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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.

Broadly, my research is in international political economy, foreign policy, and the domestic politics of international relations. More specifically, my research answers questions that fall into two main themes:  

  1. Understanding what drives public support for foreign aid provisions

  2. Understanding how donor nations use foreign aid to achieve domestic and foreign policy objectives, increase their international status, and enhance their economic standing.

To answer these questions, I employ a range of advanced methods, including survey experiments, instrumental variables, and network analysis. My research interests also extend to teaching and pedagogy. 

I won Teacher of the Year from the FSU Political Science Department during the 2021-2022 academic year. I teach classes on American Foreign Policy, International Organizations, and American National Government. 



Revise and Resubmit

Making Agreements with Friends: Using an Analogy to Teach Informal Agreements and Bargaining in International Relations Courses 

At the Journal of Political Science Education 

Making Agreements with Friends is a problem-based learning exercise that uses an analogy to introduce complex concepts to students and aid students in their understanding of informal agreements and bargaining. This activity also helps students comprehend important components of informal agreements, including reputation costs and strategies countries use to make cooperation more likely (iteration, linkage, and coercion). While students do not have first-hand knowledge of making and forming informal international agreements, everyone has routine experience with informal interpersonal agreements. The logic students use to determine who they can trust when making interpersonal agreements, and the strategies they employ to increase the likelihood that agreements they make will be kept is similar to the logic and strategies countries use when making informal international agreements. Therefore, students have many accessible examples to draw from once the instructor helps them see the connection between their informal interpersonal agreements and countries’ informal international agreements.

Under Review

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.

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 

A Network of Buyers: Foreign Aid and Vote Buying in the United Nations 

How does an aid-for-policy deal with one donor nation impact another donor nation's ability to make an aid-for-policy deal with the same recipient state? Past research on foreign aid examines how foreign aid from a single donor nation affects the behavior of a recipient state. However, by doing so, scholars have failed to account for all the other countries simultaneously giving aid to that state. I argue that the effect of foreign aid on a recipient state's behavior is conditional on 1) how much aid a recipient state receives from donor nations; and 2) how many donor nations give the recipient state foreign aid. Viewing foreign aid as a network, where countries are the nodes and the directed weighted edges is the amount of foreign aid donor nations allocate to recipient states, I use a Genialized Exponential Random Graph Model (GERGM) to test if a state's position in the foreign aid network (who they get aid from and how much they revive from each node) affects the amount of aid that is required to buy a state's vote in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), while they are serving as a non-permanent member.



Instructor of Record

INR 3502 - International Organizations
Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023

INR 4102 - American Foreign Policy
Summer B 2021, Spring 2022, Summer A 2022

POS1041 - American Government: National
Summer B 2020, Summer A & B 2023


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