Christopher L. Carter

Academy Scholar
Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies

Christopher L. Carter. Party System Erosion: Evidence from Peru. Party Politics. 2020.


Weakly institutionalized party systems are a defining feature of third-wave democracies. Yet, in some countries, like Peru, party weakness is not a static equilibrium but rather part of a dynamic process of “party system erosion” in which weak parties become weaker over time as independents come to dominate subnational posts. As I argue, party system erosion is driven by a particular configuration of institutional factors—weak party brands, low barriers to ballot access, and limited partisan control over resource distribution during and after campaigns. These institutional features increase the likelihood that experienced candidates will run as independents. When these candidates are elected, experience enables them to obtain more intergovernmental discretionary transfers. The superior in-office performance of experienced, independent officials further weakens party brands, leading fewer and fewer experienced candidates to run with parties. I test this theory using a dataset of 80,000 subnational officials and a regression discontinuity design.

Christopher L. Carter and Alison Post. 2019. Decentralization and Urban Governance: Evidence To-Date and Avenues for Future Research. Decentralized Governance and Accountability: Academic Research and the Future of Donor Programming. Jonathan Rodden and Erik Wibbels, eds. Cambridge University Press.


As increasingly large shares of the developing world’s population come to live in cities, it is important to examine the effects of political, fiscal, and administrative decentralization on urban governance and service delivery. Relevant academic scholarship and policy research, we show, suggests that clientelism, populism, and local capture often persist following the establishment of municipal elections. However, conditions such as political competition, independent fiscal resources, and strong civil societies can facilitate more democratic outcomes following decentralization. Meanwhile, our review of literature on decentralization’s impact on two quintessentially “urban” services—land market regulation and urban water and sanitation—suggests that decentralization involves important trade-offs. On the one hand, decentralization can help citizens to pressure more effectively for inclusion and access, particularly in the presence of political competition and a robust civil society. On the other hand, it can make it more difficult for policymakers to address metropolitan-level or long run concerns regarding investments in basic infrastructure that are often not at the forefront of voters’ minds. We also highlight the need for primary data collection, suggest research design strategies that would allow for more rigorous empirical analyses, and highlight important topics that have received very little attention.

Christopher L. Carter. Does Information Lead to Implementation? Field Experimental Evidence from Peru. (Research design)


A growing literature in political science and economics has addressed how the provision of information to citizens shapes accountability, corruption, and voter turnout in the developing world. Yet, only limited attention has been devoted to understanding the information environments of local-level elected officials, particularly whether they have adequate and accurate information about the effects of certain nationally funded programs and how different types of information affect their decisions to implement those programs in their municipalities. Two questions thus arise: 1) How do officials’ decisions to implement programs change once they are correctly informed about various program effects? And 2) are local officials more concerned with the policy outcomes of programs or their potential electoral effects? I use a field experiment with Peruvian mayors to answer this question.
Funded by: J-PAL Governance Initiative
Implementing partner: IPA

© 2018 Christopher Carter
Adapted from road2stat (Nan Xiao)