Adlai Newson

PhD Job Market Candidate

I am an applied microeconomist with interests in political economy, advertising, and campaign finance. I also have interests in clientelism and democratization in developing countries.

My job market paper studies the effectiveness of advertising in US Congressional elections. I estimate how effective different aspects of advertising are at changing voter behaviour, and argue that my findings suggest a relatively sophisticated electorate that accounts for both the source and content of advertising.

I expect to graduate in 2022 and will (virtually) attend the 2022 ASSA/AEA and and 2022 EJME/EEA meetings in search of employment.

Research Areas: Applied Microeconomics, Political Economy

PhD Economics, UBC (Expected)
BA Economics and Mathematics, UBC

President’s Academic Excellence Initiative PhD Award, 2020-2021
A D Scott Fellowship in Economics, 2015
Pat and Betty Love Scholarship in Arts, 2012


The scope and intensity of political advertising has veritably exploded over the last fifteen years of US elections, yet we researchers struggle to understand the effect of these ads on electoral outcomes. I contribute to this literature by estimating the effect of different aspects of this advertising on biannual Congressional election outcomes for the period 2004-2018. I exploit the (fuzzy) discontinuities in advertising at geographic media market boundaries that lie within congressional districts to estimate the effect of advertising intensity, specificity, tone, and content on Congressional vote shares. I find that advertising is indeed a powerful tool for influencing vote shares, but that voters sharply discount ads for other congressional candidates (horizontal spillover) and similarly discount ads for senate and presidential candidates (vertical spillover) when deciding how to vote for their Congressional candidate. I further find that while both positive and negative ads are effective, their effectiveness relies on differences in ad content. [GO TO PAPER]


This Element examines how the changing economic basis of parliamentary elections in nineteenth century England and Wales contributed to the development of modern parties and elections. Even after the 1832 Reform Act expanded the British electorate, elections in many constituencies went uncontested, party labels were nominal, and candidates spent large sums treating and bribing voters. By the end of the century, however, almost every constituency was contested, candidates stood as representatives of national parties, and campaigns were fought on the basis of policies. We show how industrialization, the spread of literacy, and the rise of cheap newspapers, encouraged candidates to enter and contest constituencies. The increased expense that came from fighting frequent elections in larger constituencies induced co-partisan candidates to form slates. This imparted a uniform partisan character to parliamentary elections that facilitated the emergence of programmatic political parties. [GO TO PAPER]

We explore the role of ruling elites in autocratic regimes and provide an assessment of tools useful to clarify the structure of opaque political environments. We first showcase the importance of analyzing autocratic regimes as non-unitary actors by discussing extant work on nondemocracies in Sub-Saharan Africa and China, where the prevailing view of winner-take-all contests can be clearly rejected. We show how specific biographical information about powerful cadres helps shed light upon the composition of the inner circles that empower autocrats. We further provide an application of these methods to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), one of the most personalistic, opaque, and data-poor political regimes in the world today. Employing information from DPRK state media on participants at official state events, we are able to trace the evolution and consolidation of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un around the transition period following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il. The internal factional divisions of the DPRK are explored during and after this transition. Final general considerations for the future study of the political economy of development are presented.

Teaching Assistantships
ECON 221 - Introduction to Game Theory
ECON 301 - Intermediate Microeconomics
ECON 325 - Introduction to Empirical Economics
ECON 465 - Market Structure
ECON 425 - Introduction to Econometrics
ECON 490 - Seminar in Applied Economics