Working Papers

“Descriptive Representation and the Diffusion of Innovations in the American States.” (with Jack Nickelson)

We argue that diverse legislatures, drawing on the various experiences, skills, and perspectives of their members, will be more innovative as long as legislators are given the resources and opportunities to leverage their diversity. We measure innovation as 1) the tendency to adopt new policies and 2) the use of unique legislative language. The study provides insights into how the presence of historically underrepresented populations in state legislatures can shape the policies that spread nationwide.

Keywords: diversity, legislative politics, state politics, policy diffusion, text analysis


“Business Backgrounds and Cultural Capture.”

Shared identity and status among bureaucrats and industry leaders can result in regulatory capture. This cultural capture has yet to be fully tested empirically. I leverage a newly public 50-year, 50-state survey of state-level administrators to test whether those with business backgrounds seek a more central role for industry in regulatory decisions.  The results will allow scholars to better understand the mechanisms of capture with new empirical results.

Key words: cultural capture, regulatory capture, state politics, bureaucracy, interest groups.


“The Impact of Course Structure on Students’ Political Efficacy and Knowledge in Introduction to American Government Courses.” (with Eve M. Ringsmuth)

Introduction to American Government is a foundational general education course meant to promote understanding of democracy and students’ ability to participate in it. But, there is substantial variation in how the course is structured: it can enroll anywhere from a dozen students to hundreds; it can be delivered synchronously or asynchronously online, face-to-face, or in hybrid format; it can feature active participation or traditional lecture. We leverage variation in structure at the university to assess its impact on growth in students’ political efficacy and knowledge over the semester. The results shed light on how best to achieve course goals, a timely contribution given the proliferation of course structures due to the pandemic and the importance of renewing democratic values in America.

Key Words: course structure, modality of instruction, civic education, political efficacy, political knowledge


“What Starts in West Virginia Doesn’t Stay in West Virginia: Statewide Teachers Strikes as Worker Voice Under Institutional Nonresponse, 2018-19.” (with Michele Hoyman and Austin Bussing)

In 2018 and 2019, public school teachers went on strike in a seemingly improbable set of states. We argue the combination of workplace hardship, restrictive collective bargaining laws, and political climate catalyzed statewide teacher mobilization. We find that teachers were much more likely to strike in states with low or declining teacher salary and student spending and states where teachers are restricted in their collective bargaining power. The results shed light on the conditions under which workers may mobilize outside of institutionalized processes to express voice for themselves and their communities of fate.

Keywords: teachers strikes, state politics, worker voice, unions, labor policy


Additional working papers

“Friendly Competition: The Rapid Spread of Name, Image, Likeness Laws and Why It Matters for Our Understanding of Policy Diffusion.” (with RoShaun Colvin)

“The Bernie Effect: How Political Elites Moralize Economic Policies and Reduce Willingness to Compromise.” (with Kristin Garrett)

“Changing Horses in Midstream? The Impact of Emergency Shifts in Modality on Student Learning.” (with Eve M. Ringsmuth)

“Rethinking Economic Competition: A New Framework and Measure for Understanding How States Compete in the US Federal System and Its Consequences for Policy.”

“Race and Registration Roadblocks in the American States: A Research Note.” (with Rebekah Herrick and Matthew Motta).