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.


James Bisbee, Joshua D. Clinton, Cassy Dorff, Brenton Kenkel, and Jennifer Larson. 2024. "Synthetic Replacements for Human Survey Data? The Perils of Large Language Models." Conditionally accepted at Political Analysis. [preprint]

Brenton Kenkel and Peter Schram. 2023. "Uncertainty in Crisis Bargaining with Multiple Policy Options." Forthcoming in American Journal of Political Science. [paper] [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

"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]