Leah Christiani, Ph.D.
City University of New York - Hunter College
I earned my Ph.D. (2020) and M.A. (2017) in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, focusing on American politics and political methodology. Now, I am an Associate Professor of Political Science (pre-tenure) at Hunter College in New York, NY. My research focuses on the politics of race, ethnicity, and identity in the U.S. context.
Race, Ethnicity and Politics
Policing, Surveillance, Vigilance
Countries of Interest
A frequently proposed "solution" to the problem of racially targeted policing is to diversify the leadership of a police department, such as instate a Black police chief. However, little is known about how and when such changes may alter policing outcomes. Here, we question whether this descriptive representation leads to a reduction in racial disparities in policing outcomes and how the political and social context may condition that relationship – captured by why a transition took place. To test this, we turn to traffic stop data from nine agencies in Illinois that had variation in chief race between 2004 and 2018. We find that who heads a police department – and why they were appointed (i.e., transition type) – is linked to search rates following a traffic stop, which has implications for work on race and policing, descriptive representation, and local politics.
Harsh, highly intrusive, personal contact with the criminal justice system has been shown to politically demobilize, but it is unclear whether less intrusive forms of police contact have any political effects. As the modal type of involuntary police-citizen contact is less invasive and more routine (e.g., a traffic stop), it is critical to understand the ramifications of lighter forms of contact. We argue that, unlike harsh police contact, light, personal, police contact can mobilize individuals, under certain circumstances. When a negative encounter with the police — even if it is minor — runs counter to prior expectations, people experiencing the contact are mobilized to take political action. Using three years of observational data and an original survey experiment, we demonstrate that individuals who receive tickets or are stopped by the police are more likely to participate in politics. These effects are most pronounced for individuals with positive evaluations of the police, often white respondents.
To contain the spread of COVID-19, experts emphasize the importance of wearing masks. Unfortunately, this practice may put black people at elevated risk for being seen as potential threats by some Americans. In this study, we evaluate whether and how different types of masks affect perceptions of black and white male models. We find that non-black respondents perceive a black male model as more threatening and less trustworthy when he is wearing a bandana or a cloth mask than when he is not wearing his face covering—especially those respondents who score above average in racial resentment, a common measure of racial bias. When he is wearing a surgical mask, however, they do not perceive him as more threatening or less trustworthy. Further, it is not that non-black respondents find bandana and cloth masks problematic in general. In fact, the white model in our study is perceived more positively when he is wearing all types of face coverings. Although mandated mask wearing is an ostensibly race-neutral policy, our findings demonstrate the potential implications are not.
Evidence has emerged demonstrating that whites no longer reject negative, explicit racial appeals as they had in the past. This seeming reversal of the traditional logic of the powerlessness of explicit appeals raises the question: Why are explicit racial appeals accepted sometimes but rejected at other times? Here, I test whether the relative acceptance of negative, explicit racial appeals depends on whites’ feelings of threat using a two-wave survey experiment that manipulates participants’ feelings of threat, and then examines their responses to an overtly racist political appeal. I find that when whites feel threatened, they are more willing to approve of and agree with a negative, explicit racial appeal disparaging African Americans—and express willingness to vote for the candidate who made the explicit racial appeal.
Racial disparities in citizen interactions with police are ubiquitous concerns in American communities. What difference does electoral representation make? We demonstrate that black descriptive representation in local government affects police activity and scrutiny in a given community. We use a new dataset comprised of over 79 municipal police departments spanning 6 states, based on tens of millions of individual-level traffic stops. In cities and towns with majority-black city councils, traffic stops are less likely to result in a search. This decline in search rates affects both white and black drivers, though the decline is larger for black drivers. Even after controlling for socioeconomic factors, segregation, and crime rates, descriptive representation still matters. A city council composed of a majority of black members is associated with important differences in policing, affecting both white and black residents.
Racial disparities in traffic stop outcomes are widespread and well documented. Less well understood is how racial disparities may be amplified or muted in different contexts. Here we focus on one such situational factor: whether the initial traffic stop was related to a traffic safety violation or a (broadly defined) investigatory purpose. This is a salient contextual characteristic as stop type relates to different levels of assumed discretion and purpose. While all traffic stops involve some officer discretion, investigatory stops are more easily used as justifications to conduct a search based on an officer's diffuse suspicion; traffic safety stops are more often just what they seem. Using millions of traffic stops from several states, we show that black male drivers are more likely to be searched and less likely to be found with contraband and that this relationship is amplified where the initial stop purpose is investigatory. One implication of this is that one path to alleviating disparities in traffic stops for agencies is emphasizing traffic safety, rather than using stops as a supplemental investigatory tool.
Evidence that racial minorities are targeted for searches during police traffic stops is widespread, but observed differences in outcomes following a traffic stop between white drivers and people of color could potentially be due to factors correlated with driver race. Using a unique dataset recording over 5 million traffic stops from 90 municipal police departments, we control for and evaluate alternative explanations for why a driver may be searched. These include: (1) the context of the stop itself, (2) the characteristics of the police department including the race of the police chief, and (3) demographic and racial composition of the municipality within which the stop occurs. We find that the driver's race remains a robust predictor: black male drivers are consistently subjected to more intensive police scrutiny than white drivers. Additionally, we find that all drivers are less likely to be subject to highly discretionary searches if the police chief is black. Together, these findings indicate that race matters in multiple and varied ways for policing outcomes.
We investigate a possible linkage between municipal reliance on fines, fees, and forfeitures as a revenue source and policing behavior. With a dataset of four million traffic stops made by North Carolina municipalities, we demonstrate that a regular reliance on fines, fees, and forfeitures has powerful, predictable, and racially distinct impacts on black and white drivers, and that fiscal stress exacerbates these differences. A greater regular reliance on fines, fees, and forfeitures is linked to a decrease in the probability of white, but not black, drivers being searched; and increased odds of finding contraband among those white drivers who are searched, but no such change for black drivers. We validate the North Carolina tests with aggregate analyses of municipalities across four states.
Identity-based stereotyping often operates on perceptions about the intersection of multiple identities. Intersectional stereotyping predicts that certain combinations of attributes lend themselves more readily to perceived suspicion than others. In this paper, I test the way that suspicion-evoking stereotypes affect police-citizen interactions. Through the use of traffic stop data from Illinois spanning ten years and amounting to more than 20 million observations, I am able to produce accurate estimates for the relative degree of targeting that individual drivers face based on their racial, gender, age, and class-based perceived identities. Overall, I find both theoretical and methodological support for the necessity of intersectional analyses of identity-based profiling.
Types of Cookies we use
This site employs two first-party cookies (served from us and by us that are essential for the site to operate) and two third-party cookies that deliver external services.
We use a server-generated session cookie to remember you when you are logged in to the site. This is essential to making sure that your profile details are those that are updated when you log in to make changes. This also lets us know who is logging into the site and when.
This site also uses a cookie that is created by your browser to remember when you agree to the cookie notice popup. This cookie stores nothing but the word "true" if you have agreed to the terms and is deleted when you close your browser. This cookie's only function is to prevent the cookie notice from popping up every time you refresh the site's homepage.
How to Disable Cookies Altogether
Information on how to disable cookies in your browser can be found here. Please keep in mind that disabling cookies will prevent the essential functions of most interactive websites and web applications, this site included.
This privacy notice discloses the privacy practices for (womenalsoknowstuff.com). This privacy notice applies solely to information collected by this website. It will notify you of the following:
Information Collection, Use, and Sharing
If you have any questions about this Privacy Notice, or need to contact us, we can be reached at .
Terms and Conditions
Last updated: August 04, 2019
Please read these Terms and Conditions ("Terms", "Terms and Conditions") carefully before using the http://womenalsoknowstuff.com website (the "Service") operated by Women Also Know Stuff ("us", "we", or "our"). Your access to and use of the Service is conditioned upon your acceptance of and compliance with these Terms. These Terms apply to all visitors, users and others who wish to access or use the Service. By accessing or using the Service you agree to be bound by these Terms. If you disagree with any part of the terms then you do not have permission to access the Service.
Our Service allows you to post, link, store, share and otherwise make available certain information, text, graphics, videos, or other material ("Content"). You are responsible for the Content that you post on or through the Service, including its legality, reliability, and appropriateness. By posting Content on or through the Service, You represent and warrant that: (i) the Content is yours (you own it) and/or you have the right to use it and the right to grant us the rights and license as provided in these Terms, and (ii) that the posting of your Content on or through the Service does not violate the privacy rights, publicity rights, copyrights, contract rights or any other rights of any person or entity. We reserve the right to terminate the account of anyone found to be infringing on a copyright. You retain any and all of your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Service and you are responsible for protecting those rights. We take no responsibility and assume no liability for Content you or any third party posts on or through the Service. However, by posting Content using the Service you grant us the right and license to use, modify, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce, and distribute such Content on and through the Service. You agree that this license includes the right for us to make your Content available to other users of the Service, who may also use your Content subject to these Terms. Women Also Know Stuff has the right but not the obligation to monitor and edit all Content provided by users. In addition, Content found on or through this Service are the property of Women Also Know Stuff or used with permission. You may not distribute, modify, transmit, reuse, download, repost, copy, or use said Content, whether in whole or in part, for commercial purposes or for personal gain, without express advance written permission from us.
When you create an account with us, you guarantee that you are above the age of 18, are a woman in the academic field of Political Science, and that the information you provide us is accurate, complete, and current at all times. Inaccurate, incomplete, or obsolete information may result in the immediate termination of your account on the Service. You are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your account and password, including but not limited to the restriction of access to your computer and/or account. You agree to accept responsibility for any and all activities or actions that occur under your account and/or password, whether your password is with our Service or a third-party service. You must notify us immediately upon becoming aware of any breach of security or unauthorized use of your account.
The Service and its original content (excluding Content provided by users), features and functionality are and will remain the exclusive property of Women Also Know Stuff and its licensors. The Service is protected by copyright, trademark, and other laws of both the United States and foreign countries. Our trademarks and trade dress may not be used in connection with any product or service without the prior written consent of Women Also Know Stuff. Links To Other Web Sites Our Service may contain links to third party web sites or services that are not owned or controlled by Women Also Know Stuff Women Also Know Stuff has no control over, and assumes no responsibility for the content, privacy policies, or practices of any third party web sites or services. We do not warrant the offerings of any of these entities/individuals or their websites. You acknowledge and agree that Women Also Know Stuff shall not be responsible or liable, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with use of or reliance on any such content, goods or services available on or through any such third party web sites or services. We strongly advise you to read the terms and conditions and privacy policies of any third party web sites or services that you visit.
We may terminate or suspend your account and bar access to the Service immediately, without prior notice or liability, under our sole discretion, for any reason whatsoever and without limitation, including but not limited to a breach of the Terms. If you wish to terminate your account, you may simply discontinue using the Service, or notify us that you wish to delete your account. All provisions of the Terms which by their nature should survive termination shall survive termination, including, without limitation, ownership provisions, warranty disclaimers, indemnity and limitations of liability.
You agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless Women Also Know Stuff and its licensee and licensors, and their employees, contractors, agents, officers and directors, from and against any and all claims, damages, obligations, losses, liabilities, costs or debt, and expenses (including but not limited to attorney's fees), resulting from or arising out of a) your use and access of the Service, by you or any person using your account and password; b) a breach of these Terms, or c) Content posted on the Service.
Limitation Of Liability
In no event shall Women Also Know Stuff, nor its directors, employees, partners, agents, suppliers, or affiliates, be liable for any indirect, incidental, special, consequential or punitive damages, including without limitation, loss of profits, data, use, goodwill, or other intangible losses, resulting from (i) your access to or use of or inability to access or use the Service; (ii) any conduct or content of any third party on the Service; (iii) any content obtained from the Service; and (iv) unauthorized access, use or alteration of your transmissions or content, whether based on warranty, contract, tort (including negligence) or any other legal theory, whether or not we have been informed of the possibility of such damage, and even if a remedy set forth herein is found to have failed of its essential purpose.
Your use of the Service is at your sole risk. The Service is provided on an "AS IS" and "AS AVAILABLE" basis. The Service is provided without warranties of any kind, whether express or implied, including, but not limited to, implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, non-infringement or course of performance. Women Also Know Stuff, its subsidiaries, affiliates, and its licensors do not warrant that a) the Service will function uninterrupted, secure or available at any particular time or location; b) any errors or defects will be corrected; c) the Service is free of viruses or other harmful components; or d) the results of using the Service will meet your requirements.
Some jurisdictions do not allow the exclusion of certain warranties or the exclusion or limitation of liability for consequential or incidental damages, so the limitations above may not apply to you.
These Terms shall be governed and construed in accordance with the laws of the state of Arizona and the United States, without regard to its conflict of law provisions. Our failure to enforce any right or provision of these Terms will not be considered a waiver of those rights. If any provision of these Terms is held to be invalid or unenforceable by a court, the remaining provisions of these Terms will remain in effect. These Terms constitute the entire agreement between us regarding our Service, and supersede and replace any prior agreements we might have had between us regarding the Service.
We reserve the right, at our sole discretion, to modify or replace these Terms at any time. If a revision is material we will provide at least 30 days notice prior to any new terms taking effect. What constitutes a material change will be determined at our sole discretion. By continuing to access or use our Service after any revisions become effective, you agree to be bound by the revised terms. If you do not agree to the new terms, you are no longer authorized to use the Service.
If you have any questions about these Terms, please contact us at .