Andrew Schrank

Olive C. Watson Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs
111 Thayer Street, Room 207
Areas of Expertise Bureaucracy, Entrepreneurship, Labor, Science & Technology Policy, Supply Chains, Technology & Innovation
Areas of Interest Organizational and economic sociology


Andrew Schrank is the Olive C. Watson Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs at Brown University, where he is also affiliated with the Department of Political Science, the Population Studies and Training Center, and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. He studies the organization, regulation, and performance of industry, especially in the United States and Latin America.

Schrank is best known for his work on the origins and remediation of “network failures” in global supply chains, the differences between the “Anglo-American” and “Franco-Latin” approaches to labor law enforcement, and the conceptualization and measurement of red tape, corruption, and the rule of law. In collaboration with Philipp Brandt at SciencesPo and Josh Whitford at Columbia, he is studying the organization, operation, and impact of the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships in the United States and Puerto Rico. And he maintains a standing interest in the relationship between identity—national, religious, ethnic, regional, etc.—and investor behavior.

Schrank’s research has been funded by the Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, National Science Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council, among others. He is currently a CIFAR Fellow in Innovation, Equity, and the Future of Prosperity. He has consulted for the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the US and Japanese governments, and various United Nations agencies. And he co-edits the Cambridge Elements series on Politics and Society in Latin America. Schrank is the co-author (with Michael Piore) of Root-Cause Regulation: Protecting Work and Workers in the Twenty-First Century (Harvard University Press 2018), as well as articles in leading journals in political science, sociology, and economic development. His most recent book is The Economic Sociology of Development (Polity 2023).


The bulk of my work falls into three broad thematic areas: collaboration among competitors; the downside of the division of labor; and the conceptualization and measurement of governance, corruption, and the rule of law.

Collaboration among competitors.
Economists have typically taken competitive markets and actors as their starting points. But I’m interested in the conditions under which otherwise competitive firms and entrepreneurs cooperate with each other. While firms frequently come together to build barriers to entry and cartels, they also join forces in defense of collective goods like innovation, training, and process or product standards, and their willingness and ability to do so tend to be predicated upon the existence of formal trade associations, informal networks, and “collaborative public spaces” that minimize mistrust and conflict. I’ve studied the underpinnings of collaboration among small manufacturers in the Dominican Republic and the United States.

The downside of the division of labor.
The division of labor looms large in both economics and sociology, where specialization is typically viewed as a symptom of modernity and a source of productivity or efficiency gains. But I’ve considered the downside to the division of labor, including the rigidities imposed by special-purpose skills and equipment, costs of putting the pieces of the product back together again, myopia found among specialists with narrow competencies or jurisdictions, and confusion among their customers, constituents, and clients—including immigrant and low-wage workers in particular. I’m currently studying the division of labor in the animal and human health sciences (i.e., human and veterinary medicine) in comparative and historical perspective.

The measurement of governance, corruption, and the rule of law
Social scientists frequently treat the perceptions of businesspeople, consultants, and similar professionals as unbiased indicators of “state capacity” and related concepts. Marcus Kurtz and I have questioned the accuracy and neutrality of “perceptions-based” (or “survey-based”) indicators and tried to develop alternatives based upon the actual behavior of public and private officials.


The Economic Sociology of Development. Polity Press (2023).

Root-Cause Regulation: Protecting Work and Workers in the 21st Century. Harvard University Press (2018). Co-authored with Michael Piore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“The Gendered Effects of Multilayered Immigration Enforcement: Sanctuary Policies and Police-Community Relations in New Mexico.” Co-authored with Jessica Garrick, University of Denver. Forthcoming in the Journal of Migration and Human Security.

“Regulators without Borders? Labor Inspectors in Latin America and Beyond.” Global Networks 21 (4) 2021.

“The Social Construction of the Regulatory Burden: Substantive and Methodological Considerations.” Co-authored with Marcus Kurtz, Ohio State University. Social Forces 99 (3) 2021.

“Mobile Professionals and Metropolitan Models: The German Roots of Vocational Education in Latin America.” European Journal of Sociology. 61 (2): 2020.

“Brokerage and Boots on the Ground: Complements or Substitutes in the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships.” Economic Development Quarterly. 32 (4) 2018. Co-authored with Philipp Brandt, University of Mannheim, and Josh Whitford, Columbia University.


IAPA 2000 Theory and Research in Development

IAPA 2050 Contemporary Sociology

SOC 2961 Power, Organizations, and Culture

SOC 2600 Comparative Historical Analysis

IAPA 1804B Global Megaprojects

IAPA 1804S Critical Study of Development

SOC 0010 Social Forces

Recent News

The Watson Institute funded $10,000 in Undergraduate Research and Teaching Awards to support Brown students collaborating with Watson faculty on research projects during the spring 2024 semester.
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Watson faculty book contributions in 2023

A number of Watson faculty published books in 2023 on a wide range of topics from domestic violence laws, immigration, school reform, and political backlash in the United States to the sociology of development, the holocaust, and the politics of Brazillian crime film. Explore books published by Watson faculty in 2023 below.
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News from Watson

The Economic Sociology of Development

Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs Andrew Schrank recently released a new book titled, "The Economic Sociology of Development" published by Wiley.
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Andrew Schrank recently wrote "Design Principles for American Industrial Policy," a piece focused on the Biden administration's efforts to mobilize American manufacturing.
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