(Desert landscape outside Abu Dhabi. Leah Rosenzweig).

The Working Group for African Politics (WGAPE), now in its seventeenth year, is a community of scholars created to provide constructive feedback on works in progress. Hosted by the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), WGAPE has several workshop-style gatherings throughout the year with the latest hosted by NYU-Abu Dhabi January 26-27, 2019. Over two days, eight early stage papers were discussed, including two from MIT GOV/LAB researchers Kelly Zhang and Leah Rosenzweig (abstracts below). Per WGAPE rules, draft papers are read in advance and each author gets a full hour devoted to receiving feedback.  

  • Politician charity and corruption in KenyaKelly Zhang, GOV/LAB Research Scientist. Abstract: Using data from village surveys, this paper considers how politicians use charity in the form of cash handouts and local fundraiser contributions to build an individual track record with the electorate in off-election years. Vignette experiments demonstrate that candidate corruption reduces voter support, but that the punishment effect is potentially diminished by politician charity. List experiments illustrate how voters want politicians to use government resources to help the needy and to provide charitable assistance, but are ambivalent about politicians abusing local funds to assist the poor. Overall, the results suggest that citizens prefer politicians to be honest, but have high expectations of politician charity, even though it is strongly associated with corruption.
  • Democratization through dissent: trendsetters and norm change in East AfricaLeah Rosenzweig, Institute of Advanced Study and GOV/LAB Research Affiliate. Abstract: In the presence of a social norm of voting, which individuals are the first to defect and go against the grain? Can these “first movers” weaken the strength of the norm? I examine these questions in the context of a social norm of voting among rural citizens in east Africa. Using data from a lab-in-the-field voting experiment conducted in Tanzania and Uganda, I identify the trendsetters and investigate under what conditions threats to the social norm of voting arise. The data provide insights into how dissent and citizen demand for democratization might manifest in electoral-authoritarian regimes.


Researchers at WGAPE in Abu Dhabi.



This year’s Annual WGAPE meeting will be held in Cape Town, South Africa in July (application details).