How Bureaucrats Represent Economic Interests: Partisan Control over Trade Adjustment Assistance (Job market paper) (Link)

Executives seek both competence and loyalty from bureaucrats. To do so, they offer appointment contracts that hold out employment protections until after a provisional period. I argue that this delay enables politicization of early-career bureaucrats. To show this, I examine how these career bureaucrats distribute the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits, the federal program that compensates workers displaced by trade. With 45 years of petition-level data (84,165 petitions) and career paths of the Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance (OTAA) investigators, I find that investigators are less likely to certify TAA petitions and more likely to delay investigations during Republican presidencies relative to Democratic presidencies. This partisan responsiveness is conditional on the career bureaucrats’ first few years of service before obtaining tenure, and its size magnifies in periods of high alignment between labor and the Democratic party. Conditional tenure designed to promote merit-based employments can counterintuitively amplify within-bureaucrat, inter-temporal politicization.


Certifying Threat: The Electoral Logic of Economic Relief (Under review, co-authored with Robert Gulotty) (Link)

It is widely understood that redistributive policies help build electoral support for globalization. However, in practice, pro-globalization platforms do not expand direct compensation to the needed as much as what we expect given the alleged electoral benefits. We argue that this mismatch is a product of what we term the consternation effect, in which citizens can infer the negative effects of globalization from the choice to offer compensation. We find that pro-globalization politicians would under-provide compensation to avoid electoral backlash. Using data from the US Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program and the 2008 presidential election, we replicate a research design that uses exogenous allocation of petitions for assistance across bureaucrats to causally identify the electoral effect of greater access to trade compensation. We find that access to TAA builds electoral support in hard-hit areas, but not in areas where citizens may be uncertain about the costs of globalization. In communities with low levels of import penetration, a ten percent increase in the TAA certification rates decreases support for the incumbent party candidate by 3.8%. This electoral effect can incentivize politicians to under-provide economic assistance.