Deference and Hierarchy in International Regime Complexes.” International Organization, vol. 72, no. 3 (2018), pp. 561-590. 

How do states resolve jurisdictional conflicts among international institutions? In many issue areas, global governance is increasingly fragmented among multiple international organizations (IOs). Existing work argues this fragmentation can undermine cooperation as different institutions adopt conflicting rules. However, this perspective overlooks the potential for interinstitutional coordination. I develop a theory of institutional deference: the acceptance of another IO's exercise of authority. By accepting rules crafted in another IO, member states can mitigate rule conflict and facilitate a division of labor within the regime complex. I use an original data set of over 2,000 IO policy documents to describe patterns of deference in the counterterrorism, intellectual property, and election-monitoring regime complexes. Empirical tests support two theoretical claims. First, institutional deference is indeed associated with a division of labor among institutions: IOs that defer to each other are more likely to focus their rule-making efforts on separate subissues. Second, deference is a strategic act that is shaped both by efficiency concerns and power politics. Statistical tests confirm that deference is used to efficiently pool resources among disparate organizations, and that IOs with weaker member states tend to defer to organizations with more powerful members.

The Democratic Peace Debate." In The Causes of Peace: What We Now Know - Nobel Symposium 161, ed. Olav Njlstad (Forthcoming).

A large majority of academics believe that a democratic peace exists, despite significant deficiencies in both theory and evidence. We demonstrate that much of the existing empirical support for the theory relies on data that are highly skewed toward the Cold War.  We reanalyse the data, taking explicitly into account shifts between international systems. We find no evidence of a separate peace among democratic states after the Cold War, and we conclude by discussing the implications for democratic-peace theory.

Working Papers

Angling for Influence: Institutional Proliferation in Development Banking

Multilateral institutions proliferated rapidly throughout the 20th century, creating a fragmented network of rules and organizations that often compete for authority. Why do states build multiple institutions in the same policy area? Prevailing theories of institutional formation emphasize their ability to facilitate cooperation, but overlapping institutions introduce significant coordination problems. I argue that states strategically proliferate institutions to augment their control over global governance. States construct new cooperative bodies when they become dissatisfied with their influence in existing venues. To test this argument, I examine the proliferation of multilateral development banks since 1944. A series of statistical tests, including a natural experiment associated with the allocation of World Bank votes at Bretton Woods, show that the probability of institutional proliferation is significantly higher when power is misaligned in existing institutions. These results demonstrate that concerns about relative influence contribute to the fragmentation of global governance.

The Forces of Attraction: How Security Interests Shape Membership in Economic Institutions (with Christina Davis)

The interconnection of economic exchange and security politics is widely recognized. But when and how much do geopolitical interests matter for economic cooperation? Existing work focuses on bilateral trade and aid, overlooking other channels of influence. In a study of multilateral economic organizations, we demonstrate that substantial discrimination occurs during the accession process as states share benefits with favored partners while excluding others. This biased selection of members allows states to politicize economic cooperation despite multilateral norms of non-discrimination. We test the geopolitical origins of institutional membership by analyzing membership patterns for 252 economic organizations from 1948 – 2014. Evidence shows that security ties shape which states join and remain in organizations at both the formation and enlargement stages. We use a finite mixture model to compare the relative power of economic and geopolitical considerations, finding that geopolitical alignment accounts for about half of the membership decisions in economic institutions.

Vertically Differentiated Cooperation: Explaining Policy Change in International Regime Complexes

In many important policy areas, interstate cooperation is governed by a dense network of distinct but overlapping international institutions. Whether this environment of “regime complexity” strengthens or undermines cooperation is a subject of debate. While some argue that overlapping institutions enhance legitimacy and flexibility, others claim that opportunistic forum shopping by states will induce a regulatory race to the bottom. This paper reconciles this debate, demonstrating that institutional density has contrasting effects depending on the degree of differentiation among institutions. In issue areas where undifferentiated institutions function as substitutes, forum shopping by states will reduce the regime’s ability to generate policy adjustment. However, in issue areas where institutions are vertically differentiated—i.e., institutions with deeper rules provide greater value to states—a regime complex will increase policy change. I demonstrate these dynamics formally and provide empirical evidence in a comparative analysis of the development finance and election-monitoring regime complexes.

Compliance and Contestation: Avoiding Reputation Costs in Multilateral Institutions (with Julia Morse)

Theories of international cooperation frequently posit that concerns about reputation incentivize states to comply with their commitments. International institutions facilitate reputational effects by legalizing commitments and monitoring patterns of compliance. According to this logic, even international organizations (IOs) with no formal enforcement tools can impose reputation costs by publicly revealing violations. We argue that this prevalent model of reputation overlooks a key feature of the strategic environment: the ability of states to contest alleged violations. States often challenge judgments of non-compliance from IOs, in an attempt to mitigate reputational damage among domestic and international audiences. We highlight two types of strategies that non-compliant states use to evade reputation costs: challenging the applicability of international rules and attacking the legitimacy of the monitoring institution. We argue that a non-compliant state's use of these strategies is shaped by the type of audience that can impose costs on the state. States targeted by allegations of non-compliance confront both an international and domestic audience. Different constellations of interests among these audiences create incentives to adopt different strategies of contestation. We explore these strategies via several case studies of non-compliance with international rules prohibiting torture. Our findings show how variation in the target audience shapes patterns of institutional contestation.

Dynamic Stochastic Blockmodel Regression for Social Networks: Application to International Conflict (with Santiago Olivella and Kosuke Imai)

Many social scientists theorize how various factors influence the dynamic process of network evolution. These theories explain the ways in which nodal and dyadic characteristics play a role in the formation and evolution of relational ties over time. We develop a dynamic model of social networks by combining a Hidden Markov model with a mixed-membership stochastic blockmodel that identifies latent groups underlying the network structure. Unlike existing models, we incorporate covariates that predict both the dynamic changes in the node membership of latent groups and the direct formation of edges between dyads. Our motivating application is the dynamic modeling of international conflicts. While most existing work assumes the decision to engage in militarized conflict is independent across states and static over time, we demonstrate that conflict patterns are driven by states’ evolving membership in geopolitical coalitions. Changes in monadic covariates like democracy shift states between coalitions, generating heterogeneous effects on conflict over time and across states. The proposed methodology, which relies on a variational approximation to a collapsed posterior, is implemented through an open-source software package.