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Dissertation: Networks, Conflict, and Causal Inference

(3 Articles)

1. Who Helps? The Resilience of Weak Cross-Group Ties in Civil War (Book Project)

Do cross-ethnic social ties completely cease to matter once the bullets start flying? Based on a new survey on survivors of the 1992-5 Bosnian War, I find that cross-ethnic assistance was not only widespread but highly correlated with the number of outgroup friendships pre-war. Yet surprisingly, the strength of those social network ties does not have a significant effect. Most people, it appears, were willing to help not only friends but even friends-of-friends and acquaintances. Drawing on 160 interviews, casualty records, and census data, I provide mixed-methods evidence that weak ties can prove unexpectedly resilient, even under the strain of civil war.

2. Black Networks Matter

In contrast to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, a majority of protesters during the summer 2020 Black Lives Matter protests were white. What explains this massive turnout? What explains this success? Drawing on six months of survey data with over 4000 protesters, we argue that African Americans were instrumental in turning out white friends and acquaintances in their social networks both online and offline, outside of a traditional organizational framework. 

3. Causal Estimation in Weighted and Directed Networks

Many health, education, and peacebuilding initiatives attempt to improve outcomes not only for individuals enrolled in their programs but for their family and friends as well. How we can measure the impact of the ripple effects? Building on Aronow (2012) and Athey, Eckles, and Imbens (2018), I develop a new method for using Fisher randomization inference on directed and weighted networks. 

Works in Progress

Do Terrorist Attacks Always Affect Political Attitudes and Participation?

(with William Minozzi, Michael Neblo, and David Lazer)

Download Working Paper

Terrorists, mass shooters, and other perpetrators of mass civilian attacks target their victims, but they also target an audience. Scholars finds that people exposed to such attacks may exhibit an anti-minority backlash, a rightward political shift, or heightened political engagement. We test these theories through a mixed-methods analysis of a natural experiment and find no significant effects. Our results call into question the scope of existing theories, suggesting that even close encounters with mass violence can fail to sway public opinion.

Photo: Aftermath of terror attack at Ohio State University. Credit: Blervis (Wikipedia)

Modeling the Intrahousehold Spread of COVID-19

Are racial and economic disparities in COVID-19 due to behaviors outside the home or poverty-induced crowding within? Using an online panel of over 200,000 respondents, we examine networks within each household. We find that sharing a bedroom is significantly associated with infection. Differences in the number of people per household largely explain the racial and economic gaps in infections. Our findings suggest that householdss with enough room to isolate sick members are at a substantially lower risk of infection.

Prior Work

Segregation and Coexistance in Informal Settlements

For my first foray into fieldwork, I spent eight weeks in Kampala, Uganda interviewing and surveying residents in informal settlements about their friendship, secret-sharing, and money-borrowing networks. My preliminary results suggest that migrants from the North of Uganda are more likely to segregate themselves along ethnic lines, while those hailing from the center are more likely to form cross-ethnic ties. Yet there is evidence to suggest that residents who have spent more time in the diverse environment of Kampala are more likely to be open to friendships with other tribes. Hence, an informal settlement—in spite of crime, unemployment, and conflict over property rights—may also serve as a breeding ground for coexistence.