Is Running Away From a Child Welfare Placement a Risk for Entry into the Justice System?

Post developed by Rosemary Sarri in coordination with Linda Kimmel.

This blog includes a brief report of ongoing research on career patterns of youth who drift from the child welfare system to the juvenile and adult justice system. It is taken from a paper that has been published by Rosemary Sarri, Elizabeth Stoffregen and Joseph Ryan, researchers with affiliations in the University of Michigan’s Center for Political Studies (CPS), Population Studies Center (PSC), and School of Social Work.

Rosemary SarriA growing body of research has shown that children who run away from foster care placement increase their probability of subsequent involvement in the juvenile and adult justice systems, especially for males. In the research reported here we used Michigan Department of Human Services and Wayne County administrative records to examine the experiences of two samples of youth in the child welfare system, one of which were youth who had run away from placement one or more times, and they were compared with a matched sample who had no history of running away from placement. The study covered their experiences over an eleven-year period from 2003-2011. Those selected were twelve years or older and had been assigned to the agency because of neglect or abuse by a parent. Most were also identified as having a behavioral problem such as mental illness, substance abuse or delinquency. As is the case throughout the U.S., children in this study were disproportionately youth of color (84%). Most were children of single parents and resided in urban areas of poverty, unemployment, crime and social disorganization. A slight majority were female, most of whom were placed in individual foster care and small community agencies whereas males were more likely to be placed in residential care away from their home community. When the males ran away, they typically returned to their home communities and were involved in “survival crime” until apprehended. On the other hand most females remained in their home community and often circulated among family relatives but were seldom arrested

Male youth who ran away from placement were more likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system than were females, and their crimes tended to be more serious. Large differences occurred for males of color with respect to commission of adult crimes with several arrested for adult crimes when they were minors. Among youth of color 143 (39%) were charged with adult crimes, and many were sentenced to adult prisons for extended periods. A minority of youth who did not run away also ended up with adult arrests, primarily after they “aged out” of the child welfare system between 18-21 years.

Intercorrelational analysis identified several factors as correlated with running away from placement and entry into the justice system including gender, race, age of first placement, percent of time in residential care, number of placements, juvenile and adult arrests and legal status.

We used cross-tabulation and t-tests to explore the differences between justice-involved and non- justice-involved groups. Event history analysis was utilized to examine the influence of individual variables on justice contact. It then considers the differential impact between groups on the timing of this event. In this study, youth entered and remained in the observation period (2003-2011) for different periods of time. Thus, their exposure to the risk of justice involvement varied from the number of days between the first runaway and the final day of observation, 12/31/2011. The average time at risk of arrest was 4.5 years (1645 days) and the minimum period of risk was 2.7 years (985 days).

The results from the Cox regression are presented in Table 1, including the coefficient and standard error for each independent variable as well as the hazard ratio. The remainder is multiplied by 100, the result is equal to the percentage change in the hazard of arrest. In the full Cox regression model, we controlled for a wide range 0f important factors that may help to explain contact with the justice system. These included race, gender, length of time in substitute care placement, number of changes in placement, age of first contact with child welfare, a substantiated allegation of exposure to neglect and placement in a congregate care setting. With respect to the primary research question, youth who ran away from placement were significantly more likely to experience subsequent contact with the justice system, compared to those who did not run away (hazard ratio of 239%). Runaway status had the largest effect on subsequent justice contact. Females were significantly less likely to experience a subsequent justice contact (hazard ration decreased by 23%). The hazard ratio increased by 206% for youth who had had a congregate care placement. There was no association between subsequent justice contact and length of time in placement, neglect status and placement instability when other important covariates were controlled. The lack of racial significance may be explained by the fact that Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans were all classified as “other”.

AWOL Status and Likelihood of Justice Contact

We sought to answer the question of whether youth who ran away from their child welfare placements were likely to experience negative outcomes in terms of their entry into the juvenile and/or adult justice system. Children are placed in child welfare agencies when they experience abuse and/or neglect in their homes with the expectation that they will be helped to become successful adults. Many of these youth experienced several years in congregate care which did not prepare them to function normatively in contemporary society. Moreover, in those agencies they interacted with others like themselves and received primarily custodial care. The observation that many end up in the justice system suggests the need for alternate ways within their home communities where they can be helped to transition to successful adulthood.

Anyone who is interested in the full article can refer to “Running away from child welfare placements: justice system risk,” Children and Youth Services Review 67 (2016) 191-1998.

The Future of Development Assistance – Creating Adaptive Aid Agencies

Post developed by Linda Kimmel in coordination with Yuen Yuen Ang.

GDN_400In June, Yuen Yuen Ang, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Center for Political Studies (CPS) Faculty Associate, spoke at a panel on “What Should Tomorrow’s Aid Agencies Look Like?” Jointly organized by the Global Development Network (GDN) and Center for Global Development, the event featured Professor Ang as a winning author of the GDN Essay Competition on “The Future of Development Assistance,” sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The contest invited “original and innovative thinking on development assistance.” An international jury of development experts selected thirteen winners out of 1,470 submissions worldwide.

Ang’s GDN essay, titled “Making Details Matter: How to Reform Aid Agencies to Generate Contextual Knowledge,” draws on ideas from her new book, How China Escaped the Poverty Trap. Her book explores a broad question: What are the conditions that enable effective adaptation in organizations? While her book addresses this question in the context of the Chinese bureaucracy, Ang extends insights from her book to the problem of reforming aid agencies.

In recent years, there has been a growing consensus that the aid community should shift toward adaptive management, localized programs, and replace best practices with best-fit solutions.  But while this desire to change is highly encouraging, Ang stresses that “prescription ≠ practice,” meaning “it is one thing to tell aid agencies that they should adapt, but another to explain how to adapt.” Ang’s GDN essay brings attention to the “how” of adaptation.

At the panel, Ang highlighted two conditions that are necessary for aid agencies of tomorrow to effectively tailor solutions to local contexts. First, she underscored the issue of evaluation. While it is relatively easy to assess performance based on best practices, it is difficult to determine what fits and what doesn’t in a flexible, best-fit paradigm. Ang pointed out that overhauling the evaluation criteria of entire organizations is neither feasible nor desirable. Instead, she recommended that aid agencies carve experimental pockets within their organizations, that is, special teams tasked to use local knowledge to solve local problems.

Second, Ang argued that in order to achieve creative, localized aid, aid professionals must learn how to build markets with weak institutions. Contrary to popular beliefs that we can only build markets with strong institutions, Ang’s book shows that whether in China or in other societies, actors have historically built markets with weak institutions, such as through communal property rights (China, late medieval Europe), risky public financing schemes (China, antebellum America), and piracy (Nigeria). In fact, we almost certainly have to do so, she argues, because all poor economies begin with weak institutions. Instead of bemoaning this reality, Ang urges aid agencies to harness weak institutions to catalyze development.

References

September 2016. Ang, YY. How China Escaped the Poverty Trap. Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Political Economy. Now available for pre-order on Amazon.

2014. Ang, YY. “Making Details Matter: How to Reform Aid Agencies to Generate Contextual Knowledge.” Available on the website of GDN and on SSRN.

Transitional Injustice: Subverting Justice in Transition and Postconflict Societies

Post developed by Yioryos Nardis in coordination with Christian Davenport.

Department of Political Science Professor and Center for Political Studies faculty member Christian Davenport’s latest work examines transitional justice – judicial and non-judicial actions implemented by governments to deal with legacies of human rights abuses. These actions can typically include criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations, and various kinds of institutional reforms.

In Transitional Injustice: Subverting Justice in Transition and Postconflict Societies, published in the Journal of Human Rights, Davenport and Cyanne Loyle, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, coin the term transitional injustice to describe governments that implement transitional justice without maintaining interest in truth, peace, or democracy. Instead, their intention is to promote denial and forgetting, violence, and legitimize authoritarianism.

The normative perspective of transitional justice assumes that legal processes following political conflict are implemented with the goal of reconciliation, peace, and democratization. It is assumed that “good” processes will lead to “good” outcomes. However, this assumption makes it possible for governments to hide behind transitional justice using similar legal institutions to advance detrimental aims. Davenport and Loyle argue that governments can use trials, truth commissions and amnesty without maintaining an interest in these goals, but rather to promote transitional injustice, i.e. denial, violence, and legitimizing state repression. Transitional injustice is particularly problematic for those interested in promoting justice processes because it reveals how institutions can be subverted for different purposes, often with international consent.

The article not only provides conceptual clarity on identifying differences but also provides indicators by which policy makers and scholars can determine if transitional injustice is taking place. In particular, policy makers can identify transitional injustice by relying on three key dimensions: (1) characteristics of the process, (2) levels of violence in the postconflict society, and (3) characteristics of the government (Table 1). These components allow government intentions and the potential for subversion of justice to be evaluated.

First, the degree of openness of the process is an indicator of the objectives of the government and the possibility for positive outcomes from the process. One could gauge the promotion or subversion of truth-telling by the degree to which distinct actors are integrated into the justice process, given an opportunity to participate, to draft,  review and edit relevant decisions, as well as veto aspects of the process. Transitional justice should have a broad mandate incorporating all types of violations experienced during the conflict. Transitional injustice, however, reveals itself as a more closed process with a limited mandate and exclusion of certain individuals and groups.

The second indicator is the level of violence surrounding the process and the country. While violent events often linger in postconflict societies, the presence of transitional justice should lead to reduced levels of violence in the society overall. Transitional injustice however, is accompanied by violence internationally, domestically, and surrounding the process itself.

Third, characteristics of the government can be assessed by the level of democracy and the country’s present trajectory. Breaking from a past autocratic regime does not ensure that the new regime will be more democratic. Rather, the intentions of the regime should be assessed through institutional and behavioral indicators of democracy. The degree to which a justice process legitimates a democracy through open and frequent elections, diverse and representative political parties, and autonomous institutions is a valuable metric for understanding the general intent of those involved. Transitional justice should be accompanied by growing levels of democracy, while transitional injustice will accompany autocracy.

Table. Identifying TJ and TI

To more specifically illustrate how to identify transitional injustice, the article examines post-genocide Rwanda. On the surface, it appears that Rwanda’s approach to justice supports the normative aims of transitional justice. The Rwandan approach combines international, national, and local justice processes with the stated goals of truth and reconciliation, peace, and democracy. However, critics have called into question the ability of this justice package to accomplish those goals. Instead, it is being revealed that elements of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, national courts, and local justice processes have been used by the Rwandan government to promote denial, renewed violence, and the legitimization of an autocratic regime.

Regarding the openness of the process, the first dimension of transitional injustice, the space for justice in post-genocide Rwanda has been constricted through the support of targeted remembering, state-sanctioned scripted truths, and restricted access to justice. Instead of addressing all forms of conflict in Rwanda, the current justice package concentrates only on violence committed during the genocide. This strategy aims to direct attention to the successes of the government, namely ending the genocide, and away from its failures, mainly human rights violations and civilian massacres during the civil war and following the 1994 political transition.

Turning to the level of violence surrounding the process, far from reducing violence, the Rwandan approach to justice allows the government to increase domestic violence and international conflict. Violence has been a persistent component of the post-1994 Rwandan state, as in the aftermath of the genocide, a number of people were accused, tried and executed in a short period of time. By 2000, 348 people convicted of genocide crimes through the national courts were sentenced to death (Schabas, 2009), while the procedural fairness of many of those trials is questioned (Amnesty International, 2007). There has also been violence surrounding the justice processes themselves. In 2007 alone, the US State Department recorded 324 incidents of violence related to local justice processes, including killings of genocide survivors (US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, 2008). While the government has officially denounced the violence, it has been reluctant or unable to stop it.

The final dimension of transitional injustice, characteristics of the government, provides an example of the Rwandan justice system working to consolidate an authoritarian regime and restrict political participation. The Rwandan government is a far cry from a functioning democracy. While elections have been held, their validity has been questioned and the lack of a viable opposition party has essentially made the country a single-party state (Reyntjens, 2004; Davenport, 2007). Freedom House (2007) has characterized elections as “marred by bias and intimidation which precluded any genuine challenge to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)”.

Attempts to launch rival political parties have been met with intimidation and, in some instances, violence. The restriction of viable political alternatives to President Kagame’s RPF has limited the electoral power of individual citizens. In the 2010 presidential election, three opposition candidates were excluded from the ballot and Paul Kagame was reelected by 93% of the vote.

In conclusion, Rwanda claims to support domestic and international efforts to collect information about what happened, to communicate the findings, and capture and punish those who were involved in previous violent action. Through these efforts, the government has argued that it will advance truth and reconciliation, prevent violence and facilitate democratization. Unfortunately, by concealing political motivations in the obstruction of justice proceedings and engaging in violent activity, the Rwandan government is doing irreparable damage to the development of truth, reconciliation, rule-of-law, and democracy. In order to acknowledge and challenge this subversion, the international community must recognize the ability of justice institutions to be used for less democratic aims. This research therefore aims to provide skepticism regarding the goals associated with transitional justice as well as indicators to evaluate the potential subversion of relevant processes.

References:

Amnesty International. (2007). Truth, justice and reparation: Establishing an effective truth commission. AI Index: POL 30/009/2007. Available: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4678de4a2.html.

Davenport, Christian. (2007). State Repression and the Domestic Democratic Peace. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Freedom House. (2007). Countries at a Crossroad: Rwanda. Available: https://freedomhouse.org/report/countries-crossroads/2007/rwanda.

Reyntjens, Filip. (2004). Rwanda, ten years on: From genocide to dictatorship. African Affairs,103, 177-210.

Schabas, William A. (2009). Post-genocide justice in Rwanda. In After Genocide: Transitional  Justice, Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Reconciliation in Rwanda and Beyond, Phil Clark and Zachary D. Kaufman (eds.). New York: Columbia University Press.

Trading hard hats for combat helmets: The economics of rebellion in eastern Ukraine

Post developed by Yioryos Nardis in coordination with Yuri Zhukov.

In March and April 2014, angry mobs and armed men stormed administrative buildings and police stations in eastern Ukraine. Waving Russian flags and condemning the post-revolutionary government in Kyiv as an illegal junta, the rebels proclaimed the establishment of ‘Peoples’ Republics’ of Donetsk and Luhansk, and organized a referendum on independence. Despite initial fears that the uprising might spread to other provinces, the rebellion remained surprisingly contained. While 61% of municipalities in Donetsk and Luhansk fell under rebel control during the first year of the conflict, just 20% experienced any rebel violence. What explains these local differences in rebellion across eastern Ukraine? Why have some towns remained under government control while others slipped away? Why might two municipalities in the same region experience different levels of separatist activity?

Yuri Zhukov

Yuri Zhukov

The latest research by Yuri Zhukov, faculty member in the Center for Political Studies and Assistant Professor of Political Science, uses new micro-level data on violence and economic activity in eastern Ukraine to examine these questions. In the paper “Trading hard hats for combat helmets: The economics of rebellion in eastern Ukraine” (forthcoming in the Journal of Comparative Economics) Zhukov evaluates two prominent explanations on the causes and dynamics of civil conflict in eastern Ukraine: ethnicity and economics.

Identity-based explanations expect conflict to be more likely and more intense in areas where ethnic groups are geographically concentrated. According to this view, the geographic concentration of an ethnolinguistic minority – in this case, Russians or Russian speaking Ukrainians – helps local rebels overcome collective action problems, while attracting an influx of fighters, weapons and economic aid from co-ethnics in neighboring states.

According to economic explanations, as real income from less risky legal activities declines relative to income from rebellious behavior, participation in the rebellion is expected to rise. This framework maintains that violence should be most pervasive in areas potentially harmed by trade openness with the EU, austerity and trade barriers with Russia.

Zhukov finds that local economic factors are much stronger predictors of rebel violence and territorial control than Russian ethnicity or language. Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine are “pro-Russian” not because they speak Russian, but because their economic livelihood depends on trade with Russia.

The study uses new micro-level data on violence, ethnicity and economic activity in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, to understand how these two explanations are related to rebel violence and territorial control. The spatial units are 3037 municipalities (i.e. cities, towns, villages) in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. For each municipality, Zhukov estimated the proportion of the local labor force employed in three industries: machine-building (which is heavily dependent on exports to Russia), metals (less dependent on Russia, and a potential beneficiary of increased trade with the European Union), and mining (vulnerable to International Monetary Fund-imposed austerity and cuts in state-subsidies). He also calculated the proportion of Russian speakers in each locality.

Rebel violence data are based on human-assisted machine coding of incident reports from multiple sources, including Ukrainian and Russian news agencies, government and rebel press releases, daily ‘conflict maps’ released by both sides, and social media news feeds. This yielded 10,567 unique violent events in the Donbas, at the municipality level, recorded between the departure of President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 and the second Minsk ceasefire agreement of February 2015. To determine territorial control, particularly whether a populated place was under rebel or government control on a given day, Zhukov used three sources: official daily situation maps publicly released by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council (RNBO), daily maps assembled by the pro-rebel bloggers ‘dragon_first_1’ and ‘kot_ivanov’, and Facebook posts on rebel checkpoint location.

zhukov_allTo evaluate the relative explanatory power of ethnic and economic explanations of violence in the Donbas, the study uses Bayesian Model Averaging. It finds that a municipality’s prewar employment mix is a better predictor of rebel activity than local ethnolinguistic composition. Municipalities more exposed to trade shocks with Russia experienced a higher intensity of rebel violence throughout the conflict. Municipalities where machine-building represented a small share of local employment (2%, the lowest in the data) were 38% less likely to experience violence than municipalities where the industry was more dominant — and the local population more vulnerable to trade disruptions with Russia. Such localities also fell under rebel control earlier – and took longer for the government to liberate – than municipalities where the labor force was less dependent on exports to Russia. On any given day, a municipality with higher-than-average employment in the beleaguered machine-building industry (26%) was about twice as likely to fall under rebel control as a municipality with below-average employment in the industry (4%).

By contrast, ethnicity and language had no discernible impact on rebel violence. Municipalities with large Russian-speaking populations were more likely to fall under rebel control, but only where economic dependence on Russia was relatively low. In other words, ethnicity only had an effect where economic incentives for rebellion were weak.

The seemingly rational economic self-interest at the heart of the conflict stands in sharp contrast with the staggering costs of war. In the twelve months since armed men began storming government buildings in the Donbas, over 6000 people have lost their lives, and over a million have been displaced. Regional industrial production fell by 49.9% in 2014, with machinery exports to Russia down by 82%.Suffering heavy damage from shelling, many factories have closed. With airports destroyed, railroad links severed and roads heavily mined, a previously export-oriented economy has found itself isolated from the outside world.

References:

2001 Ukrainian Census (State Committee on Statistics of Ukraine, 2001).

Bureau van Dijk’s Orbis database (Bureau van Dijk Electronic Publishing, 2015).

Segodnya, 2015. Ekonomika donetskoy oblasti v upadke iz-za voyny – gubernator kikhtenko. [Donetsk region’s economy in stagnation because of the war – Governor Kikhtenko]. Segodnya.

Stasenko, M., 2014. Novaya ekonomika ukrainy budet stroit’sya bez rossii i donbassa [Ukraine’s new economy will be built without Russia or the Donbas]. Delo.ua.

Studying the Relationship between Islamic States and International Law

Post developed by Yioryos Nardis in coordination with Barbara Koremenos.

bkoremenosBarbara Koremenos,  Center for Political Studies faculty member and Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan has recently begun a Visiting Research Fellowship at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. The Kroc Institute is devoted to the study of the causes of violent conflict and strategies for sustainable peace. She was awarded the Fellowship to spend the 2015-2016 year studying the relationship between Islamic states and international law, and to examine how this affects Islamic states’ participation in international agreements and ultimately the peaceful resolution of differences.

Koremenos was inspired by looking at a random sample of international agreements in the issue areas of economics, environment, human rights, and security drawn from the United Nations Treaty Series (UNTS), which is by far the most popular place to register international agreements. She was struck by the fact that not a single agreement in her sample was composed solely of Islamic states. Within the sample, Egypt participated in the most agreements (25 agreements) while Oman had the lowest participation rate (seven agreements).  With the exception of Malaysia, every other state in the sample participated in at least as many (usually more) human rights agreements than agreements in any of the other three issue areas.  Within the sample, Lebanon participated more than any other Islamic state in environmental agreements at a quite low number of five.

Even more striking, participation in multilateral agreements seemed to far outweigh participation in bilateral agreements, even though bilateral cooperation is more prevalent worldwide when looking at the entire UNTS population. This is also true when looking at the sample featured in Professor Koremenos’ Continent of International Law (COIL) research program.

In the UNTS sample, over half of the Islamic states participated in no bilateral agreements; Egypt was the state that participated in the most bilateral agreements (six agreements) followed by Oman and Indonesia at two bilateral agreements each.

Koremenos will use her fellowship this year to examine whether:

  • Islamic states simply participate in fewer international agreements than non-Islamic states
  • With respect to participation in international agreements, there is variation within Islamic states that can be explained by whether Shari’a is officially adopted in a state’s constitution
  • Islamic states participate in international agreements that are not registered with the UNTS;
  • Islamic states participate in relatively more informal international agreements

Answers to these questions will give a sense of the amount of “failed cooperation” in those states – that is, cooperation that is precluded because certain institutional design tools, that might be key to solving the cooperation problems facing states, are disallowed by Shari’a Law – and, to begin to suggest larger relationships that might impact key factors in the world of peace and conflict like economic growth.

The importance of student research opportunities to Janie Velencia’s career in elections and research

Developed by Lauren Guggenheim in coordination with Janie Velencia.

This is a post in a series about student involvement in research projects in the Center for Political Studies (CPS). Here, we profile Janie Velencia, whose work on the Constituency-Level Elections Archive (CLEA) helped influence her career path in political research.

Velencia_200As an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, Xhensila (Janie) Valencia was interested in participating in the University’s Undergraduate Student Research Opportunity Program (UROP). Through the program, she sought a research project that would allow her to build work experience. “I interviewed for several interesting projects, but CLEA fit best with my majors in political science and international studies and sounded the most promising in terms translating into work skills,” she says.  She could not have guessed at the time how helpful CLEA would be in that regard.

CLEA is a repository of detailed results from lower house elections from around the world. CLEA provides opportunities for students to be involved at all stages of the data collection process, providing valuable experience and training for them. Working on research projects can be an excellent way for students to explore whether they would like to further their career in research and academia. Many of CLEA’s alumni have gone on to attend graduate school and obtain research-oriented jobs.

Janie remembers her most interesting work with CLEA data: “I’m originally from Albania and immigrated to Michigan with my family at the age of 5, so when I saw that there was a data file on Albania, I immediately volunteered for it” she says.  Because she is fluent in Albanian, and is familiar with its political history, she found that file interesting and easier to work with than some of the others, specifically because she could recognize the names of parties in both English and Albanian without having to overcome some of the usual language barriers that sometimes arise when working with the data.

She also found that focusing on the data from specific countries allowed her to learn interesting things about the political history and mood of a country. In particular, Poland stood out to her because they went from having few parties after the fall of communism to many parties, including the Beer Lover’s Party, whose platform was to promote cultural beer drinking in the country.

Janie credits her work with CLEA for helping her land an internship in the U.S. Senate, and later a job at a company called Congressional Quarterly / Roll Call, a subsidiary of the Economist Group that provides congressional research and reporting to subscribers. She was told that it was specifically her work with CLEA that made her uniquely qualified for the researcher position right out of college. She had been working there for about a year and a half when an opportunity arose for a new position that would allow her not only to work with data, but also to broaden her experiences to interpret the data and write about her results.

Currently, she works at Huffington Post as an editor for a team called HuffPost Pollster where she participates in tracking and aggregating political polls in the U.S., including all the races leading to the 2016 election. She writes articles based on poll results and contributes to a weekly polling newsletter. She believes her CLEA training also helped her attain this job.

Janie sees many parallels between her current position and her work with CLEA. “I think it’s vital to provide free accessible information about elections and public opinion for both research purposes and the public good.” She has allowed the notion to carry her into her current job. “Being able to contribute in a way that makes information accessible to the public, is what I do now, and it is also one of the great things about CLEA,” she added. Being cited by news outlets for her research is both exciting for her and satisfying because it means that the public is directly benefiting from data she helped collect and analyze.

Power and the Vote: Elections and Electricity in the Developing World

Post developed by Yioryos Nardis in coordination with Brian Min.

Across the developing world, debate persists on whether democracy benefits the poor and how governments decide who gets access to public goods like electricity, water, and education. However, answers are limited because we lack reliable data on what states actually do in many of the world’s poorest areas where data are unavailable or of unknown quality.

Brian Min bookPower and the Vote: Elections and Electricity in the Developing World, a new book by Center for Political Studies Faculty Associate and Assistant Professor of Political Science Brian Min, overcomes fundamental data challenges by leveraging new satellite imagery that provides objective and consistent evidence on access to electricity, even in villages in the most remote parts of the world. New data and tests measure and observe state actions in the developing world where traditional data collection strategies are inadequate. Using satellite images of nighttime lights and other high-resolution geo-coded data across the world and over time, the book analyzes how political institutions affect the delivery of electricity to the poor.

The first book to use satellite data to study public goods and development, it offers an evaluation of how governments treat their citizens. The book builds on Min’s past work on the measurement of rural electrification in Senegal and Mali and electricity and electoral competition in India to provide a new political theory of public goods provision. Min argues that public goods are valuable to democratic leaders not only because they reach many voters and are valued by the public, but also because of the political externalities they generate for electorally minded politicians. Min’s research shows that the provision of seemingly universal public goods is intricately shaped by electoral priorities. Combining cross-national evidence with detailed sub-national analysis and village-level data from India, the book suggests that the targeting of electricity provision peaks during election periods when voter attention is highest and where the political opportunity and capacity for change is highest.

Power and the Vote points to the influence of electoral incentives in shaping the distribution of public goods, and challenges the view that democracy is a luxury of the rich with little relevance to the world’s poor. Policymakers and international development practitioners will appreciate the focus on the energy challenge facing the world’s poor, and insights on how politics shapes the delivery of even technical services like electricity.

Election Frauds, Postelection Legal Challenges and Geography in Mexico

Post developed by Yioryos Nardis in coordination with Walter Mebane.

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “Election Frauds, Postelection Legal Challenges and Geography in Mexico,” was a part of the session “Detecting and Concealing Patterns in Data” on Saturday September 5th, 2015.

Political Science and Statistics Professor and Center for Political Studies faculty member Walter Mebane previously examined electoral fraud in Russia. Professor Mebane, in collaboration with Research Assistant Jonathan Wall, now turns his focus to Mexico and the Presidential elections of 2006 and 2012.

This new research by Mebane and Wall investigates if the numbers of casillas (i.e. ballot boxes) and votes challenged and nullified in Mexico reflect political strategies or genuine election irregularities. In the 2006 elections in Mexico, nullification petitions by runners up were filed against 21% of ballot boxes (27,109/130,788), even though only .56% of votes (237,736/41,791,322) were actually nullified. Similarly, in the 2012 elections, 22% of ballot boxes (32,151/143,132) were challenged and .38% of votes nullified (184,725/49,087,466).

Mebane and Wall examine how the types of nullification claims relate to ballot-box level measures of election fraud and whether the reasons cited for the challenges are uniform across the two elections and/or geography. That is, are complaints geographically clustered or does a complaint depend on geographically clustered frauds?

Ballot-box level measures of election fraud are estimated using casilla vote count data. Hotspot analysis is used to show how nullification petition challenges to casillas are distributed across geography. This technique identifies which locations have local means that are higher than the overall average values and which have local means that are lower than the overall average. A redder color indicates a cluster of locations with higher than average values, and a bluer color indicates a cluster of locations with lower than average values. Grey indicates a cluster of locations that does not differ significantly from the overall mean.

Figure 1 represents nullification complaints of type corresponding to willful misconduct or error in the vote count in the two Presidential elections, and Figure 2 represents incremental fraud probabilities for nullification complaints. Comparing Figure 2 to Figure 1 indicates that the pattern of geographic clustering for the incremental fraud probabilities does not correspond well with the pattern for nullification complaints.

Figure 1: Nullification complaints of type corresponding to willful misconduct or error in the vote count, Mexico, 2006 and 2012 Presidential election Casillas.
Seccion (precint) geographic cluster hotspots

Figure 1aFigure 1b

Figure 2: Incremental fraud, Mexico, 2006 and 2012 Presidential election casillas.
Seccion (precint) geographic cluster hotspots

Figure 2aFigure 2b

In 2006 there are more widespread regions with clusters of casillas having above average frequencies of complaints than there are regions in which there are clusters of casillas with above average incremental fraud probability values. Some of the above average type clusters overlap with above average incremental fraud clusters, but more than half do not. In 2012 on the other hand, we observe the opposite. Clusters of casillas with above average incremental fraud probabilities are much more prevalent than are clusters of casillas with above average frequencies of complaints.

Such patterns indicate that it is unlikely that the relationship between incremental fraud probabilities and the incidence of complaints are positively related. This therefore suggests that the occurrence of nullification petitions is related to the strategic and tactical incentives of political parties.

To read the full paper please visit: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0By8J0EDg6IC3MDgxOWlUVGdfakE

Stopping State Repression: An Examination of Spells

Post developed by Yioryos Nardis in coordination with Christian Davenport.

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “The Onset of Repressive Spells, 1976-2007,” was a part of the session “Genocide, Politicide, and Government Mass Killing” on Friday September 4th, 2015.

davenportappelAs state-sponsored repression and political violence continue to affect people’s lives across the world, the latest work of Department of Political Science Professor and Center for Political Studies faculty member Christian Davenport and Benjamin Appel, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University, seeks to determine how it can be stopped.

Professors Davenport and Appel introduce a new framework where state repression is conceived and measured as a ‘spell’. That is, a sustained campaign of higher-level state sponsored repressive behavior such as imprisonment without trial, disappearances, and torture.

They turn their efforts to an examination of how to stop such large-scale systematic state repression once it is underway and which of the most common efforts used to end repressive spells are most successful: democratization, military interventions, economic sanctions, naming/shaming, international law and preferential trade agreements.

Using a unique dataset data containing 239 repression spells that produce a total of 2,527 observations (i.e., spell years) between 1976 and 2007, their work investigates what can stop the duration of a high-level repressive spell. Specifically, they focus on the probability that repression ends in a year, given that it has survived up to that year.

They find that large-scale state repression is unlikely to end unless the process producing the it is significantly impacted, which is more likely to result from democratization than from other common methods of curtailing state repression. In fact, a repression spell is 111% more likely to end when a state has recently democratized, usually within the last five years.

Democratization works directly through replacing decision-makers and fundamentally altering the way that they are selected and held accountable. Moreover, it indirectly encourages repressive governments to reduce repression by shifting the perception of popular accountability maintained by political actors.

Their results suggest that democratization is the only process that is consistently able to do stop large-scale repressive spells once underway. Additionally, democratic changes are prompted by non-violent direct action but these activities have no direct impact on spells themselves. In contrast, the international factors that are frequently highlighted in the media and among policy practitioners have essentially no impact on spell termination. These findings significantly challenge existing policies advocated by nations and NGOs around the world, calling for a re-evaluation of policies for stopping ongoing, large-scale state repression.

The real-world implications of these findings are critical and suggest that to stop state repressions external political actors including policymakers, activists, and academics should pay more attention to a “bottom-up” approach, including supporting and facilitating democratic transitions, as well as backing nonviolent movements. Military interventions and economic sanctions are not likely to yield successful results.

Exploring the Effects of Skin Tone on Policy Preferences Among African Americans

Post developed by Lauren Guggenheim in coordination with Vincent Hutchings.

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “The Color of Our Skin & the Content of Our Politics,” was a part of the session “Race, Ethnicity and Political Psychology” on Thursday September 3rd, 2015.

In the United States, African Americans with darker skin tones have worse health outcomes, lower income, and face higher levels of discrimination in the work place and criminal justice system than lighter skinned Blacks. Could darker and lighter skinned African Americans in turn have different policy preferences that reflect their socio economic status-based outcomes and experiences?

Vincent Hutchings, Professor of Political Science and Research Professor in the Center for Political Studies (CPS), Hakeem Jefferson, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science and CPS affiliate, Neil Lewis, Jr., doctoral student in the department of Psychology, and Nicole Yadon, doctoral student in the Department of Political Science addressed this question in a paper presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in San Francisco.

Surprisingly, earlier research on this question based on data collected in the early 1990s found essentially no skin color differences in political attitudes.  This result was referred to as the “skin color paradox.” Researchers suggested such differences failed to appear because skin color was secondary to racial group identity—an identity which had been rigidly reinforced over time through segregation. Hutchings and his colleagues suggest that the skin color paradox should be revisited for a variety of reasons. First, the initial findings are based on limited survey evidence, most of which was not designed to measure a broad range of policy views.  Thus, it is premature to conclude that skin color is unrelated to public opinion.  Second, even if the skin color paradox was accurate in the 1990s, changes in the U.S. economy in the ensuing twenty years resulting in rising income inequality, coupled with an evolving societal perspective on racial classification, made revisiting the link between skin tone and policy preferences an important and timely question. As a result, the authors reasoned that a more contemporary survey containing a broader and more extensive range of policy and race related questions should provide a more comprehensive test of the hypothesis.

Hutchings and colleagues used the American National Election Studies (ANES) data from 2012, which has an oversample of Black respondents (overall N=511). Skin color was assessed unobtrusively by the interviewer at the beginning of the interview, using the scale shown below.skincolor

 

 

The authors found that darker skinned Blacks were more likely to support spending on welfare benefits, more likely to indicate government should provide more services and make more efforts to reduce income inequality, and were more supportive of increased spending on education relative to light-skinned Blacks. Darker skinned Blacks were also more likely to support affirmative action in the work place as well as oppose increasing levels of immigration in the U.S. These results are all in keeping with research finding that darker skinned Blacks are economically more vulnerable and are more likely to encounter color- and race-based discrimination than lighter skinned Blacks.

Next, Hutchings and colleagues conducted a separate experiment among African American subjects to see whether skin tone is an identity that can be primed, much like gender, race, or religion. That is, could the salience of skin tone be activated such that it becomes a more accurate predictor of perceptions of discrimination or racial group importance? The authors created two conditions: a control group, where subjects place themselves on the ten-point skin color scale at the end of a survey, and a treatment group, where subjects placed themselves on the same scale at the beginning of the survey.  Their expectation was that the simple act of self-placement on the skin color scale would raise the salience of this identity such that it becomes more closely linked to policy and race-based evaluations.

They found that the skin color prime could make disparities based on skin color more salient. First, when subjects were primed to think about their own skin tone (regardless of where they placed themselves on the 10-point scale), they reported that lighter skinned Blacks received lower levels of discrimination than darker skinned Blacks (in comparison to the group not receiving the prime). Second, while no relationship existed between skin tone and racial group importance in the control group, in the treatment group darker skinned Blacks were significantly more likely to report that their racial group is important to their identities than were lighter skinned Blacks.

In sum, the paper shows that skin color does influence support for race and class based policy remedies.