What explains variation  in the quality of urban public services?

Dissertation Project

Every day, millions of Latin Americans in cities rely on public services like piped water, trash collection, and bus transport to navigate daily life. The quality of these services is often – but not always – poor and unequal. When do politicians have an incentive to provide these services well? My dissertation project focuses on how the quality of public service delivery is shaped by the urban electoral agenda. I ask the following questions:

  • Under what conditions can the quality of basic urban services become politically salient?

  • How do citizens and other groups shape politicians' incentives to provide services?

  • What strategies do politicians pursue to address deficiencies in service quality?

In studying these questions, I spend time thinking about credit and blame, collective action and social movements, and electoral and social  accountability


Working Papers/Under Review

"Making Scarcity "Enough": How Private Households Bear the Public Costs of Water insecurity" (with Elizabeth F.S. Roberts, Faith Cole, David Palma, and Ana Bernal)  Revise and Resubmit at PLOS Water

"Rewarding Responsiveness: How Incumbent Mayors Gain by "Firefighting" in Public Service Provision" Under Review

"Collective Action Infrastructure: Understanding the Downstream Consequences of Urban Neighborhood Organizing" (with Kaitlyn Chriswell) Revise and Resubmit at Comparative Political Studies

Ongoing Projects

"Playing Defense: Mayors, Public Services, and the Electoral Agenda"

Policy Writing

"Citizen Responses to Low Public Service Quality: A Review" Commissioned by InterAmerican Development Bank (2020)

"Education in Brazil Panel Database" InterAmerican Development Bank (2016)

"Brazilian Electoral Panel Study: 2014 Results" with Machado, Renno, Samuels, Smith, Zucco (2016)

"Social Entrepreneurship in Mexico and Central America" Ashoka Social Entrepreneurs (2015)


"Know Your Enemy: The Changing Sophistication and Success of MaritimePiracy" (with George Shambaugh and Aaron Zlotnick) Seton Hall Journalof Diplomacy and International Relations (2014)