Virginia Oliveros, Ph.D.

Tulane University

Country: United States (Louisiana)

About Me:

I am Assistant Professor of Political Science and Associate Research Fellow at the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research and the Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University.
I study the political economy of developing countries, with a regional focus on Latin America. My research interests include elections, clientelism, corruption, and patronage politics. My current research focuses on one of the mechanisms that undermines the quality of democratic politics in developing countries —the political use of public employment. In May 2013, I received my Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University. During the 2012-2013 academic  year, I was a Visiting Scholar in the Research Department at the Inter-American Development Bank. In 2016-2017, I was a visiting scholar at the Program on Democracy at Yale University.
My research has appeared or is forthcoming in American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Comparative Politics, Economics and Politics, Latin American Research Review, and Political Analysis.

Research Interests

Latin American And Caribbean Politics

Public Administration

Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior

Political Participation

Crime Politics






Latin American Politics

Countries of Interest



Journal Articles:

(2018) Police Violence and the Underreporting of Crime (with Daniel W. Gingerich), Economics and Politics

This paper examines the relationship between police violence and the reporting of crime. Utilizing original data from a large-scale household survey conducted in Costa Rica from October 2013 to April 2014 (n = 4,200), we find that the observation of police violence significantly reduces citizens’ willingness to report crime. The implications of this finding are explored using a game-theoretic model of crime, crime reporting, and police misconduct. The model reveals that although the prospect of police violence against criminals may generate a degree of deterrence for criminal behavior, permissiveness toward police violence also raises expectations about the likelihood of police abuse against law-abiding citizens. Consistent with our empirics, this reduces citizens’ propensity to report crime, thereby fostering a climate of impunity for criminal activity.

(2017) Merit, Tenure, and Bureaucratic Behavior: Evidence from a Conjoint Experiment in the Dominican Republic (with Christian Schuster), Comparative Political Studies

Bureaucratic behavior in developing countries remains poorly understood. Why do some public servants—yet not others—work hard to deliver public services, misuse state resources, and/or participate in electoral mobilization? A classic answer comes from Weber: Bureaucratic structures shift behavior toward integrity, neutrality, and commitment to public service. Our study conducts the first survey experimental test of the effects of bureaucratic structures. It does so through a conjoint experiment with public servants in the Dominican Republic. Looking at merit examinations and job stability, we find that Weber was right—but only partially. Recruitment by examination curbs corruption and political services by bureaucrats, while enhancing work motivation. Job stability, by contrast, only decreases political services: Tenured bureaucrats are less likely to participate in electoral mobilization. Examinations thus enhance the quality of bureaucracy (motivation and lower corruption) and democracy (electoral competition); job stability only enhances the quality of democracy.

(2016) Corruption as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Costa Rica (with Ana Corbacho, Daniel Gingerich, and Mauricio Ruiz Vega), American Journal of Political Science

An influential literature argues that corruption behaves as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Its central claim is that the individual returns to corruption are a function of the perceived corruptibility of the other members of society. Empirically, this implies that if one were to exogenously increase beliefs about societal levels of corruption, willingness to engage in corruption should also increase. We evaluate this implication by utilizing an information experiment embedded in a large-scale household survey recently conducted in the Gran Área Metropolitana of Costa Rica. Changes in beliefs about corruption were induced via the random assignment of an informational display depicting the increasing percentage of Costa Ricans who have personally witnessed an act of corruption. Consistent with the self-fulfilling prophecy hypothesis, we find that internalizing the information from the display on average increased the probability that a respondent would be willing to bribe a police officer by approximately .05 to .10.

(2016) Making it Personal: Clientelism, Favors, and the Personalization of Public Administration in Argentina, Comparative Politics

Conventional wisdom says that patronage employees provide political services to their patrons in exchange for their jobs. The provision of favors to voters is one of the most crucial of these services, yet it has been neglected by the literature. Do public employees actually grant favors? How widespread is this phenomenon? Who are the employees involved? Drawing on original survey data and interviews with public employees, political brokers, and politicians in Argentina, I provide systematic evidence of the provision of favors. In particular, this article shows that patronage employees are more involved than non-patronage employees in dispensing favors to voters. This demonstrates that patronage employees do in fact comply with their side of the agreement by providing the expected services in return for their jobs.