“Poverty, precarious work, and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons from Bolivia.” with Felicia Knaul, Mike Touchton, Ximena Velasco Guachalla, Jami Nelson-Nuñez, and Carew Boulding. The Lancet Global Health, 2021.
Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in Latin America with a gross domestic product of around US$3500 per capita, health spending of approximately $220 per capita, a labour market dominated by informal work, and a weak health system. However, in the response to COVID-19, Bolivia has fared better than other health systems in the region and provides insight with regard to the implementation of subnational nonpharmaceutical interventions and supporting workers without social protection.
“Bolivia: Lecciones sobre los primeros seis meses de la pandemia de SARS-CoV-2 (Bolivia: Lessons from the first six months of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic).” With Ximena Velasco Guachalla, Jami Nelson-Nuñez, and Carew Boulding. 2020. Temas Sociales: 47: 98-123.
This article offers an initial descriptive exploration of the public policies designed and implemented by the Bolivian national government and the different departmental governments to prevent, treat and contain Covid-19 cases. The description and analysis focus on government action in the context of the health crisis. We constructed an index of public policies based on ten measures recommended to contain the virus, and we collected the number of confirmed cases, deaths, and mobility by department.
“Mental Health and Fieldwork.” With Dana El Kurd. PS: Political Science and Politics, 2020.
Researchers discuss the logistics of successful fieldwork but not the mental health considerations that fieldwork and the research process introduce. Successful fieldwork and fruitful academic careers hinge on acknowledging and managing our mental health. We discuss peer support networks, secondary trauma, coping skills, therapy, and researchers’ mental health options before, during, and after fieldwork.
Reformers claim that public subsidies and regulations of political finance reduce corruption in politics, while observers worry that they have no impact on corruption or increase it. Despite national-level debates and billions of dollars spent, few studies test this relationship. We argue that political finance reform mitigates corruption by reducing private money’s importance in politics and increasing sanctions for corrupt behavior. Elite interviews from Paraguay’s political finance reform illustrate the argument and elaborate the theoretical mechanisms. We evaluate the argument with an original dataset measuring political subsidies from 175 countries from 1900-2015, as well as disaggregated corruption measures from the Varieties of Democracy project. Findings support the thesis that political finance reform reduces corruption, even in countries where reforms are unevenly implemented.
“Do Poor Citizens Benefit from Mega-Events? São Paulo’s Street Vendors and the 2014 FIFA World Cup.” 2018. Latin American Politics and Society, 60(4).
International mega-events inject millions of dollars into hosts’ economies, yet few studies assess which citizens benefit from events and which do not. Governments justify their bids on mega-events by arguing that infrastructure projects, event-related jobs, and tourist spending benefit many citizens. However, researchers find mixed impacts on host economies and the average citizen. Scholars and activists argue that a few businesses benefit while high prices and event-specific laws exclude poor citizens. Under what conditions do poor citizens benefit from mega-events? This article analyzes original interview, survey, and participant observation data on street vendors in São Paulo, Brazil during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The project finds that most street vendors lost money while a minority made record profits. Those that benefitted from the event used brokers, bribes, and pockets of forbearance to circumvent FIFA’s exclusionary rules.
“Bribery Cartels: Collusive Corruption in Bolivian Street Markets.” 2018. Latin American Research Review, 53(2).
Many Bolivians engage in corruption through intermediaries, like civil society representatives and lawyers, instead of paying officials directly. People vocally resent that intermediaries add an extra layer of costs and opaqueness to corruption, but still choose to pay bribes through intermediaries that knowingly take advantage of them. Why do intermediaries facilitate corruption? While other studies on corrupt intermediaries find that they reduce uncertainty and transaction costs, this study contributes to corruption research by finding that intermediaries engage in cartel-like behavior by disproportionally helping officials and intentionally increasing uncertainty and costs for the average citizen. Ethnographic evidence from street markets in La Paz demonstrates that civil society actors like street vendors’ union representatives advance their careers by collecting and delivering bribes to specific bureaucrats. Collusive relationships between bureaucrats and intermediaries hide and perpetuate corruption, while giving the appearance of a transparent government that is responsive to civil society.
“Disobedient Markets: Street Vendors, Enforcement, and State Intervention in Collective Action.” Appendix. Comparative Political Studies, 50(11): 1524-1555.
At 50% of the global workforce, informal workers constitute a large, diffuse, and resource-poor group with high barriers to collective action. Contrary to scholars’ expectations, informal workers organize to varying degrees in most countries, and states often encourage them to do so. Why do some informal workers organize while others do not? I argue that states can intervene in informal workers’ collective action decisions: As enforcement costs increase, states may pay informal workers to organize, and then bargain with the resulting organization over self-regulation. I present a game theoretic model of state intervention in collective action and illustrate it with original ethnographic, survey, and interview evidence from street markets in La Paz, Bolivia. I suggest that informal workers interact strategically with states and conclude with implications for formalization policies.
In La Paz, Bolivia, 80% of street vendors are women and 75% belong to street vendor unions. However, most high-profile leadership positions belong to men. Why do men represent and lead majority female civil society organizations? I suggest that informal bureaucratic practices intervene in organizational gender dynamics and influence who attains positions of power in civil society groups. This influence is particularly strong in sectors where the survival of the organization depends on the leadership’s relationship with bureaucratic authorities, such as street vending. I develop the argument through an ethnographic case study of a street vendor federation in La Paz.