Works in Progress

Slipping into Authoritarianism: How Oil Discoveries Feed the Natural Resource Curse

with S.P. Harish (submitted version)

Natural resources are known to directly impact a country’s political fortunes. However, the extant scholarship has provided little clarity on whether these resources strengthen or weaken governance levels. We argue that part of the problem lies with measuring natural resource reliance at the extraction or revenue-generating stage of the resource production process. At this point, the existence and approximate value of a country’s resource wealth has already become common knowledge. In this paper, we will instead use the time-point of discovery of these resource deposits to estimate the resource’s effect on various indicators of authoritarian and democratic governance over time. Using panel data of oil and natural gas field discovery coupled with cross-national and sub-national political outcomes, we argue that such discoveries have a pronounced effect on levels of democracy/autocracy and quality of public services. We posit a theory for how such oil and gas discoveries can change the decision calculus of political leaders and alter institutional structures within a country, even prior to the extraction and sale of those resources. Taken together, we shed light on the political effects of natural resources and provide evidence to re-examine the existing scholarship on said natural resource curse.

Planned and Charter Cities as Emigration-reduction Policies

This paper examines an emigration-reduction motivation for building new cities and urban centers. Since 2000, more than 150 new, master-planned cities have begun construction in over 40 countries. While some are constructed as spectacle cities or to serve as new centers of governance, many are also planned to spur economic growth and innovation. These cities are intended to attract internal migrants - either rural-to-urban or inter-city migrants - by offering them an opportunity to flourish economically that would be difficult to achieve elsewhere in the city-building country. Many of the individuals and households which will migrate to new cities would otherwise emigrate to higher-income countries if that option were available. This paper first examines how opposition to emigration and perceptions of `brain drain’ motivate countries to construct new urban centers. Polling data suggest that many, especially in developing countries, see increased emigration as a problem. Using these data, I examine the relationship between anti-emigration attitudes and the construction of new cities. Then, using high-level data on global population flows, I assess the impact of new city construction on emigration. This research provides insight into the motivation for and effects of purposeful urbanization policies.

Research - Joseph Levine