How Bureaucrats Represent Economic Interests: Partisan Control over Trade Adjustment Assistance
– Revise and Resubmit at International Studies Quarterly (Link)
Governments often rely on ostensibly neutral career bureaucrats to allocate policy benefits. I demonstrate that institutions designed to control the quality of bureaucrats, such as conditional tenure, can frustrate neutral allocation by inducing a president’s partisan control over career bureaucrats. I examine how career bureaucrats distribute Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits, the single largest federal program that compensates workers displaced by international trade. Exploiting the quasi-random assignment of TAA petitions to individual investigators at different stages of their careers, I find that career bureaucrats are less likely to certify TAA petitions and are more likely to delay investigations during Republican presidencies relative to Democratic presidencies. This partisan responsiveness, however, applies uniquely to untenured career bureaucrats, and increases in magnitude during periods of high alignment between labor and the Democratic party. The political sustainability of globalization depends on an institutional design that shapes the career incentives of bureaucrats.
Electoral Rewards and Punishments for Trade Driven Compensation (co-authored with Robert Gulotty)
– Revise and Resubmit at World Politics (Link)
When globalization harms a community, voters are expected to demand compensation programs. Why, then, would incumbents fail to provide additional compensation following an economic shock? In this paper, we argue that in addition to offering material assistance, government compensation also informs voters about the costs of globalization, generating consternation in the electorate. As a result, providing compensation hurts incumbent’s electoral prospects. We study this consternation effect in the United States during the China Shock period. We use an administrative instrument for access to the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, the longest-standing compensation system for workers displaced by international trade. Our analysis shows that compensation electorally backfires when distributed to low-shocked regions where the informational value of compensation is high. The consternation effect explains why governments often under-invest in compensation programs.
Who Wants to Work at a Transparent International Organization?
– Under Review (Link)
International organizations (IOs), like all other organizations, need bureaucrats to function. When member states gather at an IO to conclude a negotiation, they would ideally have competent and responsive international bureaucrats that mediate their conflicts of interest. In this paper, I develop a formal model to delineate how transparency as an institutional feature inadvertently undermines the quality of the IO bureaucracy. My formal model predicts that competent international bureaucrats in equilibrium either perform passively or choose not to work at an IO under transparency. An increase in transparency would thus decrease the likelihood of the conclusion of negotiations. I test one of the theoretical predictions with the comparative case study of the leadership of the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and the relatively more transparent World Trade Organization (WTO). My findings indicate that the international bureaucrats adapt to the institutional design chosen by member states, and such adaptation makes an IO less appealing as a negotiating forum.
Bringing Home the Bacon: Politician Ambassadors and Home State Trade (co-authored with Shu Fu)
– Under Review (Link)
Ambassadors promote domestic exports to a host country and represent their home country at large. However, are trade benefits equally distributed domestically? In the United States, a substantial number of ambassadors are former governors or legislators (“politician ambassadors”). We argue that politician ambassadors are particularly equipped with knowledge and incentives to promote exports from their home states to host countries. Leveraging an originally collected dataset of US exports to ten major export countries from 2002 to 2020 (four million observations), we find that the home states of politician ambassadors, compared to other states, enjoy around a 20 percentage point export increase to host countries on average. We also find that the pattern is particularly apparent in countries that the United States exports the most. We propose that information and electoral incentives are two mechanisms of this home-state effect and provide evidence supporting both. Where ambassadors are from can explain how the benefits of diplomacy are distributed domestically.