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How Much Should We Trust Instrumental Variable Estimates in Political Science? Practical Advice based on Over 60 Replicated Studies (with Yiqing Xu, Mackenzie Lockhart, Apoorva Lal) SSRN
Abstract: Instrumental variable (IV) strategies are commonly used in political science to establish causal relationships, yet the identifying assumptions required by an IV design are demanding and it remains challenging for researchers to evaluate their plausibility. We replicate 61 papers published in three top journals in political science from the past decade (2011-2020) and document several troubling patterns: (1) researchers often miscalculate the first-stage F statistics, overestimating the strength of their IVs; (2) most researchers rely on classical asymptotic standard errors, which often severely underestimate the uncertainties around the two-stage-least-squared (2SLS) estimates; (3) in the majority of the replicated studies, the 2SLS estimates are much bigger than the ordinary-least-squared estimates, and their ratio is negatively correlated with the strength of the IVs in studies where the IVs are not experimentally generated, suggesting potential violations of the exclusion restriction; such a relationship is much weaker with experimentally generated IVs. To improve practice, we provide a checklist for researchers to avoid these pitfalls and recommend a zero-first-stage test and a local-to-zero procedure to guard against failure of the identifying assumptions.
Logic of Selective Repression: How do Elite Purges Affect State Violence in Authoritarian Regimes? Link
Abstract: This paper studies how elite purges affect local officials’ repression of mass protests in authoritarian regimes. I propose a selective repression mechanism: local officials, fearing purge, strengthen repression of more threatening protests while tolerating less threatening ones so as to comply with the autocrat’s preference. Perception of purge threat affects this choice. Using data on Chinese labor protests and two-way fixed effect models that exploit temporal variation in purges across 327 Chinese cities, from 2011 to 2018, I find purges increase the likelihood of local officials’ repression of labor protests with more participants and those demanding social rights. Patronconnected officials exercise intensified selective repression due to stronger perception of purge threat.
Survey on Chinese Professionals' Ideology (with Junyan Jiang)
Political Economy of Leaders' Attention (with Leo Yang)
Political Economy of Crime