Herd immunity by mass vaccination offers the potential to end the COVID-19 pandemic, but high levels of vaccine hesitancy threaten this goal. In a cross-country experimental survey analysis of vaccine hesitant respondents in Latin America, we tested how five features of mass vaccination campaigns – the vaccine’s producer, efficacy, endorser, distributor, and uptake – shifted willingness to take a COVID-19 vaccine. We find that citizens preferred Western-produced vaccines, but were highly influenced by simple messages about efficacy. Vaccine hesitant individuals responded to vaccine messengers with medical expertise over political, religious, or media elite endorsements. Citizen trust in foreign governments, domestic leaders, and state institutions mediated the effects of the campaign features on vaccine acceptance. These findings inform the design of unfolding mass inoculation campaigns.

This article seeks to explain why some high-capacity democracies have high levels of internal violence. These regimes present a puzzle: Why are bureaucratically capable states that ostensibly answer to voters failing to provide security? Challenging the “weak states” paradigm, we argue that states with high capacity and significant violence within marginalized populations exhibit a governance pattern in which governing factions deliberately weaken security services and collude with non-state violent actors to maintain power and ensure extreme levels of privilege and impunity. Although these states do not feature ideal-type institutions, they are not weak. Instead, economic and political elites are complicit in enforcing a system of material inequality and uneven democratic incorporation maintained by violence. As politicized security agencies become incapacitated and repressive, citizens turn to non-state security providers for protection, from private firms to criminals and insurgents, increasing social violence and obscuring the state origins of what we term privilege violence.

Working Papers

"Teaching the Hidden Curriculum in Political Science" (with Colleen Wood). R&R at PS: Political Science & Politics.

The 'hidden curriculum' in academia represents a set of informal norms and rules, expectations, and skills which inform our "ways of doing" academic practice (Calarco 2020). In this paper, we suggest that relying on informal networks to provide access to instruction in these skills can reinforce pre-existing inequalities in the discipline. Drawing on a pilot program we developed and implemented in our own department, we provide a model for formalizing instruction and equalizing access to training in these professionalizing skills. Drawing on literatures on inclusive pedagogy, as well as our own implementation experience, we advance four recommendations towards scaling and transporting instruction in the `hidden curriculum' to other departments.

"Turf war or truce: Gun control and bargaining among criminal gangs," with Sarah Z. Daly. Under review.

Bloody turf wars and cycles of violent retribution dominate reports on the relationships among gangs. However, these organized criminal groups also form truces that allow them to peacefully co-exist within their delimited territories. This paper adopts bargaining theory and proposes that gangs escalate violence following shocks to their relative coercive capacity. This uptick in violence proves more likely when the gangs are more factionalized and less rooted in their neighborhoods. Our empirical strategy leverages one particular shock – access to firearms following a Wisconsin gun control repeal – to understand how changes in this coercive input upset the existing balance of power among Chicago’s street gangs and shaped homicidal violence in the urban arena. This paper has implications for scholarship on bargaining and war, organized crime, and arms control.

Governments are now distributing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. Once vaccines are widely available, attaining herd immunity will depend on individuals choosing to vaccinate---and doing so quickly enough to outpace mutations. However, our online surveys from January 2021 in six Latin American countries document that only 59% of respondents would get vaccinated and the average individual would wait 4.3 months before vaccinating. Focusing on hesitant respondents, we then experimentally assess messages designed to counteract informational deficiencies and collective action problems that may drive hesitancy. Several actionable findings emerge. First, basic vaccine information persuades around 8% of hesitant individuals to become willing to vaccinate and reduces their intention to wait before vaccinating by 0.4 months. Second, priming the social approval benefits of vaccination similarly increases vaccine willingness, and outperforms priming economic or altruistic benefits of vaccination. Third, individuals are more likely to vaccinate if they believe herd immunity will be achieved.