Isabela Mares is a Professor of Political Science at Columbia University in New York City. Her research has covered a wide range of topics in comparative social policy and comparative political economy, including the development of social insurance institutions, the effects of wage bargaining institutions on economic outcomes and social policy reform in developing countries. Isabela Mares is the author of The Politics of Social Risk: Business and Welfare State Development (New York: Cambridge University Press 2003) which has won the Gregory Luebbert Award of the American Political Science Association for the best book in Comparative Politics. Her second book, Taxation, Wage Bargaining and Unemployment (New York: Cambridge University Press 2006) has examined how the growth in the tax burden and labor market outsiders has affected the economic performance of wage bargaining institutions. A recent set of articles have examined the political factors that account for recent adoption of non-contributory social policies in Latin American countries, the renationalizations of social insurance and the consequences of weakness of fiscal capacity for the political coalitions supporting different social policies in developing countries.
Isabela Mares has recently completed a new book entitled From open secrets to secret ballots: Democratic electoral reforms and voter autonomy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015). The book examines an under-explored dimension of the process of democratization, namely the adoption of electoral reforms that reduced opportunities for electoral intimidation and vote-buying. It explores the economic and political factors that affected the incentives of politicians to support the adoption of legislation that provided a better protection of electoral secrecy and the consequences of these reforms for the development of political parties. Professor Isabela Mares is currently working on a comparative extension of this project entitled Democratization after Democratization: How Europe ended electoral fraud. This project examines the sequencing of three types of electoral reforms that have reduced electoral fraud during the first wave of democratization and the cross-national variation in the composition of political coalitions that have supported these electoral reforms.
In a related project, Isabela Mares examines the varieties in the forms of clientelistic exchanges that are in place in contemporary East European countries. Disaggregating clientelism examines the mix between patronage, vote-buying and electoral intimidation and the factors accounting for the variation in the mix of these electoral strategies. The project uses experimental techniques to measure sensitive phenomena and document the existence of these electoral practices in contemporary Eastern Europe.
Professor Mares has earned her Ph.D. from the Government Department at Harvard University. Prior to coming to Columbia University, she has been an Assistant and Associate Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. She has held fellowships from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Russell Sage Foundation and the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University. She is currently a member of the editorial board of Comparative Politics and Business and Politics and has previously been a member of the editorial board of the American Political Science Review.