Marc Ratkovic

Department of Politics

Princeton University

Recent Papers of Interest

Legislative institutions structure and order the myriad topics addressed by legislators. Jointly considering both roll call votes and floor speech, we show that the contemporary US Senate is ordered around but two dimensions: one ideological and another capturing leadership.  We characterize both word and vote choice in terms of the exact same ideal points and policy dimensions.  These findings emerge from our method, Sparse Factor Analysis (SFA), designed to combine vote and textual data when estimating ideal points, word affect, and the underlying dimensionality. This contrasts with the single dimension that emerges from an analysis of votes alone, and with the more numerous dimensions that emerge from analyzing speech alone. We then show how SFA can leverage common speech in order to impute missing data, to estimate rank-and-file ideal points using only their words and the vote history of party leaders, and even to scale newspaper editorials.  

With In Song Kim and John Londregan.

Voting, Speechmaking, and the Dimensions of Conflict in the US Senate


My research interests include causal inference, machine learning methods, and text analysis.  

I teach courses in political methodology at the undergraduate and graduate level.

A brief background of myself and my life.  Sometiemes I even do things that aren't political science.



About Me

  A vast literature on international trade predicts that political  institutions affect both the choice of trade partners (extensive  margin) and trade volumes (intensive margin). Yet most analyses  ignore the former margin, while their estimates of the latter  neglect nontrading pairs and thereby suffer from selection bias. Also, the data on individual features of multifaceted political institutions are highly collinear, which impedes estimating their separate effects.  We develop and implement a two-stage Bayesian LASSO estimator that lets us use detailed  measures of institutional features, with highly disaggregated  product-level trade flows encompassing over one hundred and thirty countries over a half century. We find that political institutions  matter more for the extensive than the intensive margin, and that  democratic political institutions are not always trade promoting; although trade appears to be fostered by political stability, other  features of democracies -- party competition and open executive recruitment -- inhibit trade.

With In Song Kim and John Londregan.

Politics, Institutions, and Trade

We introduce a Bayesian method, LASSOplus, that unifies recent contributions in the sparse modelling literatures, while substantially extending upon pre-existing estimators in terms of both performance and flexibility. Unlike existing Bayesian variable selection methods, LASSOplus both selects and estimates effects, while returning estimated confidence intervals among discovered effects. Furthermore, we show how LASSOplus easily extends to modeling repeated observations, and permits a simple Bonferroni correction to control coverage on confidence intervals among discovered effects. We situate the LASSOplus in the literature on exploring sub-group effects, a topic that often leads to a proliferation of estimation parameters. We  also offer a simple pre-processing step that draws on recent theoretical work to estimate higher-order effects that can be interpreted independent of their lower-order terms. A simulation study illustrates the method's performance relative to several existing variable selection methods. Application to an existing study of support for climate treaties illustrates the method's ability to discover substantively relevant effects.

With Dustin Tingley

Winner of the Society for Political Methodology's Gosnell Prize for Excellence in Political Methodology.

Implemented through sparsereg package in the R programming lanuage (link).

Sparse Estimation with Uncertainty: Subgroup Analysis in Large Dimensional Designs

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Recent Papers of Interest