I am currently an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. I will join the faculty of the Center for International Studies at El Colegio de México (Colmex) in 2021. I received a Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University. My dissertation received the 2018 William Anderson Award to the best dissertation in the general field of federalism or intergovernmental relations, state, and local politics, from the American Political Science Association (APSA). Between 2018 and 2020, I was an Assistant Professor of Politics at the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) in Mexico City.
My interests include state-building, democracy, 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.
Per capita municipal tax revenues, 1945
"A Partisan Pandemic: State Public Health Policies to Combat Covid-19 in Brazil." 2021. BMJ Global Health. 6(6). (With Michael Touchton, Felicia Knaul, et al.)
"Not Far Enough: Mexican States’ Performance in Applying Public Health Policies to Combat COVID-19." 2021. PLOS One. 16(6). (With Felicia Knaul, Héctor Arreola-Ornelas, Thalia Porteny, Michael Touchton et al.)
"Mexico's Response to COVID-19: A Case Study." 2021. Institute for Global Health Sciences, UCSF. Prepared for the World Health Organization’s Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. (Lead Author. With Eduardo González-Pier, Jaime Sepúlveda, Lucía Abascal-Miguel, Jane Fieldhouse, Carlos del Río, and Sarah Gallalee). (Versión en español).
"One-Eyed State: The Politics of Legibility and Property Taxation." 2020. Latin American Politics and Society 62, n.3.     [Online Appendix]
"Building the Modern State in Developing Countries: Perceptions of Public Safety and (Un)willingness to pay Taxes in Mexico." 2020. Politics & Society 48, n.3. (With Gustavo Flores-Macías)
- Partially reprinted and updated in Balance Temprano. Desde la Izquierda Democrática, eds. Ricardo Becerra and José Woldenberg. Ciudad de México: Grano de Sal, 2020.
"Mexico's Party System Under Stress." 2018. Journal of Democracy 29, n.4 (October). (With Kenneth F. Greene)
Izquierda, Democracia y Cambio Social. PRD: 1989-2019. Edited volume. 2020. Ciudad de México: Cal y Arena. (Edited with Ricardo Becerra)
Las caras de Jano: 90 años del PRI. Edited volume. 2019. Ciudad de México: CIDE. (Edited with Ricardo Becerra)
“¿La venganza del ‘pueblo’? La democracia frente a sí misma.” Editor, special issue, Conﬁguraciones 48-49 (January-August 2019). Essays by Lührmann and Lindberg, Urbinati, Roberts, Riofrancos, Schedler, González and Saffon, Becerra, Pantoja, Oñate.
"La recesión democrática como un problema de estatalidad." 2021. In Rolando Cordera and Enrique Provencio, eds. Informe del desarrollo en México. UNAM, Programa Universitario de Estudios del Desarrollo. Forthcoming.
"1989-2019. La política en una época de desgarramiento social." 2020. In Izquierda, democracia y cambio social: PRD, 1989-2019, eds. Ricardo Becerra and Mariano Sánchez-Talanquer. Ciudad de México: Cal y Arena.
"The Political Economy of NAFTA/USMCA." 2019. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Oxford University Press. (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)     [Online Appendix]
"La economía política del salario mínimo: Estados Unidos y América Latina en perspectiva comparada." 2016. In Del salario mínimo al salario digno. Distrito Federal: CESCDMX-Cal y Arena.
"A Necessary Constitutional Change." 2012. In Equidad social y parlamentarismo. Edited by Ricardo Becerra. Distrito Federal: Siglo XXI Editores.
Work under review and in progress
"Crime, Social Distance, and Elite Support for Redistribution in Unequal Societies." (With Gustavo Flores-Macías and Vincent Mauro)
"Inequities in access to COVID-19 tests, diagnosis, and death-counting: Evidence from Mexico’s municipalities." (With Michael Touchton and Felicia Knaul)
"Suffrage Restrictions and the Reach of the Nation-State." 2019 award for best paper presented in the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA), Comparative Democratization Section.
"Spatial Inequality, (In)security, and Support for the Tax State: Evidence from Mexico." (With Gustavo Flores-Macías)
"The Revolution Speaks Spanish: The Geography of Assimilation and Nation-building."
Rural defense militias in postrevolutionary Mexico
The Geography of State Power: Domestic Conflict and State-building in Colombia and Mexico
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, its propensity to collaborate with popular militias, or the provision of basic education across territory. Such patterns of state development help explain spatial inequalities, the emergence of vigilantism, and other important outcomes down the road. The analysis also documents that patterns of state capacity development in Colombia followed a partisan logic. Variables like land registration in cadasters, property tax revenues, or literacy rates have all bore the marks of partisan processes of state-making for over a century. Yet, not all forms of state strength or weakness point in the same direction in any given region. Rather, the state's authority is uneven across territory and domains simultaneously, producing seemingly counterintuitive patterns. A focus on the deep domestic political struggles makes the complex geography of state power intelligible.
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.
"Orden y desorden político de México." February 2021. Nexos n. 518.
" Las Defensas Rurales del Ejército y las raíces históricas de la militarización." October 2020. Programa para el Estudio de la Violencia, CIDE.
"Errada y errática: la respuesta gubernamental a la pandemia." August 2020. Nexos (With Felicia Knaul, Julio Frenk, Salomón Chertorivski, and Héctor Arreola-Ornelas)
"La letalidad hospitalaria por COVID-19 en México: desigualdades institucionales." August 2020. Nexos, Taller de Datos.
" Mexico’s Economic Austerity is a Danger. Including for the U.S." June 2020. (With Kenneth F. Greene)
"La desfiguración de la representación política: populismo y bonapartismo en el siglo XXI," in "¿La venganza del 'pueblo'? La democracia frente a sí misma," ed. Mariano Sánchez-Talanquer, special issue, Configuraciones 48-49 (Jan-Aug 2019): 10-30.
" Los derechos cuestan: debilidad fiscal y límites de la "Cuarta Transformación." January 2019. Primer Saque.
A Trade Deal Worse than NAFTA. October 1, 2018. The New York Times. (With Gustavo Flores-Macías)
NAFTA’s Overhaul: From Stability to Uncertainty. September 2018. Foreign Policy Research Institute. (With Gustavo Flores-Macías)
El Panorama Electoral en América Latina en 2018. Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica 18, n.1. (With Gustavo Flores-Macías)