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Benjamin A. T. Graham

Associate Professor of International Relations, University of Southern California

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About Benjamin

Graham’s research focuses on migration, foreign investment, and the economic motivations for military conflict. Graham also conducts research on powersharing, unrecognized states, and the enforcement of human rights through quasi-judicial mechanisms at the World Bank. Along with Jonathan Markowitz and Megan Becker, Graham co-directs the Security and Political Economy (SPEC) Lab. The SPEC Lab recruits a diverse population of students, provides applied training in data science and research design, and engages students in every phase of the research process.

In the News

"Why Buying Greenland Wouldn’t Really Help the U.S. Economy (Even If It Were for Sale)," Benjamin A. T. Graham (with Jonathan N. Markowitz), Washington Post, August 29, 2019.


Investing in the Homeland: Migration, Social Ties, and Foreign Firms (University of Michigan Press, 2019).

Finds that migrants connect the multinational firms they own and manage to valuable social networks back in their homeland. Shows that firms use migrants’ social ties to enforce contracts, manage relationships with government officials, and influence policy.

"Can Quasi-Judicial Bodies at the World Bank Provide Justice in Human Rights Cases?" (with Lynn M. G. Ta). Georgetown Journal of International Law 50 (2018): 113-142.

Examines the Inspection Panel and Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO), which are court-like bodies established by the World Bank to hear human rights complaints related to World Bank projects. Finds that complainants frequently receive positive outcomes in the form of project changes or financial compensation, but that perpetrators are rarely punished.

"Even Constrained Governments Take: The Domestic Politics of Transfer and Expropriation Risks " (with Noel P. Johnston and Allison F. Kingsley). Journal of Conflict Resolution 62, no. 8 (2018): 1784-1813.

Finds that transfer restrictions limit investors' ability to freely move funds out a country and to convert funds from local to foreign currency. Finds that while most political risks, like outright expropriation, tend to be lower in democracies, transfer restrictions are equally common across regime types.

"Safeguarding Democracy: Powersharing and Democratic Survival" (with Michael K. Miller and Kaare W. Strøm). American Political Science Review 111, no. 4 (November 2017): 686-704.

Finds that inclusive powersharing enhances democratic survival in post-conflict countries and constraining powersharing does so in all contexts.

"The Bar Fight Theory of International Conflict: Regime Type, Coalition Size, and Victory" (with Erik Gartzke and Christopher J. Fariss). Political Science Research and Methods 5, no. 4 (October 2017): 613-639.

Notes that democracies tend to win the wars they fight, but questions remain about why this is the case. Finds that an explanation for democratic success is that democracies fight alongside larger and more powerful coalitions.

"Unrecognized States: A Theory of Self-Determination and Foreign Influence" (with Kristy Buzzard and Ben Horne). The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 33, no. 3 (August 2017): 578-611.

Finds that unrecognized states are characterized by stagnant or crumbling economies and political instability, often serve as havens for illicit trade, and challenge the territorial sovereignty of recognized states. Shows that unrecognized statehood can be a remarkably stable outcome even when players on all sides are acting rationally.