GLD Working Papers

Disease Threat, Stereotypes, and Covid–19: An Early View from Malawi and Zambia

Karen E. Ferree, Kristen Kao, Boniface Dulani, Adam S. Harris, Ellen Lust, Cecilia Ahsan Jansson, and Erica Metheney


A growing literature documents Covid–19’s health and economic effects. Can Covid–19 also exacerbate identity divisions? Psychologists argue that contagious disease increases threat perception, provoking policing of group boundaries and discrimination against perceived outsiders. We focus here on a mechanism underlying this work, the emergence of disease-based stereotypes. Employing survey experiments administered over the phone in Malawi (N=4,641) and Zambia (N=2,198) in May-August 2020, we explore how insider/outsider status and symptoms of illness shape perceptions of infection, reported willingness to help, and desire to restrict free movement of an ailing neighbor. We find mixed evidence for outsider stereotypes: Malawians associate the disease more with outsiders; Zambians do not. In both countries, moreover, symptoms more strongly shape perceptions and hypothetical behavior than insider/outsider status, suggesting that objective risk matters more than identities in shaping responses to the illness.


The Social Bureaucrat: How Social Proximity among Bureaucrats Affects Local Governance

Tugba Bozcaga


Most studies that examine subnational variations in public services associate low government performance with a lack of accountability. I instead offer a capacity-based explanation. Specifically, I develop a theory based on bureaucratic efficiency and argue that bureaucratic efficiency increases with social proximity among bureaucrats, bureaucrats’ informal ties with other bureaucrats in their jurisdiction because informal ties do not only serve communication or socialization purposes but also decrease transaction costs associated with the production and allocation process of public services. Testing the observable implications of this theory, I find that social proximity, as proxied by geographic proximity, increases bureaucratic efficiency. However, in line with theoretical expectations, geographic proximity is less likely to lead to high bureaucratic efficiency in socially fragmented network structures or when there are ethnic divisions between bureaucrats. Six months of fieldwork in regions of Turkey with different political and ethnic geographies inform the descriptive inferences underlying the theory and its observable implications. I leverage a geographical regression discontinuity design to test my theory. My empirical tests employ novel administrative data from 30,000 villages and 970 districts in Turkey, geospatial indicators constructed using spatial analysis tools and satellite images, and antenna-level mobile call detail records. This study advances research on public goods provision by studying local public services outside of citizen-centered accountability explanations, instead of revealing capacity-driven sources of government performance.

Reconceptualising Rebel Rule: The Responsiveness of Rebel Governance in Man, Côte d’Ivoire

Sebastian van Baalen


This study considers the concept of rebel governance responsiveness by the Forces Nouvelles (FN) in Côte d’Ivoire. Responsiveness refers to the degree to which a government’s political decisions correspond to its citizens’ desires. The concept of responsiveness is vital for assessing regime types and constitutes an essential metric of democracy. However, the idea is rarely invoked in analyses of how rebel groups relate to civilian preferences in how they govern citizens in rebel areas. The study makes three contributions. First, it develops a conceptualisation of rebel responsiveness across four domains: representation, security, taxation, and welfare. Second, it demonstrates the concept’s usefulness through a case study of two ethnic communities in Man, Côte d’Ivoire, using unique interview and archival data. The study shows that while the FN governed both ethnic communities, rebel responsiveness differed in significant ways. This finding highlights that focusing on the mere existence, rather than the responsiveness, of rebel governance is insufficient for capturing the nature of civilian life under rebel rule. Third, the study shows how focusing on rebel governance’s responsiveness can uncover new insights about civil war. 

Mixed Records, Cognitive Complexity, and Ethnic Voting in African Elections

Karen E. Ferree, Clark C. Gibson, and James D. Long


The preference of African voters for co-ethnic candidates is well documented in studies of African political behavior. However, African voters also seem to value good government performance. When does ethnicity trump performance? We theorize that a citizen’s vote choice depends in part on the cognitive complexity she faces when assessing candidates. We argue that citizens incur greater cognitive costs when appraising candidates with mixed – versus uniformly positive or negative – performance records, inducing them to rely more on informational shortcuts like ethnicity to guide their vote. Thus, performance voters may become ethnic voters when the challenges of evaluating performance increase. We test and find support for this hypothesis using a survey experiment implemented in a nationally representative exit poll during Kenya’s 2013 election. Findings demonstrate that ethnic and performance voting is not always the product of fixed dispositions, but instead may emerge in response to voters’ informational context.

Power and Process: Decentralisation in Oman

James Worrall


Decentralisation has been a feature of Omani life since the early 1990s, yet while the Sultanate has been influenced by orthodox thinking around these processes its particular history, culture, circumstances, as well as its strongly centralised state have all meant that it has not simply followed this orthodox thinking. Instead, it has created a system of what this paper terms controlled-hybrid-decentralisation which manifests across four different areas within the state, and for two main purposes: efficiency and legitimacy. Both of which reinforce the power of the central state whilst maximising potential benefits from these processes. In this sense, the Omani experience of decentralisation is hybrid not only in the way it is deployed but it is also a mixture of technocratic and neo-liberal solutions combined with traditional elements of rule. It is ultimately designed to maintain the ruling bargain and uphold the power of the Omani state and dynastic system, thus being more concerned with processes and power than decentralisation itself.