Current Projects

On this page, I provide information about a selection of current projects.

Co-PI, CEDIL DFID Large Project Grant: Evaluating Governance Reform in Nepal Using a Case-Control Approach

Nepal adopted a new constitution in 2015 designed to transition the country to a federal state with three levels of government at national, provincial and municipal level. For the first time, considerable decision-making authority will reside among 753 local government units (LGs). The Provincial and Local Government Support Programme (PLGSP) is a multi-faceted intervention to build the capacity of LGs to effectively administer their new powers. This study will evaluate the PLGSP using an innovative case-control design coupled with pre- and post-intervention outcome measures and synthetic control modeling. With Co-PI Sudhanshu Handa, we will survey households in 90 randomly selected LGs across 3 provinces prior to the start of the PLGSP, and then two years later. We will define cases as those with significant improvement in key governance outcomes, and the remaining LGs will constitute the control group. We will re-weight the control LGs using recent developments in the synthetic control literature to correct for selection bias, and adjust for baseline differences in order to estimate the causal effect of the program on government effectiveness. Due to their complex nature, evidence on decentralization interventions is typically limited to outputs. This is the first study to provide a rigorous evaluation of a nation-wide decentralization program on long-term outcomes. NOTE: Due to funding uncertainty within FCDO, this project has been suspended.

Co-PI, World Bank SIEF Nimble Evaluation and DFID Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) Project, Detecting and Deterring Medication Theft: A Field Study in Health Clinics in Malawi

The theft of medicines costs governments and donors billions of dollars annually. In Malawi, the government loses about 30 percent of the drugs and medical supplies it purchases to theft. Despite years of donor-funded third-party distribution systems, a survey we conducted in 2015 found that 35 percent of private clinics were selling donor-supplied anti-malarial drugs that had been donated for free use. This evaluation will test the impact of different informational interventions on reducing drug theft, including providing information to clinic officials about a government tracking program to monitor drug supplies in each clinic and the penalties associated with stolen drugs; training communities to obtain information and monitor and report on drug delivery dates, drug availability, and clinic responsibilities; and a combination intervention. Read more about our baseline data collection findings in this blog post. NOTE: Due to the sensitive nature of this project, please contact me for additional research design details.

Co-PI, USAID-DRG Impact Evaluation: Local Government Accountability Program (LGAP) in Malawi

USAID/Malawi is carrying out the five-year Local Government Accountability Program (LGAP). This large-scale accountability initiative includes many components, and the impact evaluation (Co-PIs: Lucy Martin and myself) is focusing on the components that aim to improve revenue generation at the local level. Specifically, in a 2×2 factorial experiment, we will examine how mitigating barriers to district tax collection capacity (a top-down approach) and mitigating barriers to market vendor tax compliance (a bottom-up approach) affect revenue from daily market fees. A policy report for this project can be found here.

PI, Exploring Scalable, Efficient Innovations to Improve Tax Compliance among MSMEs

In Zambia, tax compliance rates are very low, especially among the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Concerns have been raised by some MSMEs that the current institutions, modes, and approaches employed in taxing MSMEs are outdated, costly, or otherwise cumbersome. Funded by the International Growth Centre, the objective of this research project is to explore the possible barriers to and solutions for these low payment and filing compliance rates among MSMEs in Zambia. Beyond addressing a critical question affecting many revenue collecting agencies in Zambia, the study will shed light on more general barriers to tax compliance, a significant policy issue plaguing many developing countries, especially where formal-legal structures are weak and governments lack the capacity to expansively enforce tax policy. A primary aim of this research is to discern efficient and effective avenues for improving voluntary tax compliance and, perhaps more importantly, tax morale among citizens. As voluntary tax compliance is the antidote to coercive tax policy, explaining the drivers of tax morale enables tax authorities to avoid enacting costly, cumbersome, and coercive policies.

Principal Investigator, Digital Society Project

I am a founding Principal Investigator (with Valeriya Mechkova, Daniel Pemstein, and Steven Wilson) of the Digital Society Project, which aims to answer some of the most important questions surrounding interactions between the internet and politics. Created using the award-winning V-Dem infrastructure, the DSP dataset is the product of a global survey of hundreds of country and area experts, covering virtually all countries in the world from 2000 to 2019. The primary goal of this project is to provide high-quality, publicly available data describing the intersection between politics and social media. See coverage of this project in The Washington Post and Taipei Times.

Project Manager of Experiments, Varieties of Democracy Project

As a Project Manager with V-Dem, my role is to conduct experiments that validate and improve the V-Dem data. So far, I have fielded four experiments. The first experiment validates the V-Dem validation procedures by comparing observation rank orderings obtained via the likert questions and measurement model to those obtained through a Bradley-Terry model applied to crowd-sourced and expert-coded rankings of pairs of observations. The second experiment is the execution of anchoring vignettes to account for cross-country differences in scales across expert coders providing data to V-Dem. A third experiment, rolled out in the 2018 V-Dem update, evaluates the extrinsic and intrinsic motivations of expert coders. The fourth experiment examines the conditions under which crowd-sourced data can substitute for expert-coded data. I am also one of the co-authors on a book about the V-Dem project, forthcoming from Cambridge University Press. Finally, I am co-PI (with Valeriya Mechkova) on the V-Dem project with USAID, overseen by NORC at the University of Chicago. See a summary of the work completed in the first phase of this project (second phase underway) here.


If you are interested in working as a Research Assistant on my research projects, please send a CV and cover letter via email. Please be sure you discuss particular research skills and past research experience that you have. If you are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy at UNC-Chapel Hill, please send me an email and find general information about the program and application process here. If you are interested in pursuing a M.A. in Global Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, please send me an email and find general information about the program and application process here.