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Katherine McKiernan

Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Inter-American Policy and Research

Tulane University

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I am a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research at Tulane University. Broadly, I'm interested in credit attribution, clientelism and the coordination between elected officials at the local and national level. My current research examines when politicians will claim credit for local-level goods provision and whether politicians will share credit in weakly institutionalized party systems. I also explore clientelism absent strong party machines. 

In my research on credit attribution, I ask how citizens respond to credit claiming behavior by politicians, under what condition credit claiming will influence voters decisions, and when politicians will be willing to share credit across levels of government. This research uses a combination of game theoretic models, survey experiments, and interview data with elites collected during eight months of field research in Colombia.

My research on clientelism focuses on how politicians strategically allocate resources to municipalities. I apply a mixed-methods approach to answer (1) Which types of municipalities are more likely to receive additional resources from the central government? and (2) Under what conditions will mayors act as reliable brokers for national politicians through credit attribution? In order to explore these questions, I develop a new estimation strategy for understanding variation in the use of clientelism in different municipalities. This research explores the case of Colombia and combines a formal model with regression analysis, survey experiments, and interviews from field research.

Finally, I explore how politicians adapt to new participatory institutions. In a series of coauthored projects, I ask whether nationally-mandated participatory institutions have fulfilled their goals. In additional articles, we analyze the case of Peru- a country with a nationally mandated Participatory Budgeting process. We ask whether participatory budgeting has increased pro-poor spending, how the demographics of who participates in participatory budgeting influences outcomes, and how variations in participatory design affect institutional legitimacy.

I received my PhD from University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill in 2020. I earned my B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College in May 2013 and my M.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in August 2016. For information about my research and teaching interests, please see the links above.

For my CV, please click here.

Please contact me by email at

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