Rachel Beatty Riedl

Associate Professor of Political Science | IPR Fellow


Political scientist Rachel Beatty Riedl studies institutional development in new democracies, local governance and decentralization policy, authoritarian regime legacies, and religion and politics, with a regional focus in sub-Saharan Africa.  A former Kellogg Institute Visiting Fellow, Yale Program on Democracy Fellow, and Faculty Fulbright Scholar, she is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has conducted policy analysis internationally on governance, elections, democratic representation, and identity politics.

She is the author of the award-winning book Authoritarian Origins of Democratic Party Systems in Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2014). Her work has appeared in the Journal of Politics, Comparative Political Studies, and African Affairs.

Current Projects

Religious Actors and Political Engagement in Sub-Saharan Africa. In collaboration with Gwyneth McClendon of Harvard University, Riedl is conducting a series of experiments in sub-Saharan Africa to test how the religious messages conveyed by Pentecostal churches affect political engagement and policy preferences surrounding inequality and redistribution at the individual level.

Decentralization and Local Governance in Africa. Riedl is using World Bank data to study how political party systems affect whether significant decision-making authority and autonomy are transferred to the local level. Her results point to an interesting finding—authoritarian regimes might have the capacity and incentives to implement decentralization, while more fragmented, democratic party systems might actually prevent it.

Selected Publications


Riedl, R. B. 2014. Authoritarian Origins of Democratic Party Systems in Africa. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Journal Articles and Chapters

Riedl, R. B., and A. Hicken. 2018. From the outside looking in: Latin American parties in comparative perspective. In Latin American Party Systems: Institutionalization, Decay, and Collapse, ed. S. Mainwaring. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Riedl, R. B. 2018. Institutional legacies: Understanding multiparty politics in historical perspective. In Politics in Africa: The Importance of Institutions, ed. N. Cheeseman. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Riedl, R. B. 2018. Authoritarian successor parties in sub-Saharan Africa: Into the wilderness and back again? In Authoritarian Success Parties: Causes and Consequences, eds. S. Mainwaring and J. Loxton. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Riedl, R. B. 2017. Subnational–Cross-national variation: Method and analysis in sub-Saharan AfricaAmerican Behavioral Scientist 61(8): 932–59.

Riedl, R. B. 2016. Strong parties, weak parties: Explaining regime outcomes in Africa. In Political Parties, Collective Actors, and the Crafting of Democracy, ed. N. Bermeo and D. Yashar. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Riedl, R. B. 2016. Political parties, regimes, and social cleavages. In Oxford Handbook on Historical Institutionalism, ed. T. Falleti, O. Fioretos, and A. Sheingate. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press. 

Riedl, R. B., and J. Dickovick. 2016. Sub-national elections and accountability: A study of political decentralization and democratic governance. In Growing Democracy in Africa: Elections, Accountable Governance, and Political Economy, ed. M. Ndulo and M. Gazibo. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Riedl, R. B., and G. McClendon. 2016. Individualism and empowerment in Pentecostal sermons: New evidence from Nairobi, KenyaAfrican Affairs 115(458): 1045–57.

Riedl, R. B., and G. McClendon. 2015. Religion as stimulant of political participation: Evidence from an experiment in Nairobi, KenyaJournal of Politics 77(4): 104557.

Riedl, R. B., and J. Dickovick. 2014. Party systems and decentralization in AfricaStudies in Comparative International Development 49(3): 32142.

Lupu, N., and R. B. Riedl. 2013. Political parties and uncertainty in developing democraciesComparative Political Studies 46(11): 133965.

Riedl, R. B. 2012. Transforming politics, dynamic religion: Religion's political impact in contemporary AfricaAfrican Conflict and Peacebuilding Review 2(2): 2950.