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Research Agenda

Bureaucracy, State Capacity, and Public Service Provision

"The Social Bureaucrat: How Social Proximity among Bureaucrats Affects Local Governance" Revise & Resubmit, American Journal of Political Science.

Paper  |  Award Citation


"Imams and Patrons: Service Provision by Islamist Non-State Actors" (with Fotini Christia). Revise & Resubmit, Journal of Conflict Resolution.


"Members of the Same Club?: Subnational Variations in Electoral Returns to Public Goods." Under Review.

  • Fiona McGillivray Award for Best Paper in Political Economy (Honorable Mention), APSA


“Scarcity and Discrimination in Local Public Services: Evidence from Health Clinics in  Lebanon” (with  Aytug Sasmaz and Melani Cammett). In Progress.

"State Capacity and Age Heaping in Weak States: Evidence from the MENA region" (with  Gabriel Koehler-Derrick and Yusuf Magiya). In Progress.

“Urban Bias in Rural Governance” (with  Aytug Sasmaz). In Progress.

Distributive Politics and its Implications for Diverse Societies

"Enforcement Process Tracing: Forbearance and Dilution in Urban Colombia and Turkey" (with Alisha Holland). Studies in Comparative International Development, 53(3): 300-323, August 2018. 

 Link  |  Online Appendix

"The Unintended Consequences of Nation-Making Institutions for Civil Society Development."(with Asli Cansunar). Journal of Historical Political Economy, 1(4): 591-613, 2021.


"Women and the welfare state regime of Turkey," Turkish Policy Quarterly,  11(4): 177-188, Winter 2013.​


"The Education Dilemma: Favoring the In-Group or Assimilating the Out-Group"(with Asli Cansunar). Under Review.


​"Teachers against Landlords: Landlessness and Compliance with Compulsory Primary Education"(with Asli Cansunar). 

"The Education Backlash: How Assimilative Primary School Education Affects Insurgency in Areas of Ethnic Conflict"(with
Asli Cansunar).


Refugee Integration and Welfare 

"Combining  Mobile  Data and  Satellite  Imaging for  Human  Mobility" (with Asli Cansunar), in Data Science for Migration and Mobility (Salah, Korkmaz, Bircan, eds.), Oxford University Press, 2022.


"Assessing Syrian Refugee Integration Using Call Detail Records from Turkey" (with Fotini Christia, Constantinos  Daskalakis, Elizabeth Harwood,  Christos  Papadimitriou), in Guide to Mobile Data Analytics in Refugee Scenarios (Salah, Pentland, Lepri, Letouze, Vinck, de Montjoye, Dong, eds.), Springer, 2019:223-249. 

 Link  Online Appendix

"Policy Implications of the D4R Challenge" (with Salah et al.), in Guide to Mobile Data Analytics in Refugee Scenarios (Salah, Pentland, Lepri, Letouze, Vinck, de Montjoye, Dong, eds.), Springer, 2019:477-495. 

"How Seasonal Employment Increases Immigrant Urban Mobility: Evidence from Refugee Call Detail Records"(with Ahmet Utku Akbiyik). ​

Intra-Party Meritocracy

“The Gender Effect in Intra-Party Meritocracy” (with  Rabia Kutlu). Working Paper.

“The Effect of Incumbency on Local Political Dynasties and Elite Capture” (with  Aytug Sasmaz and Rabia Kutlu). Working Paper.

Book Project

The Social Bureaucrat: Social Proximity, Bureaucratic Efficiency, and Local Governance.

  • Book conference to be scheduled for May 2024.


"The Geography of Gulenism in Turkey," Foreign Policy, 18 March 2019 (with Fotini Christia).


"Turkish Referendum Rallies in Europe Made Headlines. Did they Affect Election Results?" Monkey Cage/The Washington Post, 6 May 2017 (with Fotini Christia).

Link | Online Appendix

My next major project, which will be an extension of my first dissertation paper, will be a book project and focus on the following questions: how do bureaucrats’ ties with each other vary across different social contexts, and what are the implications of this for state capacity and government performance in public services? The core argument of the book is that informal ties among bureaucrats create positive externalities that reduce the transaction costs commonly seen in local governance and increase bureaucratic efficiency. The book will test two major implications of this theory: i) we should observe high bureaucratic efficiency in contexts with high social proximity between bureaucrats, and ii) we should see lower bureaucratic efficiency in socially fragmented districts because social fragmentation makes it more difficult to establish social ties and reduces the reachability of any given individual in the community, including bureaucrats. 


I will examine the roots of bureaucratic efficiency in Turkey, a Muslim-majority country characterized by a centralized state structure, which will allow me to examine a diverse set of community structures with varied sectarian, ethnic, and political compositions as well as to rule out potential alternative explanations such as inequalities in government resources, commonly seen in federal systems. The empirical analyses in the book will employ quasi-experimental designs; geocoded data from tens of thousands of villages, schools, and health infrastructure projects in Turkey; and satellite, network, and original administrative data at the district level. 


The book will be divided into five main parts. First, I will present the theoretical framework that links social proximity to bureaucratic transaction costs, which stem from informational asymmetries and weak enforcement (e.g., opportunistic behavior, allocative inefficiency, red tape and time costs), and bureaucratic efficiency. Second, I will illustrate each step of the theoretical framework developed in the preceding chapter, drawing on over 170 structured interviews (including closed-ended questions) conducted with officials in more than 6 months of fieldwork across Turkey. The third chapter will present the empirical evidence for the first key implication of the theory: social proximity between bureaucrats, as captured by geographic proximity, increases bureaucratic efficiency. The fourth chapter will present evidence for the second testable implication of the theory by demonstrating that bureaucratic efficiency is likely to decrease in socially fragmented community structures, with a focus on network measures and the ethnic, sectarian, and hometown composition of districts. Finally, the fifth chapter will explain the comparative implications of the theory by discussing how the (positive) impact of lessening bureaucratic transaction costs vary across space and across different types of public goods.

Book Project

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