MPSA Award Recipients - 2017

The MPSA sponsors many awards for outstanding research presented at the MPSA Conference and one award for the best article published in each volume of the American Journal of Political Science (AJPS). Nominations are made by conference chairs, discussants, and section heads after the conference. Award committees select the winning papers. Awards are announced at the MPSA business meeting during the conference the following year.

The following awards were presented at the 2017 conference for research presented at the 2016 conference:

Best Paper by an Emerging Scholar

A $250 award for the best paper, regardless of field or topic, by a scholar or scholars who has or have received the terminal degree(s) within six years of the year in which the paper was presented.

Vigilante Mobilization and Local Order: Evidence from Mexico
Javier Osorio, City University of New York
Livia I. Schubiger, London School of Economics
Michael Weintraub, Binghamton University, SUNY

Award Committee: Suzanna Linn, Penn State University (Chair); Danny Hayes, George Washington University; David Stasavage, New York University

Committee Commendation: Javier Osorio, Livia Schubiger, and Michael Weintraub's paper is one of the first efforts to use careful empirics to examine the phenomenon of local self-defense against criminals. In areas where the state fails to ensure a monopoly of violence, why do some local communities take matters into their own hands? The authors ask this question in the Mexican context using a novel measure of vigilante presence based on machine-coded news reports. They then show that vigilante presence today is correlated with a local legacy of violent collective action during the Cristero rebellion of the 1920s. This paper deserves to be widely read and cited.

Best Paper in International Relations

A $250 award for the best paper on the topic of international relations.

Rural Grievances, Landholding Inequality and Civil Conflict
Henry Roderick Thomson, University of Oxford

Award Committee: Vesna Danilovic, University at Buffalo (Chair); David Cunningham, University of Maryland; Karl Kalenthaler, University of Akron

Committee Commendation: In the times of rising socio-economic inequality, Henry Thomson’s paper makes a timely contribution to the discipline. Scholarship has made important strides in our understanding of the interconnection between inequality and domestic stability, yet it is still replete with unresolved analytical issues. This paper addresses one of the central research puzzles in this area: how to account for the mixed findings about economic inequality and domestic unrest when the societies that experience civil conflict are precisely those in which the rural economy predominates with significant disparities in land ownership. This in turn should reasonably be expected to be at the core of grievances leading to unrest. Thomson draws a fine conceptual distinction, resulting in his innovative measurement for economic inequality. He also offers a novel theoretical account for the apparent paradoxical nature of having both stability and instability in societies with a moderate to highly unequal distribution of land. The presented cross-national empirical analysis, which robustly validated his arguments, is equally impressive in its methodological proficiency and sophistication. The nominated papers were of high quality and the competition was strong, but it is the committee’s consensus that Henry Thomson’s exceptionally innovative paper on several levels—theoretical, conceptual, and empirical—makes a significant contribution to the studies of conflict and international relations, and is indeed the deserving recipient of the Award for the Best Paper in International Relations presented at the 2016 MPSA conference.


Best Paper Presented by a Graduate Student

A $250 award for best paper by delivered by a graduate student. 

Can New Procedures Improve the Quality of Policing? The Case of 'Stop, Question and Frisk' in New York City
Jonathan Mummolo, Stanford University

Award Committee: Rene Rocha, The University of Iowa (Chair); Leslie Schwindt-Baer, Rice University; Martin Johnson, Louisiana State University


Committee Commendation: Most believe that racial discrimination in policing results from implicit and explicit biases as we as sociological forces, which are difficult to change with policy. But Mummolo—relying on both quantitative and qualitative methods—shows that small changes in policing practices can dramatically decease unjustified stops. This finding causes us to rethink the power of policy to shape social outcomes.


Best Paper Presented in a Poster Format

A $250 award for the best paper presented in a poster format.

Mobile Phone Ownership, Gender, and Political Participation in Africa
Matthew Bondy, College of William & Mary

Award Committee: Marisa Abrajano, University of California, San Diego (Chair); Jason Barabas, Stony Brook University; Jie Lu, American University

Committee Commendation: Bondy’s paper examines the effects of mobile phone ownership on political engagement. He conducts a RCT in Tanzania and analyzes observational data from the Afrobarometer survey and finds that mobile phone ownership is positively correlated with political participation.  The committee was impressed by both the theoretical and analytical contributions of the paper. 

Best Undergraduate Paper Presented in a Poster Format

A $250 award for the best paper presented in a poster format by an undergraduate.

The Effect of Nationality on Grass-root Volunteer and Donors Support for Nongovernmental Organizations 
Laura Boyer, Brigham Young University

Award Committee: Christine Lipsmeyer, Texas A&M University (Chair); Chris Mann, Skidmore College; Eric Gonzalez Juenke, Michigan State University

Committee Commendation: In this ambitious and thoroughly executed paper, Boyer explores how local and foreign aid workers can influence grass-roots support and opinion of NGOs. Bringing together elite interviews and quantitative data, this novel paper tackles an under-explored issue—in-country volunteers’ support—from multiple angles, culminating in an impressive all-around paper.

Kellogg/Notre Dame Award

A $250 award for the best paper in comparative politics.

Anti-Identities in Latin America: Chavismo, Fujimorismo, and Uribismo in Comparative Perspective 
Jennifer Cyr, University of Arizona
Carlos Meléndez, Universidad Diego Portales

Award Committee: Sarah Brooks, The Ohio State University (Chair); Alex Tan, University of Canterbury; Zeynep Somer-Topcu, The University of Texas at Austin

Committee Commendation: This paper develops an original theory to explain important negative partisan political movements in developing, less stable political systems. While a considerable body of research has examined negative partisanship in recent years, the overwhelming focus of this literature has been on advanced industrial democracies. Cyr and Meléndez make an important contribution to research on political behavior and representation by showing how non-cohesive and unorganized anti-identities can develop against the dominant regime in developing countries.

Kenneth J. Meier Award

A $250 award for the best paper in bureaucratic politics, public administration, or public policy.

Slow-Rolling, Fast-Tracking, and the Pace of Bureaucratic Decisions in Rulemaking 
Rachel Augustine Potter, University of Virginia

Award Committee: Vicky Wilkins, American University (Chair); Christopher Berry, University of Chicago; Valerie Martinez-Ebers, University of North Texas

Lucius Barker Award

A $250 award for the best paper on a topic investigating race or ethnicity and politics and honoring the spirit and work of Professor Barker.

Saved from a Second Slavery:  Black Voter Registration in Louisiana from Reconstruction to the Voting Rights Act
William Cubbison, George Washington University
Ismail White, George Washington University

Award Committee: Micheal Giles, Emory University (Chair); Lorrie Frasure-Yokley, University California, Los Angeles; Valeria Sinclair-Chapman, Purdue University

Committee Commendation: In a counter point to V.O Keys “racial threat” hypothesis, Cubbison and White make a unique theoretical contribution by arguing that an increase in percent black entails the possibility of an increase in black social capital and agency. They support their argument with an analysis of a unique historical data set of voter registration and school attendance by race in Louisiana.

Review of Politics Award (co-winners)

A $250 award for the best paper in normative political theory.

Reparative Justice and the Moral Limits of Discretionary Philanthropy
Chiara Cordelli, University of Chicago

Committee Commendation: The paper is an impressive piece of analytic work, with a bold and innovative normative argument. Cordelli argues that private philanthropy should not be understood as altruism, but as contributions to repair harms of present and past injustices.

Edmund Burke and the Deliberative Sublime
Rob Goodman, Columbia University

Committee Commendation: The paper is an impressive, historically learned, and beautifully written reading of Burke. Goodman argues that Burke developed a subtle understanding of the important relationship between constitutional machinery and deliberative judgment, both of which are necessary for polities to thrive. 

Award Committee: Mark Warren, University of British Columbia (Chair); Clarissa Rile Hayward, Washington University, St. Louis; Eileen Hunt Botting, University of Notre Dame


Robert H. Durr Award

A $250 award for the best paper applying quantitative methods to a substantive problem.

Of Rents and Rumors:  Government Competence and Media Freedom in Authoritarian Countries 
Haifeng Huang, University of California, Merced
Yao-Yuan Yeh, University of California, Merced

Award Committee: Michael Alvarez, CalTech (Chair); Christina Wolbrecht, University of Notre Dame; David Siegel, Duke University

Committee Commendation: In their paper, Huang and Yeh build a theoretical model of an authoritarian state in which the ruler can prevent rebellion by allowing media freedom.  They build a dataset of authoritarian countries, from 1993 to 2014, and test the predictions of their theoretical model using a variety of approaches to assess the robustness of their theoretical claims.  Their paper is an excellent example of research that develops a useful theoretical model and tests it using quantitative data with multiple methods.  Their approach helps Huang and Yeh answer important substantive questions about why different authoritarian regimes allow for varying levels of media freedoms:   While a free media can be dangerous for an authoritarian regime, it also lets citizens learn when the regime is not responsible for problematic economic performance, thus lowering the chance that citizens incorrectly launch an insurrection against an otherwise economically competent authoritarian state.  

Sophonisba Breckinridge Award

A $250 award for the best paper on the topic of women and politics.

Making Space for Women: Explaining Citizen Support for Legislative Gender Quotas in Latin America
Tiffany D. Barnes, University of Kentucky
Abby Córdova, University of Kentucky

Award Committee: Mona Lena Krook, Rutgers University (Chair); Evelyn Simien, University of Connecticut; Sarah F. Anzia, UC Berkeley



Committee Commendation:

The paper theorizes and empirically analyzes citizen support for legislative gender quotas in Latin America. The authors argue that institutional performance and political values interact in gendered ways to explain differences in men's and women's support for quotas. Using data from 24 Latin American countries, they find that good governance increases men's support, while preferences for increased government involvement determine patterns of women's support.

The committee was impressed with the original theorizing and excellent research design reflected in this paper, which in turn constitutes a major advance in the gender and politics literature by connecting quality of governance, political values, and gender to levels of policy support. It also advances the rapidly expanding literature on gender quotas -- which has primarily focused on candidates and political parties -- by looking at how citizens respond to these policy reforms.

Pi Sigma Alpha Award

A $250 award for the best paper presented at the MPSA Annual National Conference. Sponsored by Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society.

Judicial Federalism and Representation
Jonathan P. Kastellec, Princeton University

Award Committee: Peter Enns, Cornell University (Chair); Irfan Nooruddin, Georgetown University; Lonna Atkeson, University of New Mexico

Committee Commendation:  “Judicial Federalism and Representation” develops a theory for how judicial federalism in the United States affects the relationship between public opinion and policy within the states. The theoretical model and rich empirical analysis offer important insights into the U.S. judicial system, state public opinion, representation, and prominent Supreme Court decisions.

AJPS Best Article Award

A $1,000 award for the best article appearing in the volume of the American Journal of Political Science published in the year preceding the conference.

Sources of Authoritarian Responsiveness: A Field Experiment in China
Jidong Chen, Beijing Normal University
Jennifer Pan, Stanford University
Yiqing Xu, University of California, San Diego

Award Committee: Adam Berinsky, MIT (Chair); Margit Tavits, Washington University, St. Louis; Vera Troeger, University of Warwick

Committee Commendation: Chen, Pan and Xu use a clever and rigorous research design to study one of the central questions in political science: responsiveness under authoritarianism. Focusing on China, they find that threats of collective action and threats of “tattling” to upper levels of government motivate officials to respond to their citizens. They collect novel and original data through an online field experiment among 2,103 Chinese counties which allows analyzing the factors that affect officials’ incentives to respond to citizens in an authoritarian context. The paper is extremely well written and accessible to a wide audience in political science, it is very well cited already and can and will inspire future research in this area.