I am an assistant professor in the Department of Politics at the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) in Mexico City. I am also an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. I received a Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University in 2017.
My interests include state-building, the politics of inequality, and historical institutional development, with a regional focus on Latin America. My current book project examines historical state formation in Mexico and Colombia to investigate the origins of territorial variation in several dimensions of state capacity. My research has been awarded by the American Political Science Association (APSA) and supported by grants from Fulbright, the Mexico National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT), and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC).
Per capita municipal tax revenues, 1945
Why do states develop more effective authority in some parts of their territory and domains of governance than in others? Despite the importance of state capacity for political order, economic development, and equal access to citizenship rights, the rise of effective states and the causes of chronic institutional weakness are not well understood. Moreover, few studies have sought to systematically explain the vast differences in state capacity that exist within countries, although this unevenness is a defining feature of many contemporary states.
Conservative Party vote share, average 1930 and 1946
This project examines the historical foundations of state (in)capacity in Mexico and Colombia from a subnational perspective. It presents a theoretical framework to explain variation in the state’s ability to perform core functions within its borders, centered on the impact of historical political cleavages on the process of state formation across territory. I argue that the structure of political conflict between state-building coalitions and their rivals during formative periods of the state shapes spatial patterns of institutional development and receptiveness to state authority. Different types of state-society relations emerge across territory during these critical periods of state-making, depending on who builds the state, for whom, and how. Subnational patterns of societal compliance or resistance to early state-building projects, in turn, have enduring effects on the strength of state institutions and state capacity outcomes along various dimensions. As a result, the geography of state power reflects historical lines of conflict.
Per capita tax revenue, 1950
I test the argument using within-country historical analyses, case studies, and novel historical datasets compiled through extensive archival research in both countries and covering several core dimensions of state power, including taxation, coercion, and public service provision. Drawing on original and highly disaggregated data, the analysis shows that insurgency along a religious divide in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution systematically and enduringly affected the state’s ability to exercise uniform fiscal authority, monopolize violence, and provide routinized order. It also reveals that patterns of state capacity development in Colombia followed a partisan logic, with decisive periods of state-building under the Liberal Party leaving a legacy of lower institutional capacity in more Conservative areas.
I demonstrate that these eminently political factors matter in explaining domestic variation in state strength, even after accounting for differences in socioeconomic development, geographical conditions, preexisting levels of state capacity, and other variables. The study has important implications for our understanding of the process of state formation across geographic space, the origins of state capacity, and the political roots of institutional weakness.
"The Political Economy of NAFTA/USMCA." 2019. In Oxford Encyclopedia of Latin American Politics. (Accepted). (With Gustavo Flores-Macías)
"Authoritarian Legacies and Party System Stability in Mexico." 2018. In Scott Mainwaring (ed.) Party Systems in Latin America: Institutionalization, Decay, and Collapse. New York: Cambridge University Press. (With Kenneth F. Greene)
"The Political Economy of the Minimum Wage: the United States and Latin America in Comparative Perspective." 2016. In From the Minimum Wage to a Decent Wage. Distrito Federal: CESCDMX-Cal y Arena. (In Spanish)
"A Necessary Constitutional Change." 2012. In Social Fairness and Parliamentarism. Edited by Ricardo Becerra. Distrito Federal: Siglo XXI Editores. (In Spanish)
Work in progress
"Building the Modern State: Understanding the Relationship between Order and Taxes with Evidence from Mexico." (Revise & resubmit) (With Gustavo Flores-Macías)
"Social Dissent, Coercive Capacity, and Redistribution: Evidence from Authoritarian Mexico." (With Horacio Larreguy and Juan Felipe Riaño)
"Spatial Inequality, (In)security, and Support for the Tax State: Evidence from Mexico." (With Gustavo Flores-Macías)
"Legacies of Revolution: Peasant Militias and the Rule of Law."
Rural defense militias in postrevolutionary Mexico
Centro de Investigación y Docencia Econónmicas
División de Estudios Políticos
Carretera México-Toluca 3655, Col. Lomas de Santa Fe
Ciudad de México, CP 01210