hero image
Bethany  Lacina - University of Rochester. Rochester, NY, US

Bethany Lacina Bethany  Lacina

Associate Professor of Political Science | University of Rochester


Bethany Lacina is an expert in civil and ethnic conflict.

Areas of Expertise (7)


International Relations

Territorial Autonomy

Civil Conflict

Ethnic Conflict

Comparative Politics

Ethnic Politics



Bethany  Lacina Publication Bethany  Lacina Publication




Episode 1,529: Bethany Lacina Interview: Analyzing Star Wars Twitter Behavior Bethany Lacina – The Washington Post breaks down Star Wars twitter - Steele Wars Ep 185




Bethany Lacina researches international relations, comparative politics, migration, ethnic politics, and civil conflict. Current research examines how governments manage threats to internal security by studying the history of separatist and language conflicts in India. She is also writing papers on migration and civil violence and cross-national correlates of civil war.

She is co-author of a dataset on battle deaths in state-based armed conflicts, housed at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo.

Education (2)

Stanford University: Ph.D, Political Science 2011

Yale University: B.A, Ethics, Politics, and Economics 2002

Affiliations (1)

  • PRIO Battle Deaths Data

Selected Media Appearances (10)

Analysis | Nearly all NFL head coaches are White. What are the odds?

Washington Post  print


By Bethany Lacina - It's either a 100 to 1 chance -- or there's a pro-White bias in hiring, my research finds.

view more

Analysis | Why are the #OscarsSoWhite? Google searches give us a clue.

Washington Post  online


Only two out of this year's 19 Oscar acting nominees, Antonio Banderas and Cynthia Erivo, are people of color. Combining the Oscar nominees with adults nominated for Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe Awards produces a list of 83 actors — of whom five are women of color and eight are men of color. How does the Internet traffic for each of these actors vary depending on the diversity of a media market? To find out, I measured search traffic for each celebrity's name by media market. I compared that data to the percentage of the media market's population that is white. For the 70 white nominees, there is no strong pattern. Some attract more interest in whiter media markets, some less, and for some, interest is similar regardless of diversity. On average, these stars add 5 percent to their Internet traffic when the population share of whites in a media market is 10 percent higher.

view more

The latest Star Wars film satisfies the right wing. Will the left start trolling?

The Washington Post  online


By Bethany Lacina Jan. 18, 2020 at 7:00 a.m. EST “Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker” (TROS) leaves theaters soon. Critical reception was middling. Box office receipts collapsed, ending below those of “The Last Jedi” (TLJ, episode 8, released in 2017) and “Rogue One” (a 2016 stand-alone Star Wars film). But right-wing trolling of the film was mild compared to the backlash against TLJ. This latest movie avoided that ire by moving Star Wars politically right. So has Lucasfilm replaced its right-wing troll problem with a left-wing one? Probably not. Compared to the previous film, TROS slighted fans with less visibility in fandom media and fewer ways to monetize their criticisms.

view more

Who will be angry when the Star Wars episode IX trailer drops today?

Washington Post  online


Star Wars episode IX is coming. On Friday, director J.J. Abrams addresses Star Wars Celebration, a fan convention, and is expected to reveal the full title and teaser footage for episode IX. Although no one yet knows what will be in it, we do know that fans and culture commentators will be heatedly — and sometimes abusively — discussing its politics for months. Since 2017, I’ve repeatedly sampled Star Wars-related Twitter, gathering and analyzing about 250,000 tweets with language classification algorithms. Here’s what the data reveals about who is going to be mad online about episode IX — on the political right and left — and why.

view more

Op-ed: The smash success of ‘Captain Marvel’ shows us that conservatives are ignoring the alt-right

Washington Post  


In an analysis for the Washington Post, Bethany Lacina, an associate professor of political science, writes that the success of Captain Marvel shows that superheroes played by women, or ethnic and racial minorities can attract new movie audiences without losing existing ones.

view more

Since the NFL anthem protests, white fans like the white players more -- and the black ones less.

The Washington Post  online


White Americans prefer white NFL stars — a preference that has gotten stronger since some players began protesting during the national anthem. Among whites without a college education, black players' popularity dropped — even if an individual player did not protest. In August 2016, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers, who is black, began protesting racial injustice and police violence — first by sitting, and then kneeling, while the national anthem was played before NFL games. Soon, a small number of fellow players joined in, most of them black. The protests were very popular with black Americans, with 74 percent approving in one 2016 poll — and very unpopular among whites, with 62 percent disapproving in the same poll.

view more

Op-ed: Who hates Star Wars for its newfound diversity? Here are the numbers.

The Washington Post  


"America’s most iconic movie franchise, Star Wars, has been denounced by the alt-right for unflattering representation of men, casting to pander to diversity and leftist moralizing. That discussion of gender and race in Star Wars went mainstream after the December 2017 release of “The Last Jedi.” The movie has the franchise’s first nonwhite female lead, portrays an elderly Luke Skywalker confronting his failures and leaves the Jedi order in the hands of a young woman...."

view more

The new troll: how bots and puppets make internet outrage seem louder than it is

Vox  online


"But to Bethany Lacina, an associate professor of political science at the University of Rochester who researches civil conflicts, the trolling that got Wendig fired was suspicious..."

view more

Fan hate takes aim at Star Wars diversity

Rochester Newscenter  online


"Bethany Lacina, an associate professor of political science at the University of Rochester, has been very busy on Twitter recently. Analyzing posts that is—not setting off late-night tweet storms..."

view more

Counting the Dead in Syria

The Atlantic  print


The number of people killed in a given conflict is generally determined in one of two ways: through "a census or some sort of populations survey," or through something called "multiple systems estimation," according to Bethany Lacina, a professor at Rochester University and the co-author of a widely-cited dataset of conflict deaths.

view more

Selected Articles (5)

Fiscal federalism at work? Central responses to internal migration in India

World Development

Rikhil R Bhavnani, Bethany Lacina

2017 Internal migration is thought to have substantial benefits for migrants and for the development of migrant-sending and migrant-receiving areas. In order to facilitate such migration, central governments may need to use fiscal transfers to ensure services to migrants, address infrastructure shortfalls, and ameliorate labor market displacement of natives. In fact, an extensive, mostly normative “fiscal federalism” literature has argued that central governments ought to use transfers to reduce interjurisdictional externalities such as those due to population displacements. We extend this literature empirically by examining the degree to which exogenous, longterm migration prompts the redirection of central fiscal resources in India. Following the literature on distributive politics, we argue that transfers in decentralized systems addressing the costs of population movements are influenced by partisan politics. Using monsoon shocks to migration, we show that increases in migration are met with greater central transfers but that these flows are at least 50% greater if the state-level executive is in the Prime Minister’s political party. Consistent with the theory, the influence of politics is greatest on parts of the budget subject to greater executive control. This politicization may explain why Indian states maintain barriers to internal migration despite the development costs of doing so.

view more

Shared Territory, Regime Alignment, and Forced Displacement

Annual conference of the International Studies Association

Bethany Lacina, Karen Albert, Emily VanMeter

2017 An ethnic group is more likely to be forcibly displaced by the government when it shares territory with regime supporters. That pattern reflects the ideational significance of shared territory and a simple logic of appropriation—governments purge people with resources the regime’s constituents can easily access. We investigate forced migration using panel data on international refugee flows and limited cross-sectional data on ethnically-targeted displacement. We find that during periods in which an ethnic group’s neighbors are aligned with the regime, refugee flows from that group increase by up to 40%.

view more

Who opposes ethnic territorial autonomy?

Social Science Research Network

Bethany Lacina

2016 Ethnoterritorial autonomy is typically studied through outcomes like decentralization or war. The microfoundations of ethnoterritorial politics, such as position taking by individual central actors, are rarely observed. I use Indian parliamentary records to code legislators’ stances on dozens of proposals for ethnic self-rule. I consider three explanations of government opposition to autonomy—the economic value of territories at stake; central nationalism; and regional ethnic rivalries—alone and interacted with pro-autonomy violence. Regional ethnic rivalries play the clearest role; the core opposition to an autonomy demand was representatives of other ethnic groups in the same area. Legislators were also more averse to autonomy for religious minority areas. Interestingly, this pattern held even among MP’s whose own constituency was not majority Hindu. Opposition did not increase with the development or natural resources of a proposed autonomous territory. This unique study of legislative behavior suggests new hypotheses about government reactions to ethnoterritorial movements.

view more

The effects of weather-induced migration on sons of the soil riots in India

World Politics

Rikhil R Bhavnani, Bethany Lacina

2015 Migration is thought to cause sons of the soil conflict, particularly if natives tend to be unemployed. Using data from India, the authors investigate the causal effect of domestic migration on riots by instrumenting for migration using weather shocks in migrants’ places of origin. They find a direct effect of migration on riots, but do not find that this effect is larger in places with more native unemployment. They argue and find evidence that migration is less likely to cause rioting where the host population is politically aligned with the central government. Politically privileged host populations can appease nativists and reduce migration through means that are less costly than rioting. Without these political resources, hosts resort to violence. Beyond furthering the sons of the soil literature, the authors detail a political mechanism linking natural disasters and, possibly, climate change and environmental degradation to riots, and demonstrate a widely applicable strategy for recovering the causal effect of migration on violence.

view more

Periphery versus periphery: The stakes of separatist war

The Journal of Politics

Bethany Lacina

2015 Center versus periphery distributional conflict is the standard explanation for separatist war. However, many separatists face strong opposition from other groups in their area. The likelihood of separatist war depends on the center’s political relationships with competing groups in the periphery. This article demonstrates two patterns in separatist war onset worldwide at the ethnic group level. Groups with a political advantage in the capital relative to their regional neighbors are less likely to have grievances about local political and economic institutions and have a lower probability of separatist war. On the other hand, ethnic groups that share territory with the most powerful ethnic group in their country are deterred from separatist violence. The center’s commitment to defend the regional status quo is particularly credible. Given the importance of within-periphery rivalries to separatist war, policy interventions designed to resolve center/periphery resource conflict may be ineffective against violence.

view more