Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Robert Blair

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Robert Blair

Joukowsky Family Assistant Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs


Robert Blair’s research focuses on peacekeeping and statebuilding after civil war, with an emphasis on rule of law and security institutions. He has conducted fieldwork on these and related topics in Colombia, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire, and has worked in various capacities for the UN Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions, the Political Instability Task Force, Freedom House and the Small Arms Survey. He holds an MA and PhD in Political Science from Yale University and a BA in Education Studies and Comparative Literature from Brown University. His research has been published in the American Political Science Review and other venues.

For further details see http://robblair.net.


How to restore citizens’ trust and cooperation with newly-reformed security institutions in the wake of civil war? How to establish the rule of law after years of state absence or predation? How (and whether) to promote compliance with state laws when they conflict with local norms, rules and customs? My research on these and related questions includes (1) lab-in-the-field experiments on gender and ethnic discrimination in the Liberian National Police; (2) a panel survey and list experiment on the impact of UN peacekeeping on rule of law in Liberia; and (3) a randomized controlled trial evaluating mechanisms to strengthen the role of Police Inspectors in providing access to security and justice in rural Colombia.

For further details see http://robblair.net/research/.


"International Gender Balancing Reforms in Postconflict Countries: Lab-in-the-Field Evidence from the Liberian National Police" (with Sabrina Karim, Michael J. Gilligan, and Kyle Beardsley). International Studies Quarterly 62:3 (2018).

Establishing the Rule of Law in Weak and War-torn States: Evidence from a Field Experiment with the Liberian National Police” (with Sabrina Karim and Benjamin Morse). American Political Science Review 113:3 (2019): 641-657.

"Engineering Informal Institutions: Long Run Impacts of Alternative Dispute Resolution on Violence and Property Rights in Liberia" (with Alexandra C. Hartman and Christopher Blattman). American Journal of Political Science, Peer Reviewed, In Revision.

International Intervention and the Rule of Law after Civil War: Evidence from Liberia.” International Organization 73:2 (2019): 365-398.

Teaching Trump: Why Comparative Politics Makes Students More Optimistic About US Democracy” (with Hannah Baron and Shelby Grossman). PS: Political Science & Politics 52:2 (2019): 347-352.

"Building Trust and Compliance in Weak States: Coproduction during the 2014-2015 Ebola Crisis in Liberia" (with Lily Tsai and Benjamin S. Morse), Comparative Political Studies, Peer Reviewed, Submitted.

"The Effects of Chinese Aid on State Legitimacy in Africa: Sub-National and Cross-National Evidence from Surveys, Survey Experiments and Behavioral Games" (with Philip Roessler). American Journal of Political Science, Peer Reviewed, Submitted.

"Forecasting Civil Wars: Theory and Structure in an Age of 'Big Data and Machine Learning'" (with Nicholas Sambanis). Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peer Reviewed, Submitted. 

"The Promise and Pitfalls of Conflict Prediction: Evidence from Colombia and Indonesia" (with Samuel Bazzi, Christopher Blattman, Oeindrila Dube, Matthew Gudgeoon, and Richard Peck). American Journal of Political Science, Peer Reviewed, Submitted.

“The Impact of International Interventions to Empower Women in Post-Conflict Countries: Lab-in-the-Field Evidence from the Liberian National Police” (with Kyle Beardsley, Michael Gilligan and Sabrina Karim). International Studies Quarterly 62:3 (2018): 618-631 (link) 

“Predicting Local Violence: Evidence from a Panel Survey in Liberia” (with Christopher Blattman and Alexandra Hartman). Journal of Peace Research 54:2 (2017): 298-312

“Public Health and Public Trust: Survey Evidence from the Ebola Virus Disease Epidemic in Liberia” (with Benjamin Morse and Lily Tsai). Social Science & Medicine 172 (2017): 89-97 (link)

“On the Rights of Warlords: Legitimate Authority and Basic Protection in War-Torn Societies” (with Pablo Kalmanovitz). American Political Science Review 110:3 (2016): 428-440

“Patterns of Demand for Non-Ebola Health Services During and After the Ebola Outbreak: Panel Survey Evidence from Monrovia, Liberia” (with Karen Grepin, Benjamin Morse andLily Tsai). BMJ Global Health 1 (2016): e000007

“How to Promote Order and Property Rights under Weak Rule of Law? An Experiment in Changing Dispute Resolution Behavior through Community Education” (with Christopher Blattman and Alexandra Hartman). American Political Science Review 108:1 (2014): 100-120

For an up-to-date list of publications, working papers and policy reports see http://robblair.net/writing/.


Spring 2018 
POLS2590: “Quantitative Research Methods.” Graduate seminar.

Fall 2017 
POLS1820X: “Democratic Erosion.” Undergraduate seminar. 
POLS1440: "Security, Governance and Development in Africa." Undergraduate lecture.

News|Recent News

Look beyond our borders (co-authored by Rob Blair)

March 6, 2019 Inside Higher Ed

Assistant professor Robert Blair in Inside Higher Ed, "Studying democratic erosion abroad increases optimism about those prospects, instilling confidence in the strength and longevity of American democratic norms and institutions."


Democratic Erosion

September 13, 2018

A multi-university course, Democratic Erosion, led by Assistant Professor Rob Blair, closed its first academic year with a full-day conference with faculty and students from across the nation at the Watson Institute.


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