Profile Summary
  • Profile Summary
  • Research: Authoritarian Politics
  • Research: Distributive Politics and Traditional Governance
  • Research: Violence, Justice and Human Rights
  • Forthcoming publications and work in progress
  • Teaching
  • Data
  • Selected Grants

Profile Summary

I am a Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University. I am also an affiliated faculty at the Stanford Center on Global Poverty and Development.

My research focuses on the political economy of development. My work falls into four themes:  the study of authoritarian regimes; distributive politics; “traditional” forms of governance and non-state provision of public goods; and drug-trafficking violence, public security and human rights. Much of my research has been on Latin America.  

I am the founding director of the Poverty, Violence + Governance Lab, a place for action–oriented research that establishes partnerships with government agencies, police departments, and civil society organizations to conduct research that aims to generate knowledge as to what works and doesn’t to control violence, improve the functioning and accountability of security institutions, restrain human rights abuses, and increase opportunities for at-risk youth. The Lab engages researchers and students — undergraduates, M.A. and Ph.D. candidates — from the fields of political science, education, economics, international policy studies, and engineering.

I am the author of Voting for Autocracy (2006, Cambridge University Press –winner of the Leon D. Epstein Outstanding Book Award for the best book written in the previous two years on parties and elections and the Best Book Award from the American Political Science Association’s Comparative Democratization Section). I am also the author of The Political Logic of Poverty Relief: Electoral Strategies and Social Policy in Mexico (2016, Cambridge University Press, co-authored with Alberto Diaz-Cayeros and Federico Estévez).

My articles have appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Conflict Resolution, World Development, Comparative Political Studies, Annual Review of Political Science, Latin American Research Review, International Journal of Educational Development, Latin American Politics and Society, International Journal of Public Opinion Research, Journal of Theoretical Politics, and Política y Gobierno.

I received my Ph.D. in political science from Duke University. I also hold a Law degree from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). 




Research: Authoritarian Politics

Book: Voting for Autocracy: Hegemonic Party Survival and Its Demise in Mexico (2006, Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics, Cambridge University Press)

This book provides a theory of the logic of survival of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), one of the most resilient autocratic regimes in the twentieth century. An autocratic regime hid behind the facade of elections that were held with clockwise precision. Although their outcome was totally predictable, elections were not hollow rituals. The PRI made millions of ordinary citizens vest their interests in the survival of the autocratic regime. Voters could not simply throw the "rascals out of office" because their choices were constrained by a series of strategic dilemmas that compelled them to support the autocrats. The book also explores the factors that led to the demise of the PRI. The theory sheds light on the logic of "electoral autocracies," among the most common type of autocracy today, and the factors that lead to the transformation of autocratic elections into democratic ones.

Winner of the Leon D. Epstein Outstanding Book Award for the best book written in the previous two years on parties and elections and the Best Book Award from the American Political Science Association’s Comparative Democratization Section. The dissertation upon which this book is based also won the Gabriel Almond Award for the Best Dissertation in Comparative Politics.

Available at Cambridge University Press and Amazon.

Journal Articles

"Authoritarian survival and poverty traps: Land reform in Mexico." World Development 77 (2016): 154-170 (with Michael Albertus, Alberto Diaz-Cayeros, and Barry R. Weingast). authoritariansurvival.pdf

"Political order and one-party rule." Annual Review of Political Science 13 (2010): 123-143 (with Ruth Kricheli). politicalorder.pdf

"Credible power-sharing and the longevity of authoritarian rule." Comparative Political Studies 41, no. 4-5 (2008): 715-741. crediblepowersharing.pdf

"The game of electoral fraud and the ousting of authoritarian rule." American Journal of Political Science 54, no. 3 (2010): 751-765. gameoffraud.pdf

"Party dominance and the logic of electoral design in Mexico’s transition to democracy." Journal of Theoretical Politics 13, no. 3 (2001): 271-293 (with Alberto Diaz-Cayeros). partydominance.pdf

Selected Book Chapters

"Autocratic Political order and the Role of Courts: The Case of Mexico." (2008) In Tom Ginsburg and Tamir Moustaffa (eds) Rule By Law: The Politics of Courts in Authoritarian Regimes. Cambridge University Press.

"The Demise of Mexico’s One-Party Dominant Regime: Elite Choices and the Masses in the establishment of Democracy." (2005) in Scott Mainwaring and Frances Hagopian (eds) The Third Wave of Democratization in Latin America: Advances and Setbacks. Cambridge University Press.

"Authoritarianism, Democracy and the Supreme Court: Horizontal Exchange and the Rule of Law in Mexico." (2003) in Scott Mainwaring and Christopher Welna (eds) Democratic Accountability in Latin America. Oxford University Press.

Working papers

"Taking to the Streets: Protest and Regime Survival" with Francisco Garfias.  View PDF

"Taking to the Streets: Theory and Evidence of Protest under Authoritarianism"  with Ruth Kritcheli and Yair Livine takinglisa.pdf

"Tragic Brilliance: Equilibrium Hegemony and Democratization in Mexico" with Barry Weingast and Alberto Diaz-Cayeros tragic_ssrn-id1153510._1.pdf

Research: Distributive Politics and Traditional Governance

Book: The Political Logic of Poverty Relief: Electoral Strategies and Social Policy in Mexico (2016, Cambridge University Press, co-authored with Alberto Diaz-Cayeros and Federico Estévez)

The Political Logic of Poverty Relief places elections and institutional design at the core of poverty alleviation. The authors develop a theory with applications to Mexico about how elections shape social programs aimed at aiding the poor. Would political parties possess incentives to target the poor with transfers aimed at poverty alleviation or would they instead give these to their supporters? Would politicians rely on the distribution of particularistic benefits rather than public goods? The authors assess the welfare effects of social programs in Mexico and whether voters reward politicians for targeted poverty alleviation programs. The book provides a new interpretation of the role of cash transfers and poverty relief assistance in the development of welfare state institutions." 

Journal Articles  

"Public Good Provision and Traditional Governance in Indigenous Communities in Oaxaca, Mexico, forthcoming in Comparative Political Studies (with Alberto Diaz-Cayeros and Alex Ruiz) View PDF

Traditional Governance, citizen engagement and local public goods: evidence from Mexico" World Development 53(2014): 80-93 (with Alberto Diaz-Cayeros and Alex Ruiz) View PDF

"Aiding Latin America's Poor." Journal of Democracy 20, no. 4 (2009): 36-49 (with Alberto Diaz-Cayeros). aidingpoor.pdf

"Partisan Cleavages, State Retrenchment, and Free Trade: Latin America in the 1990s." Latin American Research Review 43, no. 2 (2008): 107-135 (with Vidal Romero).  partisanclevagestrade.pdf


Selected Book Chapters

"Clientelism and portfolio diversification: a model of electoral investment with applications to Mexico." Patrons, clients, and policies: Patterns of democratic accountability and political competition (2007): 182-205 (with Alberto Diaz-Cayeros and Federico Estévez).

"Welfare Benefits, Canvassing and Campaign Handouts." (2006) in Jorge Domínguez, Chappell Lawson, and Alejandro Moreno (2006) Consolidating Mexico’s Democracy. Johns Hopkins University Press (with Alberto Diaz-Cayeros and Federico Estévez.)


Research: Violence, Justice and Human Rights

Journal Articles

"The beheading of criminal organizations and the dynamics of violence in Mexico." Journal of Conflict Resolution 59, no. 8 (2015): 1455-1485 (with Gabriela Calderón, Gustavo Robles, and Alberto Díaz-Cayeros). jcrbehading.pdf

"La tortura como método de investigación criminal: El impacto de la guerra contra las drogas" Politica y Gobierno, Vol. XXV, NÚM. 2 Segundo Semestre 2018 (con Ana Laura Magaloni y Zaira Razu) tortura_mexico.pdf

"How the Mexican Drug War Affects Kids and Schools: Evidence on effects and mechanisms" International Journal of Educational Development, 51 (2016), 135-146 (with Brenda Jarillo, Edgar Franco and Gustavo Robles). schoolsdrugs.pdf

"The Mexican War on Drugs: Crime and the Limits of Government Persuasion." International Journal of Public Opinion Research Vol. 27 No. 1 (2015) (with Vidal Romero and Alberto Diaz-Cayeros.) drugwarpersuation.pdf

"Presidential Approval and Public Security in Mexico's War on Crime." (2016) Latin American Politics and Society 58.2: 100-123 (with Vidal Romero and Alberto Diaz-Cayeros). approvaldrugwar.pdf

Selected Book Chapters

“Caught in the crossfire: the geography of extortion and police corruption in Mexico." In in Rose-Ackerman S, Lagunes P, editors. Greed, Corruption, and the Modern State: Essays in Political Economy (2015): 252 (with Alberto Diaz-Cayeros and Vidal Romero).

“The Impact of Violence in the Mexican 2012 Presidential Elections." In Jorge Dominguez et al Mexico Evolving Democracy. Johns Hopkins University Press (2014) (with Edgar Franco and Jorge Olarte).

Other Publications 

"Mexico in the Grip of Violence" in Current History, February 2016 (with Zaira Razu) magaloni_razu_currenthistory.pdf  

La Raiz del Miedo: ¿Por qué es la percepción de riesgo más grande que las tasas de victimización?" en Las bases sociales del crimen organizado y la violencia en México, José Antonio Aguilar eds 2012-magaloni_diazcayeros_romero_final-rev.pdf

Forthcoming publications and work in progress

"Killing in the Slums: Social Order, Criminal Governance and Police Violence in Rio de Janeiro" with Edgar Franco and Vanessa Melo R & R at the American Political Science Review killing_in_the_slums_0.pdf

"Living in Fear: The Dynamics of Extortion in Mexic's Drug War" with G. Robles, A. Matanock, A. Diaz-Cayeros, and V. Romero, forthcoming  in Comparative Political Studies living_infear.pdf

"Public Good Provision and Traditional Governance in Indigenous Communities in Oaxaca, Mexico, forthcoming in Comparative Political Studies (with Alberto Diaz-Cayeros and Alex Ruiz) View PDF

"Torture and a method of criminal prosecution: Democratization, the Drug War and Criminal Justice Reform in Mexico"  with Luis Rodríguez under review at the American Political Science Review torture_short_paper_5.pdf

"What Drives Police Violence in Rio de Janeiro: The Use of Survey Evidence" (under review at the Latin American Research Review, with Ignacio Cano)

"Indigenous Autonomy, Self-Defense Groups and Organized Crime: The Case of Mexico" (with Kristof Gosztonyi, Alberto Diaz-Cayeros, and Cesangari Lopez-Martinez).

"Strengthening Life Skills for Youth in Places of Violence: Agencia de Redes para la Juventude in Rio’s favelas" (with Veriene Melo).

“How Do Body-Worn Cameras Work in High Violent Environments?: A Randomized Control Evaluation in Brazil's largest Favela" (with Vanesa Melo, Gustavo Robles, Gustavo Empinotti, and Jon Furszyfer).




My teaching takes place in the classroom, the lab and the field. In the classroom, I teach the following courses: Theories of Comparative Politics, the first of the core graduate sequence; a seminar on Poverty and Governance for advanced undergraduate and graduate students; a seminar on Latin American Politics, taught jointly for undergraduate and graduate students; and a seminar on Autocracies and Democracies.

In the lab I bring together a group of graduate and undergraduate students who actively participate in numerous research activities, including sponsored projects, where they learn to tackle challenging, real-world problems using their technical skills. I also take students to the field to do research in Guatemala, Brazil and Mexico.


Autocracies of the World

Understanding current and historical trends in autocratic rule is fundamental to framing policy-relevant research. Recent scholarship in comparative politics and international relations recognizes the importance of opening the “black box” of autocratic rule to examine variation in human rights protection; use of repression; war-proneness; and trade, among others. For additional detail and our data, see:


Empirical Studies of Conflict: Mexico Overview

Mexico has experienced a surge in violence and sharp increase in homicides after 2007 under President Felipe Calderon's administration and his militarized campaign to debilitate drug-trafficking organizations. Our data suggests his counter-narcotics policy targeting the highest levels of criminal networks – a “beheading" strategy – is a key factor in the escalation of criminal violence in Mexico. For additional detail and our data, see:

Selected Grants

I am serving (or have served) as Principal Investigator on the following research grants:

  • U.S. Department of State — Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, "Police Accountability and Citizen Trust in Mexico," $4,421,066 (2016-19)
  • Stanford Global Development and Poverty Initiative, university research grant,"Poverty, Violence and Security," $925,000 (2014-2017)
  • U.S. Department of Defense — Minerva Project (FA9550-09-0314), "Crime, Violence and Governance in Mexico: Extracting, Analyzing and Interpreting Mexican Government Data on Criminal Activity and the Effectiveness of State Responses,"  $150,003 (2012-2013)
  • Global Underdevelopment Action Fund, university research grant, "Researching the Effects of Oportunidades on Women's Civic Participation and Possible Secondary Health and Education Outcomes in Mexico's Indigenous Regions," $38,100 (2011-2012)
  • Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (IRiSS),  Faculty Seed Grant, "The Role of Police Retraining and Monitoring in Controlling Police Violence in Rio de Janeiro
  • Inter-America Development Bank Award, "Police Violence in Rio de Janeiro" (2012)
  • Inter-America Development Bank award, "The Economic Consequences of Drug Violence in Mexico" (2011)