The primary focus of my research examines the roots of contemporary institutions, connecting historical relationships within communities to present day governance structures. Additional work focuses on institutional inequality, and the ways these institutions shape interactions with the state.

Zones of Peace in contemporary Mindanao,

data compiled by Santos Jr. (2005)

Bangsamoro Transitional Authority Parliamentary Meeting, August 2019

Historical Legacies

Working Papers

Settling Differences: Historical Settlement Patterns and Contemporary Cooperation

Job market paper, selected for SEAREG 2023 Fellowship

Abstract: When and where do institutions for inter-ethnic dispute resolution form? I investigate variations in contemporary institutions for dispute resolution, linking past relationships across groups to contemporary community organization. I argue that inter-group cooperation, and cooperative institutions, are developed over time in areas with histories of diverse populations. My multi-method approach combines quantitative analysis with qualitative archival research and interviews to test for a relationship between historical diversity and contemporary institutions for dispute resolution in the Philippines' southern region of Mindanao. Using census data on settlements formed in the early to mid 1900's in Mindanao, I argue that where settlements were more integrated with indigenous populations, the legacies of inter-group collaboration created communities that are more adept in conflict resolution today. Settlement patterns and interdependence across groups historically produce the incentives needed for multi-ethnic cooperation in contemporary times.

Competing with Time: The Long Run Effects of Elections, Social Fragmentation, and Institutional Development

Abstract: When does diversity facilitate development? While literature shows that homogeneous communities can more readily mobilize around a shared cause or public good, these same communities are often more prone to elite capture, ethnic appeals, and other political dynamics that stymie development initiatives or programmatic policies. In the following paper I argue that in the context of ethnic political parties, diverse communities can more effectively garner state support for public goods or programmatic policies. I adopt a historical institutional approach to test this theory using the Philippine's southern region of Mindanao as a case study. Within Mindanao, a large migration from the northern Philippines south to Mindanao occurred in the early to mid 1900's. While some northern migrants formed communities that were isolated from those indigenous to the region, others were more integrated with those who had previously lived there. Leveraging this variation in both religious and ethnolinguistic diversity, I show that municipalities with histories of diverse populations developed more robust institutions for local governance in contemporary times.

Systems of Inequality


Western, B., Davis, J., Ganter, F., & Smith, N. (2021). The cumulative risk of jail incarceration. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(16).

Abstract: Research on incarceration has focused on prisons, but jail detention is far more common than imprisonment. Jails are local institutions that detain people before trial or incarcerate them for short sentences for low-level offenses. Research from the 1970s and 1980s viewed jails as “managing the rabble,” a small and deeply disadvantaged segment of urban populations that struggled with problems of addiction, mental illness, and homelessness. The 1990s and 2000s marked a period of mass criminalization in which new styles of policing and court processing produced large numbers of criminal cases for minor crimes, concentrated in low-income communities of color. In a period of widespread criminal justice contact for minor offenses, how common is jail incarceration for minority men, particularly in poor neighborhoods? We estimate cumulative risks of jail incarceration with an administrative data file that records all jail admissions and discharges in New York City from 2008 to 2017. Although New York has a low jail incarceration rate, we find that 26.8% of Black men and 16.2% of Latino men, in contrast to only 3% of White men, in New York have been jailed by age 38 y. We also find evidence of high rates of repeated incarceration among Black men and high incarceration risks in high-poverty neighborhoods. Despite the jail’s great reach in New York, we also find that the incarcerated population declined in the study period, producing a large reduction in the prevalence of jail incarceration for Black and Latino men.

Western, B., Braga, A. A., Davis, J., & Sirois, C. (2015). Stress and hardship after prison. American Journal of Sociology, 120(5), 1512-1547.

Abstract: The historic increase in U.S. incarceration rates made the transition from prison to community common for poor, prime-age men and women. Leaving prison presents the challenge of social integration— of connecting with family and finding housing and a means of subsistence. The authors study variation in social integration in the first months after prison release with data from the Boston Reentry Study, a unique panel survey of 122 newly released prisoners. The data indicate severe material hardship immediately after incarceration. Over half of sample respondents were unemployed, two-thirds received public assistance, and many relied on female relatives for financial support and housing. Older respondents and those with histories of addiction and mental illness were the least socially integrated, with weak family ties, unstable housing, and low levels of employment. Qualitative interviews show that anxiety and feelings of isolation accompanied extreme material insecurity. Material insecurity combined with the adjustment to social life outside prison creates a stress of transition that burdens social relationships in high-incarceration communities.

Religious diversity in 1918 Mindanao

Majority ethnic group by municipality 1918 Mindanao