Failing the Test: The Countervailing Attitudinal Effects of Civil Service Examinations.
I surveyed the universe of recent applicants to the Indonesian civil service to study the effects of high stakes examinations on political attitudes. Leveraging applicants' scores on the civil service examination, I employ a regression discontinuity design to compare the attitudes of applicants who narrowly failed against those who narrowly passed. I show that the simple fact of failure on the civil service examination negatively affects applicants’ belief in the legitimacy of the process, some attitudes towards outgroups, and identification with their national identity. Next, I find that applicants who were offered—and accepted—employment in the civil service reported higher satisfaction with the process, greater amity towards outgroups, and higher identification with their national identity. Together, these results suggest that civil service examinations may have unintended consequences for social cohesion—particularly in contexts where successful applicants disproportionately hail from specific ethnic, racial, or religious groups.
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 a chief aim of municipal civil service reform in the United States was to dislodge the overrepresentation of recent immigrants in city government. Leveraging new data on all municipal employees from 1850–1940, and employing three research designs, we detect no evidence that the share of local government jobs held by foreign-born whites decreased following the introduction of reforms. Instead, we show that foreign-born whites—Irish immigrants in particular—experienced substantial gains in local government employment, concentrated in blue collar occupations in small-to-medium sized municipalities. Together, our results call for a revisionist interpretation of Progressive Era reforms by questioning generalizations drawn from the experience of the largest cities in the United States. For most municipalities, instead, 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.
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.