In Press

Chaudoin, Stephen, Helen V. Milner, and Dustin Tingley. “‘‘America First’ Meets Liberal Internationalism.’.” Chaos Reconsidered: The Liberal Order and the Future of International Politics. Ed. Robert Jervis, Diane Labrosse, and Joshua Rovner. New York: Columbia University Press, 2023.


Davies, Graeme et al. “Forum: Challenges to Scholarship and Policy During Crises.” International Studies Review (2023): .


Kubinec, Robert, and Helen Milner. “Taxes in the Time of Revolution: An Experimental Test of the Rentier State During Algeria’s Hirak.” World Politics 76.2 (2024): 294–333.

This article examines the rentier thesis that a government's control over oil resources should help it to resist pressures for democratization. The authors' online survey experiment, implemented during a nationwide mobilization for regime change in Algeria known as the Hirak, used interactive experimental treatments to provide information about the Algerian government's subsidies for fuel resources and low value-added taxes. Based on a sample of 9,721 Algerians, the authors find that when Algerians learn about their country's relatively high level of fuel subsidies and low level of taxes, their assessments of the government's performance improve. However, the treatment has null effects for outcomes involving demands for representation, such as intentions to join protest movements. An analysis of treatment heterogeneity in terms of wealth shows that the wealthy became much more supportive of the regime in response to the treatment while in some cases the poor became much less so. This treatment heterogeneity appears to be related to divergent views among the wealthy and the poor concerning the goals of the protest movement, with the wealthy favoring institutional reforms while the poor prioritized redistributive justice.

Milner, Helen V., and Erik Voeten. “International Regime Uncertainty.” Oxford Review of Economic Policy 40.2 (2024): 269–281.

Questions about the future of U.S. supremacy, the global spread of liberal democracy, and liberal international economic institutions create what we call "international regime uncertainty": doubts about the fundamental principles, rules, norms, and decision making procedures that govern areas of international affairs. This includes both probabilistic assessments of the risk that prevailing principles and institutions cease to function but also fundamental uncertainty over what alternative institutional arrangements and governing principles may emerge. Irrespective of actual systemic change, international regime uncertainty can affects transnational economic and political activities by increasing structural policy uncertainty and the probability of bargaining failures. The political uproar over energy transition policies that seemingly violate core principles of the international trade regime illustrates these points.


de la Cuesta, Brandon et al. “Do Indirect Taxes Bite? How Hiding Taxes Erases Accountability Demands from Citizens.” Journal of Politics (2023): .

Taxation is fundamental to citizen-government relations. Seminal accounts attribute democratization to direct taxation’s rise, and recent evidence shows that direct taxes increase citizens’ accountability demands. However, today many governments rely heavily on indirect taxes; evidence is mixed on whether they have similar effects. We present cross-national data demonstrating that indirect taxes are associated with lower levels of government accountability than direct taxes. We argue that the visibility of taxes affects their accountability consequences. We further posit that, on average, indirect taxes become less visible than direct once citizens have acclimated to higher prices. We combine lab-in-the-field experiments with survey experiments in a developing country to demonstrate that less visible taxes provoke less willingness to punish leaders politically and that established indirect taxes are not highly visible to citizens. The findings suggest that the growing reliance on indirect taxes may limit taxation's accountability dividends and impair democratic representation.

Dolan, Lindsay R., and Helen V. Milner. “Low-Skilled Liberalizers: Support for Free Trade in Africa.” International Organization 77.4 (2023): 848–870.

Despite populist backlash against globalization in advanced industrialized countries, developing countries have recently sought to liberalize trade. To shed light on this phenomenon, we investigate mass attitudes toward free trade in thirty-six African countries. Using two rounds of Afrobarometer data and original survey data from Ghana and Uganda, we find that individuals hold views that are consistent with their economic self-interest. As factor endowment models predict for a sample of skill-scarce countries, low-skilled individuals are more likely than high-skilled individuals to support free trade. Moreover, the strongest negative effects of skill occur for the most skill-scarce countries in the sample and are driven by individuals in the labor force. Our results are robust to measuring variables more precisely in original surveys and controlling for other factors thought to shape attitudes. The findings indicate that previous evidence against factor endowment models may have partially resulted from inadequate data from the developing world.

Milner, Helen V., Ryan Powers, and Erik Voeten. “The Myth of the Eclectic IR Scholar?.” International Studies Perspectives 24.3 (2023): 308–335.

What does the decline in paradigmatic self-identification mean for how international relations (IR) scholars think about the world? We answer this question with a 2020 survey among nearly two thousand IR scholars. We uncover a two-dimensional latent theoretical belief space based on scholarly agreement with conjectures about the state, ideas, international institutions, domestic politics, globalization, and racism. The first dimension separates status quo–oriented scholars from more critical scholars. The second dimension captures the realist–institutionalist divide. We have three key findings. First, non-paradigmatic scholars vary greatly in their theoretical beliefs. Second, measurement invariance tests show that there is a similar structure underlying the beliefs of paradigmatic and non-paradigmatic scholars. Third, we find no evidence that non-paradigmatic scholars rely less on their theoretical beliefs in making predictions about conflict, institutions, political economy, democracy, and human rights. Instead, the positions of scholars in the two-dimensional theoretical belief space rather than self-assigned paradigmatic labels correlate with predictions about the world. Our findings suggest that non-paradigmatic scholars are not so different from self-identified Liberals, Constructivists, and Realists, although the decline of paradigmatic self-identification may still matter for how scholars organize debates and disciplinary divides.


de la Cuesta, Brandon et al. “Owning It: Accountability and Citizens’ Ownership over Oil, Aid, and Taxes.” The Journal of Politics 84.1 (2022): 304–320.

Government accountability is severely lacking in many developing countries, yet we know relatively little about the causal dynamics that produce citizen demands for greater responsiveness. We argue that a sense of ownership over public money heightens expectations for government services and induces expressive demands for accountability, and we apply the new theory in sub-Saharan Africa. Results from a series of lab-in-the-field experiments in Uganda and Ghana and from a nationally representative survey-based field experiment in Uganda all demonstrate that higher feelings of ownership over public revenues significantly increase citizens’ accountability pressures on leaders. Furthermore, simple interventions can significantly increase feelings of revenue ownership over oil and aid windfalls, producing demands for accountability indistinguishable from taxes.

Jamal, Amaney, and Helen Milner. “Islam and Mass Preferences towards Foreign Direct Investment in Tunisia.” Journal of Experimental Political Science 9.3 (2022): 314–325.

Are FDI and Islam in conflict with one another in the eyes of Tunisians?  Does support for globalization fall or increase when it embraces or challenges Islamic dress, prayer, and other practices? We examine through different experimental tests how Tunisians react to foreign direct investment when it accommodates or conflicts with Islamic norms. Using three original sources of data, including a large representative survey (N = 4,986), a conjoint survey experiment (N = 1,502), and an original survey experiment with experimental social vignettes (N = 504), we examine how threats (and non-threats) from FDI to Islamic norms affect support for FDI. We find strong support for FDI, but these levels of support are not stable. We find the support for FDI falls by almost 32% if it is seen to clash with female Islamic dress. Support is highest when it accommodates Islamic practices, especially the female hijab and lowest when it is perceived to disregard these practices.


Chaudoin, Stephen, Helen Milner, and Dustin Tingley. “‘America First’ Meets Liberal Internationalism.” H-Diplo ISSF Policy Series.America and the World - The Effects of the Trump Presidency (2021): .
de la Cuesta, Brandon et al. “Foreign Aid, Oil Revenues, and Political Accountability: Evidence from Six Experiments in Ghana and Uganda.” The Review of International Organizations 16.3 (2021): 521–548.

Foreign aid may act much like oil money in reducing voters’ willingness to demand accountability from their government, enabling corruption, clientelism, and repression. This is an important causal mechanism connecting public budgets to quality of governance. Yet other scholarship counters that aid is more beneficial than oil, either indirectly because of donor oversight or directly because aid is more likely to produce citizen pressures on governments. Empirical work on the topic employs observational data at the national, macro level, and has left the question unresolved. At the micro level, in some countries citizens have experience with aid revenues and oil funds, thus possessing information about the political implications of these different revenue sources. This article provides the first experimental tests of the direct mechanism linking aid and oil revenues to demands from citizens for greater political accountability. We report the effects of randomly assigned treatments identifying aid funds compared to oil money on behavior of citizens in six survey and lab experiments in Ghana and Uganda. We find no differences in accountability pressures when subjects are randomly assigned to aid or oil conditions in any experiment, including a survey-based field experiment in Uganda that employed very strong information treatments on the extent of aid and oil funds. Though little evidence suggests that either windfall necessarily reduces accountability demands from baseline in a meaningful way, citizens’ actions for aid money were statistically indistinguishable from oil revenues across all experiments. Aid may well have governance effects through the indirect route of donor oversight, but the results presented here suggest no evidence that aid, compared to oil, directly induces greater accountability demands among citizens.

Kim, In Song, and Helen V. Milner. “Multinational Corporations and Their Influence Through Lobbying on Foreign Policy.” Global Goliaths: Multinational Corporations in a Changing Global Economy. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2021. 497–536.
Multinational corporations (MNCs) play significant roles in shaping the global economy. Despite the prevalence of the economic activities of MNCs across the globe, few studies exist that examine their political influence on foreign policy-making. This chapter develops a theoretical framework for understanding how MNCs’ unique positions in the market affect their political activities. Specifically, we argue that MNCs’ economic dominance reduces the relative cost of engaging in political activities, while their large-scale transnational activities increase the marginal benefits of influencing policy-making individually. To examine this empirically, we first introduce a novel dataset of lobbying in the US encompassing lobbying activities of all public firms from 1999 to 2019. We then employ a difference-in-differences identification strategy to estimate the effect of MNC status on lobbying. We find strong evidence for an increase in lobbying expenditures when firms become multinational. Furthermore, we find that MNCs tend to lobby on a more diverse set of foreign policy issues. Our findings suggest that MNCs are important political actors whose distinct interests and influence should be incorporated into our understanding of foreign policy-making.
Levin, Simon A., Helen V. Milner, and Charles Perrings. “The Dynamics of Political Polarization.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118.50 (2021): e2116950118.
Malesky, Edmund, and Helen V. Milner. “Fostering Global Value Chains Through International Agreements: Evidence from Vietnam.” Economics & Politics 33.3 (2021): 443–482.

Which is more reassuring to foreign investors - domestic laws or international agreements?  A substantial literature argues that foreign investment may be under-provided, because governments cannot offer credible guarantees that judicial institutions are impartial and that investors will be able to fairly resolve disputes with business partners and enforce contracts. This time inconsistency problem deters profitable business partnerships between foreign investors and domestic firms in the host country. Consequently, for emerging market leaders seeking to deepen their countries' integration into global value chains (GVCs), enhancing the confidence of investors in contracting institutions is critical. In this paper, we study the emerging market of Vietnam to examine which type of reassurance mechanism is most successful. Using a survey of 1,583 foreign firms, we inform investors about either a domestic law or international treaty designed to strengthen commercial arbitration procedures. We find that priming foreign firms about the international investment agreement has a larger positive impact on their views about the future profitability of their projects and the likelihood of contracting with other firms in GVCs than simply learning about the commitments in domestic law.

Mansfield, Edward, Helen Milner, and Nita Rudra. “The Globalization Backlash: Exploring New Perspectives.” Comparative Political Studies 54.13 (2021): 2267–2285.

Rising popular discontent with globalization in Europe and the United States has occurred alongside increasing support for extreme right-wing parties, protectionism, and anti-immigrant views. This globalization backlash seems to be contributing to economic globalization’s abatement, especially with respect to trade but increasingly foreign investment, immigration, and participation in international institutions as well. What are the key forces driving these recent events and what are their broader political and institutional consequences? This special issue aims to provide an understanding of some central features of the anti-globalization furor. The studies in this special issue provide fresh insights into the economic factors contributing to the backlash while also addressing how they might interact with cultural forces. It concludes with a discussion of why the globalization backlash has not diffused widely to the developing world.

Milner, Helen, and Sondre U. Solstad. “Technological Change and the International System.” World Politics 73.3 (2021): 545–589.

Do world politics affect the adoption of new technology? States overwhelmingly rely on technology invented abroad, and their differential intensity of technology use accounts for many of their differences in economic development. Much of the literature on technology adoption focuses on domestic conditions. The authors argue instead that the structure of the international system is critical because it affects the level of competition among states, which in turn affects leaders’ willingness to enact policies that speed technology adoption. Countries adopt new technology as they seek to avoid being vulnerable to attack or coercion by other countries. By systematically examining states’ adoption of technology over the past two hundred years, the authors find that countries adopt new technologies faster when the international system is less concentrated, that changes in systemic concentration have a temporally causal effect on technology adoption, and that government policies to promote technology adoption are related to concerns about rising international competition. A competitive international system is an important incentive for technological change and may underlie global technology waves.

Milner, Helen V. “Voting for Populism in Europe: Globalization, Technological Change, and the Extreme Right.” Comparative Political Studies 54.13 (2021): 2286–2320.

What are the political consequences of economic globalization? Since the 1990s, scholars of European party politics have noted the rise of extremist parties, especially right-wing populist ones, and the decline of mainstream left and right parties. This paper focuses on the association between globalization in terms of trade, capital and labor flows, technological change, and popular support for extreme right parties. I examine these relations at the regional and individual level in 15 advanced industrial democracies in Western Europe from 1990 to 2018. Globalization, especially in the form of trade, is associated with growing vote shares for extreme right parties. Technological change in the form of automation increases support for extreme right parties. The financial crisis enhanced support for populist right parties and strengthened the negative relationship between trade shocks and declining support for mainstream left parties. And the use of social welfare compensation seems unable to dampen these political trends.

Milner, Helen. “Is Global Capitalism Compatible With Democracy? Inequality, Insecurity, and Interdependence.” International Studies Quarterly 65.4 (2021): 1097–1110.

Global capitalism seems to be placing democracy, especially liberal democracy, under considerable stress. Support for populism has surged, especially for extreme right parties with populist and authoritarian programs. Inequality, insecurity, and interdependence—all associated with globalization—have grown globally and appear to be key sources of stress. New technologies spread readily by globalization are also a force for destabilization. Do these international forces pose existential challenges to democracy? Liberal democracy rests on a foundation of political equality among citizens; it requires free and fair elections, competition among programmatic parties, political legitimacy from public support, and institutional constraints on executive power and majority rule. Is the rise global capitalism eroding all of these key elements? If so, what can be done about it?


Chilton, Adam S., Helen V. Milner, and Dustin Tingley. “Reciprocity and Public Opposition to Foreign Direct Investment.” British Journal of Political Science 50.1 (2020): 129–153.

Prior international political economy public opinion research has primarily examined how economic and socio-cultural factors shape individuals’ views on the flows of goods, people and capital. This research has largely ignored whether individuals also care about rewarding or punishing foreign countries for their policies on these issues. We tested this possibility by administering a series of conjoint and traditional survey experiments in the United States and China that examined how reciprocity influences opposition to foreign acquisitions of domestic companies. We find that reciprocity is an important determinant of public opinion on the regulation of foreign investments. This suggests the need to consider the policies that other countries adopt when trying to explain public attitudes toward global economic integration.

Dietrich, Simone, Helen V. Milner, and Jonathan B. Slapin. “From Text to Political Positions on Foreign Aid: Analysis of Aid Mentions in Party Manifestos from 1960 to 2015.” International Studies Quarterly 64.4 (2020): 980–990.

Looking at texts of election manifestos, this paper examines systematic differences among political parties within and across countries in how they position themselves on foreign aid and in how these manifesto pledges translate into commitments to disburse aid. Conventional wisdom suggests that left-leaning parties may be more supportive of foreign aid than rightwing parties, but also that foreign aid may not be sufficiently electorally salient for parties to stake out positions in campaign materials, such as manifestos. We leverage a new data set that codes party positions on foreign aid in election manifestos for 13 donors from 1960 to 2015. We find that parties differ systematically in how they engage with foreign aid. Left-leaning governments are more likely to express positive sentiment vis-à-vis aid than right-leaning governments. We evaluate the effects of positions on aid outcomes and find that positive aid views expressed by the party in government translate into higher aid commitments, though only for left-leaning parties.


de la Cuesta, Brandon et al. “Oil and Aid Revenue Produce Equal Demands for Accountability As Taxes in Ghana and Uganda.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116.36 (2019): 17717–17722.

Received wisdom argues that citizens more readily demand accountability from government for taxes than for non-tax revenue from oil or foreign aid, giving rise to an important mechanism underlying the resource curse. However, in developing countries, obfuscation through value-added taxes and strong popular feelings of ownership over all revenues may minimize differences across revenue sources. Identical experiments on representative samples of Ghanaians and Ugandans and similar experiments on members of parliament probe the effects of different sources and delivery channels of government revenues on citizens’ actions to monitor governments and MPs’ beliefs about accountability pressures. Roughly half of all citizens take action to monitor all three sources. But neither Ghanaians nor Ugandans demand more accountability for taxes than oil or aid when the revenues go to the government. MPs likewise saw no difference. Citizens do differentiate between aid money given to non-governmental organizations compared to revenues delivered to the government. Findings are robust to numerous alternatives and subgroups. Against strong expectations from prior research, little evidence exists showing that taxes strengthen citizens’ demands for accountability or that MPs perceive differences across revenue sources in these two representative African countries. However, aid channeled through NGOs motivates more accountability pressures.

Jamal, Amaney, and Helen V. Milner. “Economic Self-Interest, Information, and Trade Policy Preferences: Evidence from an Experiment in Tunisia.” Review of International Political Economy 26.4 (2019): 545–572.

We address a central question about the integration of developing countries into the global economy: what factors affect public support for such globalization. Do public preferences toward trade correlate with its economic consequences or sociocultural resonances? Using a nationally representative survey experiment in Tunisia, a majority Muslim, developing country, we investigate whether providing information about trade's distributional consequences causes respondents to connect their economic self-interest to their trade policy preferences. Respondents seem to understand their economic self-interest, and information provision enhances this. Information about the likely benefits of trade causes people in the export-oriented sector to respond more positively to trade liberalization, as economic theory predicts. Information about its costs has confounding effects on those in import-competing sectors; those involved in global value chains maintain support for trade more than those outside such production chains who become protectionist. We find scant evidence that sociotropic, political, or cultural variables influence trade attitudes. Contributing to the recent debates over trade policy preferences, we show that public preferences align most strongly with their economic self-interest as derived from recent trade theories.

Kim, In Song et al. “Firms and Global Value Chains: Identifying Firms’ Multidimensional Trade Preferences.” International Studies Quarterly 63.1 (2019): 153–167.

Trade policy has become increasingly multidimensional. Current trade agreements not only address market access but also encompass rules and provisions related to flexibility of commitment, investment protection, and dispute settlement mechanisms. Yet, rigorous evidence about how interest groups evaluate each policy measure in relation to others remains scarce. We develop a firm-level theoretical framework to explain how firms’ international operations affect their preferences on different trade policy measures. We experimentally evaluate preferences over multiple policy dimensions using a conjoint analysis on firms in Costa Rica. Notably, for many types of firms, the standard trade policy measures of yesteryear — tariffs and subsidies — are no longer their most important concerns. Instead, the degree of firms’ involvement in global value chains shapes their preferences. Multinational corporations care most about protection of their foreign investments. Strong dispute settlement procedures are most valued by exporters who are not central to global supply networks. Finally, preferences over these policy dimensions are more likely to vary by firm, not by industry, challenging the conventional focus on inter-industry distinctions in the literature.


Chaudoin, Stephen et al. “A Liberal International American Foreign Policy Under Trump? Maybe Down But Not Out.” Chaos in the Liberal Order: The Trump Presidency and International Politics in the 21st Century. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018.
Donald Trump’s election has called into question many fundamental assumptions about politics and society. Should the forty-fifth president of the United States make us reconsider the nature and future of the global order? Collecting a wide range of perspectives from leading political scientists, historians, and international-relations scholars, Chaos in the Liberal Order explores the global trends that led to Trump’s stunning victory and the impact his presidency will have on the international political landscape.

Contributors situate Trump among past foreign policy upheavals and enduring models for global governance, seeking to understand how and why he departs from precedents and norms. The book considers key issues, such as what Trump means for America’s role in the world; the relationship between domestic and international politics; and Trump’s place in the rise of the far right worldwide. It poses challenging questions, including: Does Trump’s election signal the downfall of the liberal order or unveil its resilience? What is the importance of individual leaders for the international system, and to what extent is Trump an outlier? Is there a Trump doctrine, or is America’s president fundamentally impulsive and scattershot? The book considers the effects of Trump’s presidency on trends in human rights, international alliances, and regional conflicts. With provocative contributions from prominent figures such as Stephen M. Walt, Andrew J. Bacevich, and Samuel Moyn, this timely collection brings much-needed expert perspectives on our tumultuous era.
Mansfield, Edward, and Helen V. Milner. “The Domestic Politics of Preferential Trade Agreements in Hard Times.” World Trade Review 17.3 (2018): 371–403.

There is evidence that some countries negotiate trade agreements during economic downturns. Why would a leader do this? We argue that political leaders can gain from such agreements because of the signals they send to their public. The public are less likely to blame leaders for adverse economic conditions when they have implemented sound economic policies, such as signing agreements designed to liberalize trade and prevent a slide into protectionism. In hard economic times, leaders – especially those in democratic environments – may find that trade agreements are a useful way to reassure the public. Since majorities in many countries around the world view trade favorably, leaders may see agreements that prevent them from adopting protectionism as a way to maintain support. We evaluate this argument by analyzing preferential trade agreements (PTAs) formed since 1962. We find that, on average, democratic countries are more likely to ratify PTAs during hard economic times. We also find that democratic leaders who sign PTAs during downturns enjoy a longer tenure than their counterparts who do not sign such agreements.

Spilker, Gabriele et al. “Trade at the Margin: Estimating the Economic Implications of Preferential Trade Agreements.” The Review of International Organizations 13.2 (2018): 189–242.

Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) have become the most prevalent form of international trade liberalization in recent decades, even though it remains far from clear what their effects on economies and their key units, firms, are. This paper evaluates the distributional consequences of trade liberalization within industries differentiating two distinct aspects in which trade liberalization could result in higher trade flows: the intensive vs. the extensive margin of trade. In particular, we analyze whether trade liberalization leads to increased trade flows because either firms trade more volume in products they have already traded before (intensive margin) or because they start to trade products they have not traded previously (extensive margin), or both. We test these arguments for the Dominican Republic–Central America–United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) and exporting firms based in Costa Rica for the time-period 2008–2014. The results of our study suggest that the effects of CAFTA-DR depend not only on whether we analyze the extensive versus the intensive margin of trade but also whether the product in question is homogenous or differentiated and whether the exporting firm under analysis is small or large. In particular, we find support for the theoretical expectation that firms exporting heterogeneous products, such as textiles, gain from trade agreements, such as CAFTA-DR, in that they can export more varieties of their products. Yet at the same time, they tend to lose at the intensive margin by a reduction in their trade volume while the opposite pattern occurs for firms exporting homogenous products.


Chaudoin, Stephen, and Helen V. Milner. “Science and the System: IPE and International Monetary Politics.” Review of International Political Economy 24.4 (2017): 681–698.

A recent RIPE article by Jerry Cohen argues that current research on the political economy of money has stagnated because of its overemphasis on the scientific method and domestic variables. We argue that a wide array of scientifically oriented research on the IPE of money considers the system in many different ways. To help build a dialogue, we categorize each of these conceptions of ‘the system’ and give examples of their application from recent research on the IPE of money. Our hope is that this typology will help scholars of different approaches recognize the similarities and differences in their research, beyond simply whether the research is scientific or heterodox.

Chaudoin, Stephen, Helen V. Milner, and Dustin Tingley. “A Liberal International American Foreign Policy? Maybe Down But Not Out.” H-Diplo/ISSF Policy Roundtable 1.6 (2017): n. pag.

An ongoing debate among prominent scholars of international relations concerns the future direction of American foreign policy. In particular, scholars, pundits, and commentators wonder whether the United States will continue to pursue a liberal internationalist stance. At its core, liberal internationalism entails international engagement, not isolationism. And despite the ‘liberal’ terminology, it is not a policy skewed towards Democrats and political liberals and away from Republicans and political conservatives. Instead the liberal component of internationalism embodies many bi-partisan principles: support for freedom, democracy, human rights, a free press, as well as an open world economy for the movement of goods, services, people, and ideas. Not surprisingly, an amazing amount of ink has been spilled on what the election of Donald Trump as President means for the trajectory of U.S. foreign policy and a possible break from liberal internationalism.

Chilton, Adam, Helen V. Milner, and Dustin Tingley. “Trump Just Blocked a Chinese Takeover of a Sensitive U.S. Company. Here’s what’s Going On..” Washington Post Monkey Cage. N.p., 2017.
Even in cases where the national security implications of sales have been less clear, Chinese investors looking to buy U.S. companies have been facing increasing scrutiny. Over the past several years, we have been researching the role that politics plays in regulating investments between the United States and China. We find that even though the explicit justification for U.S. hostility to Chinese investments is national security, much of the real politics involves the question of whether China is willing to reciprocate U.S. market openness by opening up its own companies to U.S. investors.
Findley, Michael G. et al. “Who Controls Foreign Aid? Elite Versus Public Perceptions of Donor Influence in Aid-Dependent Uganda.” International Organization 71.4 (2017): 633–663.

Does foreign aid enable or constrain elite capture of public revenues? Reflecting on prominent debates in the foreign aid literature, we examine whether recipient preferences are consistent with a view that foreign donors wield substantial control over the flow of aid dollars, making elite capture more difficult and mass benefits more likely. We compare elite and mass support for foreign aid versus government spending on development projects through a survey experiment with behavioral outcomes. A key innovation is a parallel experiment on members of the Ugandan national parliament and a representative sample of Ugandan citizens. For two actual aid projects, we randomly assigned different funders to the projects. Significant treatment effects reveal that members of parliament support government programs over foreign aid, whereas citizens prefer aid over government. Donor control also implies that citizens should favor foreign aid more and elites less as their perceptions of government clientelism and corruption in-crease. We explore this and report on other alternative mechanisms. Effects for citizens and elites are most apparent for those perceiving significant government corruption, suggesting that both sets of subjects perceive significant donor control over aid.

Findley, Michael G., Helen V. Milner, and Daniel L. Nielson. “The Choice Among Aid Donors: The Effects of Multilateral Vs. Bilateral Aid on Recipient Behavioral Support.” The Review of International Organizations 12.2 (2017): 307–334.

Scholars studying foreign assistance differ over whether multilateral aid is preferable to bilateral aid for promoting development, but nearly all build their cases primarily on highly aggregated cross-national time-series data. We investigate this topic experimentally from the perspective of those whom the foreign aid directly affects: recipient citizens and elites. We thus report results of a survey experiment with behavioral outcomes on more than 3000 Ugandan citizens and over 300 members of Uganda’s Parliament. In spite of a large literature suggesting differences, the findings generally reveal few substantive differences in citizens’ and elites’ preferences and behavior toward the two types of aid. While no strong pattern of differences emerges, limited evidence suggests that the public evinces greater trust in multilateral institutions, and both masses and elites feel that multilateral aid is more transparent. Overall, these null results inform an ever-expanding literature, which is increasingly articulating distinctions between multilateral and bilateral aid. At least in the minds of the recipients, however, multilateral and bilateral aid may not in fact be all that different. This accords with the literature noting the strong overlap in aid organizations and bemoaning the fact that they do not specialize more. Our results raise the question about why have both multilateral and bilateral aid donors if they in effect do the same thing.

Osgood, Iain et al. “The Charmed Life of Superstar Exporters: Survey Evidence on Firms and Trade Policy.” Journal of Politics 79.1 (2017): 133–152.

What factors determine firms’ attitudes toward trade policy? This paper considers producers’ policy preferences and political behavior in light of two key patterns in modern international trade: industries that face import competition often have many exporters, and foreign sales are concentrated in the hands of a small number of “superstar” exporters. Using a new survey of Costa Rican firms matched to systematic firm-level data on export behavior, we find that firm features are generally more important predictors of attitudes toward trade liberalization than industry-wide comparative advantage. We also show that export intensity is strongly associated with interest and lobbying activity on trade policy. The largest exporters, who are the strongest supporters of global integration, dominate trade politics.


Findley, Michael G., Helen V. Milner, and Daniel L. Nielson. “Citizen Preferences and Public Goods: Comparing Preferences for Foreign Aid and Government Programs in Uganda.” The Review of International Organizations 11 (2016): 219–245.

Different theories about the impact of aid make distinct predictions about citizens’ attitudes toward foreign aid in recipient countries. We investigate their preferences toward aid and government projects in order to examine these different theories. Are citizens indifferent between development projects funded by their own government versus those funded by foreign aid donors, as aid capture theory suggests? To address this, in an experiment on a large, representative sample of Ugandan citizens, we randomly assigned the names of funding groups for actual forthcoming development projects and invited citizens to express support attitudinally and behaviorally. We find that citizens are significantly more willing to show behavioral support in favor of foreign aid projects compared to government programs, especially if they already perceive the government as corrupt or clientelist or if they are not supporters of the ruling party. They also trust donors more, think they are more effective, and do not consistently oppose aid conditionality. This experimental evidence is consistent with a theory that we call donor control which sees donors asbeing able to target and condition aid so that it is not fungible with government revenues and thus to be able to better direct it to meet citizens’ needs.

Kim, Soo Yeon, Edward D. Mansfield, and Helen V. Milner. “Regional Trade Governance.” Oxford Handbook of Comparative Regionalism. Oxford (UK): Oxford University Press, 2016.

The proliferation of preferential trade agreements (PTAs) is the most prominent and prevalent driver of regional trade governance in the contemporary international economy. PTAs grant member states preferential access to each other’s markets, and they also shape the contours of economic regionalism across different geographic neighborhoods. The chapter analyzes the central issues animating scholarship on regional trade governance, with a focus on the role of PTAs and the future research trajectories relevant to the evolution of regional institution-building. It examines the domestic and international political factors that influence the establishment, design, and the political as well as economic effects of PTAs. It also addresses how the budding “mega-PTAs” currently under negotiation may affect the stability and governance of the multilateral trading system. The analysis highlights an important research frontier in the study of PTAs: the emergence of deep integration agreements that seek extensive “behind-the-border” trade liberalization and regulatory coordination.


Mansfield, Edward D., and Helen V. Milner. “The Political Economy of Preferential Trade Agreements.” Trade Cooperation: The Purpose, Design and Effects of Preferential Trade Agreements. Cambridge (UK), New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 56–81.

Preferential trade agreements (PTAs) have been proliferating for more than two decades, with the negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and a Trans-Pacific Partnership being just the tip of the iceberg. This volume addresses some of the most pressing issues related to the surge of these agreements. It includes chapters written by leading political scientists, economists and lawyers which theoretically and empirically advance our understanding of trade agreements. The key theme is that PTAs vary widely in terms of design. The authors provide explanations as to why we see these differences in design and whether and how these differences matter in practice. The tools for understanding the purposes and effects of PTAs that are offered will guide future research and inform practitioners and trade policy experts about progress in the scientific enquiry into PTAs.

Milner, Helen V., and Dustin Tingley. Sailing the Water’s Edge: The Domestic Politics of American Foreign Policy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015.

When engaging with other countries, the U.S. government has a number of different policy instruments at its disposal, including foreign aid, international trade, and the use of military force. But what determines which policies are chosen? Does the United States rely too much on the use of military power and coercion in its foreign policies? Sailing the Water's Edge focuses on how domestic U.S. politics—in particular the interactions between the president, Congress, interest groups, bureaucratic institutions, and the public—have influenced foreign policy choices since World War II and shows why presidents have more control over some policy instruments than others. Presidential power matters and it varies systematically across policy instruments.


Helen Milner and Dustin Tingley consider how Congress and interest groups have substantial material interests in and ideological divisions around certain issues and that these factors constrain presidents from applying specific tools. As a result, presidents select instruments that they have more control over, such as use of the military. This militarization of U.S. foreign policy raises concerns about the nature of American engagement, substitution among policy tools, and the future of U.S. foreign policy. Milner and Tingley explore whether American foreign policy will remain guided by a grand strategy of liberal internationalism, what affects American foreign policy successes and failures, and the role of U.S. intelligence collection in shaping foreign policy. The authors support their arguments with rigorous theorizing, quantitative analysis, and focused case studies, such as U.S. foreign policy in Sub-Saharan Africa across two presidential administrations.


Sailing the Water’s Edge examines the importance of domestic political coalitions and institutions on the formation of American foreign policy.

Milner, Helen V., and Nita Rudra. “Globalization and the Political Benefits of the Informal Economy.” International Studies Review 17.4 (2015): 664–669.

Does global market integration help or hinder government efforts to improve the livelihoods of the world’s poorest citizens? Standard trade theories suggest that government interventions become less imperative as developing countries liberalize. This is because labor in developing economies is abundant and cheap; export products that utilize this factor of production will employ large populations of low-skilled workers who will experience increases in the purchasing power of their wage income. Consumption increases, and the country as a whole is better off. For several decades now, developing economies have embraced this rationale for free trade and its welfare-enhancing effects on the majority.

Milner, Helen V. et al. “The Political Economy of Inward FDI: Opposition to Chinese Mergers and Acquisitions.” Chinese Journal of International Politics 8.1 (2015): 27–57.

A great deal of political economy scholarship has focused on how countries can attract foreign direct investment (FDI), and the effects of FDI on growth and political stability. A related topic that has received almost no attention, however, is that of divergent political reactions to inflows of FDI in the countries receiving investments. This is an oversight, because inward FDI flows are not equally welcomed by the host country and, in fact, often encounter strong political opposition. We study this phenomenon by examining political opposition to attempts by Chinese companies at mergers and acquisitions (M&As) with US firms. This is especially important given rapidly expanding Chinese M&A activity. We hypothesise that although most legal barriers to foreign M&As are based on national security considerations, objections on these grounds are often vehicles through which to channel other grievances, and that economic distress and reciprocity are also key drivers of political opposition. To test this theory, we constructed an original dataset of 569 transactions that occurred between 1999 and 2014 involving Chinese acquirers and American targets. We find that there is more likely to be opposition to Chinese M&A attempts in security sensitive industries, economically distressed industries, and sectors in which US companies faced restrictions in China’s M&A markets.


International trade agreements lead to more foreign direct investment (FDI) in developing countries. This article examines the causal mechanisms underpinning this trade-investment linkage by asking whether institutional features of preferential trade agreements (PTAs), which allow governments to make more credible commitments to protect foreign investments, indeed result in greater FDI. The authors explore three institutional differences. First, they examine whether PTAs that have entered into force lead to greater FDI than PTAs that have merely been negotiated and signed, since only the former constitute a binding commitment under international law. Second, they ask whether trade agreements that have investment clauses lead to greater FDI. Third, they consider whether PTAs with dispute-settlement mechanisms lead to greater FDI. Analyses of FDI flows into 122 developing countries from 1971 to 2007 show that trade agreements that include stronger mechanisms for credible commitment induce more FDI. Institutional diversity in international agreements matters.

Cao, Xun et al. “Research Frontiers in Comparative and International Environmental Politics: An Introduction.” Comparative Political Studies 47.3 (2014): 291–308.

Given the recognition of the seriousness of climate change and other forms of environmental challenges, a growing number of political scientists are working in the environmental area. We have a substantial body of research examining local, regional, and global environmental issues. It is our sense that time is ripe for the field of international and comparative environmental politics to reflect on existing work, integrate it, and clearly articulate directions for future research. This special issue seeks to encourage scholars to systemically examine the roles of domestic and international factors, either alone or in interaction, to develop more nuanced models of environmental politics across space and time. We hope that the papers here will help to define the research frontier for the environmental politics field. Collectively, they exemplify recent efforts in comparative and international environmental politics that are, first, explanatory in orientation; second, cross levels of analysis in a way that transcends artificial subdisciplinary distinctions; and finally, are based on application of a variety of research methods and modeling techniques standard among the wider political science community.

Chaudoin, Stephen, Helen V. Milner, and Xun Pang. “International Systems and Domestic Politics: Linking Complex Interactions With Empirical Models in International Relations.” International Organization 69.2 (2014): 275–309.

Following older debates in international relations literature concerning the relative importance of domestic versus systemic factors, newer debates emphasize interdependence among states and the complex interactions between systemic and domestic factors. As globalization and democratization advance, theories and empirical models of international politics have become more complicated. We present a systematic theoretical categorization of relationships between domestic and systemic variables. We use this categorization so that scholars can match their theory to the appropriate empirical model and assess the degree to which systemic factors affect their arguments. We also present two advances at the frontier of these empirical models. In one, we combine hierarchical models of moderating relationships with spatial models of interdependence among units within a system. In the other, we provide a model for analyzing spatial interdependence that varies over time. This enables us to examine how the level of interdependence among units has evolved. We illustrate our categorization and new models by revisiting the recent international political economy (IPE) debate over the relationship between trade policy and regime type in developing countries.

Hicks, Raymond, Helen V. Milner, and Dustin Tingley. “Trade Policy, Economic Interests, and Party Politics in a Developing Country: The Political Economy of CAFTA-DR.” International Studies Quarterly 58.1 (2014): 106–117.

Developing countries have increasingly opened their economies to trade. Research about trade policy in developed countries focuses on a bottom-up process by identifying economic preferences of domestic groups. We know less about developing countries. We analyze how economic and political variables influenced Costa Rican voters in a referendum on CAFTA-DR, an international trade agreement. We find little support for Stolper–Samuelson models of economic preferences, but more support for specific factor models. We also isolate the effects of political parties on the referendum, controlling for many economic factors; we document how at least one party influenced voters and this made the difference for CAFTA-DR passage. Politics, namely parties using their organizational strength to cue and frame messages for voters, influenced this important trade policy decision. Theories about trade policy need to take into account top-down political factors along with economic interests.

Milner, Helen V. “Introduction: The Global Economy, FDI, and the Regime for Investment.” World Politics 66.1 (2014): 1–11.

The world economy has maintained or enhanced its integration in the past decade even in the face of the global financial crisis. A large part of this globalization has been driven by capital flows. This symposium focuses on one element of these capital flows, foreign direct investment (FDI), and on the regime in place to safeguard and promote such investments around the globe. The articles by Allee and Peinhardt and Simmons focus on the nature and evolution of the bilateral investment treaties (BITs) that have been developed to protect such investments and that have proliferated since the 1990s. The final article, by Büthe and Milner, turns its attention to the ways in which international trade agreements affect FDI. The comparison between the investment and trade agreements is instructive, since they seem to have different effects.

FDI has become one of the most important economic flows in the global economy. It is a critical source of capital for developing countries and remains a significant source of investment in the developed world. FDI has grown in part because countries changed their policies toward it dramatically after the 1980s; governments in developing countries made unilateral policy changes that opened up markets across the globe and increased competition among countries for FDI.


Milner, Helen V. “International Trade.” Handbook of International Relations. Vol. 2. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2013. 720–745.

International trade has become one of the most potent issues in both domestic and international politics these days. Under the rubric of globalization, international trade has become a contentious issue in domestic politics, as the recent WTO conference in Seattle showed. In international politics, trade is today a premiere instrument of statecraft, as witnessed by the US–China trade agreement and the EU's accession negotiations with the countries of East and Central Europe. How can we explain the trade policy choices that states make? What theories do we possess that illuminate the nature of countries' trade relations?

Milner, Helen V., and Dustin Tingley. “The Choice for Multilateralism: Foreign Aid and American Foreign Policy.” The Review of International Organizations 8.3 (2013): 313–341.

Why do governments choose multilateralism? We examine a principal-agent model in which states trade some control over the policy for greater burden sharing. The theory generates observable hypotheses regarding the reasons for and the patterns of support and opposition to multilateralism. To focus our study, we analyze support for bilateral and multilateral foreign aid giving in the US. Using new survey data, we provide evidence about the correlates of public and elite support for multilateral engagement. We find weak support for multilateralism and deep partisan divisions. Reflecting elite discourse, public opinion divides over two competing rationales–-burden sharing and control–-when faced with the choice between multilateral and bilateral aid channels. As domestic groups' preferences over aid policy diverge from those of the multilateral institution, maintaining control over aid policy becomes more salient and support for multilateralism falls.

Milner, Helen V., and Dustin Tingley. “Public Opinion and Foreign Aid: A Review Essay.” International Interactions 39.3 (2013): 389–401.

The study of public opinion and foreign policy has a long history (Almond 1950 Converse 1964; Lippmann 1955). This history includes a long-standing debate over the utility of studying public opinion when considering international affairs (Holsti 1992; Mueller 1971; Page and Shapiro 1983, 1992, Wittkopf 1986). The dismissal of the importance of public opinion stems from the concern that the mass public knows little about foreign policy. Prominent theories about foreign policy and international relations give no role to publics (Krasner 1978; Mearsheimer 2001; Waltz 1979). Very few theoretical perspectives in international relations give any weight to public attitudes; neorealism, neoliberalism, and institutionalism provide very little space for the mass public to affect foreign policy.


Mansfield, Edward D., and Helen V. Milner. “Preferential Trade Agreements in Hard Times.” The Political Economist 9.2 (2012): 9–12.

Agreements about foreign trade policy have long been key features of the international political economy. Among the most important agreements of this sort are preferential trade agreements (PTAs), which are designed to foster economic integration among member-states by improving and stabilizing the access that each member has to the other participants’ markets. PTAs are a broad class of international agreements that include common markets, customs unions (CUs), free trade areas (FTAs), and economic unions. These agreements have marked the global landscape for centuries, but they have proliferated especially rapidly over the past half-century, and hundreds of them currently dot the international system. The spread of PTAs continues unabated and is one of the most significant trends in the international political economy

Mansfield, Edward D., and Helen V. Milner. Votes, Vetoes, and the Political Economy of International Trade Agreements. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012.

Preferential trading arrangements (PTAs) play an increasingly prominent role in the global political economy, two notable examples being the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement. These agreements foster economic integration among member states by enhancing their access to one another's markets. Yet despite the importance of PTAs to international trade and world politics, until now little attention has been focused on why governments choose to join them and how governments design them. This book offers valuable new insights into the political economy of PTA formation. Many economists have argued that the roots of these agreements lie in the promise they hold for improving the welfare of member states. Others have posited that trade agreements are a response to global political conditions. Edward Mansfield and Helen Milner argue that domestic politics provide a crucial impetus to the decision by governments to enter trade pacts. Drawing on this argument, they explain why democracies are more likely to enter PTAs than nondemocratic regimes, and why as the number of veto players--interest groups with the power to block policy change--increases in a prospective member state, the likelihood of the state entering a trade agreement is reduced. The book provides a novel view of the political foundations of trade agreements.


Milner, Helen V., and Dustin H. Tingley. “Who Supports Global Economic Engagement? The Sources of Preferences in American Foreign Economic Policy.” International Organization 65.01 (2011): 37–68.

In this article we bring together opposing international relations theories to better understand U.S. foreign policy, in particular foreign trade and aid. Using votes in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979–2004, we explore different theoretical predictions about preferences for foreign economic policy. We assess the impact of domestic factors, namely political economy and ideological preferences, versus foreign policy pressures. Our three main results highlight the differential effect of these factors in the two issue areas. First, aid preferences are as affected by domestic political economy factors as are trade preferences. Second, trade preferences, but not economic aid ones, are shaped by the president's foreign policy concerns; for economic aid, domestic political economy factors matter more than foreign policy ones. Third, aid preferences are shaped more by ideological factors than are trade ones, but ideology plays a different substantive role in each. Different constituencies support aid and trade. This finding has implications for foreign policy substitutability, "the internationalist coalition" in U.S. foreign policy, "statist" theories of foreign policy, and the connection between public opinion and legislative voting.