Homeland: Diasporas’ Influence on American Economic Sanctions Policy

This paper examines how diasporas affect American sanctions policy and then uses diasporas' size as an instrumental variable to calculate causal estimates of sanctions' effectiveness. Expand abstract »

How do diasporas in the United States, and the distribution of diasporas across states, affect American sanctions policy? Using census data, this paper finds that the president caters to diasporas concentrated in swing states by imposing sanctions on the diasporas’ former dictators. Using the size of the diaspora in swing states as an instrumental variable for the imposition of economic sanctions, this paper proceeds to calculate causal estimates of the effectiveness of sanctions on regime change, and finds that sanctions are ineffective at toppling despots.
Working paper | Online appendix

Blog Posts

7 insights into the surprising results from the Canadian election The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post, Oct. 20, 2015

Here’s what to watch for when Canadians vote Monday The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post, Oct. 19, 2015