Gender, Electoral Competition, and Sanitation in India ,” Comparative Politics (forthcoming)

What impact do female politicians have on policies regarding basic service delivery for women? Although electoral competition plays a central role in government responsiveness, the literature on women in politics pays little attention to this factor when considering whether female politicians make different policy choices from their male counterparts. Exploiting the quasi-randomness of the gender of the winner in highly competitive elections to determine the influence of female candidates in fifteen major states in India from 2006 to 2011, I test whether female state legislators have an influence on improving sanitation in rural India. The results show that while competitive elections increase the level of low-quality latrines, female legislators are more likely to deliver high-quality latrines. It suggests that female politicians make different policy choices than their male counterparts in ways that are beneficial for women’s interests.

Informing Women and Improving Sanitation: Evidence from India,” Journal of Rural Studies, vol. 55, pp. 203-215 (October 2017).

A lack of sanitation poses a serious threat to human health and security in many developing countries, affecting women most negatively. This paper explores the underlying conditions that improve access to basic sanitation services for women with a particular focus on the role information has on the ownership of household latrines. Using the India Human Development Survey, a nationally representative household-level panel study between 2005 and 2011, I find that women’s regular mass media usage, distinct from that of men’s usage, is positively associated with improvements in the type of household latrine, even after controlling for household income and other cultural factors.


“Power Sector Reform in India” (under review)

(with Chaoyo Cheng, Galen Murray, Yuree Noh, Joseph van Horn, and Johannes Urpelainen.) What are the fundamental causes of failure in power sector reform in democratic contexts? This paper compares political obstacles to power sector reform in the twenty largest states in India.

“Urban Poverty, Health, and Community Action” (work in progress)

While the issue of poverty in the rural context has been studied extensively, there has been much less focus on poverty in urban settings despite the considerable challenges urban poverty poses to development. This research focuses on the issue of access to sanitation in legally recognized slums in New Delhi, India. Because these are state-recognized slum areas, the government is also responsible for providing access to basic public goods such as public latrines. We investigate how and when community organization translates into political demands for basic services, and whether there are gender differences in the channels used for demands.  

“Democracy and Basic Services” (work in progress)

This project investigates the relationship between democracy and basic services using cross-sectional panel data from countries around the world. Unlike the current literature on the impact of democracies that focus on regime-type differences in health outcomes such as infant mortality and life expectancy, this study analyzes non-aggregate measures to understand the relationship.

“Sustainable Community Governance of Microgrids in India” (work in progress)

This project investigates different forms of community governance of microgrids and their consequences in three different states in India.


The Politics of India’s Sanitation Struggle

In developing countries, many people are left without basic services, such as clean water, electricity, and sanitation. In my book project, based on my dissertation, the central puzzle is: why do democracies sometimes fail to provide basic services that are essential for development? In particular, when do democratic governments meet the demands of underrepresented groups? Sanitation plays a critical role in improving human well-being, yet it remains one of the least accessible basic services in developing countries. Today, 2.4 billion people worldwide do not have access to improved sanitation, with the greatest shortage in India. Poor sanitation causes people to contract water-borne diseases, which is the leading cause of death for young children. People in less developed countries mostly rely on their government for this basic service, yet the governance and under-provision of sanitation has been less studied in the political science literature. Instead, many observers point to cultural reasons in explaining India’s lack of sanitation, which include arguments that the caste system incorporates concepts of purity that pose a challenge for having latrines close by, or that the practice of open defecation is part of the rural lifestyle. Unlike these conventional explanations based on culture, I argue that poor sanitation is due to a lack of political representation for the main beneficiaries of latrine facilities, whom are women. I build on a rich literature linking theories of political representation to policy outcomes, by focusing on women, an under-represented group in many developing countries, to understand the political economy of sanitation provision.