Nikhar Gaikwad is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and a Member of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. He specializes in international and comparative political economy, with a focus on the politics of economic policymaking, business-state relations, and identity. Substantively, he works on trade, migration, and environmental policymaking. He has a regional specialization in India, which he studies in comparative perspective with other democratic emerging economies. Prior to joining Columbia University, he was a Fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University. He received his PhD, with departmental and university distinction, in Political Science from Yale University, and BA, magna cum laude, in Economics and Political Science (honors) from Williams College.
Gaikwad’s research focuses on two types of competition that recur in the political arena: economic contestation and identity conflict. A main line of inquiry studies how cultural divisions interact with economic rivalries when actors contest distributive policies. A second stream of work investigates how conflicts of interest between economic agents influence the policymaking process. He analyzes competing interests as a theoretical lens to study questions related to representation, policy change, and development.
Gaikwad’s research has been funded by the Social Science Research Council, International Growth Centre, Tobin Project, Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, President’s Global Innovation Fund, Evidence in Governance and Politics, and Research and Empirical Analysis of Labor Migration, among other centers. In 2017, the National Center for Institutional Diversity named him an Emerging Diversity Scholar.
He is currently working on a book manuscript, Identity Politics and Economic Policy. Political entrepreneurs in multi-ethnic societies commonly rely on both cultural mobilization and economic protectionism to garner votes, yet few theories explain how politicians’ choices along one dimension influence their actions on the other. This manuscript presents and tests a theory of political competition in culturally divided societies to explicate the link between identity politics and politics over economic policymaking. It is based on Gaikwad’s doctoral dissertation, which was awarded the James G. March Award for “outstanding dissertation in any field of Political Science” by Yale University, the Juan Linz Prize for Best Dissertation and an Honorable Mention for the Mancur Olson Prize for Best Dissertation by the American Political Science Association.
Gaikwad’s academic papers have received several prizes, including the International Political Economy Society’s David A. Lake Award for Best Paper, the American Political Science Association’s Franklin L. Burdette/Pi Sigma Alpha Award for Best Paper, and the Midwest Political Science Association’s Pi Sigma Alpha Award for Best Paper, Kellogg/Notre Dame Award for Best Paper in Comparative Politics, and Robert H. Durr Award for the Best Paper in applied quantitative methods. His work has been published or is forthcoming in the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, British Journal of Political Science, Quarterly Journal of Political Science, and Perspectives on Politics.