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Center for Public Policy Events

The Hobby School of Public Affairs invites you to attend the Center for Public Policy speaker events.


Upcoming Speakers       

jake-g.pngMay 3, 4 p.m.
Jake Grumbach, University of Washington
Title: Laboratories of Democratic Backsliding

Political Economy Speaker Series
 co-hosted with the Department of Economics
In-Person: Science Building, Room 101
Via Zoom: Contact 

Abstract: The Trump presidency generated concern about democratic backsliding and renewed interest in measuring the national democratic performance of the United States. However, the U.S. has a decentralized form of federalism that administers democratic institutions at the state level. Using 51 indicators of electoral democracy from 2000 to 2018, we develop a measure of subnational democratic performance, the State Democracy Index. We then test theories of democratic expansion and backsliding based in party competition, polarization, demographic change, and the group interests of national party coalitions. Difference-in-differences results suggest a minimal role for all factors except Republican control of state government, which dramatically reduces states’ democratic performance during this period. This result calls into question theories focused on changes within states. The racial, geographic, and economic incentives of groups in national party coalitions may instead determine the health of democracy in the states.

Link to paper.

About the Speaker: Jacob (Jake) M. Grumbach is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington. He received his PhD from UC Berkeley in spring of 2018 and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton. Professor Grumbach's research focuses broadly on the political economy of the United States. He is particularly interested in public policy, American federalism, racial capitalism, campaign finance, and statistical methods. His book project, based on his award-winning dissertation, investigates the causes and consequences of the nationalization of state politics since the 1970s. Additional recent projects investigate labor unions, election law, and race and gender in campaign finance. Professor Grumbach teaches courses in statistics for the social sciences and in state and local politics.

Past Speakers

grossman.jpgApril 29, 10:30 a.m.
Guy Grossman, University of Pennsylvania
Title: Voted In, Standing Out: Public Response to Immigrants' Political Accession

Center for Public Policy Speaker Series
10:30am-12:00pm, Science Building, Room 101

Info for about the speaker:

Professor at the political science department at the University of Pennsylvania. His research is in applied political economy, with a substantive focus on governance, migration and forced displacement, human trafficking, and conflict processes, (mostly) in the context of developing countries.

Founder and co-director of Penn’s Development Research Initiative (PDRI). Launched in 2020, PDRI brings together faculty and graduate students from across Penn whose research seeks to identify solutions to the challenges facing low- and middle-income countries. PDRI seeks to foster impactful international development research by harnessing the expertise of its affiliates from various disciplines and utilizing diverse methodological approaches.

Link to paper


meng_headshot.jpegApril 21, 4 p.m.
Anne Meng, University of Virginia
Title: Power Sharing and Authoritarian Stability: How Rebel Regimes Solve the Guardianship Dilemma
Center for Public Policy Speaker Series
Location: Science Building Room 105 

Abstract: Regimes founded in rebellion are, typically, extremely durable. We propose that this stability is founded upon peaceful power sharing between the rebel regime leader and military elites. Amid long and intense fighting, rebel leaders must delegate control to top military commanders because doing so helps them to win battles. After seizing power, power-sharing deals between former combatants are highly credible due to their history of interactions, which mitigates the guardianship dilemma. Elsewhere, a persistent internal security dilemma often undermines power-sharing deals. Using originally collected data on African regimes from 1960–2017, we establish that rebel regimes break down seldomly compared to other authoritarian regimes, and experience fewer coups. Regarding the mechanism, rebel regimes more frequently share power with military elites by appointing a Minister of Defense. These Ministers are typically high-ranking members of the rebellion, which reflects the regime’s replacement of the state military with their own.

About the speaker: Anne Meng is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics at the University of Virginia. Her research centers on authoritarian politics, institutions, and elite powersharing. Her book, Constraining Dictatorship: From Personalized Rule to Institutionalized Regimes (Cambridge University Press, 2020), examines how executive constraints become established in dictatorships, particularly within constitutions and presidential cabinets. She has also published articles on authoritarian ruling parties, opposition cooptation, term limit evasion, and leadership succession in top journals, including the APSR and BJPS. 


April 19, 4 p.m.
Diana Moreira, University of California, Davis
Title: Who Benefits from Meritocracy?
Location: Science Building Room 105
Political Economy Speaker Series co-hosted with the Department of Economics
Those interested in attending should contact for the zoom link

About the speaker: Dr. Diana Moreira is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Davis, Department of Economics. She is also a Faculty Affiliate at Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development BREAD and at the Center for Effective Global Action CEGA, an Invited Researcher for JPAL and Weiss Family Fund, and a Lemann Fellow. Dr. Moreira’s current research focus is in the field of Development Economics, in particular, its intersection with Public, Political and Organizational Economics. She is interested in two topics, poor governance in governments and social mobility, both of which she studies in the developing economies context. Her research has been published in the American Economic Review, in the Journal of Public Economics and has been featured in leading Brazilian media outlets. Dr. Moreira earned a PhD in Business Economics from Harvard University. She has worked in the World Bank at Washington DC supporting countries in the Latin America and Caribbean Region and countries in the South Asia Region.


pablo-valdez.pngApril 19, 1 p.m.
Pablo Valdez, retired US Foreign Service Diplomat 
Title: U.S. Climate Change Policy and International Negotiations -- Where do we stand on climate and where are we going?
Room 132 A in Roy Cullen Building

About the speaker: Pablo Valdez is a retired U.S. Foreign Service Diplomat and environmental engineer who has focused most of his career on water, climate, and environmental issues, particularly in Latin America. He served in the federal government for 22 years in six countries, the Texas state government, and the private sector.  Most recently he was the Environment, Science, Technology, and Health Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia.  He also served in Mexico City, Santiago, Washington DC, Jakarta, and Lima.


April 11, Time: 4 p.m. 
Peter Gourevitch, University of California, San Diego
Title: Identity and interests in the polarization debate: Is Democracy in Danger and Does the War in Ukraine make it worse?
Center for Public Policy Speaker Series
Location: S116


March 22, 4 p.m.
Brian Knight, Brown University
"Vote Early and Vote Often?: Detecting Electoral Fraud from the Timing of 19th Century Elections"
Political Economy Speaker Series co-hosted with the Department of Economics
Science Building, Room S101
Those interested in attending virtually should contact


March 3, 4 p.m.
“Reference Points and Democratic Backsliding,” Carlo Prato, Columbia University
(Co-author Edoardo Grillo, University of Turin - Collegio Carlo Alberto)
Political Economy Speaker Series co-hosted with the Department of Economics
Science Building, Room S101