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Occasional Political Economy Seminar Series



The Occasional Political Economy Seminar Series (OPESS) presents speakers working in the area of political economy. Presentations are of papers that use economic methods as well as papers that substantively study the intersection of economics and politics. The series is organized by Miriam Golden and Natalia Garbiras-Díaz, along with Susanna Garside and Julian Vierlinger.

The Team

What is OPESS?

OPESS presents speakers working in the area of political economy. Presentations are of papers that use economic methods as well as papers that substantively study the intersection of economics and politics. Presentations are expected to run for 30-40 minutes, followed by an hour of open discussion. Following the events, discussants and participants may join the speaker and organizers for dinner –– unfortunately, this will have to be at their own expense. Participants may also sign up to meet up with speakers outside the event –– for example to show them around on EUI premises.

Registration is required for online attendance. Attendance is generally restricted to members of the EUI community.

register here


OPESS meets occasionally on Thursdays from 5:00-6:30pm, and not more often than every other week.


Badia Fiesolana, EUI. See below for the exact location for each meeting. The event is in-person and on-line. Registration is required for online attendance. Attendance is generally restricted to members of the EUI community.


Speakers during 2023

Date: April 27
Speaker: Giovanna Invernizzi 
Title: "Why do Parties Merge? Electoral Volatility and Long-Term Coalitions."
Abstract: What brings competing parties to coalesce into new entities? I present a model of electoral competition in which parties can form pre-electoral alliances and decide how binding these should be. Parties face a dynamic trade-off between insuring themselves against significant shifts in public opinion and allowing flexibility to respond to future electoral changes. The model shows that more binding alliances such as mergers emerge in equilibrium when electoral volatility is high; instead, when voters are predictable (e.g., highly partisan), parties either run alone or form more flexible pre-electoral coalitions. When the electorate is sufficiently volatile, a risk-averse party might prefer an extreme merger partner to a moderate one.


Date: May 11
Speaker: Daniel Golstein
Title: "The Weight of Precedent: the Two-Term Tradition and Norm Violations in the United States Presidency. Co-authored with Collin Schumock (Yale University)."
Abstract: In the United States, a political norm initiated by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson limited presidents for generations to two terms in office. Despite challenges, the norm lasted 144 years and was only violated by Franklin D. Roosevelt, a popular incumbent during a crisis. We ask when an informal constraint on an executive carries weight and when it falters. Leveraging a dynamic formal model, we uncover how an incumbent executive's electoral prospects among citizens and the role of parties interact to make a ''norm of constraint'' credible. Additionally, we consider an executive's choice to establish a term-limit norm, the endogenous reinforcement of the norm, and when it is `formalized' into codified law.


Date: May 25 
Speaker: Pavithra Suryanarayan
Title: "When Losing The State Drives Opposition to Redistribution: An Experiment in India."


Date: June 1
Speaker: Aila M. Matanock
Title: "Forming Political Attitudes toward Peace Processes in Low-Information Contexts. Co-authored with Leonardo R. Arriola (Berkeley) and Oren Samet-Marram (Berkeley)."
Abstract: Civil conflict is a significant threat to peace and stability around the world, affecting many states and producing millions of casualties. While most modern civil conflicts end with peace processes rather than victories, serious challenges to peace persist. Citizen attitudes are increasingly seen as crucial for peace and stability, but little is known about how public opinion forms in these contexts. We investigate how citizens form attitudes about peace processes, specifically in the context of Myanmar, which sought to end a long-running civil conflict but in a unique situation where the country was just beginning to build out of a low level of development and open from authoritarianism. Using a survey experiment, we show that elite cues have some limited effects, with the position taken by well-known political leaders influencing policy preferences, but peer have no effects. We also show, however, that most respondents have very limited engagement around the peace process. We compare this case to other countries with recent conflict and peace processes to better understand how citizens form attitudes, especially in places with limited information, which complements existing work on these questions.


Date: June 8 2023
Speaker: Maria Carreri
Title: "The Political and Economic Effects of Progressive Era Reforms in U.S. Cities: Evidence from Newly Digitized Data."
Abstract: How did Progressive era reforms affect the lives of urban residents across U.S. cities? The historical record is unclear. Some scholars argue that many of the progressive reforms were motivated by nativist and racist animus and explicitly designed to benefit white business elites at the expense of disadvantaged groups. Others point out that reformers often sought to improve urban living and working conditions and expand access to education, which generated new opportunities for social mobility. We inform this debate leveraging new data on 455 U.S. cities from 1900-1940 combining i) dates of adoption of reform-style government, ii) deanonymized census data, iii) data on political participation, and iv) detailed municipal budget data. Using a difference-in-differences design, we document the impact of Progressive reforms on political participation, public goods spending, and the relative socioeconomic well-being of black, immigrant, and working class residents vis-a-vis whites, natives, and business elites. Despite finding that voter turnout decreased in reformed cities, we uncover only a modest increase in earnings inequality across more and less advantaged groups and no significant differences in expenditure patterns as a consequence of reform. This approach provides a comprehensive portrait of the legacy of Progressive municipal institutions and suggests that, on average, the reforms of this era may have exacerbated political inequality more than economic inequality, at least in the first decades following their adoption.

Past Speakers

 Nonunitary Parties, Government Formation, and Gamson’s Law

Following the coalition literature highlighting intraparty politics (e.g., Giannetti and Benoit 2009; Laver 1999; Strøm 2003), I address the well-known “portfolio allocation paradox” (Warwick and Druckman 2006) by introducing a new model of government formation based on two main assumptions. First, no actor has a structural advantage in the negotiations leading to government formation. Second, all actors who can deprive the coalition of a majority (or other critical threshold size) must be included in the negotiations—not just parties. Whereas standard bargaining models are inconsistent with Gamson’s Law, the model proposed here implies that equilibrium portfolio allocations should be mostly Gamsonian but with a small-party bias, as the empirical literature has long found. Empirically, I show that my model outperforms the literature’s standard specification (due to Browne and Franklin 1973). Moreover, one of the model’s new predictions—that candidate-centered electoral rules should promote more Gamsonian portfolio allocations—is supported.

Location: Seminar Room 2

Discussant: Daniel Goldstein

View Speakers Profile: Gary Cox



Convictions for Corruption and Government Approval: Global Evidence. Co-authored with Feng Yang (Peking University).

In this paper, we investigate whether incumbent governments benefit politically from the punishment of corruption. Using an original data set on convictions from across the world and nationally representative surveys for 160 countries from 2006 to 2019, we show that convicting former heads of government for corruption reduces citizens' perceptions of corruption and boosts government support. We demonstrate that these effects last for approximately two years and are attenuated by a decision by the executive to pardon the conviction. These results inform debates on the political implications of anti-corruption, showing that convictions help to strengthen governments' hold on power.

Location: Emeroteca

Discussant: Anna Clemente

View speakers profile: Manoel Gehrke



Corruption and the Rise of Political Outsiders: Evidence from Audits and Elections in Brazil

In this paper, I assess how changes in voter awareness of valence issues may influence not only voters but also candidate strategies. While revelations about corruption have been shown to influence citizens' votes, less is known about how outsiders take advantage of the increased opportunity to enter the electoral race. I construct a new measure of candidates' use of anti-corruption rhetoric using the manifestos registered by more than fifty thousand mayoral candidates in Brazil who ran for election between 2012 and 2020. I show that outsider candidates are, in general, more likely to resort to anti-corruption appeals. I then exploit the revelation of corruption in Brazilian mayoral accounts, using random annual audits conducted by the federal government to test whether outsider candidates are more likely to take advantage of changes in the salience of corruption. The results indicate that municipalities exposed to this valence shock experienced greater entry of outsider candidates. This paper points to how changes in corruption salience can help overcome barriers to entry for outside candidates; in doing so, it calls for future research on the potential effects on risks of democratic backsliding.

Location: Seminar Room 2

Discussant: Marta Korczak

View Speakers Profile: Natalia Garbiras-Diaz


State Capacity as an Organizational Problem. Evidence from the growth of the US State over 100 years. Co-authored with Edoardo Teso (Northwestern University).

We study the process of modernization of the State through the lenses of the U.S. federal government, analysing how its bureaucratic structure, selection and promotion policies changes from 1816 to 1905. We digitize archival records containing the roster of all U.S. federal employees over this period, with information on their position in the bureaucratic hierarchy, specific occupation and compensation. The data contains information on the name, place of residence and place of birth of all employees, which allows to track their careers over time and to match them to historical censuses data. Using this unique dataset, we can study the organization of a State over the different stages of its development, and document how its organizational characteristics change during the process of modernization.

Location: Seminar Room 2

Discussant: Dylan Potts

View Speakers Profile: Nicola Mastrorocco

Page last updated on 31/03/2023

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