What is the quality of governance, human development and the protection of human dignity in the context of diversity? We are concerned with questions about social coordination and conflict, bias in the allocation of goods and justice, and the extent to which the dignity of citizens is valued and respected. Scholars and policy analysts have long posited that cultural diversity can pose constraints on development, but some important evidence suggests just the opposite. We seek to better understand these links.

Current projects

Ariel White and Mayya Komisarchik are working on a project about the US Supreme Court’s 2013 decision invalidating some parts of the Voting Rights Act. Advocates feared that these changes would do irreparable harm to minority voting rights and political participation, while the court majority argued that the protections were outdated and no longer needed. The research project collects administrative data on voting and election administration to see what has happened since the court’s decision.

In her upcoming book, Volha Charnysh examines the enduring consequences of the resettlement of nearly 20 million Europeans in the aftermath of World War II. The erosion of informal norms and networks in communities where migrants and natives were culturally distant from one another increased the demand for formal state institutions in the provision of public goods and welfare. Greater willingness to engage with the state in communities diversified through forced migration contributed to the accumulation of state capacity over time and paid off in the long run. The book challenges the conventional view that cultural diversity reduces the provision of public goods and erodes institutional quality.

Volha Charnysh, along with co-author Brendan McElroy, investigate the institutional origins of ethnic bias in distributive politics. They ask how varied governance practices toward different societal groups, adopted at early stages in state development, shape state capacity and public goods provision in the long run. Using subnational data from imperial Russia, the authors show that when ethnic minorities are ruled indirectly, their social practices remain illegible to the state. Lower legibility, in turn, weakens the state’s ability to extract revenues and reduces its incentives to allocate resources to the minority population.

Paige Bollen and Volha Charnysh explore the relationship between ethnic heterogeneity and dispute resolution strategies in sub-Saharan Africa. Their analysis of survey data demonstrates that reliance on communal over state institutions decreases with local ethnic fragmentation. The authors find that communal leaders are less equipped to sanction opportunistic behavior and resolve disputes across ethnic boundaries than state actors. The project contributes to the scholarship on the demand for formal legal institutions in heterogeneous settings by investigating micro-level mechanisms that sustain legal pluralism.

Published work

Charnysh, Volha. 2019. “Diversity, Institutions, and Economic Development: Post-WWII Displacement in Poland.American Political Science Review 113 (12): 423-441.

Christia, Fotini, Bozcaga, Tugba, Daskalakis, Constantinos, Harwood, Elizabeth, and Papadimitriou, Christos. 2019. “Assessing Syrian Refugee Integration Using Call Detail Records from Turkey” in Guide to Mobile Data Analytics in Refugee Scenarios, eds. Salah, Pentland, Lepri, Letouze, Vinck, de Montjoye and Dong, Springer.

Beath, Andrew; Enikolopov, Ruben; and Christia, Fotini. 2013. “Empowering Women through Development Aid: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan,” American Political Science Review 107 (3): 540-557.

Nobles, Melissa and Kwak, Jun-Hyeok. 2013. Inherited Responsibility and Historical Reconciliation in East Asia. Routledge Press.

Lieberman, Evan. 2009. Boundaries of Contagion: How Ethnic Politics Have Shaped Government Responses to AIDS. Princeton University Press.

Nobles, Melissa. 2008. The Politics of Official Apologies. Cambridge University Press.

Lieberman, Evan. 2007. “Ethnic Politics, Risk, and Policy-Making: A Cross-National Statistical Analysis of Government Responses to HIV/AIDS.” Comparative Political Studies 40 (12): 1407- 1432.

Nobles, Melissa.  2007. “Reparations Claims: Politics by Another Name,” Political Power and Political Theory, 18:253-258.

Gauri, Varun and Lieberman, Evan. 2006. “Boundary Politics and HIV/AIDS Policy in Brazil and South Africa.” Studies in Comparative International Development 41 (3): 47-73.

Lieberman, Evan. 2003. Race and Regionalism in the Politics of Taxation in Brazil and South Africa. Cambridge University Press, Studies in Comparative Politics.

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