Brenton Kenkel

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Vanderbilt University. I received my PhD in political science from the University of Rochester in 2014.

I study the political economy of conflict. I am especially interested in the political and fiscal foundations of state power—how a country's capacity to extract resources domestically affects its ability to fend off threats abroad, and vice versa. I also study diplomacy, focusing on the incentive problems that impede credible signaling.

Formal models are at the core of my research. I use these models to think clearly about the strategic dilemmas that arise in war, diplomacy, and state formation. I also do some work with data, including the structural estimation of game-theoretic models.

You can email me at, and you can find a PDF of my CV here.


Brenton Kenkel and Peter Schram. 2023. "Uncertainty in Crisis Bargaining with Multiple Policy Options." Conditionally accepted at American Journal of Political Science. [preprint]

Brenton Kenkel and Kristopher W. Ramsay. 2023. "The Effective Power of Military Coalitions: A Unified Theoretical and Empirical Model." Conditionally accepted at Journal of Politics.

Brenton Kenkel. 2023. "Social Conflict and the Predatory State." Quarterly Journal of Political Science 18(4): 437–468. [paper]

Brenton Kenkel and Jack Paine. 2023. "A Theory of External Wars and European Parliaments." International Organization 77(1): 102–143. [paper]

Michael Gibilisco, Brenton Kenkel, and Miguel R. Rueda. 2022. "Competition and Civilian Victimization." Journal of Conflict Resolution 66(4-5): 809–835. [paper] [replication]

Mark Fey and Brenton Kenkel. 2021. "Is an Ultimatum the Last Word on Crisis Bargaining?" Journal of Politics 83(1): 87–102. [paper]

Robert J. Carroll and Brenton Kenkel. 2019. "Prediction, Proxies, and Power." American Journal of Political Science 63(3): 577–593. [paper] [replication]

Brenton Kenkel. 2019. "The Efficacy of Cheap Talk in Collective Action Problems." Journal of Theoretical Politics 31(3): 370–402. [paper]

Brenton Kenkel. 2019. "Signaling Policy Intentions in Fundraising Contests." Quarterly Journal of Political Science 14(2): 225–258. [paper]

Kevin A. Clarke, Brenton Kenkel, and Miguel R. Rueda. 2018. "Omitted Variables, Countervailing Effects, and the Possibility of Overadjustment." Political Science Research and Methods 6(2): 343–354. [paper]

Mark Fey, Jinhee Jo, and Brenton Kenkel. 2015. "Information and International Institutions Revisited." Journal of Conflict Resolution 59(1): 149–160. [paper]

Brenton Kenkel and Curtis S. Signorino. 2014. "Estimating Extensive Form Games in R." Journal of Statistical Software 56(8): 1–27. [paper]

Working Papers

"Synthetic Replacements for Human Survey Data? The Perils of Large Language Models" (with James Bisbee, Joshua D. Clinton, Cassy Dorff, and Jennifer Larson). Revise and resubmit, Political Analysis. [2023-08-09]

"Designing Political Order" (with Scott F Abramson and Emiel Awad). Revise and resubmit, World Politics. [2022-11-08]

"Competition and Free-Riding in Electoral Contests with Outside Spending" (with Mellissa Meisels).

"Diplomatic Relations and Conflict Management: A Dynamic Analysis." [2018-08-28]


I am on research leave in academic year 2023–2024 and will not be holding regular office hours. Email me if you need to meet.

Undergraduate courses

Crisis Diplomacy (PSCI 2220) [spring 2022]

Causes of War (PSCI 2221) [fall 2022]

Graduate courses

Formal Models of International Relations (PSCI 8360) [fall 2022]

Statistics for Political Research II (PSCI 8357) [spring 2023] [lecture notes]

Political Economy of War (PSC 586, University of Rochester) [spring 2018]