* Graduate student coauthor.


Lost in transition: Quasi-experimental Approaches to Estimating the Impact of Structural Transitions

Atteberry, A. C., R. Wedow, N. J. Cook, and A. McEachin. Under review.


Ethnicity, Participation, and Natural Resource Decentralization

Solo author. In preparation. Presented at the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management Fall Research Conference.

Abstract: Countries across the Global South have transferred collective property rights over natural resources to local user groups—village councils for the governance and management of natural resources. Although these reforms promise to promote conservation while allowing the rural poor to collect important resource-related benefits, experiences from the first decades of natural resource decentralization suggest that these policy arrangements often suffer from inequalities in participation, representation, and benefit distribution, mirroring pre-existing social inequalities by ethnicity, gender, and class. This paper argues that not all reforms are created equal, and presents Nepalese forestry decentralization as an exceptional case that has avoided some of the inequalities that occur under decentralized resource governance. Focusing specifically on ethnic inequalities in participation, this paper argues that due to the design of the reform, ethnic minority households are more likely to take advantage of the reform and participate in the local institutions of decentralization compared to households of the historically advantaged ethnic elite. This is due primarily to redistributive and pro-minority practices by local user groups, practices that are mandated by external actors such as international development agencies and the government. Using a nationally representative household survey following the implementation of decentralized forestry under the Forest Act of 1993, I show that local implementation of the reform is associated with a larger increase in community forestry participation for ethnic minority households than for other households. Additionally, detailed data on a smaller sample of member households indicate that when ethnic minority households participate in decentralized forestry, they tend to devote equivalent amounts of time to local activities as non-minority households in their village, and tend to evaluate decentralized forestry just as positively. Results from a machine learning analysis suggest that subtle biases in participation by class and gender remain, despite the apparent success of ethnic minority inclusion. 

Promoting Female Leadership Under Natural Resource Decentralization: The Roles of Domestic Policy, International Aid, and Population Change

Cook, N. J., M. E. Benedum,* and G. Gorti.*

Abstract: We use the case of a forestry-sector decentralization reform in Nepal to test the relative importance of domestic policy, foreign assistance, and population change for promoting female leadership in the local institutions of natural resource decentralization. Using a regression discontinuity design and a census of local natural resource governance committees formed in villages across the country formed under the reform, we show that a non-binding government guideline encouraging committees to prioritize female representation resulted in an estimated 8% increase in the number of female leaders on these committees. Using a difference-in-differences design, we show that foreign aid projects focused on women’s empowerment in the natural resource sectors can have a similar impact, but we find no evidence for a more general effect following aid projects that lack this specific focus. Finally, we instrument for male out-migration in Nepalese villages, and find no effect of male out-migration on the promotion of female leadership in local natural resource governance committees. The results highlight the importance of domestic policy (even without stringent enforcement) and well-designed development projects for promoting female leadership under decentralization. 

The Effects of Ethnic Quotas on Grassroots Participation in Village Government: Evidence from a Policy Experiment in India

Solo author. In preparation. Presented at the American Political Science Association annual meeting.

Gender Parity Policies and Women’s Participation in Local Collective Action

*Kaur, K. and N. J. Cook. In preparation.

Out-Migration and Participation in Natural Resource Governance: The Role of Remittances

*Benedum, M. E. and N. J. Cook. In preparation.

Participatory Spillovers Under Decentralization

Solo author. In preparation. Presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association and the Environmental Politics and Governance Conference.

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