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Essays in Development Economics and Political Economy


In the first chapter, I discuss a study that uses experimental variation in a door-to-door information campaign to test for polarization in policy choice across the electorate in Turkey. The campaign took place before a landmark referendum that was initiated by the incumbent party in Turkey after the chaotic coup attempt in July 2016. The referendum was on institutional changes to weaken constraints on the executive branch in Turkey. I designed the implementation of the door-to-door campaign as a randomized experiment. In this campaign, the opposition party gave uniform information on poor economic performance and increased terrorist activity under the incumbent's leadership to more than 130,000 voters. I show that voters, despite being exposed to the same campaign, diverged further in their vote choice on aggregate, leading to a significant increase in political polarization. This is a unique result where polarization in vote choice at the aggregate level is driven by differences in reaction to the same door-to-door campaign.

In the second chapter, I investigate electoral competition in an illiberal democracy. To promote their electoral and policy goals, elected officials make investments in a ``home style" -- a strategy to learn about their voters and select their public platform accordingly. I consider a framework of home style grounded in perception: politicians better able to accurately assess voter preferences will more closely tailor their communications to those preferences. I conducted interviews with Members of Parliament establishing that the majority party regularly conducts polls to assess voter preferences while the opposition party does not. I then analyze nearly a million MPs’ tweets and find that the majority party is more likely to communicate on the issues of most importance to their constituents than the opposition. Finally, I conduct a quasi-experiment and find that providing opposition MPs with polling increases their likelihood to communicate about their constituents’ most important issues while there is no effect among majority MPs. This result supports the qualitative evidence that the incumbent invests more in learning about voters than the opposition.

The third chapter, co-authored with Marshall Burke, Felipe Gonzalez, Solomon Hsiang, and Edward Miguel, studies whether economic or non-economic factors better explain the well-established relationship between temperature and violence in a unique context where intergroup killings by drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) and “normal” interpersonal homicides are separately documented. A constellation of evidence, including the limited influence of a cash transfer program as well as comparison with both non-violent DTO crime and suicides, indicate that economic factors only partially explain the observed relationship between temperature and violence. We argue that noneconomic psychological and physiological factors that are affected by temperature, modeled here as a “taste for violence,” likely play an important role in causing both interpersonal and intergroup violence.

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