Pacific Ocean, August 2012

33.076° N, 139.844° E

About Yu Sasaki

I am an Assistant Professor at the Waseda Institute for Advanced Study in Waseda University, Tokyo. I hold a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Washington, Seattle. My research investigates the long-run impacts of premodern cultural consolidation within state on contemporary political and economic performance across states. To address this question, I study cultural standardization at the ethnic-group level using quantitative and qualitative methods. I particularly focus on the consolidation of cultural attributes among ethnic groups in Europe. Quantitative methods involve creating new data sets. I completed an MA in Global, International, and Comparative History at Georgetown University and a BA in International Studies at American University.

Recent & upcoming Talks

Previously, I worked for four years on international and homeland security and on science and technology at research institutes in Washington, D.C., and Tokyo.

For more, please see my CV.

For specific details on research, data, and teaching, please keep scrolling down.

I may be reached at

ysasaki AT aoni DOT waseda DOT jp


"Content with Failure? Cultural Consolidation and the Absence of Nationalist Mobilization in the Case of the Occitans in France," Social Science History 43(2), Summer 2019. Lead article

"Publishing Nations: Technology Acquisition and Language Standardization for European Ethnic Groups," Journal of Economic History 77(4), December 2017. Paper + Appendix.

Working Papers

"Ethnic Autonomy" (September 2019, under review; APSA Preprint)

"Language Underpinnings on Europe's Rise" (March 2019, revised manuscript)

"Continuity or Contingency? The Patterns of National-Identity Salience on Europeans' Attitudes toward Muslims" (June 2016, complete manuscript)


Click here for the abstracts and descriptive data of my papers.


Descriptive data and detailed discussion available on the RESEARCH page.

I make time-series and cross-sectional data sets on core attributes of European ethnic groups in my work. I collect information on political, economic, geographical, social, and other dimensions of these attributes from a variety of published and commercially-available sources in economic, political, and cultural history, geography, sociology, anthropology, and linguistics. So far, I have collected: 

  • Attributes of 214 cities and 10 ethnic groups in France, 1400-1900 (used in "Ethnic Autonomy")

    • 10 ethnic groups in France: Alsatians, Basques, Bretons, Burgundians, Catalans, Corsicans, Flemish, Normans, Occitans, Savoyards

    • Outcome variable

      • proportion of non-French-speaking communities/populations

    • Main explanatory variables

      • geographic distance to Paris

      • proximity to post offices available in 1559, 1690, 1792

    • Political variables

      • years of Provincial Estates held

    • Geographical variables

      • land elevation above sea level

      • terrain ruggedness

      • distance to nearest coast/border, averaged 1400—1800

    • Economic variables:

      • population size in 1850 weighted by population size in 1400

      • number of printing presses by 1700

      • number of cities holding commercial fairs within 50km

    • Cultural variables

      • Number of universities

    • Extra-France variables

      • distance to nearest German imperial post in sixteenth-century Germany

      • effect of the Protestant Reformation (closer distance to either Wittenberg or Zürich)

      • distance to conflict location, averaged 1400—1700

    • Other controls

      • access to navigable river under Roman rule

      • Roman legacy (Roman roads, hub Roman roads)

  • Attributes of 171 European ethnic groups, 1400-2000 (used in "Publishing Nations")

    • Outcome variable: first publication year of comprehensive vernacular dictionaries

    • Main explanatory variable: year of printing press adoption

    • Political variables: war frequency, indicators for the Russian Empire/Muscovy, the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Empire, Roman legacy (Roman roads, hub Roman roads)

    • Economic variables: urban potential, access to oceanic port

    • Geographical variables: land elevation above sea level, terrain ruggedness, island indicator

    • Social variables: university (year of university founded), bishoprics (year of bishoprics erected), effect of the Protestant Reformation (closer distance to either Wittenberg or Zürich)

    • Instrumental variable: geographical distance to Mainz (the German city where the Gutenberg press was invented)


My pedagogical goal is that students not only acquire knowledge but also become able to evaluate critically hypotheses using data and scientific methods and effectively convey their opinions orally and in writing. To facilitate students' learning, I strive to make my classroom experience as interactive as possible by using a variety of tools, including visuals-heavy slides, videos, and podcasts. I like to draw research puzzles on current events and everyday material, along with descriptive data and maps to promote intuitive grasp, highlight academic relevance to contemporary politics and society, and put substantive inquiry in a wider context.

As the primary instructor, I have taught introductory-level courses on comparative politics and political economy at the University of Washington. I incorporated major events that took place during the course into lecture and class discussion, as shown below.

Starting in April 2019, I will be leading a seminar course in comparative political economy, with a focus on property rights, at the School of Political Science and Economics in Waseda University.

  • POLX231L Seminar in Comparative Politics (Bunken-Kenkyu), spring 2019 (syllabus - Japanese)

    • Intended for sophomores and juniors

    • Class will revolve around two major pillars: (1) Politics of property rights; and (2) Tragedy of the Commons and its discontents

    • Readings draw on both classical works and cutting-edge empirical studies across social-science fields. Classics include:

      • Ellickson, Robert C. 1991. Order without Law.

      • Ostrom, Elinor. 1990. Governing the Commons.

      • Scott, James C. 1998. Seeing Like a State.

  • POl S 204 Introduction to Comparative Politics (last taught summer 2016)

    • I design this class to be a theme-oriented one, where we stress how (descriptive) data informs and challenges our understanding of key topics in the course.

    • Major topics include political development/state formation, nationalism, democratic regimes and democratization, non-democratic regimes, ethnicity, political violence, economic development.

    • Main substantive topics: (1) political development/state formation; and (2) economic development.

    • I incorporated the following concurrent events in the course: (1) the Brexit vote for ethnicity and nationalism; and (2) the failed coup in Turkey for authoritarianism.

  • POl S 270 Introduction to Political Economy (last taught summer 2017, syllabus)

    • Major concepts include emergent order, unintended consequences, Pareto optimality, price discrimination, rent, market mechanism design, property rights, externality, pooling/separating equilibrium, public goods, common-pool resources, basic game theory (Prisoners' Dilemma, Stag Hunt, Battle of the Sexes, Hawk-Dove game, mixed-strategy Nash equilibrium, iterated Prisoners' Dilemma).

    • Substantive topics: authoritarianism, ethnicity.

    • Main substantive topic: political economy of development (growth, poverty, inequality, foreign aid, aid debate, Universal Basic Income debate, RCTs (randomized control trials)).

    • I incorporated the following concurrent events in the course: (1) the Brexit negotiations for the Hawk-Dove game; and (2) mass protests in Russia and the constitutional referendum in Turkey for authoritarianism.

As a teaching assistant, I also taught a number of undergraduate courses in comparative politics and international relations at the University of Washington. Please see my CV for more detail.