Does EU Funding Improve Local State Capacity? Evidence from Polish Municipalities (2021) (with Jan Vogler), European Union Politics, 22 (3): 446–471.
Winner of the SAGE Award for the Best Article Published in European Union Politics in 2021
Does EU funding affect local state capacity in recipient countries? Local state capacity is an important indicator of self-governance and a key component of democratization processes. In this study, we focus on two specific types of state capacity, namely (1) the ability to provide information to third parties and (2) to discriminate between different kinds of third-party inquiries. Because the European Union's structural funds are distributed through a competitive mechanism and incentivize expansions in administrative personnel, our theory predicts that high levels of EU funding may bring about a higher bureaucratic capacity equilibrium. We assess our theoretical argument by analyzing the effect of EU structural funds on building local government capacity in the largest recipient country, post-communist Poland. Through a randomized survey with more than 2,400 municipal administrations in Poland, we find that local administrations which have benefited more from EU funding, have developed higher levels of discrimination capacity. At the same time, we do not find sufficient evidence for increases in information provision capacity.
Burghers into Peasants: Political Economy of City Status in Congress Poland (under review)
Throughout history, European towns were granted a ‘city’ status that transferred political power to burghers and democratized governance, driving urban development. I argue that institutions privileging urban at the expense of landed elites may generate better outcomes even in the absence of democracy and may actually outperform democracy if it leads to political control by landed elites. Using original town-level data, I draw on evidence from an 1869 reform in Congress Poland which deprived three-quarters of the 452 cities of their city status, giving political rights to landed but not urban elites. I show that degraded cities experienced a 64 percentage points slower population growth over the next 40 years. City status was associated with greater public goods provision and more effective judiciary in remaining cities, and contributed to a relative agrarianization of degraded cities. I discuss implications for our understanding of the role of inclusive institutions in promoting development.
Immigration is a contentious political issue. Efforts to stem immigration, while applauded by some, can impose costs on citizens. Do voters reward or punish such actions even when they infringe on democratic freedoms? We tackle this question in the context of the migration crisis that unfolded on the Poland-Belarus border in 2021. To curb migrant flows, Poland introduced a state of emergency along the border. This policy also infringed on democratic freedoms, including limitations on freedom of movement and assembly. In pre-registered analyses, we exploit the highly localized nature of these restrictions to investigate their electoral consequences, drawing on 2019 and 2023 parliamentary elections. Using a difference-in-discontinuities design, we will examine how voters evaluate the tradeoff between policy and democratic freedoms, seeking to understand the broader implications for democratic societies.
From Feudalism to Populism: Evidence from Poland
What explains the support for populism? During early industrialization, the path of industrialization, as reflected in advances in transportation technology, has determined the spatial pattern of urbanization which through path dependence persistently shapes contemporary economic fortunes. I argue that geographies where urbanization was concentrated in fewer and relatively more populous urban centers will be conducive to a high level of inequality in access to economic opportunities, and that resentment over the resulting relative deprivation generates demand for populism. I test my theory empirically by looking at the case of Poland, and using an original dataset find evidence that differences in the extent of the construction of railways between and within Austrian, Russian and German empires pursued in what is now Poland have persistently shaped the distribution of economic fortunes in space and explain the spatial distribution of support for the populist Law and Justice.
Do local-level political institutions matter for national-level electoral outcomes? We explore the effects of a 2011 electoral reform in Poland that replaced proportional representation with single-member districts in municipal council elections in some but not all municipalities. We contend that the reform affected local party branches, which benefited specific political parties and gave them a relative advantage in subsequent national elections. Difference-in-differences analysis and placebo tests demonstrate that increases in the share of independent municipal councilors have benefited the already well-established parties and solidified the national-level political landscape. These findings demonstrate that local institutions impact the linkages between voters and national parties, which ultimately affect democratic robustness.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Contestation and long-term persistence of institutions in Poland
This study examines the enduring impact of contested political institutions on human behavior, even after the institutions have ceased to exist. It argues that individuals may challenge unfavorable formal institutions, leading to norms that counter these institutions. I develop a model of contested institutions, demonstrating how formal institutions can leave a lasting influence even after their disappearance and how this persistence need not mirror the equilibria originally maintained by the institutions. To test this argument empirically, I investigate the long-term effects of a Polish city reform of 1869, which for 50 years, led to varied town-level institutions in their favorability for entrepreneurial classes. The study reveals that the towns with historically unfavorable institutions for entrepreneurship have developed enduring pro-entrepreneurship norms, resulting in more entrepreneurial populations today.