Kao, Kristen and Mara R. Revkin. Forthcoming. “Retribution or Reconciliation? Attitudes Towards Rebel Collaborators After Conflict.” American Journal of Political Science. Winner of the Franklin L. Burdette/Pi Sigma Alpha Best Paper Award for APSA 2019.

Kao, Kristen. With Adam Harris, Karen Ferree, Boniface Dulani, Ellen Lust, Erica Metheney, and Cecilia Ahsan. Forthcoming. “Elections in the Time of Covid-19: The Triple Crises Around Malawi’s 2020 Presidential Elections.” Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties.

Kao, Kristen. With Ellen Lust and Gibran Okar. 2021. “Historical Legacies, Social Cleavages, and Support for Political Islam.” The Oxford Handbook of Politics in Muslim Societies, edited by Melani Cammett and Pauline Jones. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190931056.001.0001

Kao, Kristen. With Adam Harris, Karen Ferree, Boniface Dulani, Ellen Lust, Erica Metheney, and Cecilia Ahsan. 2021. “Stigma, Trust, and Procedural Integrity: Covid-19 Testing in Malawi.” World Development.

Kao, Kristen. With Lindsay Benstead. 2020. “Female Electability in the Arab World: The Advantages of Intersectionality.” Comparative Politics. Available here.

Kao, Kristen. With Ellen Lust, Boniface Dulani, Karen Ferree, Adam Harris, and Erica Metheney. 2020. “The ABCs of Covid-19 Prevention in Malawi: Authority, Benefits and, Costs of Compliance.” World Development. 137: 105167. Available here.

Kao, Kristen. 2020. With Lindsay Benstead and Ellen Lust. “Does it Matter What Observers Say? The Impact of International Election Monitoring on Legitimacy”. Mediterranean Politics. 1-22. Available here.

Kao Kristen. 2020. With Ferree, Karen, Boniface Dulani, Adam S. Harris, Ellen Lust, Cecilia Ahsan Jansson, and Erica Metheney. “Disease Threat, Stereotypes, and Covid–19: An Early View from Malawi and Zambia,” The Program on Governance and Local Development Working Paper Series, No. 36, University of Gothenburg, Available here.

Kao, Kristen. 2019-2020. Freedom in the World Report: Jordan. Freedom House.

Kao, Kristen, Ellen Lust, and Lise Rakner. Under Review. “Poverty and Clientelism: Do the Poor Demand Clientelism?” The Program on Governance and Local Development Working Paper Series. Available here.

Kao, Kristen. 2019. Freedom in the World Report: Jordan. Freedom House. Available here.

Kao, Kristen and Mara Revkin. 2019. “How the Iraqi crackdown on the Islamic State may actually increase support for the Islamic State.” Washington Post/Monkey Cage. Available here.

Kao, Kristen. 2017. “Electoral Institutions and Ethnic Clientelism.” American Political Science Association Comparative Politics Newsletter. 17(2): 44–50. Available here.

Kao, Kristen. 2017. “Review: The Arab Spring: Pathways of and Reform. By Jason Brownlee, Tarek Masoud, and Andrew Reynolds. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.” Perspectives on Politics. Available here.

Kao, Kristen, Lauren Baker, Ellen Lust, and Marc Lynch. 2017. “Islam in a Changing Middle East: Local Politics and Islamist Movements.” Project on Middle East Political Science Studies. Available here.

Kao, Kristen and Ellen Lust. 2017. “Why Did the Arab Uprisings Turn Out as They Did? A Survey of the Literature.” Project on Middle East Democracy. Available here.

Kao, Kristen, Ruth Carlitz, Pierre Landry, Ellen Lust, and Lise Rakner. 2017. “Beyond the State: Measuring Governance at the Community Level.” APSA Comparative Democratization Newsletter. 17(2): 26–29. Available here.

Kao, Kristen, Adam Harris, Ellen Lust, Jens Ewald, and Peter Holmgren. 2017. “Governance in Service Delivery in the MENA.” World Bank. Available here.

Kao, Kristen. 2017. “Jordan: Negotiating Political, Economic, and Social Minefields.” IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook. 2017. European Institute of the Mediterranean. Available here.

Kao, Kristen, Lindsay J. Benstead, Pierre F. Landry, Ellen M. Lust, and Dhafer Malouche. 2017. “Using Tablet Computers to Implement Surveys in Challenging Environments.” Survey Practice. Available here.

Kao, Kristen. 2016. “How Jordan’s Election Revealed Enduring Weaknesses in its Political System.” Washington Post/Monkey Cage. Available here.

Kao, Kristen. 2015. “Do Jordan’s Tribes Challenge or Strengthen the State?” Washington Post/Monkey Cage. Available here.

Kao, Kristen. 2012. “Jordan’s Ongoing Election Law Battle.” Sada. Washington, DC:Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Available here.

Kao, Kristen. 2012. “Jordan.” Cultural Sociology of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Working Papers

Kao, Kristen. “Electoral Institutions and Ethnic Clientelism in Jordan.”

This paper offers an understanding of why clientelism is based on ethnic ties in certain cases, but not others. It examines how electoral institutions interact with ethnic identity to shape political outcomes, not only in elections but also in parliamentary service provision long after the last ballot is cast. Employing information on tribal structures and voter registration lists to estimate tribal size within districts in conjunction with constituent casework logs of six MPs, I find that in single non-transferable vote (SNTV) districts, MPs win their seats almost solely with the support of their tribes and practice more tribal favoritism in the provision of services. On the contrary, MPs in single member plurality districts (SMDs) cobble together more ethnically diverse coalitions to win their seats and distribute state benefits more evenly between coethnics and non-coethnics. I use data from the 2014 Governance and Local Development (GLD) post-election survey to show that a history of having ethnic connections with parliamentarians augments voter turnout in SNTV districts, whereas it has no relationship with voter turnout in SMDs. Importantly, this research finds a strong link between electoral outcomes and service provision in a setting of authoritarianism. Substantively, constituents who are not born into the right tribe lack a government representative and suffer inequality in access to government resources for years after the elections.

Kao, Kristen (with Ellen Lust and Lise Rakner.) “Money Machine: Do the Poor Demand Clientelism?” Click Here

The predominant view of clientelism is that the poor are particularly likely to exchange their votes for cash or material goods. The view is often based on a supply-side perspective, which argues that candidates are more likely to offer goods in return for votes to poor because their per- vote cost is lower, they are more likely to act reciprocally (thus overcoming the commitment problem of vote-buying), and less likely to see vote-buying as morally unacceptable. The clientelism literature suggests the poor are likely to prefer candidates who offer to buy their votes over those offering community goods, but research in social psychology finds that the poor may be particularly concerned with community welfare and less likely to prefer such candidates. In this paper, we employ a rating-based, conjoint analysis in Malawi, to examine the extent to which voters, and particularly the poor, prefer candidates who promise selective incentives over those who promise goods for the community. We find significant evidence that community interests, and not selfish motivations, drive voters’ behavior. Even the very poor tend to prefer candidates who promise community goods (e.g., a school, clinic, roads), and they respond unfavorably to those who promise an immediate exchange of particularistic goods for votes (or “vote-buying”). This has important implications for the literature on clientelism, which often assumes that the poor prefer candidates who offer targeted incentives. It also has important policy implications, as it suggests that offers of vote-buying to the poor may not be the most cost-effective strategy for candidates.

Kao, Kristen. “Local Governance in a Rentier State: Battling the Overdevelopment of Land in Kuwaiti Municipalities.” Yale Program on Governance and Local Development.

Controversies surrounding municipal governance in the developing world tend to focus on the provision of basic services such as road maintenance and waste management. Yet in the small rentier state of Kuwait, where the short supply of developable land comes into conflict with a severe housing shortage and an abundance of local capital to invest into real estate and the building up of neighborhoods, municipalities face intense battles over zoning, licensing, and urban planning. Citizens concerned with the overbuilding and overuse of Kuwaiti lands confront entrenched corruption and a lack of initiative in addressing their concerns at the municipality.

A brief history of the shifting role of the municipality in implementing the Kuwaiti masterplan and the land purchase program, by which the government distributed much of the early oil rents to the citizenry, provides the necessary background for understanding the dynamics of recent controversies over landuse in the kingdom. This report details the structures and major functions of the municipality with a focus on those pertaining to land development. It also considers the effect of the centralization of power away from the municipal councils towards a newly created minister of municipalities that was initiated with the passage of the 2005 municipalities law. The conclusion offers analysis of some of the specific issues being brought forward by citizens to the municipalities concerning landuse, highlighting major points that Kuwaiti municipalities should seek to address in the near future.

Kao, Kristen. “Experimenting with Electoral Institutions in Kuwait and Jordan.”

This paper explores shifts in electoral laws throughout the history of Jordan and Kuwait as a means of controlling potential opposition. The data extends the findings of my dissertation to the case of Kuwait, where SNTV electoral institutions were implemented in 2012. As in Jordan, these institutions increase the salience of ethnic divisions in the elections and hinder inter-ethnic political coalitions.