Shair-Rosenfield Book Cover Design

Electoral Reform and the Fate of New Democracies: Lessons from the Indonesian Case (forthcoming with University of Michigan Press)

Electoral systems structure the way in which votes are translated into legislative representation and executive control, and thus are incredibly important to the establishment, consolidation, and maintenance of democracy. The rules of the electoral game determine key political outcomes, including who is included or excluded, and are therefore incredibly important in democratic systems and to the democratic consolidation process itself.
The incidence of major reforms to those rules has been on the rise since 1980, and more countries are likely to undertake repeated reform than ever before.

In particular, why are new democracies so much more likely to reform, and repeatedly reform, these rules than are older democracies? And can those reforms serve to improve the prospects for democratization? The book establishes a comparative framework to assess the impact of inexperience by elites on reform processes in new democracies. I argue that elite inexperience may constrain the pursuit of self-interest and lead elites to undertake gradual or incremental approaches to the process of reform, factors that may actually help aid the process of democratic consolidation. I use a multi-methods approach to unpack these processes in an in-depth case study of three periods of reform in Indonesia from 1999 to 2014. In the book’s final section I confirm the general lessons from the Indonesian case with an analysis of 11 cases of iterated reform processes in other new democracies.

Peer-reviewed Articles

"Legislative Gender Diversity and the Resolution of Civil Conflict" (Forthcoming) Political Research Quarterly, with Rebecca H. Best and Reed M. Wood
Policy makers and scholars have shown increased interest in gendered approaches to peacemaking, even as evidence of women’s impact on peace processes has remained unclear. In this paper, we explore the influence of gender diversity among decision-making elites on the outcome of ongoing civil conflicts. Specifically, we argue that increased female representation within the national legislature increases the likelihood that a conflict terminates in a negotiated settlement. However, the impact of legislative female representation on conflict termination is conditioned by the power of the legislature vis-à-vis the executive, suggesting that gender diversity exerts a greater impact in states with more authoritative legislatures. We evaluate our hypotheses using data on the manner of conflict termination and the proportion of women in national legislatures between 1945 and 2009. Our results show support for the central argument, suggesting that increasing female representation within legislative bodies increases the likelihood of war termination via negotiated settlement.

"Gendered Opportunities and Constraints: How Executive Sex and Approval Influence Executive Decree Issuance" (2018) Political Research Quarterly 71(3): 586-599, with Alissandra T. Stoyan
Do female executives exercise the authority of their office distinctly from their male counterparts? Anecdotal evidence suggests women legislators are likely to govern in a more consensual manner than men. Yet there has been little systematic research extending such claims to women in executive office. Using an original data set, we evaluate one aspect of policy agenda setting—rates of executive decree issuance—among four male–female pairs of Latin American presidents between 2000 and 2014. Female presidents are generally less prone to rule by decree, but this relationship is conditioned by presidential popularity. Female executives with high presidential approval ratings are less likely to rule via unilateral action than similarly popular male executives, but the gendered differences in decree issuance disappear when executives possess low approval ratings. Our findings have implications for understanding the potential benefits of feminine leadership styles for executive–legislative relations and good governance.

Replication data
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"Linguistic Origins of Gender Equality and Women's Rights" (2018) Gender & Society 32(1): 82-108, with Amy H. Liu, Lindsay Vance, and Zsombor Csata
In this paper we examine how the language spoken in a country can affect individual attitudes about gender equality and subsequently the level of legal rights afforded to women. This is because the feature of a language—specifically whether it requires speakers to make gender distinctions—can perpetuate popular attitudes and beliefs about gender inequality. To test this argument, we first identify a correlation between the gender distinction of a language and individual gender-based attitudes among World Values Survey respondents. We then isolate the causal mechanism using an experiment involving bilingual Romanian-Hungarian speakers in Transylvania, Romania. Finally, we examine one observable implication of our argument: the effects of gender distinction of official state languages on women’s rights at the national level. Our results confirm the importance of the gender distinction of language on support for gender equality and women’s rights.

"Governing Well After War: How Improving Female Representation Prolongs Post-Conflict Peace" (2017) Journal of Politics 79(3): 995-1009, with Reed M. Wood
Previous studies suggest that women’s access to political power often increases following the termination of civil conflicts, particularly those ending in negotiated settlement. However, the effect of these changes has received limited attention. We argue that the proportion of female representatives in a national legislature prolongs peace following a negotiated settlement. Moreover, we highlight two mechanisms through which greater female representation reduces the risk of conflict recurrence: 1) by prioritizing social welfare spending over military spending, and 2) by improving public perceptions of good governance and the credibility of political elites. We further argue that legislative independence and authority conditions this relationship, implying that greater female representation is more likely to promote peace in states with nominally democratic political institutions. Our empirical analyses of peace duration following negotiated settlements between 1946 and 2011 provide robust support for our general argument and the underlying mechanisms we believe drive this relationship.

Replication data
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"Constraining Executive Action: Formal and Informal Legislative Strength in Latin America." (2017) Governance 30(2): 301-319, with Alissandra T. Stoyan
What explains the failure of legislatures with strong constitutionally endowed powers to exert themselves over the executive in practice? We examine the role of legislator professionalization in strengthening the legislature's ability to constrain executive action, conceptualizing legislator professionalization as prior legislative experience and prior professional work experience. We argue that more professionalized legislators, through the skill and knowledge they bring to the policymaking process from prior experience, will be better equipped to challenge executive authority. In a sample of four Latin American countries from 1990 through 2010, we find that legislatures are more likely to curb executive decree issuance when individual legislators are strongly professionalized, controlling for constitutional powers and several other partisan and political factors. Our findings suggest that legislatures composed of more professionalized legislators can constrain executive action, especially in the context of a unified political opposition in the legislature.

Replication data
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"The Causes and Effects of the Local Government Code in the Philippines: Locked in a Status Quo of Weakly-decentralized Authority?" (2016) Journal of Southeast Asian Economies 33(2): 157-171
In 1991, the Local Government Code (LGC) of the Philippines endowed three distinct levels of government with substantial policy authority. While the LGC was designed to encourage local government units to be more self-reliant and promote economic development programmes tailored to local needs, clan politics, wide-spread corruption, and local elite incompetence have constrained improvements in the delivery of services and growth. Despite decentralization’s mixed record, the status quo established by the LGC has remained as a result of opposing pressures by empowered local elites and a central government averse to supplying them with additional power or resources. Efforts in recent years have instead focused on upgrading the quality of service delivery by improving local government reporting and accountability mechanisms, rather than addressing the structure of decentralization.

"Does Female Incumbency Reduce Gender Bias in Elections? Evidence from Chile" (2014) Political Research Quarterly 67(4): 837-850, with Magda Hinojosa
The incumbency advantage is typically thought to constrain female political representation, but can female incumbency provide a signal to parties that reduces strategic gender bias? We argue that once women prove they can win elections, parties will revise their strategic evaluations of their value as candidates. We test this using an original dataset of twenty-one Chilean elections between 1989 and 2012. We use a Heckman selection model to assess re-election rates by incumbent candidate gender, conditional on the re-nomination of incumbents. We find that female incumbents are just as likely to be re-nominated and re-elected as their male counterparts.

"A Comparative Measure of Decentralization for Southeast Asia" (2014) Journal of East Asian Studies 14(1): 85-107, with Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks
In this article we set out a fine-grained measure of the formal authority of intermediate subnational government for Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand that is designed to be a flexible tool in the hands of researchers and policymakers. It improves on prior measures by providing annual estimates across ten dimensions of regional authority; it disaggregates to the level of the individual region; and it examines individual regional tiers, asymmetric regions, and regions with special arrangements. We use the measure and its elements to summarize six decades of regional governnace in Southeast Asia and conclude by noting how the Regional Authority index could further the dialogue between theory and empirics in the study of decentralization and democratization.

Supporting raw data available here

"Tall, Grande or Venti: Comparing Presidential Powers in the US and Latin America" (2013) Journal of Politics in Latin America 5(2): 37-70, with Scott Morgenstern and John Polga-Hecimovich
Comparative constitutional studies rank the US prsident as relatively weak and most Latin American presidents as strong. However, specialized studies suggest that US presidents have great abilities to implement their agendas. We argue that presidents with weak formal powers "reinforce" their ability to impose an agenda (scope), as well as their ability to make those decisions stick (force). These reinforced powers, however, have diminishing returns as formal powers rise. As a result, the sum of presidential powers ranges from high (the US) to very high (Latin America).

"The Alternative Incumbency Effect: Electing Women Legislators in Indonesia" (2012) Electoral Studies 31(3): 576-587.
Between the 1999 and 2009 elections the proportion of national female legislators in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority democracy, more than doubled. While this substantial increase may partly be explained by the recent imposition of a gender quota and placement mandate that have forced parties to increase the number of female candidates, quotas cannot fully explain the strong performance of women in the 2009 elections. First, many parties placed women higher on their lists than the laws required; second, voters appeared to over vote for women in some districts. Although  incumbency’s typical effect is to inhibit female electoral success by advantaging traditional (male) competitors, I argue that women benefited largely from an alternative effect: female incumbency can improve female candidate placement and electability by demonstrating female capacity and capability. Female newcomers benefited strongly from the presence of female incumbents in their own and bordering districts, thus suggesting a positive diffusion effect of female incumbency.

Party Replication Data
Voter Replication Data