Assistant Professor of Political Science:
Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro's research interests include comparative political institutions, political behavior, and the political economy of development, with a particular focus on Latin America.
She is currently completing a book manuscript on clientelism and social policy in Argentine municipalities. Separate projects examine citizen attitudes towards corruption in Brazil and the role of brokers in getting votes in Argentina.
Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro is the Stanley J. Bernstein Assistant Professor of Political Science at Brown University. She received her Ph.D. with distinction from Columbia University in May, 2008. Her research is focused on understanding the conditions under which democratic competition coexists with practices that undermine the quality of political representation and government accountability, with an empirical focus on Latin America. She is currently completing a book on clientelism and social policy in Argentine municipalities. She is also working on collaborative projects that examine citizen attitudes towards corruption in Brazil and the role of brokers in vote-buying in Argentina, respectively. She has published or forthcoming articles in the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Comparative Politics, the Latin American Research Review, and Latin American Politics and Society.
Professor Weitz-Shapiro's research aims to understand variation in the quality of representation and accountability within new democracies. As many third-wave democracies enter their second or even third decade of existence, concerns about national democratic consolidation have waned. Nonetheless, in a number of these countries, free and fair elections coexist with democracy-distorting practices that raise serious questions about the quality of democracy that citizens experience. Professor Weitz-Shapiro's completed and ongoing projects seek to understand the conditions under which phenomena that diminish the quality of representation and accountability can survive-or even thrive-in competitive electoral environments.
Weitz-Shapiro's research is particularly attuned to the difficulty of measuring these accountability-diminishing practices, many of which are informal, illegal, or intentionally hidden from public view. In her research, she has collected original data using survey experiments, elite surveys, and in-depth interviews. In addition, much of her work has employed subnational data collection.
Weitz-Shapiro is finishing a book manuscript that focuses on the phenomenon of political clientelism: the individualized exchange of goods and services for political support. The manuscript, "Paths to Accountability within Democracy: Curbing Clientelism in Local Government," asks why, within the same country, state, and even political party, some politicians rely on clientelism while others opt not to. Weitz-Shapiro argues that political competition has mixed consequences for politician incentives to employ clientelism: only when high competition is coupled with low poverty do politicians opt out of clientelism. She supports this hypothesis using results of a survey of policy implementation in over 120 Argentine municipalities, a mass survey experiment, and qualitative interviews.
Another project (joint with Matthew S. Winters, UIUC), currently underway, seeks to understand when and why citizens will punish political corruption. In the first stage of this project, the authors fielded an experiment embedded into a nationally-representative survey in Brazil. Their initial findings show that, contrary to popular opinion that Brazilian voters are tolerant of corruption, Brazilian citizens reject politicians who are described as having engaged in corrupt acts, even when these politicians perform well in other areas. It suggests that the absence of specific, credible, and accessible information on corruption might explain the apparent persistence of the practice among elected politicians in Brazil.
Phd, Columbia University 2008
Sage Prize for Best Paper in Comparative Politics presented at
the 2011 APSA Annual Meeting
Salomon Faculty Research Award, Brown University, 2010
Honorable Mention, Best Fieldwork Award Committee, Comparative
Democratization Section, American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, 2008
Candidate address, PhD Convocation, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University, May 2008
National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant, August 2006
ISERP Graduate Fellow, Columbia University (2006-2008)
CIBER Doctoral Research Grant (Center for International Business Education and Research, Columbia University), Summer 2006
Institute for Latin American Studies (Columbia University) Tinker Summer Field Research Grant, Summer 2005
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, (2003-2006)
Fulbright Fellowship, Argentina, November 2001 - May 2002