Emily Clough studies comparative politics and the political economy of development. Her research interests are in the politics of global philanthropy, state capacity and government performance, civil society, NGOs and democratic accountability, the politics of education, and bureaucratic behavior and corruption. She has additional interests in food politics, private governance and the ethical certification of supply chains, inequality and distributive politics, and multi-method research design. Many of the questions she studies examine what happens when non-state actors take on functions traditionally or legally marked as state functions. Clough’s book project examines the impact of NGOs on state social service provision in India, focusing especially on the education sector. She has published articles on the intellectual history of the civil society concept and its relevance to empirical studies of development, and on the private-sector substitutes for effective state regulatory enforcement in developing countries with weakly enforced labor and environmental regulations.
She has contributed to other research focusing on cocoa farming in Ghana, consumer demand for Fair Trade-certified products in the U.S., child labor and conditional cash transfer in Brazil, the political and institutional blind spots of the Effective Altruism philanthropy movement, and the advent of child labor laws during the British Industrial Revolution.