works in progress

Failing the Test.

[full paper, job market paper]
Virtually every country in the world selects civil servants with examinations. The outcomes of these tests, however, may prompt attitudinal shifts on the part of winners and losers if successful applicants disproportionately hail from specific ethnic, racial, or religious groups. To evaluate this hypothesis, I partner with the Indonesian civil service agency to solicit survey responses from the universe of applicants for civil service jobs, obtaining responses from 204,989 individuals. Matching responses to the database of test scores, I implement a regression discontinuity design to establish three findings concerning narrow losers, compared against narrow winners: they are more likely to (1) support preferential treatment for in-groups, (2) reflect negatively on an ethnically-inclusive national identity, and (3) believe the recruitment process was corrupt. Additional tests decomposing the main results provide support for both an “alienation” effect on the part of losers and an “aggrandizing” effect on the part of winners.  

The Indigenous Civil Service in Late Colonial Indonesia: Insights from a New Dataset.

I present evidence from a newly-collected panel dataset on the indigenous civil service (pangreh pradja) in the Dutch East Indies between 1882–1942. Earlier scholarship has argued that the circulation of bureaucrats in late colonial Indonesia was extensive, and that this process was influential in spurring inter-ethnic contact and, in turn, Indonesian nationalism. Looking at Java, I find strong evidence against this claim: the circulation of indigenous civil servants was rare and, when it did occur, almost never crossed salient ethnic boundaries. Instead, I argue that patterns of aristocratic bureaucratic recruitment amounted to ethnic self-rule. I present partial and circumstantial evidence that this arrangement was still influential in enabling Indonesian nationalism, however, as lesser elites and mass publics from different ethnic groups made common cause of resenting their respective and co-opted aristocratic elite to form cross-cutting identic commitments.

The Representational Consequences of Municipal Civil Service Reform. (with A. Sahn).
A prominent argument holds that the chief aim of municipal civil service reform during the Progressive Era was to dislodge the overrepresentation of recent immigrants in city government. Using new data on all municipal government employees from 1850-1940 matched with the timing of civil service reforms, we demonstrate that (1) recent immigrants tended to be underrepresented in municipal government in all but the largest cities prior to civil service reforms and that (2) the share of local government jobs held by recent immigrants actually increased following the introduction of reforms. We present a revisionist argument in which we show that the influence of machine politics in securing municipal employment for marginalized groups has been overstated in the literature, and that civil service reform in fact opened avenues to representation for members of foreign-born constituencies who had previously been locked out of government jobs.

The Long Run Consequences of The Opium Farms on Ethnic Animosity in Java.

[full paper]
Looking at the Dutch East Indies, I examine the consequences of the opium concession system (1809-1894)—an arrangement in which the Dutch would lease the monopolistic right to sell opium to the highest Chinese bidder. The poverty of the indigenous Javanese, combined with the addictive properties of opium, meant that many fell into destitution at the hands of Chinese vendors. I argue that this institution put in motion a self-reinforcing economic arrangement that enriched one group and embittered the other, with present-day consequences. Consistent with this theory, I find that individuals in villages where the opium concession system was operative during the nineteenth century—compared to individuals in nearby unexposed counterfactual villages—report higher levels of outgroup intolerance. These findings improve our understanding of the historical conditions that structure antagonisms between competing groups.