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Bobbie Macdonald

Bobbie Macdonald

Spring 2015 Graduate Fellowship Recipient
Stanford Center on Global Poverty and Development


Bobbie Macdonald is a PhD student in political science at Stanford University. He studies the behavior of political elites, intergroup co-operation, and charitable giving using network methods, text analysis, and experiments. In short, he is trying to understand why politicians do what they do and why we can’t all just get along (with a particular focus on Sub-Saharan Africa). He has an MSc in International Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and a BA in International Development from the University of Winnipeg.

Fellowship research abstract

When do Political Elites Pursue National Public Goods? Text Analysis of Legislative Behavior in Kenya, 1963-2012

When do elected representatives in young democracies allocate their efforts to-wards national issues rather than towards particularistic goals that only benefit their constituents? Existing explanations emphasize the effects of electoral institutions, non-credible pre-electoral promises, and entrenched local interests on the incentives to pur-sue particularistic goals. In this study, we propose an alternative explanation for the persistence of particularism in young democracies, highlighting the difficulty of achiev-ing broad-based co-operation on national issues (e.g. judiciary reform, civil service reform) when legislators believe they are surrounded by a majority of particularistic types. We examine the dynamics of this coordination failure by estimating a structural topic model from a newly constructed panel of parliamentary speeches for every Kenyan Member of Parliament (MP) between 1963 and 2012. We then analyze how electoral competition at the constituency level affects MP behavior and apply social learning models to examine how MPs update their strategies in response to the behavior of their colleagues.