About me (and my work)

P1050084-001 I am an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I received my PhD from Columbia University and taught at the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas in Mexico City before coming to UNC.

My main research interest is the study of executive politics including the process of government formation and change, and the dynamics of executive approval. Although I am mainly interested in presidential systems, I have also written work comparing the determinants of ministerial turnover and the dynamics of approval in parliamentary and presidential systems. My current projects on these topics are described below.

I am currently coordinating, with Marcelo Camerlo, a collaborative project that gathers detailed data on portfolio allocation across the Americas, the Presidential Cabinets Project. This project brings together country experts to explore variation in three main dimensions of portfolio allocation in presidential systems: cabinet design, government formation and portfolio re-allocation. The first outcome of this project is an edited volume, Government Formation and Ministerial turnover in Presidential Cabinets (Routledge, 2018), that includes eight country chapters that follow a common theoretical framework, a comparative chapter, and a comprehensive dataset that provides information on the three dimensions of portfolio allocation for each of the countries in the book. The first version of the dataset will be publicly available soon on our website.

I am also interested in the dynamics of executive approval and what they tell us about the prospects for accountability in different contexts. Currently, I am working with Ryan Carlin, Matthew Singer, Timothy Hellwig Greg Love, and Jonathan Hartlyn on several related projects that explore how accountability works in the presidential systems of Latin America, and across different constitutional regimes. One of the big challenges to date in this area has been that data on executive approval across a wide cross-section of presidential systems has been unavailable. For this project we have gathered comprehensive comparative data on executive approval in 18 Latin American countries (the Executive Approval Dataset). Using this data we first tested the effect of economic performance on patterns of accountability for scandals. We also have work in which we offer an argument about how institutional clarity of responsibility affects the prospects for accountability across different policy areas. We test our argument by looking at the difference in patterns of accountability in economic and security policy. Our latest article explores the dynamics of presidential approval in Latin America and finds it follows a cycle very similar to the one found in other residential systems.

With Marisa Kellam I am working on a project that links the formation of pre-electoral coalitions and the formation of governing coalitions. We develop a series of arguments of when we should expect parties that participate in the president’s electoral coalition to be included as coalition partners. We also look at the effects of pre-electoral coalition formation on the proportionality and stability of coalitions in the presidential systems of Latin America.

I am also interested in the appointment of non-partisan ministers and published an article on this topic with Petra Schleiter. In the article we argue that party-affiliated ministers are not always reliable agents for presidents and presidents chose to appoint non-partisan ministers in order to limit the risk of agency loss. We develop a series of hypotheses about the factors that shape the scope of agency risks and find that the president is more likely to limit the partisanship of the cabinet when his or her preferences diverge more markedly from the party’s and when the resources available to the president to control partisan ministers are weak.We test this argument using original data on the partisanship of single-party cabinets in 12 Latin American countries.