[7] Americans preferred Syrian refugees who are female, English-speaking, and Christian on the eve of Donald Trump’s election

joint with Claire Adida and Melina Platas Izama.

What types of refugees do Americans prefer for admission into the United States? Scholars have explored the immigrant characteristics that appeal to Americans and the characteristics that Europeans prioritize in asylum-seekers, but we currently do not know which refugee characteristics Americans prefer. We conduct a conjoint experiment on a representative sample of 1800 US adults, manipulating refugee attributes in pairs of Syrian refugee profiles, and ask respondents to rate each refugee’s appeal. Our focus on Syrian refugees in a 2016 survey experiment allows us to speak to the concurrent refugee crisis on the eve of a polarizing election, while also identifying religious discrimination, holding constant the refugee’s national origin. We find that Americans prefer Syrian refugees who are female, high-skilled, English-speaking, and Christian, suggesting they prioritize refugee integration into the U.S. labor and cultural markets. We find that the preference for female refugees is not driven by the desire to exclude Muslim male refugees, casting doubt that American preferences at the time were motivated by security concerns. Finally, we find that anti-Muslim bias in refugee preferences varies in magnitude across key subgroups, though it prevails across all sample demographics.

Adida CL, Lo A, Platas MR (2019) Americans preferred Syrian refugees who are female, English-speaking, and Christian on the eve of Donald Trump’s election. PLoS ONE 14(10): e0222504.


[6] Perspective taking can promote short term inclusionary behavior toward Syrian refugees

joint with Claire Adida and Melina Platas Izama.

We investigate whether American citizens can be persuaded to adopt more inclusionary behavior toward refugees using a minimally invasive online perspective-taking exercise frequently used by refugee advocates in the real world. Through the use of a randomized survey experiment on a representative sample of American citizens we find that this short and interactive perspective-taking exercise can promote, in the short term, Americans’ willingness to act on behalf of Syrian refugees, by writing anonymous letters of support to the White House. This effect, while driven primarily by self-identified Democrats, is also apparent among self-identified Republicans.

Adida, C., Lo, A., and Platas, M., 2018. Perspective taking can promote short-term inclusionary behavior toward Syrian refugees, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115 (38) 9521-9526. Winner of the APSA Migration & Citizenship Section 2018 Best Paper Award.

[5] Framework for making better prediction by directly estimating variables’ predictivity

joint with Herman Chernoff, Tian Zheng and Shaw-hwa Lo.

Good prediction, especially in the context of big data, is important. Common approaches to prediction include using significance-based criterion for evaluating variables to use in models and evaluating variables and models simultaneously for prediction using cross-validation or independent test data. The first approach can lead to choosing less predictive variables, as significance does not imply predictivity. The second approach can be improved through considering a variable’s predictivity as a parameter to be estimated. The literature currently lacks measures that do this. We suggest a novel measure that evaluates variables’ abilities to predict, the I-score. It is effective in differentiating between noisy and predictive variables in big data and can be related to a lower bound for the correct prediction rate.

Lo, A., Chernoff, H., Zheng, T. and Lo, S.H., 2016. Framework for making better prediction by directly estimating variables’ predictivityProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(50), pp.14277-14282.

[4] Network-guided interaction mining for blood pressure phenotype of unrelated individuals in GAW19

with Michael Agnes, Jonathan Auerbach, Ruixue Fan, Shaw-hwa Lo, Pei Wang and Tian Zheng.

A. Lo, M. Agnes, J. Auerbach, R. Fan, S. Lo, P. Wang, & T. Zheng, 2016.”Network-guided interaction mining for blood pressure phenotype of unrelated individuals in GAW19” BMC Proceedings. 10 (Suppl 7):13. 

[3] Why significant variables aren’t automatically good predictors

joint with Herman Chernoff, Tian Zheng and Shaw-hwa Lo.

A recent puzzle in the big data scientific literature is that an increase in explanatory variables found to be significantly correlated with an outcome variable does not necessarily lead to improvements in prediction. This problem occurs in both simple and complex data. We offer explanations and statistical insights into why higher significance does not automatically imply stronger predictivity and why variables with strong predictivity sometimes fail to be significant. We suggest shifting the research agenda toward searching for a criterion to locate highly predictive variables rather than highly significant variables. We offer an alternative approach, the partition retention method, which was effective in reducing prediction error from 30% to 8% on a long-studied breast cancer data set.

Lo, A., Chernoff, H., Zheng, T. and Lo, S.H., 2015. Why significant variables aren’t automatically good predictorsProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences112(45), pp.13892-13897.

[2] The spousal bump: do cross-ethnic marriages increase political support in multiethnic democracies?

joint with Claire Adida, Nathan Combes and Alex Verink.

In democratic Africa, where ethnicity is a key driver of vote choice, politicians must attract voters across ethnic lines. This article explores one way politicians can do this: by appealing to a coethnic bond through their spouse. We propose that cross-ethnic spouses can help candidates send credible signals of coalition building before an election. We test this argument with a survey experiment in Benin, where President Yayi has married across ethnic lines. Our results confirm that priming the first lady’s ethnicity increases support for President Yayi among her coethnics. We generalize these results by combining new data on leader-spouse ethnicity with Afrobarometer survey data. Our results suggest that cross-ethnic marriages are one tool leaders can use to shore up support in multiethnic elections.

Adida, C., Combes, N.Lo, A., & Verink, AThe Spousal Bump: Do Cross-Ethnic Marriages Increase Political Support in Multiethnic Democracies? Comparative Political Studies, April 2016; vol. 49, 5: pp. 635–661.

[1] The mathematics of murder

joint with James Fowler.

A. Lo J.H. Fowler.”The Mathematics of Murder”  Nature. 501:170-171 (12 September 2013).

Working papers & ongoing projects

Covariate screening in high dimensional data: applications to text data and forecasting

Data problems and solutions in the empirical study of political violence

joint with Julianne Krüger and Chris Fariss.

The promises and pitfalls of empathy

joint with Claire Adida, Melina Platas Izama, Lauren Prather and Scott Williamson.

Studying bipartite networks with dynamic stochastic block models

joint with Kosuke Imai, Santiago Olivella and Tyler Pratt.