Working Papers

Monumental Changes: Confederate Symbol Removals and Racial Attitudes in the United States. [working draft]. 2022. (Under Review).

Abstract: How does the removal of political symbols affect public opinion and behavior? This paper explores two waves of Confederate symbol removals in the United States to examine how local changes in the built environment, in conjunction with salient national events, shape racial attitudes and prejudice-motivated violence. Using a difference-in-differences strategy with repeated cross-sectional and panel data, I find that the removal of Confederate symbols, on average, decreased racial resentment, increased support for affirmative action, increased warm feelings (as measured with thermometer scores) toward Blacks, and decreased anti-Black hate crimes, particularly by White offenders. These effects are strongest at the most local level and decay with greater distance from removal sites. These findings suggest a short-term shift in perceptions of social norms, rather than a backlash effect.

Can Communities Take Charge? A Randomized Controlled Trial on Sustaining Schools in Afghanistan (with Dana Burde, Joel Middleton, and Cyrus Samii). [paper available upon request]. 2022.

Abstract: After wars, international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) often service basic needs like health and education. Ideally, such service provision would eventually be handed over to an accountable government. But cases like Afghanistan show that handover can fail. Should the ideal of handover be abandoned, or are there strategies to make it realistic? To address this question we test a community-based model for administering primary education in Afghanistan. We use a randomized equivalence trial that estimates effects relative to what INGOs achieve. The model succeeds in maintaining children’s learning and household satisfaction. It does not increase gender or ethnic bias nor does it result in resource misappropriation. However, in a one-year follow-up, community leaders were pessimistic about the model’s viability, although this was moderated by age and education. Communities can take charge in administering basic services, but they need additional inputs to sustainably institutionalize service provision after INGOs withdraw.


Women’s Mobilization Against Social Change: Evidence from the Early 20th Century U.S. South [prelim draft available upon request]. 2022.

Abstract: The history of women’s mobilization demonstrates numerous forms of political activism in the absence of formal female suffrage or other de jure social, political, and economic rights. In the U.S. from the 1890s to early 1920s, such mobilization was exemplified by the widespread proliferation of federated voluntary women’s clubs, comprised primarily of economically privileged and educated women, which were adapted into organizations with the capacity to wield political influence. However, these types of clubs did not appear everywhere. What explains the varied patterns of where these privileged, politically-oriented women’s social clubs arose? I examine this question using a rich and novel dataset on chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), a large-scale federated club of white women whose organizing principles centered around the cause of commemorating, reshaping, and spreading postbellum Southern history. Specifically, this paper explores a set of possible explanations for the establishment of local UDC chapters between 1890 and 1920. Because the UDC was a women’s organization focused on the cause of preserving a past social order, the analysis has implications not only for our understanding of gender in politics, but also for our understanding of racial politics and the politicization of history.

Can Class Trump Race? Evidence From an Experiment with a Biracial Labor History Museum (with Jonne Kamphorst). 2022.

Are symbolic and material politics on racial justice substitutes or complements? (with Mark Williamson). 2022.

From another era (pre-PhD)

Peer-Reviewed Publications

A utility approach to accelerate universal electricity access in less developed countries: A regulatory proposal”. IJ. Pérez-Arriaga, R. Stoner, R. Rahnama, S. Lee, G. Jacquot, E. Protzer, A. Garcia, R. Amatya, M. Brusnahan, and P. Dueñas, Economics of Energy & Environmental Policy 8 (1): 33-50 (2019).

Policy Publications

Determinants of WTP among energy poor households: implications for planning models and frameworks“. R. Rahnama. Oxford Institute for Energy Studies Paper (EL 35): 1-33 (2019).

Electrification planning with a focus on human factors”. R. Rahnama and IJ. Pérez-Arriaga. Oxford Energy Forum (115): 30-34 (2018).