Working Papers

Can Natural Disasters Have a Rally ‘Round the Flag Effect? The Political Consequences of Nepal’s 2015 Earthquake (with Margaret Boittin and Stephen Utych)
[Available upon request]

Natural disasters have been shown to influence support for incumbent governments and political systems in a variety of circumstances. We argue that natural disasters can exhibit a “Rally ‘Round the Flag” effect, boosting support for incumbent governments, similar to that observed in international conflict. Leveraging an in-process data collection effort in Nepal that was interrupted by a major earthquake in April 2015, we find evidence that this disaster induced a rally effect. Post-earthquake, support for the political system in Nepal increased. We find this effect implementing both a quasi-experimental propensity score matching design and a pre-post test in which the same individuals were interviewed immediately before and after the earthquake. Moreover, this effect is mediated by increased feelings of national pride caused by the earthquake, demonstrating that a rallying effect is taking place. Our findings suggest that natural disasters can lead to at least a short-term boost in system support.

Youth National Service and Women’s Political Ambition: The Case of Teach For America (with Georgia Anderson-Nilsson and Katharine Conn)
[Available upon request]

Are there mechanisms by which women can become more politically ambitious? Could a prior history of activism with respect to a specific public policy issue and immersion into supportive networks structures that encourage activism catalyze political ambition in women? We explore this question by examining Teach For America (TFA), as TFA is a prominent national service program that exposes participants to important policy issues, namely education inequality, is an attractive program to high-achieving women, and employs a selection model that allows for causal inference. A fuzzy regression discontinuity approach utilizing an original survey of over 32,000 TFA applicants and TFA’s selection data for the 2007-2015 application cycles reveals that participation in national service causes women to be more politically ambitious. These findings have broad implications for our understanding of what increases political ambition and identifies a population that may be more easily recruited to run for political office.

When Less is More in Boosting Survey Response Rates: Why the Sampling Population Matters (with Katharine Conn and Laura Sellers)
[Available upon request]

What is the relative effectiveness of different incentive strategies intended to elicit responses to an online survey? The incentives used in this study are both altruistic (a charity donation of the respondent’s choice or no incentive offer at all) and monetary (three separate lottery-based incentives). While previous research has found that altruistic appeals are largely ineffective in prompting responses to web-based surveys, sample populations in prior research have been based only on small regional cross-sections of the general public. This experimental study is one of the first to examine the effects of this array of survey incentives on a socially inclined population (e.g., non-profit workers, public servants, etc.) and is also one of the first to explore these effects in a non-Western context (India). Overall, we find that offering “less” could result in “more” survey participation. Among pro-social individuals in the Indian context, we find that small charitable incentives or the use of no incentives at all is just as effective or even more effective than expensive monetary lotteries. Further, among the monetary lotteries, consistent with a theory of value atrophy, the simplest structure (fewer prizes with a large pay-off) works best. “Less” is also “more” in the context of response completeness (average portion completed), response speed (time to completion), and cost-effectiveness, as the control condition results in the second highest response rate at no cost.

Works in Progress

“The Impact of Youth Service on Beliefs, Mindsets, and Life Pathways: Evidence from Teach For All” (with Katharine Conn)

“Irrelevant Events and Voting Behavior: Replications Using Out-of-Sample Predictions and Preregistered Analyses” (with Matthew Graham, Gregory Huber, and Neil Malhotra)

“The Double-Edged Consequences of Gender Empowerment Messages: The Case of Tajikistan” (with Katrina Kosec)

“Engendering Empathy Through Virtual Reality” (with Dan Archer)

“Social Protection, Poverty, and Citizen Attitudes Toward Government” (with Katrina Kosec)

“Law Enforcement and Human Trafficking Vulnerability: The Case of Nepal” (with Margaret Boittin)

“Hard Problems” (Jonathan Bendor)

“Human Trafficking Vulnerability: An Experimental Intervention Using Mass Media to Change Norms and Behaviors in Nepal” (with Margaret Boittin)

“The Etiology of Human Trafficking in Guatemala: Testing the Standard Narrative with Survey Data on Trafficking Survivors” (with William Mishler)

“Tolerance for Labor Exploitation: An Experimental Intervention Using Awareness Campaigns in China” (with Margaret Boittin)

Other Policy Relevant Working Papers

“The Influence of Friends on Educational Attainment: How Having Friends with Educated Parents Promotes College Attendance” (with Elena Grewal)
[Available upon request]

“The Effect of Anti-Smoking Messages Volume and Sources on Motivation to Quit” (with Jon Krosnick and Neil Malhotra)
[Available upon request]

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Contact Information

Cecilia Hyunjung Mo
Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy & Education (by courtesy)
Office: 338 Commons Center
PMB 0505
230 Appleton Place
Nashville, TN 37203-5721
Phone: (615) 936-9795
Fax: (615) 343-6003