Working Papers

Effects of Development Aid on Political Perceptions – Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (with Eva Wegner, Miquel Pellicer and Alexander De Juan), under review

Aid agencies argue that development interventions can improve people’s attitudes towards the state. The underlying principle draws on classic arguments of the welfare state and suggests that when people’s access to public services such as health care, education, clean water and infrastructure improves, the output legitimacy of the state increases. Hence, the more state institutions are involved in planning and implementing aid activities, the more will people credit the state for the resulting socio-economic benefits. We test the effects of development aid on political perceptions in the context of a large-scale reconstruction program in eastern regions of the DRC. Relying on a regression discontinuity design, we compare beneficiary villages with those that would have benefited from aid projects but were narrowly rejected due to budgetary constraints. While we find that the program has produced tangible socio-economic effects, benefits have not translated into improvements of people’s political attitudes towards state institutions. To the contrary, project villages display slightly more negative attitudes than control villages. Auxiliary analyses explore the determinants of this unexpected findings and suggest that villages with aid projects encourage predatory behavior of state agents and thereby undermine potentially positive effects.

Link to paper:

The Social and Political Legacies of Wartime Sexual Violence: New Evidence from List Experiments in Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sri Lanka (with Richard Traunmüller)

Conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) is widespread across the world's conflict zones and understood to leave a particularly disastrous legacy for victims, communities and nations. However, representative data and systematic studies are scarce. We present original survey evidence from three postconflict countries known for its prevalence of CRSV: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia and Sri Lanka. The main contribution is twofold. First, we present the value of using list experiments compared to direct questions in measuring CRSV. Second, we estimate the effect of CRSV on social and political outcomes: civic participation, interethnic relations and political trust. Across all three country cases we find that CRSV leads to more civic participation at the local level. The effects on interethnic relations and political trust vary across countries. Essentially, our findings challenge the dominant `weapon of war' narrative suggesting that CRSV destroys the social fabric of communities. The evidence supports are more optimistic outlook emphasizing that survivors, their families and communities exercise social resilience.

Link to paper: ResearchGate

Wartime Sexual Violence and Social and Political Resilience: Micro-Level Theory, Evidence and Implications (with Summer Lindsey)

Misreporting to sensitive questions including conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) is common in surveys. To address this problem, we administered a list experiment (aka item count technique) to 1,000 respondents in eastern Congo. First, we show that the estimated prevalence of CRSV changes from 6% in a direct question to 12% in the list experiment, suggesting that 6% of the respondents have misreported CSRV exposure. Second, we compare the effect of the direct question and the list experiment in a multivariate regression framework on several measures of social integration. We find no evidence that CRSV is related to social exclusion as suggested by previous qualitative studies. On the contrary, the list experiment reveals that CRSV-affected households are more socially active and engaged in their community, a finding that resonates with recent quantitative studies. We explore some potential mechanism and find that misreporting is related to anticipated stigmatization, social norms related to conformity as well as perceived state support. The paper contributes to a major gap in research on sexual violence by comparing direct and indirect techniques to measure CRSV.

War and Nationalism: Evidence from World War I and the Rise of the Nazi Party (with Alexander De Juan, Felix Haass, Sascha Riaz, Thomas Tichelbäcker)

Can wars breed nationalism? We investigate this question in the context of the rise of the Nazi party after World War 1. We argue that civilian exposure to war fatalities can trigger psychological processes that reinforce hostility towards war opponents, increase identification with the nation, and thereby strengthen support for nationalist parties. We test this argument using a novel individual-level dataset of all 8.6 million German soldiers who were wounded or died in WW1. Our empirical strategy leverages plausibly exogenous variation in the county-level death rate---the share of dead soldiers among all war casualties (dead and wounded). We find that throughout the interwar period, electoral support for nationalist parties, including the NSDAP, was about 2 percentage points higher in counties with a high death rate. Drawing on data on Nazi autobiographies, NSDAP party entries, and war memorials, we provide additional evidence in support of our theoretical argument.

Link to paper:

Female Leaders, Regime Type and Public Goods Provision

This article starts with the observation that the share of women in parliaments has increased steadily over the last decades worldwide. Apart from the descriptive representation of women, do more women in parliament substantively affect public policy more generally? And if so how? Drawing on a rich literature that suggests women to be more prosocial than men on average, we argue that a higher share of women in parliaments increases the salience of other-regarding preferences in the legislative arena. By extension, this manifests in higher degrees of public goods policies. We refine our argument suggesting that this effect is conditional on a state’s regime type. We test our arguments with a mixed-method design. First, using time-series cross-sectional data we find that up from a share of 10%, female MPs make a substantive difference in increasing public (as opposed to private) goods provision. We also find that this effect depends on regime type and only works in democracies. Second, we use coarsened exact matching to select two cases along a most-similar systems design. The quantitative analysis lends strong support to our argument and thereby contributes to filling a gap in the literature on the substantive impact of women in politics.