Focus areas: Financial regulation and risk analysis, antitrust policy and market competition, big data and computational social sciences 

Sharyn O'Halloran is the George Blumenthal Professor of Political Economy and Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York City. A political scientist and economist by training, O’Halloran has written extensively on issues related to the political economy of international trade and finance, regulation and institutional reform, economic growth and democratic transitions, and the political representation of minorities. 

O’Halloran received a BA degree in economics and political science from University of California, San Diego. O’Halloran then went on to receive her MA and PhD, also from University of California, San Diego. Her work focuses on formal and quantitative methods and their application to politics, economics, and public policy. 

Her publications include Politics, Process and American Trade Policy (University of Michigan Press), Delegating Powers (Cambridge University Press), The Future of the Voting Rights Act (Russell Sage Foundation), as well as numerous journal articles on administrative procedures and agency design, with application to U.S. trade and financial regulatory policy, including those published in the American Journal of Political Science, the American Political Science ReviewInternational OrganizationYale Law JournalNYU Law Journal, and the Journal of Law, Economics and Organization

Research & Publications

October 2008|Designing Democratic Government: Making Institutions Work|Sharyn O'Halloran
November 2006|Russell Sage Foundation |Rodolfo de la Garza, Sharyn O'Halloran, David L. Epstein, Richard H. Pildes

The Voting Rights Act (VRA) stands among the great achievements of American democracy. Originally adopted in 1965, the Act extended full political citizenship to African-American voters in the United States nearly 100 years after the Fifteenth Amendment first gave them the vote. While Section 2 of the VRA is a nationwide, permanent ban on discriminatory election practices, Section 5 targets only certain parts of the country, requiring that legislative bodies in these areas--mostly southern states with a history of discriminatory practices--get permission from the federal government before they can implement any change that affects voting. In The Future of the Voting Rights Act, David Epstein, Richard Pildes, Rodolfo de la Garza, and Sharyn O'Halloran bring together leading historians, political scientists, and legal scholars to assess the role Section 5 should play in America's future.

The contributors offer varied perspectives on the debate. Samuel Issacharoff questions whether Section 5 remains necessary, citing the now substantial presence of blacks in legislative positions and the increasingly partisan enforcement of the law by the Department of Justice (DOJ). While David Epstein and Sharyn O'Halloran are concerned about political misuse of Section 5, they argue that it can only improve minority voting power and never worsen it--even with a partisan DOJ--and therefore continues to serve a valuable purpose. Other contributors argue that the achievements of Section 5 with respect to blacks should not obscure shortcomings in the protection of other groups. Laughlin McDonald argues that widespread and systematic voting discrimination against Native Americans requires that Section 5 protections be expanded to more counties in the west. Rodolfo de la Garza and Louis DeSipio point out that the growth of the Latino population in previously homogenous areas and the continued under-representation of Latinos in government call for an expanded Section 5 that accounts for changing demographics.

As its expiration date approaches, it is vital to examine the role that Section 5 still plays in maintaining a healthy democracy. Combining historical perspective, legal scholarship, and the insight of the social sciences, The Future of the Voting Rights Act is a crucial read for anyone interested in one of this year's most important policy debates and in the future of civil rights in America.

October 1999|Cambridge University Press|Sharyn O'Halloran, David Epstein

In this path-breaking book, David Epstein and Sharyn O'Halloran produce the first unified theory of policy making between the legislative and executive branches. Examining major US policy initiatives from 1947 to 1992, the authors describe the conditions under which the legislature narrowly constrains executive discretion, and when it delegates authority to the bureaucracy. In doing so, the authors synthesize diverse and competitive literatures, from transaction cost and principal-agent theory in economics, to information models developed in both economics and political science, to substantive and theoretical work on legislative organization and on bureaucratic discretion.

October 1994|University of Michigan Press|Sharyn O'Halloran

Relying on the New Economics of Organizations (NEO), or New Institutionalism, Politics, Process, and American Trade Policy shows why conventional models do not adequately describe the formation of American trade policy. Rejecting both the pressure group model and the presidential-ascendancy model, this study's institution-based approach emphasizes the influence Congress has in setting trade policy, connecting theories of institutional design with the procedural details of regulating trade policy. To reach her conclusions, Sharyn O'Halloran uses time series data and econometric analysis to test a set of propositions concerning trade policy. She examines detailed case studies and provides a comprehensive history of the institutions that govern trade policy making. Unlike most scholars who see trade policy as disparate and ad hoc, O'Halloran is able to explain both early and contemporary American trade policy in a consistent and integrated fashion. She argues that a single set of procedures may lead to apparently different outcomes under differing initial conditions; therefore, the key is to identify the common logic, derived from constitutional imperatives, that underlies all policy outcomes.

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