Jasper Cooper

Columbia University, New York

I am a PhD Candidate in Political Science at Columbia University, specialized in the comparative politics of developing countries.

Job Market Paper

State Capacity and Gender Inequality: Experimental evidence from Papua New Guinea.

How does expanding state capacity change power inequalities between men and women? I design a field experiment in a remote area of post-conflict Papua New Guinea that randomly assigns permanent police officer presence to 17 villages and not to 22 others. After the police have been working in treatment villages for over eight months, I measure outcomes in interviews with 1,383 respondents, and broaden the findings through analysis of over 30,000 historical case records. Whereas many expect the state to supplant non-state institutions, I find the opposite can occur. As police enforce a more equal rule of law, and empower women, men seek to preserve their advantage by increasing their reliance on local chiefs. Previous accounts overlook such strategic complementarities because they assume use of alternative resolution mechanisms is zero-sum. The findings show how forum-shopping can limit the ability of the state to reduce power inequalities between men and women.


Inequality and Violence

Silence Begets Violence: A mass media experiment to prevent violence against women in rural Uganda.
With Donald P. Green and Anna Wilke.

Under review.

Preventing violence against women (VAW) requires witnesses to come forward, yet willingness to report is often undermined by social sanctions against those suspected of fabricating allegations. Our theory of the micro-politics of information disclosure in interdependent communities elucidates the role of social norms in preventing VAW. We present experimental evidence from a media campaign attended by over 10,000 Ugandans in 112 rural villages that featured three short videos designed to encourage reporting of VAW in the household. Results indicate a substantial reduction in VAW over a 6-month period following the campaign. Investigation of mechanisms reveals that women in the treatment group became less likely to believe that they would be labeled a gossip if they were to report an incident of VAW, and their personal willingness to speak out increased substantially. We find no evidence of a deeper change in core values pertaining to VAW.

Research Design

Declaring and Diagnosing Research Designs.
With Graeme Blair, Alex Coppock, and Macartan Humphreys.

Revised and resubmitted to APSR.

Researchers need to select high-quality research designs and communicate those designs clearly to readers. Both tasks are difficult. We provide a framework for formally 'declaring' the analytically relevant features of a research design in a demonstrably complete manner, with applications to qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research. The approach to design declaration we describe requires defining a model of the world (M), an inquiry (I), a data strategy (D), and an answer strategy (A). Declaration of these features in code provides sufficient information for researchers and readers to use Monte Carlo techniques to diagnose properties such as power, bias, correct identification of causal conditions, and other "diagnosands." Ex ante declarations can be used to improve designs and facilitate preregistration, analysis, and reconciliation of intended and actual analyses. Ex post declarations are useful for describing, sharing, reanalyzing, and critiquing existing designs. We provide open-source software, DeclareDesign, to implement the proposed approach.


The Broad Impact of a Narrow Conflict: How Natural Resource Windfalls Shape Policy and Politics.
With Sung Eun Kim and Johannes Urpelainen.

Published in JOP.

Access to natural resources creates a political conflict between the expected economic winners and their environmental opponents, but the effects of such conflict on policy and politics remain unclear. To examine the scope of such effects, we exploit the rapid and unanticipated technological breakthroughs in the “fracking” of shale gas. During the past decade, shale gas production around the Marcellus Shale formation in the Northeastern United States expanded rapidly. Using a quasi-experimental design, we examine how access to shale gas in electoral districts changed the voting record of House Representatives on environmental policy relative to neighboring districts without access. Votes become 15–20 percentage points less likely to be in favor of the environment. The best explanation for this effect is the strong electoral performance of (anti-environmental) Republicans in shale-affected districts. The narrow conflict has a broad impact: access to natural resources puts downward pressure on environmental policy across the board.

Police and Corruption

When Power Does Not Corrupt: Evidence from randomized police recruitment.
Conferral of public office brings powers that may corrupt their holder. However, it also brings responsibilities that may curtail abuse. Possible self-selection of corrupt "types" into office often confounds inference about the corrupting effects of power. I design a recruitment lottery in which 17 individuals are hired to become community police officers and 22 are not. Random assignment enables identification of the causal effect of power on behavior in a corruption game played eight months later. Power does not corrupt: candidates hired as community police cheat against themselves in order to award a windfall to the community member against whom they are playing. I see no evidence of such prosociality in 60 identical games with 30 police officers from the central police force, who do not face the same accountability pressures. The findings suggest corrupting empowerment effects are attenuated when exercising power depends on the reputation of the holder.
Can Political Competition Increase Corruption? Evidence from micro-data on extortion around West African elections.
Under review.
Numerous cross-national studies of the relationship between democracy and corruption have revealed an ‘inverted U’: corruption is higher in new democracies than in autocracies, although it is lowest in consolidated democracies. I provide a novel explanation for this concavity, focusing on the way in which increased leadership turnover affects public employees in states whose bureaucracies are poorly insulated from political influence. Examining electoral cycles in over 300,000 bribes paid over a seven-year period by truck-drivers in five West African countries, I show that the average bribe extorted by bureaucrats increases by 23% in the buildup to competitive elections. Consistent with the idea that political competition only increases extortion when it increases uncertainty, bribes in the post-election period return to the non-electoral average when incumbents win reelection, but increase when challengers win. I find no evidence that such dynamics exist around elections in autocracies. The findings suggest that democratization can have adverse effects on corruption in the short-term, and highlight the importance of civil service insulation as an anti-corruption policy.
How robust is institutionalized corruption? A field experiment on extortion along West African highways.
Under review.
Are dramatic policy interventions necessary to disrupt forms of corruption sustained through mutually reinforcing expectations, or can small shocks to uncertainty destabilize corrupt equilibria? I attempt to answer this question by randomly introducing the presence of a highly unexpected foreigner into interactions in which officials typically extort citizens for bribes according to a stable going rate. Specifically, I rode with truck drivers along 1,500km of highways in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo and Benin. At some of the 123 checkpoints manned by customs, police and gendarmerie, I openly observed attempts to extort bribes from drivers, at others I hid from sight. In contradiction to the expectations of well-informed experts, I find statistically significant evidence against large treatment effects. The findings suggest established patterns of corrupt behavior can be resilient to small shocks to uncertainty, and that experts may overestimate the effectiveness of novel anti-corruption measures.