My research interests cover the intersection between politics, geography, and population change, with special attention toward urban politics and the environment. Methodologically, I couple original data sources with causally identified research designs to examine how political processes and behaviors vary across physical space.
Political Geography as Epiphenomenal?: Using Redlining to Understand the Spatial Interplay Between Race, Class, and Politics. In Prep. Draft.
In the 1930s, a New Deal Program called the Home Owner's Loan Corporation (HOLC) created mortgage risk assessment maps in over 200 American cities. These maps stabilized housing markets by identifying the loan default risk of households across the United States. While research has explored how the maps impacted local housing markets, racially-motivated lending practices, and “redlining”, little is known about how they affected politics. Using an original panel dataset of geocoded historical voting precinct maps, HOLC risk assessment maps, address-level 1930 Census data, and the California voter file, this project identifies the effect that redlining had on partisan sorting and the political geography of Los Angeles County. Contrary to expectations, redlined neighborhoods experienced larger over-time increases in support for Republicans. Wealthy, predominately White, high-grade areas became more supportive of Democrats. Preliminary evidence suggests that this is driven by the replacement of pro-business conservatives with white collar liberals in high-grade areas. The results point to the lasting impact that public programs can have on political geography, and they inform us that strong partisan coalitions may exist between dissimilar social and economic groups. Last, they force us to reconsider the narrative that political geography is merely epiphenomenal to the spatial structure of society, and that it can be adequately predicted by race, ethnicity, and class.
A Voice for Some but Not All: District Elections and the Character of Representation in Local Government. In Prep. Draft.
Do district elections increase minority representation in local government? If so, how? I couple non-parametric difference in differences estimators with data on 7,300 city council candidates to answer these questions. The data represents every city council candidate in California over five presidential elections between 2000 and 2016. As I show, district elections increase city council minority representation, minority vote shares, and the number of minority candidates running for office by 17, 38, and 8 percentage points, respectively. They also increase the probability that a minority candidate wins office, even after controlling for electoral competitiveness. However, a novel measure of demographic similarity shows that district elections do not make city councils more representative of the cities they represent. They also do not reduce electoral competitiveness. In all, district elections better represent minorities, but do not – on the whole – make city councils more demographically similar to the cities they serve.
A Catalyst for Change: The Great Migration’s Impact on Elite Ideology and Voting Behavior During the 20th Century. Draft.
The United States underwent dramatic change during the 20th Century. One such change was the pronounced leftward shift in elite ideology on racial issues and civil rights. During this time, the United States also experienced one of the largest demographic events in the nation's history: The Great Migration. This paper seeks to better understand the interplay between demographic change and long-term shifts in the nature of Congressional politics. Using a novel panel dataset, identification strategy, and historical passenger railroad routes, I identify the Great Migration's impact on elite ideology and voting behavior. Results show that increased Black migration is associated with a marked leftward shift in elite ideology. Moreover, Black migration is positively associated with voting in favor of the Civil Rights Act. This paper offers a new explanation of the relationship between demography and politics, and shows that the Great Migration may have initiated widespread political change during the 20th Century. Additionally, it speaks to the complex -- ever evolving -- relationship between elites and their constituents.
Prevalence and predictors of wind energy protests in the United States (with Leah Stokes).
Addressing climate change requires societies to transition towards low-carbon sources, including renewable energy. By far the biggest growth area is wind energy. Unfortunately, this technology has proven politically controversial, with social movements arising to protest wind energy projects across North America. While some research has examined specific cases of public resistance toward specific wind energy projects, there is no systematic study of wind projects on a larger scale, to identify the prevalence of protests and examine predictors of local resistance toward wind energy projects. This project uses a novel dataset of wind energy projects in the United States to examine drivers of protest toward renewable wind energy projects. The results show that project-specific features such as total energy produced and wind speed affect the likelihood of protest. Additionally, geographic and census-tract level demographic characteristics predict protests, as well.
Households with solar installations are ideologically diverse and more politically active than their neighbors (with Matto Mildenberger and Peter Howe). 2019. Nature Energy, 4, 1033–1039.
Climate risk mitigation requires rapid decarbonization of energy infrastructure, a task that will need political support from mass publics. Here, we use a combination of satellite imagery and voter file data to examine the political identities of U.S. households with residential solar installations. We find that solar households are slightly more likely to be Democratic; however, this imbalance stems primarily from between-neighborhood differences in partisan composition rather than within-neighborhood differences in the rate of partisan solar uptake. Crucially, we still find that many solar households are Republican. We also find that solar households are substantially more likely to be politically active than their neighbors, and that these differences in political participation cannot be fully explained by demographic and socioeconomic factors. Our results demonstrate that individuals across the ideological spectrum are participating in the U.S. energy transition, despite extreme ideological polarization around climate change.
Drivers of support: The case of species reintroductions with an ill-informed public (with Elizabeth Hiroyasu and Sarah Anderson). 2019. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 24:5, 401-417.
Successful rewilding of large carnivores depends on public acceptance, but the public frequently has little awareness about wildlife and specific reintroduction proposals. This article evaluated the determinants of public support for grizzly bear reintroduction in California to understand how value orientations, political ideology, and demographics predict attitudes when the public has little species-specific knowledge. We surveyed 980 Californians, showing that value orientations, awareness, and perceptions of costs and benefits shaped attitudes toward grizzly reintroduction, even when only one-quarter of the respondents knew that grizzly bears were extirpated from California. Almost two-thirds of respondents were supportive of reintroduction, rationalizing their support with assessments of societal and ecological costs and benefits. Lack of public awareness, perceptions of personal threats, and willingness to rationalize stated preferences provide cautionary notes to managers. Our results suggest that managers should offer early articulation of costs, benefits, and threats before reintroductions become politicized and opposition becomes entrenched.