Sherry Zaks (Workshop in Applied Statistics)


Wednesday, September 22, 2021, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


CGIS Knafel room K354

Today's speaker: Sherry Zaks (University of Southern California), "Do we know it when we see it? Conceptualization and Cascading Bias in Identifying 'Rebel-to-Party Transition'"


Studies on rebel-to-party transition suggest that incorporating former-rebels into post-conflict politics creates a tenable path toward stability and democratization. Notwithstanding the salience of these results, the rebel-to-party literature is racked with an unacknowledged conceptual tension that simultaneously demands—and paves the way for—reconciliation. On the one hand, scholars exhibit remarkable convergence on both the core meaning and stakes of rebel-to-party transition. On the other hand, the literature reveals nearly as many different definitions of rebel-to-party transition" as there are studies of it. Conceptual imprecision and discord together have an analytic ripple effect---compromising the validity of the concept, the quality of the measure, the inclusion criteria of datasets, and the results of analyses. To address these limitations, I propose a novel conceptualization of rebel-to-party transition" that distinguishes among (failed) political aspirants, nominal participants, and seated participants. This framework places critical scope conditions on failure," adds nuance to success," and explicitly distinguishes between transition" and transformation". I derive frameworks for data collection and measurement and run a series of replication analyses to both test the implications of existing disparities and demonstrate the utility of the new framework. 

The Applied Statistics Workshop (Gov 3009) meets all academic year, Wednesdays, 12pm-1:30pm, in CGIS K354. This workshop is a forum for advanced graduate students, faculty, and visiting scholars to present and discuss methodological or empirical work in progress in an interdisciplinary setting. The workshop features a tour of Harvard's statistical innovations and applications with weekly stops in different fields and disciplines and includes occasional presentations by invited speakers.

More information is available at the Gov 3009 website: