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Lauren Young


  • Ph.D., Political Science, Columbia University, 2016
  • M.A., Political Science, Columbia University, 2011
  • B.A., International Relations, Stanford University, 2008


Before joining the Department of Political Science at UC Davis, Professor Young received her Ph.D. in political science with distinction in 2016 from Columbia University and was a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford and a non-resident postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD).

Mares, Isabela, and Lauren E. Young. 2016. “Buying, expropriating and stealing votes.” Annual Review of Political Science 19: pp. 267-288.

Gordon, Grant M., and Lauren E. Young. 2017. “Cooperation, Information, and Keeping the Peace: Civilian Engagement with Peacekeepers in Haiti.” Journal of Peace Research 54(1): pp. 64-79.

Research Focus

Professor Young’s research aims to understand how individuals make decisions when faced with the threat of political violence. Her book project investigates how citizens make decisions about participation in pro-democracy dissent in autocratic regimes. She argues that emotions shape perceptions of risks and risk aversion, and can therefore be used by elites to mobilize or demobilize civilians. She tests this theory in Zimbabwe using a mix of field experiments, lab-in-the-field experiments, quantitative analysis of historical trends, and in-depth qualitative interviews.

Professor Young’s research has been funded by the National Science FoundationUnited States Institute for Peace, and CEPR-DfID’s Public Enterprise Development in Low-Income Countries (PEDL) initiative, among others. Her findings have been published in the Annual Review of Political Science and the Journal of Peace Research, and have been written up in the Washington Post Monkey Cage blog and the IPI Global Observatory. In addition to her dissertation research, she has ongoing research projects in Eastern Europe, Haiti, Kenya, Mexico, and the U.S. that explore how violence and other forms of coercion affect political and economic decision-making.


Professor Young teaches primarily substantive courses in comparative politics for graduate and undergraduate students. In the fall of 2017, she will be teaching a graduate class on political behavior in the developing world that covers core topics in comparative politics including identity and cooperation, political participation, clientelism, protest and violence. Class discussions are organized around questions such as, Why do individuals participate in violence? When do individuals mobilize to demand public services from politicians? and How do historical events shape current behavior? In addition to providing students with an overview of the current theoretical perspectives on questions like these, this course is designed to provide practical training in research design by giving students the opportunity to engage with guest speakers, replicate published research results, and develop a research proposal.


In the spring of 2018, Professor Young will be teaching an undergraduate introductory course in comparative politics. This course will provide an introduction to the comparative method and foundational topics such as how states form, how democracies emerge, and when citizens participate in politics and demand redistribution from their governments. The latter half of the course will focus on topics of contemporary interest including why democracies decline and whether citizen participation and social movements can strengthen democracy. This course is designed to equip students to apply the basic logic and tools of comparative political analysis and to provide an introduction to theories and frameworks that may explain important political trends, particularly around democratic accountability.  


International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics Small Grant, 2017

Columbia Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience Seed Funding, 2016

National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant, 2015

USIP Jennings Randolph Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowship, 2015

International Peace Research Association Foundation Grant, 2014

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Travel Grant (Fall Semester), 2014

Earth Institute AC4 Fellowship, 2013

Private Enterprise Development in Low-Income Countries Exploratory Grant, 2012

Honorable Mention, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2012

Columbia Center for the Study of Development Strategies Seed Funding, 2011