Publications by Year: 2016

2016
Unkovic, Cait, Maya Sen, and Kevin M. Quinn. 2016. “Does Encouragement Matter in Improving Gender Imbalances in Technical Fields? Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial.” PLoS ONE, 1-15. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Does encouragement help address gender imbalances in technical fields? We present the results of one of the first and largest randomized controlled trials on the topic. Using an applied statistics conference in the social sciences as our context, we randomly assigned half of a pool of 3,945 graduate students to receive two personalized emails encouraging them to apply (n = 1,976) and the other half to receive nothing (n = 1,969). We find a robust, positive effect associated with this simple intervention and suggestive evidence that women responded more strongly than men. However, we find that women’s conference acceptance rates are higher within the control group than in the treated group. This is not the case for men. The reason appears to be that female applicants in the treated group solicited supporting letters at lower rates. Our findings therefore suggest that “low dose” interventions may promote diversity in STEM fields but may also have the potential to expose underlying disparities when used alone or in a non-targeted way.

gender-stem.pdf
Bonica, Adam, Adam Chilton, and Maya Sen. 2016. “The Political Ideologies of American Lawyers.” Journal of Legal Analysis 8 (2): 277-335. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The ideology of American lawyers has been a persistent source of discussion and debate. Two obstacles, however, have prevented this topic from being systematically studied: the sheer number of attorneys in the USA and the need for a methodology that makes comparing the ideology of specific individuals possible. In this article, we present a comprehensive mapping of lawyers’ ideologies that has overcome these hurdles. We use a new dataset that links the largest database of political ideology with the largest database of lawyers’ identities to complete the most extensive analysis of the political ideology of American lawyers ever conducted.

lawyers-ideologies.pdf
Sen, Maya, and Omar Wasow. 2016. “Race as a 'Bundle of Sticks': Designs that Estimate Effects of Seemingly Immutable Characteristics.” Annual Review of Political Science 19: 499-522. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Although understanding the role of race, ethnicity, and identity is central to political science, methodological debates persist about whether it is possible to estimate the effect of something ``immutable.'' At the heart of the debate is an older theoretical question: is race best understood under an essentialist or constructivist framework? In contrast to the ``immutable characteristics'' or essentialist approach, we argue that race should be operationalized as a ``bundle of sticks'' that can be disaggregated into elements. With elements of race, causal claims may be possible using two designs: (1) studies that measure the effect of exposure to a racial cue and (2) studies that exploit within-group variation to measure the effect of some manipulable element. These designs can reconcile scholarship on race and causation and offer a clear framework for future research.

race_causality.pdf

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Acharya, Avidit, Matthew Blackwell, and Maya Sen. 2016. “Explaining Causal Findings Without Bias: Detecting and Assessing Direct Effects.” American Political Science Review 110 (3): 512-529. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Researchers seeking to establish causal relationships frequently control for variables on the purported causal pathway, checking whether the original treatment effect then disappears. Unfortunately, this common approach may lead to biased estimates. In this paper, we show that the bias can be avoided by focusing on a quantity of interest called the controlled direct effect. Under certain conditions, the controlled direct effect enables researchers to rule out competing explanations---an important objective for political scientists.  To estimate the controlled direct effect without bias, we describe an easy-to-implement estimation strategy from the biostatistics literature. We extend this approach by deriving a consistent variance estimator and demonstrating how to conduct a sensitivity analysis. Two examples---one on ethnic fractionalization's effect on civil war and one on the impact of historical plough use on contemporary female political participation---illustrate the framework and methodology.

direct-effects.pdf
Acharya, Avidit, Matthew Blackwell, and Maya Sen. 2016. “The Political Legacy of American Slavery.” Journal of Politics 78 (3): 621-641. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We show that contemporary differences in political attitudes across counties in the American South in part trace their origins to slavery’s prevalence more than 150 years ago. Whites who currently live in Southern counties that had high shares of slaves in 1860 are more likely to identify as a Republican, oppose affirmative action, and express racial resentment and colder feelings toward blacks. We show that these results cannot be explained by existing theories, including the theory of contemporary racial threat. To explain the results, we offer evidence for a new theory involving the historical persistence of political attitudes. Following the Civil War, Southern whites faced political and economic incentives to reinforce existing racist norms and institutions to maintain control over the newly freed African American population. This amplified local differences in racially conservative political attitudes, which in turn have been passed down locally across generations.

slavery.pdf