Research

How Bureaucrats Represent Economic Interests: Partisan Control over Trade Adjustment Assistance (under review) (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 Responses to Endogenous Compensation
(co-authored with Robert Gulotty, under review) (Link)

How do international economic shocks shape domestic electoral outcomes and how do government compensation policies affect electoral responses? Extensive research on these questions faces a difficult causal-identification issue: elected officials set compensation and commercial policies in anticipation of their electoral effects. In this paper, we investigate the way that government compensation programs mediate the causal relationship between economic shocks and electoral outcomes. To study how over- and under- provision of compensation shapes electoral responses, we combine two sources of causal identification: the “China Shock” instrument for import competition and an administrative instrument for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), the longest-standing compensation policy for workers displaced by international trade. We find that compensation can electorally backfire when distributed to less economically exposed regions. The finding provides one answer for why governments under-invest in compensatory programs, as incumbents benefit if they can limit compensation to cases where the damage is most severe.

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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.

Ambassadorial Bacon: Home-State Effect of U.S. Ambassadors on Trade
(co-authored with Shu Fu) (Link)

Ambassadors promote domestic exports to a host country. Then who benefits from the trade-promoting activities of ambassadors? In the United States, a substantial number of ambassadors are former governors or members of Congress (“politician ambassadors”). We argue that ambassadors’ personal characteristics affect their performance in export promotion. We pay attention to where ambassadors are from and theorize that politician ambassadors are particularly equipped with knowledge and incentives to promote exports from their home constituencies. Leveraging an originally collected dataset of U.S. exports to eleven major export countries from 2002 to 2020 (4.3 million observations), we find that politician ambassadors increase both the volume and product diversity exported from their home states to host countries. Specifically, the home states of politician ambassadors, in comparison to other states, on average enjoy a 25 percentage point increase in export volume to host countries. We propose information and revolving door as two mechanisms of the home-state effect and provide evidence that supports both. Personal characteristics of the U.S. ambassadors can affect exports that vary across states.