My research examines how individuals’ attitudes and behavior regarding racial politics and intergroup relations are shaped by their social identities and by their political and institutional contexts.

I explore these relationships in two domains central to modern-day American racial politics and public policy: (1) the politics of racial representation, specifically how descriptive representation distinctly matters as a strategy to advance racial representation in electoral and legislative contexts when party and race are correlated, and (2) the political economy of race and discrimination, specifically the conditions under which government and social interventions to reduce racial prejudice and discrimination are effective and why.

The Politics of Racial Representation

Party and race are highly correlated in the modern-day American political system where the two major political parties are polarized both ideologically and racially. Scholars have shown that this holds not only for Blacks but increasingly also for Latinos and Asians as well. In this context, there is need to interrogate canonical theories about the political importance of descriptive representation as a strategy to advance racial representation. The first stream of my research program addresses this need by examining the conditions under which descriptive representation uniquely matters, independently from partisan representation, to advance the representational goals of underrepresented racial minority groups. This line of research contributes to two ongoing debates in the study of descriptive representation, specifically about its political demand and its policy effects.

Selected Projects:

  • How Citizens Evaluate Trade-offs between Descriptive and Partisan Representation (job market paper)
  • Do Minority Democrats Provide Better Minority Policy Representation than Non-Minority Democrats? A Design-Based Approach and Evidence from Latino Representation in the U.S. States
  • Group Pressure and the Willingness to Discuss Contentious Political Strategies
  • How Symbolic and Instrumental Appeals Affect Preferences for Contentious Strategies to Advance Racial Representation
  • How District Context Shapes Mass Expectations of the Quality of Racial Representation in Plurality-Minority Districts

Building on this work, I am developing a book project tentatively entitled The Strategic and Symbolic Politics of Racial Representation, which examines how minorities form preferences over conflicting symbolic and instrumental strategies to advance racial representation across a range of political domains, including racial redistricting, candidate selection in party primaries, elite messaging strategies, and policymaking. As part of this line of research, I am also investigating the conditions under which competing symbolic and instrumental appeals affect racial minorities’ preferences over these strategies, how the importance of descriptive representation varies across electoral and intergroup contexts, and how group pressures affect deliberation within minority communities about which strategies should be pursued. Data collection for these extensions is currently in progress. Taken together, this body of work addresses the need to question naive interpretations of minority politics as symbolic politics, to understand how citizens with multiple political identities and group commitments navigate trade-offs between their commitments when they come into conflict, to investigate the conditions under which racial minorities choose to engage in sophisticated and strategic political thinking and behavior, and to understand the implications of these choices for the development of racial politics and party politics in the contemporary United States.

The Political Economy of Race and Discrimination

Under what conditions are government and social interventions designed to reduce racial prejudice and discrimination effective and why? In addition to understanding the effects of interventions in real world settings, my work investigates the psychological processes that explain attitudinal and behavioral outcomes; employs novel measurement strategies and experimental designs to identify substantive quantities of interest; and explores broader implications for the political economy of race, the politics surrounding the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws and norms, and the development of racial orders.

Selected Projects:

  • Can the Government Deter Discrimination? Evidence from a Randomized Intervention in New York City (with Andrew Guess and Macartan Humphreys). Conditionally accepted at The Journal of Politics
  • Navigating Alternative Avenues of Recourse: How Political and Institutional Contexts Shape Behavioral Responses to Discrimination in the United States
  • Coethnicity, Context, and Racially Discriminatory Behavior in Market Transactions (with Andrew Guess and Macartan Humphreys)
  • Gender Discrimination in Housing: Evidence from a Field Experiment (with Andrew Guess and Macartan Humphreys)
  • Selection into Racialized Information Environments and Racial Attitude Change (with Steven M. White)

Experimental Research and Political Methodology

Beyond my core research program in racial politics and policy in the United States, I have a deep interest in the application of experimental methods and causal inference to answer substantive questions in political behavior, political psychology, and the politics of public policy. I also conduct research on methodological challenges to inference in experimental and observational studies; these projects have grown out of challenges that have arisen in my own substantive research.

Selected Projects on the Politics of Public Policy:

  • Who Deserves Disability Insurance? Understanding Perceptions of Deservingness and Social Insurance Attitudes in the United States (with Gregory A. Huber)
  • Behavioral Experiments on the Political Economy of Disability Insurance (with Gregory A. Huber and Scott Bokemper)

Selected Projects on Political Behavior and Political Psychology:

  • The Comparative Effectiveness on Turnout of Positively versus Negatively Framed Voter Mobilization Appeals. (with Alan S. Gerber, Gregory A. Huber, and Catlan E. Reardon). Invited to revise and resubmit at American Politics Research.
  • Do Subtle Linguistic Interventions Priming a Social Identity as a Voter Have Outsized Effects on Voter Turnout? Evidence from a New Replication Experiment. Political Psychology. (with Alan S. Gerber and Gregory A. Huber) In press.
  • Non-Governmental Campaign Communication Providing Ballot Secrecy Assurances Increases Turnout: Results from Two Large-Scale Experiments. (with Alan S. Gerber, Gregory A. Huber, and Andrew Gooch). Political Science Research and Methods. In press.
  • The Effect on Turnout of Campaign Mobilization Messages Addressing Ballot Secrecy Concerns: A Replication Experiment. (with Alan S. Gerber, Gregory A. Huber, and Catlan E. Reardon) PLOS ONE. 2017.
  • The Generalizability of Social Pressure Effects on Turnout Across High-Salience Electoral Contexts: Field Experimental Evidence from 1.96 Million Citizens in 17 States. (with Alan S. Gerber, Gregory A. Huber, and Andrew Gooch) American Politics Research. 45(4): 533-559. 2017.

Selected Projects on Political Methodology:

  • Testing Mechanisms in Experiments: A Principal Stratification Approach
  • Two Inferential Pitfalls in the Analysis of Survey Experiments (with Gregory A. Huber)
  • Identifying the Effects of Migration Flows on Aggregate-Level Political Outcomes at the Destination: A Critical Review
  • Publication Bias: Before and After ICMJE Registration Requirements (with Grant M. Gordon and Macartan Humphreys)