Zachary Houser

Ph.D. Candidate at Florida State University


Zachary Houser

B.A Political Science, North Carolina State University

M.S. Political Science, Florida State University

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I am a Political Science Ph.D. Candidate at Florida State University.


My research explores the motivations of foreign aid and how donor nations use foreign aid to achieve domestic and foreign policy objectives, increase their international status, and enhance their economic and monetary position in the world. I am also interested in causal inference, networks, US foreign policy, and the domestic politics of international relations.



Under Review

Buying Monetary Status: Chinese Foreign Aid and the Rise of the Renminbi

How do states attain monetary status? States can attain monetary status by taking actions that promote the use of their currency. By linking diversification into its currency with policies that benefit the investing state, a reserve currency issuer can promote its currency even if the economic factors of the currency alone are insufficient to attract other nations to invest. Scholars have long studied the influence geopolitical and security considerations have on the rise and persistence of reserve currencies. Security guarantees have often been linked to monetary status, but these are not the only commodity that reserve currency issuers can leverage to enhance their monetary status. The author proposes that foreign aid is an alternative tool that a reserve currency issuer can use to encourage states to invest in its currency. Using an instrumental variable, the present study demonstrates how China has used foreign aid to induce other nations to invest in the renminbi (RMB) and thereby enhance its monetary status. The findings show that the probability that a country will adopt the RMB as a reserve currency increases as the number of Chinese-financed aid projects the state receives increases. When a state’s currency lacks the economic factors to achieve international reserve currency status, states can turn to foreign aid to buy monetary status.

Working Papers 

Noblesse Oblige: Status Motivations and Public Support for Foreign Aid (with Marina Duque)

 What drives support for foreign aid provision? Conventional explanations posit that donors give aid for strategic reasons, to achieve domestic or foreign policy goals; or for altru- istic reasons, to help those in need. In this paper, we argue that status can also motivate aid. Hierarchical relationships typically involve a sense of noblesse oblige, as privileged actors are expected to behave charitably towards the less privileged. Therefore, the more citizens value their country’s international status, the more they should support foreign aid provision. Using two survey experiments in the United States, we show that respondents cued to consider that a reduction in foreign aid spending would hurt U.S. status are more supportive of foreign aid than respondents not cued to consider such an impact. Moreover, respondents are more support- ive of foreign aid the higher their reported need for national status—whose substantive impact is comparable to that of the variables traditionally considered in foreign aid research. While previous research on status-seeking behavior focuses on conflict, our results suggest that status can also motivate international cooperation. In addition, the analysis indicates that framing foreign aid in terms of status can encourage richer states to help more those in need.

Too Close for Comfort: Exposure to Immigrants and Welfare Support in the U.S. (with Alexandra Artiles)

How does exposure to foreign-born people across states shape individuals’ welfare beliefs? Is this relationship conditional on public safety and economic threats posed by foreign-born people? Emerging literature examines how natives associate the foreign-born population with dependence on the welfare state. Many previous studies, which find support for this linkage, do not incorporate the influence of exposure to foreign-born populations. Yet, exploring racial and ethnic heterogeneity is vital in studying how immigration attitudes are related to welfare attitudes. Moreover, existing literature does not account for the crucial role of economic threats in shaping individuals’ associations between the foreign-born population and the welfare state. We offer two solutions to these shortcomings. First, we measure exposure, through the percent-foreign across counties, as my independent variable. Second, we interact exposure with two measures that contribute to an individuals’ detection of public safety and economic threats by the foreign-born population, such as being a blue-collar worker and being unemployed. Using data from the American National Election Study (ANES) and the U.S. Census Bureau from 1992 to 2020, we find that exposure alone is insufficient in explaining variation in welfare attitudes. Instead, its interactive relationship with public safety and economic threats sheds significant light on individuals’ welfare attitudes.



POS1041 - American Government: National

Summer C 2020

INR 4102 - American Foreign Policy
Summer C 2021

INR 3502 - International Organizations
Fall 2021


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