Final Project


Your primary goal is this: to explore the effect of some treatment on an outcome you are interested in, using one of the datasets below. You get to decide what the treatment and outcome variable are; there is more than one “right” answer. I provide a few ideas beneath each dataset but you can do what you want.

Browse through the different topics, think about what causal story you want to tell, and pick the topic you want. Download the adjoining Rmarkdown template, and complete the following activities outlined there.

You can use your notes, slides, and any other material from the course, but you must work on this independently.

Once you are done, you will submit the completed .Rmd file on Canvas. Late submissions will not be accepted.

Help from instructors

On the problem sets the instructors (the professor + TAs) provided substantial guidance. This is not the case for the final project. We will not provide any help in answering questions. This is your chance to show how much you have learned.

If there are MAJOR issues that prevent you from working on the project (e.g., you cannot load the dataset at the top of the Rmd file), reach out to us ASAP, by email. If there are clarification questions about the language of a question, also reach out to us ASAP by email.


Your project will be evaluated along two dimensions:

  1. accuracy (90% of grade): did you answer the questions well? does your code work? did you interpret the results correctly? is your argument clear and persuasive? Basically: how good is your project?
  2. professionalism (10% of grade): is it neat, organized, easy to read? is your writing grammatical, uses capitalization, punctuation, etc.? are graphs neat and well-labeled? Basically: how presentable is your project?


If you need more information about the data, a specific variable, etc., look through the linked articles or codebooks.

Dataset options

War, gender, and social change

One of the big changes that World War II brought about in the US was the entrance of women into the labor force in massive numbers. Over this period, involvement of women in economic and political life also increased dramatically.

Wars are big, destabilizing events that can dramatically transform societies. Can wars, either domestic or foreign, change gender relations within a country?

This dataset comes from this IO article by Webster, Chen, and Beardsley and includes information on women’s involvement in civil society and politics, war, and other related variables, using data from every country between 1900 and 2015.

variable meaning
year Year
country_name Country name
polempowerment Measure of women’s political empowerment in the country in that year, from VDEM (variable: V2x_GENDER). Ranges from 0 (low) to 1 (high).
civilsoci Measure of how active women are in civil society, from VDEM (variable: V2X_GENCS). Ranges from 0 (low) to 1 (high)
fertility Women’s fertility rates (average number of births per woman)
inter_war Did an international war take place? (1 = yes, 0 = no).
intra_war Did a civil war take place? (1 = yes, 0 = no).
milper Military personnel per capita
milex_pc Military expenditures per capita
population Total population
polity2 Country’s democracy score in that year, from POLITY2. Ranging from full autocracy (-10) to full democracy (10).


  • effects of civil war on women’s empowerment
  • effects of international war on women’s empowerment
  • effects of war on fertility
  • effect of democratization on military spending

The template

Webster template

Western education and the spread of democracy

Despite living in autocratic countries, dictators often either attend or send their kids to universities in democratic countries where some of the world’s top universities are often located. Does the experience of living in a democratic state influence leaders once they return? Could experiences like this “spread” democracy?

This dataset comes from a JCR study by Gift and Krcmaric. The dataset contains information on world leaders, where they were educated, how democracy changed in their countries during their tenure, and other factors.

variable meaning
leader Name of the leader
startdate When the leader started their tenure
enddate When the leader ended their tenure
angloedu Was leader educated in an English-speaking country?
westedu Was leader educated in the West?
noedu Did leader have no higher education?
polity2change Change in POLITY2 score over leader’s tenure (positive = country became more democratic, negative = less democratic)
BMRtransition 1 if country underwent democratic transition
ethfrac Ethnic fractionalization index of country
britcolony Is leader in a former british colony?
igdp interpolated real GDP per capita /100,000
usally did country have cold war alliance with USA at any point?
ioil does the country have oil?
ipolconiii Executive constraints variable (from 0 to 1)
studentflowthousand students studying in the US (in thousands)


  • does a leader receiving a Western education spread democracy to their home countries?
  • does a leader receiving a Western education make alliances with the US more likely?
  • does a leader having lots of students studying abroad in the US make US alliances more likely?
  • does a country experiencing a democratic transition increase the likelihood a leader studies in the West? or that more of their students study in the West?

The template

Gift template

The effects of criminal victimization

Many people in the world become victims of crime at some point or another in their lives. These experiences can be highly traumatic. How does criminal victimization change people and their attitudes and beliefs? Do they become more conservative, or liberal? Do they become more supportive of harsh policies? Or do they become more involved in their communities, and seek change?

This dataset comes from LAPOP, and the codebook. The data is a survey of people living across a dozen countries in Latin America, their experiences with crime, their attitudes towards democracy, how they think the state should respond to crime, and so on.

variable meaning
country Country
sex Sex
age Age
education Years of education
ethnicity Ethnicity
vigilante Approval of Vigilante Justice (1 = none, 10 = a lot)
income Income
victim Victim of a crime in last 12 months
coup_support Agrees that a military coup is justified if crime is high
neighbor_crime Murders have taken place in neighborhood
attend_meeting Did respondent attend community meeting?
protested Did respondent participate in a protest?
solve_problems How often respondent helps solve local problem (1, Once a week, 2 = Once or twice a month, 3 = Once or twice a year, 4 = Never)
ideology Ideology (1 = far left, 10 = far right)


  • does being a victim of a crime increase support for military coups or vigilante justice?
  • can education reduce support for military coups?
  • does being a victim of crime make someone more ideologically conservative?
  • do victims of crime become more involved in their communities, or engage in protest?
  • does the experience of participating in a protest make someone become more liberal or conservative?

The template

LAPOP template

Judicial appointments and public opinion in the US

The appointment and confirmation of judges to the Supreme Court is an increasingly important and politicized process. Do politicians, in voting to confirm a Supreme Court nominee, respond to public pressure? Or do they act more autonomously?

This dataset comes from a JOP article by Kastellec, Lax, and Phillips. The dataset contains estimates of public support for the confirmation of 10 recent Supreme Court nominees, how Senators voted during the confirmation process, and other factors, in all 50 states.

variable meaning
nominee Name of the nominated judge
state State
year Year
congress Congressional number
name Name of Senator
democrat Whether Senator is a Democrat
senator_ideology Senator’s ideology, on a -1 (liberal) to +1 (conservative) scale
vote if the senator voted to confirm the nominee
pres.dem if the nominating president was a Democrat
sameprty if the senator is the same party as the president
nom_ideology Nominee’s ideology, on a 0 (conservative) to 1 (liberal) scale
opinion nominee’s approval rating (out of 100%) in the senator’s state at the time of the vote
reelection if the senator faces reelection within two years of the vote


  • does public support for a Supreme Court nominee cause a Senator to vote for that candidate?
  • does not having to face reelection change how Senators vote?
  • does a senator’s ideology cause them to vote in particular ways during Senate confirmations?

The template

Kastellec template

Welfare and race in the United States

There’s a big literature on how debates over redistributive policy (e.g., welfare measures) in the United States can often become racialized – that people support or oppose welfare policies not on the merits but rather on which groups they anticipate will benefit from such policies and their attitudes towards those groups.

This data comes from the 2019 Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, codebook here. The data is a survey of Americans, and includes information on racial prejudice, demographics, ideology, and support for welfare policies.

variable meaning
state State
birth_year Year born
sex Sex
race Race
party_id Party identification
ideo5_2019 Ideology (1 = very liberal, 5 = very conservative)
newsint_2019 Interested in politics (1 = most of the time, 4 = hardly at all)
pew_religimp_2019 Importance of religion (1 = very important, 4 = not all important)
faminc_new_2019 Check codebook
educ_2019 Check codebook
ft_black_2017 Feeling thermometer, Blacks (0 = strong dislike, 100 = strong like)
ft_hisp_2017 Feeling thermometer, Hispanics (0 = strong dislike, 100 = strong like)
ft_asian_2017 Feeling thermometer, Asians (0 = strong dislike, 100 = strong like)
diff_inc_2019 Government should redistribute wealth (1 = strongly agree, 5 = strongly disagree)


  • does racial prejudice cause changes in support for redistributive policies? does it depend on the group in question?
  • can education reduce racial prejudice?
  • does education cause people to become more liberal or more conservative?

The template

Prejudice template

Coca and conflict in Colombia

Colombia has one of the longest-running internal conflicts in the world, involving multiple armed groups over decades and also a thriving drug trade. Does past violence beget current violence? Does the drug trade cause conflict?

This data comes from The Center for Economic Development at the University of Los Andes, in Colombia, codebook here (in Spanish!)

variable meaning
department Department
muni Municipality
year Year
rural_pop Rural population
urban_pop Urban population
total_pop Total population
area Area (km2)
altitude Altitude (meters above sea level)
discapital Distance to department capital
la_violencia Dummy for violence during La Violencia (1948-1953)
ocup_espan Dummy for Spanish occupation from 1510 - 1561
land_conflicts Dummy for land conflicts, 1901-1931
homicides Total homicides
coca_hectares Number of hectares of coca cultivations (less accurate)
coca Dummy for coca presence (more accurate)
farc_attacks Number of attacks by the FARC
para_attacks Number of attacks by the AUC


  • does the coca trade cause conflict by one group or another, or general homicides?
  • do past conflicts, either during La Violencia, or over land, cause current conflicts?
  • how has the experience of Spanish colonization in some parts of the country but not others influenced contemporary outcomes?

The template

Colombia template