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Working Papers


When do states choose multilateral sanctions over unilateral ones? Rather than examine downstream disadvantages of multilateral sanctions, such as bargaining and enforcement difficulties, this paper focuses on the tradeoffs inherent in the primary sender’s initial decision. I argue via a formal model that they must balance the cost of establishing and maintaining sanctioning coalitions, which stems from the difference in foreign policy preferences between the primary sender and its potential partners, and the benefit of improved coerciveness of their sanctioning policies. Consequently, primary senders can and often do decide that multilateral sanctioning regimes are not worthwhile. An empirical analysis provides preliminary evidence that primary senders do account for both the cost of including an additional partner and the benefit that the potential partner brings when deciding between the use of multilateral or unilateral sanctions. A model extension shows that results continue to hold when primary senders can use secondary sanctions.


What role do third-party states play in the sanction-sending state’s decision to implement and enforce economic sanctions? Although the influence of economic costs of sanction-busting on the sender’s decision has been well-established, geopolitical costs have been overlooked. I argue that third-party states could introduce geopolitical costs for sanctioning states through two channels: sanction-busting and retribution along other foreign policy dimensions. Through geopolitical costs, different types of third-party states could prevent the sanctioner from enforcing, or even imposing, sanctions. Using a game-theoretic model, I demonstrate the sanction-sender’s need to balance between the cost it would incur from implementing and enforcing economic sanctions under the presence of a strategic third-party state and benefits that it would gain from achieving its goals. When the third-party state sanction-busts for geopolitical reasons, the sender is less likely to impose economic sanctions. Similarly, when a third-party state is more likely to retaliate along other foreign policy dimensions, the sanction-sending state is less likely to impose sanctions. The third-party state is more likely to impose geopolitical costs on the sanction-sending state when the issue under sanction is important for the third-party state and when its own preference is sufficiently different from that of the sanction-sender’s. When the sanction issue is more salient or important to the sender, however, the third-party state is less likely to attempt to sanction-bust. The implications of the model are empirically tested directly through an original dataset of sanction waivers granted. One observable, though indirect, implication is that we should expect to find little to no geopolitical loss for the sanctioner as the geopolitically costly sanctions would have been selected out of in advance. To triangulate the effects of sanctions on geopolitical loss for the sender, I apply a novel empirical method that combines the time series matching model and triplet matching to UNGA voting data.

“Evasive Maneuvers: Understanding the Determinants of Sanction Evasion Using Nightlight Data”


What factors determine a target state's ability to withstand the economic pressure of sanctions? In this paper, I examine the determinants of sanction evasion by the target state vis-a-vis the involvement of third-party non-state actors. Most of the literature on target state resiliency focuses on the ability of targeted governments to implement strategies that would improve regime survival. However, the infliction of economic pain on the target state is the first step to a successful sanction. Therefore, it is vital to understand how the target's economic structure contributes to its ability to withstand sanctions. I posit that target states that export strategic products with little to on substitutes are better able to withstand sanctions, as are those with easier access to alternative markets. I highlight the mediating role of third-party non-state actors such as corporations in the sanctions process. To empirically assess economic sanction evasion, I use nightlight luminosity to measure economic activity in targeted states. As no counterfactuals exist for target states that do not evade sanctions, I use the Elastic Net method to assess whether variables associated with sanction evasion contribute to better prediction of economic activities in the target. I then assess sub-state level variation resulting from the theory through analyzing the differentiating effect of sanctions at the regional level in Russia.

“More Harm than Good? The Effects of Sanctions on Different Aspects of Women’s Rights.” (with Kelly Hunter)


While the linkage between economic growth and women’s rights in low- and middle-income countries has been explored, less emphasis has been placed on how women’s rights are affected by economic statecraft. Prior studies examining the impact of sanctions on women’s rights have focused on economic, political, and social rights codified as laws. We argue that relying on legal rights alone under-predicts and, in some cases, over-predicts the negative outcomes women face as this narrow definition ignores the de facto effects in favor of those that are de jure. What is the impact of economic sanctions on various aspects of women’s rights in the targeted country? Using new data on sanctions from 1960-2019 and new indices on various dimensions of women’s rights, our paper expands the current knowledge of the unintended negative consequences of sanctions by examining women’s societal and health rights. Namely their right to security, inclusion, and health in addition to legal rights. We find that consistent with prior studies, women’s legal rights decline with the presence of sanctions, as do women’s rights to security, and health. While women’s right to inclusion, or the extent to which they are visible in society, decreases 5 years after sanctions have been enacted, these effects are not seen immediately, and political inclusion actually increases. We disaggregate the inclusion index further to tease out how economic factors drive these results. These findings have policy implications for countries interested in promoting sustainable development goals (SDGs), such as SDG 3: Healthy Lives and Well-being and SDG 5: Gender Equality, while also pursuing their own economic statecraft policies. As we move toward 2030, it is important to understand how to employ economic statecraft without derailing the SDGs.


What is the impact of foreign aid withdrawal on various aspects of women’s rights in the targeted country? While the linkage between economic growth and women’s rights in low- and middle-income countries has been explored, less emphasis has been placed on how women’s rights are affected by economic statecraft. There is a rich body of literature confirming that women’s rights are uniquely affected by both natural and human-induced disasters and that looking at overall population effects is inadequate when understanding the impact of these events. This paper builds on scholarship that seeks to identify the effects of a specific type of economic shock, economic sanctions, on women’s rights. In particular, we investigate how aid sanctions, defined as aid withdrawal or the termination of foreign aid, impact the various aspects of women’s rights. Examining the impacts of aid sanctions on vulnerable target populations is critical, particularly as countries eschew conflict in favor of sanction instruments, which purportedly inflict less harm on civilians.

 “The Perceived Effectiveness of Diplomatic Foreign Policy Tools: Evidence from Diplomats in the Philippines” (with Dean Dulay and Rebecca Dudley)


How do foreign policy elites view different diplomatic foreign policy tools? Which tools are seen as more or less effective? The practice of diplomatic foreign policy is central to our understanding of international politics and conflict dynamics, and recent studies have begun to unpack the idea of diplomacy and diplomatic foreign policy. We contribute to this growing understanding by addressing one crucial but understudied element of foreign policy decision-making: the perceived effectiveness of a foreign policy tool. Using a series of conjoint experiments in a survey of diplomats in the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs, we test an argument evaluating the effectiveness of foreign policy tools based on five dimensions: the actor involved in implementation, the type of action taken, whether the action was taken publicly, whether positive inducements were included, and whether negative inducements were included. We find partial support for our argument and insights into the logics of audience costs, diplomatic tracks, and the use of positive and negative inducements in foreign policy.

"Rhetoric vs. Reality: How Aid Sanctions Affect Funding for Local Actors in Aid-Recipient Countries" (with Kelly Hunter and Lucille Right)


The economic and humanitarian consequences of sanctions are borne not only by states but also by local actors such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), and the citizens which they serve. This is especially true in the case of aid withdrawal, a prevalent form of sanctions instrument. By reducing or cutting off the foreign funding on which NGOs and CSOs in developing countries rely to carry out advocacy work and deliver critical health, education, and other public services to citizens, aid withdrawal has the potential to disproportionately disrupt the operations of the third sector. How do aid sanctions impact funding for local actors in target countries? Using the synthetic control method to establish causal inference, we analyze aggregate differences in US foreign assistance to local implementation partners in both sanctioned and non-sanctioned aid recipient countries for the years 2002-2020. We find that in the years following aid sanction imposition, local actors (in both nongovernmental channels and public sector channels) face a slight decrease in US funding, relative to their non-sanctioned counterparts. Finally, we couple this with additional analyses for Uganda and Madagascar, focusing on US foreign assistance to all funding channels (local actors, as well as international NGOs, multilateral organizations, and government actors). Our results show that local public sector channels suffer the greatest decrease in funding relative to control countries. Our analysis sheds light on the micro-impacts of sanctions on the local actors who carry out crucial humanitarian and advocacy work and provides insight into what channels are most affected by US aid withdrawal. 

Work in Progress

"Domestic Support for Economic Sanctions: Legitimacy vs. Efficacy." (with So Jin Lee) [Data Analysis Stage]

"Theory-based Measurement for Varieties of Power Using a Novel Semi-Supervised Approach." (with David Siegel, NSF-funded project) [Data Coding Stage]

"For Want of Control: The Role Private Enterprises and SOEs Play in Economic Sanction Implementation" [Research Design Stage]

"Trusty Friends? Alliance, History, and Diplomat Perceptions of International Agreements." (with Dean Dulay and Rebecca Dudley)[Data Analysis Stage]

"Strategic Ambivalence? An Exploratory Analysis of U.S. Sanction Waivers." [Data Analysis Stage]

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