His dissertation research addresses informal institutions that arise where formal institutions are absent. One project considers the high levels of popular unrest in contemporary China. He argues that "regularized rioting" serves as a useful tool of the central government in solving two important information problems - it helps to monitor and limit corruption by local officials, and it helps the government to identify discontented groups, resolve their concerns,
and maintain political stability. The second of his dissertation projects concerns the enforcement of contracts where legal systems are weak or absent. Reputational mechanisms may seem to be a partial solution, but institutions helping to support such mechanisms may do more harm than good.
He has also completed papers on topics including adult mortality and financial market institutions with CDDRL faculty associates Peter Henry, Romain Wacziarg and John McMillan.