My research focuses on the effect of political institutions, their design, and how they structure decision-making and policy outcomes.  While my substantive areas of expertise are monetary policymaking and central banks, my approach to research naturally translates across subfields and policy domains.  I am particularly drawn to questions which call for creative ways to incorporate nuanced substantive knowledge about an institution into our more general theories of political and economic and decision-making.  A central goal and underlying theme of my research is to identify the effect of political institutions, particularly highlighting deviations from the intention of an institution’s design which often have substantively important implications for policy outcomes.

Published Papers

Ainsley, Caitlin. 2016. “The Politics of Central Bank Appointments.” Journal of Politics (forthcoming).

Gabel, Matthew, Cliff Carrubba, Caitlin Ainsley, and Don Beaudette. 2012. “Of Courts and Commerce.” Journal of Politics 74(4): 1125-1137.

Papers Under Review & Work in Progress

Central Bank Transparency and the Performance of Market Expectations, working paper

  • Whether central banks should publish individually attributed voting records from monetary policy committee meetings is among the most contested areas of debate in monetary policymaking today. Though more and more banks are making this shift in the name of individual accountability and transparent policymaking, many central banks continue to shield their voting policymakers from such public scrutiny. In this paper, I argue that while unattributed vote outcomes are potentially beneficial as a communication mechanism to coordinate market expectations, publishing complete voting records undermines both the accountability of central banks and their ability to manage market expectations. Empirically, I leverage the recent implementation of a recent freedom of information law in Brazil which required the release of individually attributed central bank voting records. The evidence shows that not only has this policy change worsened the accuracy of market expectations, but it also reduced the ability of the central bank to influence market expectations with their official communications. This result has important implications for the ongoing debates over the merits of central bank transparency and provides a cautionary tale for the application of broad political reform efforts to monetary policy institutions.

Preferences Over Legal Rules and Non-Median Outcomes on Collegial Courts (with Cliff Carrubba and Georg Vanberg), Under Review

  • Judicial decisions, particularly those by high courts, have two (related) effects: They resolve a particular dispute and they announce a legal rule that justifies this disposition. In this paper, we consider the micro-foundations of judicial preferences over legal rules. We argue that while judges may care about legal rules for a number of reasons, one reason is that legal rules shape the resolution of future cases. As a result, a judge prefers those rules that she expects will make more cases come out “right” (from her perspective) to those that she expects will make fewer cases come out “right.” We demonstrate that if this is true, judicial preferences over rules will typically be asymmetric: A judge will be sensitive to deviations from her preferred rule if such deviations affect many future cases, while she may be willing to tolerate significant departures from her preferred rule if this departure does not affect many cases. We show that the direction and degree of this asymmetry are endogenous to the location of the judges’ ideal points. Finally, we demonstrate that such asymmetric preferences can have important consequences for the legal rules that emerge from collegial courts, as well as for the nature of the coalitions that support a decision.

The Differential Effects of Central Bank Transparency:  An Analysis of Voting on the Federal Open Market Committee since 1954, work in progress

  • This project evaluates the substantive consequence of central bank transparency on voting in monetary policy committees. While there is a large theoretical literature on the implications of transparency at central banks, relatively less has been shown empirically. In 1966 the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) mandated the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the United States Federal Reserve release detailed minutes, voting information, and final policy decisions. By leveraging this exogenously mandated and punctuated change in institutional transparency, I present novel evidence concerning the effect of central bank transparency on consensus building and policy making in committees. The results have important implications for ongoing debate over the optimal level of central bank transparency, which is of particular relevance at the European Central Bank.

What Can We Learn from Roll Call Votes? Strategic Signaling Incentives and the Decision to Call Roll Call Votes (with Cliff Carrubba and Matt Gabel), work in progress