Sarah Shair-Rosenfield, Ph.D.

Arizona State University

Country: United States (Arizona)

Research Interests

Comparative Political Institutions

Gender and Politics

Representation and Electoral Systems

Asian Politics

Latin American And Caribbean Politics

Countries of Interest







Journal Articles:

(2018) Gendered Opportunities and Constraints: How Executive Sex and Approval Influence Executive Decree Issuance, Political Research Quarterly

Do female executives exercise the authority of their office distinctly from their male counterparts? Anecdotal evidence suggests women legislators are likely to govern in a more consensual manner than men. Yet there has been little systematic research extending such claims to women in executive office. Using an original data set, we evaluate one aspect of policy agenda setting—rates of executive decree issuance—among four male–female pairs of Latin American presidents between 2000 and 2014. Female presidents are generally less prone to rule by decree, but this relationship is conditioned by presidential popularity. Female executives with high presidential approval ratings are less likely to rule via unilateral action than similarly popular male executives, but the gendered differences in decree issuance disappear when executives possess low approval ratings. Our findings have implications for understanding the potential benefits of feminine leadership styles for executive–legislative relations and good governance.

(2017) Governing Well After War: How improving female representation prolongs post-conflict peace, Journal of Politics

Previous studies suggest that women’s access to political power often increases following the termination of civil conflicts, particularly those ending in negotiated settlement. However, the effect of these changes has received limited attention. We argue that the proportion of female representatives in a national legislature prolongs peace following a negotiated settlement. Moreover, we highlight two mechanisms through which greater female representation reduces the risk of conflict recurrence: (1) by prioritizing social welfare spending over military spending and (2) by improving public perceptions of good governance and the credibility of political elites. We further argue that legislative independence and authority conditions this relationship, implying that greater female representation is more likely to promote peace in states with nominally democratic political institutions. Our empirical analyses of peace duration following negotiated settlements between 1946 and 2011 provide robust support for our general argument and the underlying mechanisms we believe drive this relationship.

(2014) A comparative measure of decentralization for Southeast Asia, Journal of East Asian Studies

In this article we set out a fine-grained measure of the formal authority of intermediate subnational government for Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand that is designed to be a flexible tool in the hands of researchers and policymakers. It improves on prior measures by providing annual estimates across ten dimensions of regional authority; it disaggregates to the level of the individual region; and it examines individual regional tiers, asymmetric regions, and regions with special arrangements. We use the measure and its elements to summarize six decades of regional governance in Southeast Asia and conclude by noting how the Regional Authority index could further the dialogue between theory and empirics in the study of decentralization and democratization.

(2012) The alternative incumbency effect: Electing women legislators in Indonesia, Electoral Studies

Between the 1999 and 2009 elections the proportion of national female legislators in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim majority democracy, more than doubled. While this substantial increase may partly be explained by the recent imposition of a gender quota and placement mandate that have forced parties to increase the number of female candidates, quotas cannot fully explain the strong performance of women in the 2009 elections. First, many parties placed women higher on their lists than the laws required; second, voters appeared to over vote for women in some districts. Although incumbency's typical effect is to inhibit female electoral success by advantaging traditional (male) competitors, I argue that women benefited largely from an alternative effect: female incumbency can improve female candidate placement and electability by demonstrating female capacity and capability. Female newcomers benefited strongly from the presence of female incumbents in their own and bordering districts, thus suggesting a positive diffusion effect of female incumbency.

Books Written:

(2019) Electoral Reform and the Fate of New Democracies: Lessons from the Indonesian Case, University of Michigan Press

When and why do democratic political actors change the electoral rules, particularly regarding who is included in a country’s political representation? The incidences of these major electoral reforms have been on the rise since 1980. This book argues that elite inexperience may constrain self-interest and lead elites to undertake incremental approaches to reform, aiding the process of democratic consolidation. Using a multimethods approach, the book examines three consecutive periods of reform in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority country and third largest democracy, between 1999 and 2014. Each case study provides an in-depth process tracing of the negotiations leading to new reforms, including key actors in the legislature, domestic civil society, international experts, and government bureaucrats. A series of counterfactual analyses assess the impact the reforms had on actual election outcomes, versus the possible alternative outcomes of different reform options discussed during negotiations. With a comparative analysis of nine cases of iterated reform processes in other new democracies, the book confirms the lessons from the Indonesian case and highlights key lessons for scholars and electoral engineers.