Meet Marco Alcocer, 2021 APSA Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grantee

The American Political Science Association is pleased to announce the Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (DDRIG) Awardees for 2021. The APSA DDRIG program provides support to enhance and improve the conduct of doctoral dissertation research in political science. Awards support basic research which is theoretically derived and empirically oriented.

Marco Alcocer , University of California, San Diego

Marco Alcocer is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of California, San Diego and a Research Fellow at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies. His research focuses on organized crime and its links with politics. Marco is a Mexican immigrant, has previously worked for various NGOs and the US Federal Government, and has an M.A. in International Security from George Mason University and a B.A. in Political Science from Southwestern University.
Marco’s dissertation investigates how government policies can push criminal organizations (COs) into deciding to expand their geographic presence, and then explores how COs establish themselves in new territories by building networks with government officials and what political ramifications this has. To analyze these dynamics, the dissertation focuses on Mexico and relies on a series of novel datasets on COs and a multi-method research design.

First, the dissertation finds that government crackdowns meant to contain and dismantle COs can backfire and push COs to expand their geographic presence, leading to increased levels of criminal activity and violence. Second, it provides a theory outlining how COs establish themselves successfully in new territories by building networks with different types of government officials. The dissertation then tests the electoral and policy implications of the theory using original datasets on COs and explores the mechanisms linking COs to electoral and policy outcomes through in-depth qualitative case studies.

The dissertation contributes to the growing literature on the links between COs and politics, a phenomenon affecting countries around the world. It also contributes more broadly by creating new systematic datasets on COs that other scholars can use to advance our understandings of the causes and effects of COs.