Research

Peer-Reviewed Publications

[1] “Constraining Bureaucrats Today Knowing You’ll Be Gone Tomorrow: The Effect of Legislative Term Limits on Statutory Discretion” Forthcoming. Policy Studies Journal.

APSA State Politics and Policy Section SPPQ Best Paper Award (2016)

Abstract: Do finite time horizons constrain a state legislature’s ability to control the bureaucracy? I argue that legislators subject to legislative term limits enact legislation with less statutory discretion today to ensure their preferences are implemented by the bureaucracy tomorrow since most legislators will not be around to monitor the bureaucracy over the long term. Although past works suggest that legislative term limits decrease legislatures’ rate of bureaucratic oversight, I find that term-limited legislatures use ex ante means of bureaucratic control to a greater extent by granting less statutory discretion to the bureaucracy.

 

Working Papers

Please feel free to e-mail me [mvakilif@nyu.edu] to access the current version of the working papers.

[1] “Setting Off the Fire Alarm: The Effect of Interest Group Strength and the Legislative Regulatory Veto on Regulatory Discretion”

Abstract: Legislators are motivated to engage in bureaucratic oversight to maintain the support of key interest groups in the upcoming election. However, it is unclear whether greater interest group strength results in more favorable regulations for the interest group. Across twenty-seven U.S. states with charter school regulations, I test the individual and conditional effects of teacher’s union membership size and the legislative regulatory veto on the number of unfavorable, pro-charter school mandatory words added to a state’s regulations. I find that interest group strength has an impact on regulatory discretion only when legislators have a direct means to amend or veto proposed regulations.

[2] “Constraining Local School Boards of Education to Give Charter Schools a Chance: The Negative Effect of Statutory Discretion on Charter School Growth”

Abstract: What is the effect of charter school authorization, renewal, and revocation statutory discretion on charter school growth? Prior works measure statutory discretion based on the discretion granted to a charter school applicant seeking to open a charter school or an existing charter school seeking to renew its charter. However, the vast majority of statutes on this topic specify how charter school authorizers, namely local school boards of education, shall decide to open, renew, or close a charter school. I evaluate the effect of charter school authorization, renewal, and revocation statutory discretion on charter school growth within a state across forty-one states with charter school laws from 1998 to 2013. The results consistently show that a decrease in statutory discretion, the number of relevant mandatory words in a state’s statutes for charter school authorizers, increases the percent of operating charter schools, the percent of public school students enrolled in a charter school, and the percent of non-white public school students enrolled in a charter school in a given state.

[3] “Strategic Delegation? How Legislators Respond to Electoral Uncertainty” 

Abstract: Are legislators more likely to insulate a bureaucratic agency under electoral uncertainty? Prior studies use observational data to answer this question but the authors disagree on one empirical measure for electoral uncertainty or bureaucratic insulation. I administer a within-subject experiment with U.S. state legislators and legislative staff to compare the rate of bureaucratic insulation under electoral certainty and uncertainty. Once a legislature is subject to electoral uncertainty, I find that legislators and legislative staff are less likely to delegate to a bureaucratic agency led by a gubernatorial appointee. However, respondents disagree on one strategy to minimize executive influence between delegation to an independent agency or multiple agencies. The results suggest that uncertain legislative officials respond to the three strategies of bureaucratic insulation from the legal and political science literature as complementary substitutes, rather than competing alternatives, to minimize executive influence.

[4] “A Bias in Representation: How Local Communities with More Representatives Get More Discretionary Spending” (with Liesel Spangler)

Abstract: Local communities – counties, cities, schools – rely on federal funds to improve infrastructure and expand public goods. Political representation is essential for local communities to achieve these policy goals. Yet we know that the largest local communities are often divided into multiple U.S. House districts. This raises the following question: does an increase in the number of political representatives improve representation? Using a fixed-effects regression, we find that an increase in the number of U.S. House members serving a county results in an increase in federal outlays per capita allocated to that county.

[5] “Does Judicial Selection Affect Judicial Performance? Evidence from a Natural Experiment” (with Thad Kousser)

Abstract: Do elected judges perform better than appointed or merit commission-selected judges? This paper takes advantage of the variation in the means of the selection for trial court judges in Arizona, a state comprised of appointed, elected, and merit commission-nominated trial court judges. This unique context allows us to use an objective measure of judicial performance – the reversal rate of appealed trial court cases by Arizona’s appellate courts – to evaluate judges by their means of selection.  We find that elected court judges have a lower reversal rate than merit commission-nominated judges. Our findings question the conventional wisdom in the state courts literature against judicial elections, and encourage further work on the effects of judges’ means of selection beyond state supreme courts to include state appellate and trial courts.

 

Works in Progress

[1] “The Effect of Decentralization on Educational Attainment” (with Ben Graham and Kaare Strøm)

[2] “How Do Legislators Assess Electoral Uncertainty?”

[3] “The Effect of Electoral Uncertainty on Number and Type of Charter School Authorizers”

[4] “The Effect of Decentralization on Charter School Statutory Discretion and Charter School Growth”