| Research |

Dissertation Project

See my dissertation page for further information

Atwell, Paul and Noah L. Nathan. 2022. "Channels for Influence or Maps of Behavior? A Field Experiment on Social Networks and Cooperation." American Journal of Political Science, 66(3): 696-713.

Communities in developing countries often must cooperate to self‐provide or co‐produce local public goods. Many expect that community social networks facilitate this cooperation, but few studies directly observe real‐life networks in these settings. We collect detailed social network data in rural Northern Ghana to explore how social positions and proximity to community leaders predict donations to a local public good. We then implement a field experiment manipulating participants' opportunity to communicate and apply social pressure before donating. We find clear evidence that locations in community social networks predict cooperative behavior, but no evidence that communication improves coordination or cooperation, in contrast to common theoretical expectations and laboratory findings. Our results show that evolved, real‐life social networks serve as a mapping of community members' already‐engrained behaviors, not only as an active technology through which social influence propagates to solve collective action problems.


Supported by the Center for Political Studies (Roy Pierce Scholarship) and the International Policy Center at the Ford School of Public Policy

Armand, Alex, Paul Atwell, and Joseph F. Gomes. 2020. "The Reach of Radio: Ending Civil Conflict through Rebel Demobilization." American Economic Review, 110 (5): 1395-1429. 

We examine the role of FM radio in mitigating violent conflict. We collect original data on radio broadcasts encouraging defections during the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency. This constitutes the first quantitative evaluation of an active counterinsurgency policy that encourages defections through radio messages. Exploiting random topography-driven variation in radio coverage along with panel variation at the grid-cell level, we identify the causal effect of messaging on violence. Broadcasting defection messages increases defections and reduces fatalities, violence against civilians, and clashes with security forces. Income shocks have opposing effects on both the conflict and the effectiveness of messaging.


Awarded 2019 Eckstein Prize for inter-disciplinary research.

Supported by the Ramón Areces Foundation (Madrid).

It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane, it’s Superman! Using Mass Media to fight Intolerance. (Working paper)

With: A. Armand (Nova Business), J. Gomes and Y. Schenk (UC Louvain), and G. Musillo (Tilburg)

Link to CEPR WP

This paper examines the impact of progressive radio programming on societal change during the early period of desegregation in post-World War II US We investigate the influence of the popular radio show The Adventures of Superman on promoting tolerance and exposing the bigotry of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in 1946. Using state-of-the-art radio propagation models, we map the broadcast’s exposure and analyze its effect on various socioeconomic outcomes. We find that counties with higher exposure to the broadcast experienced a significant decrease in support for KKK-affiliated political candidates and opponents of civil rights. Individuals potentially exposed to the Superman program during their youth exhibited more progressive attitudes towards civil rights, racial desegregation and African Americans later in life. These individuals were also less likely to participate in the Vietnam war. Additionally, we explore the long-term impact of the radio coverage by examining outcomes at the county level, such as the presence of active KKK branches, civil rights organizations, and accessibility of non-discriminatory services for African Americans listed in the “Negro Motorist Green Books.” We find significant and progressive effects on all analyzed outcomes. These results underscore the potential of progressive radio programming as a catalyst for social change and contribute to our understanding of how media shapes societal attitudes and beliefs.

Mayors, Messages and Misinformation. (In-progress)

With: Simon Chauchard (UC3M) and Fernando Mello (UC3M)

We explore experimentally when local politicians are most likely to respond to changes in campaign regulations around misinformation in Brazil.