Alan M. Jacobs
Department Head – Political Science
Alan M. Jacobs (Ph.D. Harvard, 2004) is a Professor of Political Science specializing in the comparative political economy of advanced industrialized democracies, the politics of public policy, political behavior, and qualitative and mixed methodology. He currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the comparative politics of inequality, qualitative research methods, and research design.
Jacobs’ first book, Governing for the Long Term: Democracy and the Politics of Investment (Cambridge, 2011, co-winner of the APSA award for the Best Book in Comparative Politics; winner of the APSA award for the Best Book Developing or Applying Qualitative Methods; and winner of the IPSA prize for the Best Book in Comparative Policy and Administration), examined how democratic governments manage long-term policy issues. This book and related articles have sought to understand the conditions under which elected governments are willing to impose short-term costs on their constituents in order to invest in long-term social benefits. Jacobs’ work in this area has sought to identify the distinctive features of the politics of intertemporal choice as compared to the more commonly analyzed politics of redistribution.
Jacobs’ current substantive projects focus on the politics of inequality and of investment in public goods. In a series of papers with Tim Hicks and Scott Matthews, he has been examining how non-rich voters in high-income democracies respond to rising inequality (do they punish or reward incumbents at the ballot box?) and the role of the news media in shaping the mass politics of inequality. Jacobs, Hicks, and Matthews are also doing work to assess how rising disparities in income and wealth affect citizens’ willingness to invest in broadly valued collective goods.
For the last several years, Jacobs has been working with Macartan Humpreys on formal, Bayesian approaches to process-tracing and mixed-methods inquiry. In a book now in-press, Integrated Inferences (due out in the summer of 2023), Humphreys and Jacobs outline an approach in which researchers use causal models to design qualitative and mixed-method studies and draw case- and population-level causal inferences.
From 2016 to 2019, Jacobs co-chaired (with Tim Büthe) the Steering Committee of the Qualitative Transparency Deliberations sponsored by the APSA’s Qualitative and Multi-Method Research Section and funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. The QTD is an open deliberative process through which scholars examined and debated the meaning, practice, costs, and benefits of transparency in qualitative inquiry. The QTD’s findings, including the working groups’ final reports, have been published in Perspectives on Politics. Jacobs was co-editor (with Büthe, 2015-18) of Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, the biannual publication of APSA’s QMMR organized section.
Together with colleague Yang-Yang Zhou, Jacobs co-hosts the podcast Scope Conditions, which showcases new research in the field of comparative politics. You can find Scope Conditions on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts. and on Twitter @scopeconditions.
Jacobs serves on the editorial boards of World Politics, the American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press’s Methods of Social Inquiry series, and Palgrave Macmillan’s Political Analysis series. He is President (2021-23) of the APSA’s Qualitative and Multi-Method Research section and served on the APSA’s Nominating Committee (2019-2020). He has been a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow at the European University Institute (2015) and an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Fellow at the Hertie School of Governance (2016-17). Jacobs’ research has been funded by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the DAAD, and the German Marshall Fund of the United States. He is a frequent instructor at the Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research at Syracuse University, where he teaches a module on using structural causal models for multi-method causal inference.
Prior to pursuing his PhD, Jacobs was a lecturer (1994-96) in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Bath, UK.
Requests for meetings with the Head of Political Science should be made to Jeff Yupitun. Professor Jacobs will not respond directly to new meeting requests.
Jacobs’ current research has three major foci.
Public opinion toward policy tradeoffs
In research (with J. Scott Matthews), Jacobs is engaged in survey-experimental work designed to illuminate how citizens reason about policy tradeoffs, including tradeoffs between present and future. This work has investigated questions such as: Do citizens discount longer-term policy consequences? If so, why? Under what conditions are citizens are willing to pay short-term costs in exchange for long-term policy benefits? An important focus of this work has been on the role of uncertainty in citizens’ reasoning about the future: the degree to which citizens’ believe that they will receive the benefits that governments promise them. This experimental work is exploring the effect of political institutions and political trust on citizens’ confidence in policy promises and on their willingness to exchange short-run pain for long-term gain.
- See here for a Monkey Cage (Washington Post) blog post on this work.
- Here is an article on how institutions shape citizens’ willingness to support public investments
- Here‘s a study on how and why citizens discount future policy benefits
- Much of this work builds on my book on policymaking for the long term
- Some broader theorization of the politics of the long term here
The comparative politics of inequality
In work with Tim Hicks and Scott Matthews, Jacobs is examining the political consequences of rising economic inequality in advanced industrialized democracies. This agenda has two main components. One strand of this agenda has established — and seeks to understand why — non-rich citizens in advanced democracies do not routinely punish incumbents — and, in fact, frequently reward them — for overseeing growing concentrations of income at the top. In related work with Eric Merkley, Hicks, Jacobs, and Matthews’ have zeroed in how and why the news media, in the U.S. and other OECD countries, report on the economy in ways that are implicitly more favorable to the interests of the very rich. In a second strand of the agenda, Jacobs, Hicks, and Matthews, are using survey-experimental methods to examine the impact of rising inequality on the willingness of citizens to pay taxes to finance broadly valued policy goods (such as infrastructure, health care, or law enforcement). Early results suggest that information about rising resource disparities reduces willingness to pay for collective goods both by reducing trust in politicians to deliver these goods and by reducing the overall perceived legitimacy of the political and economic system.
- See here for a paper on distributionally perverse voting patterns in advanced democracies
- See here for a paper on pro-rich biases in economic news in the U.S.
- See here for a paper on pro-rich biases in economic news in other OECD countries
Qualitative and mixed methodology
With Macartan Humphreys, Jacobs has recently completed a book, Integrated Inferences, that uses causal models to integrate theory, research design choices, and inference from qualitative and quantitative evidence. The approach allows the researcher to systematically build prior knowledge, encoded in a causal model, into research design choices and inferences from data. The approach also allows the researcher to draw inferences simultaneously from both extensive data on X and Y for a large number of cases with with process-tracing evidence on a subset of those cases, to use data to update the assumptions underlying both forms of analysis, and to choose the optimal mix of extensive and intensive analysis in a research design. Early work on this project received the APSA Qualitative and Multi-Method Research section’s Sage Best Annual Meeting paper award. Jacobs has also written on the logic of process tracing, in particular as applied to analyzing the causal effects of ideas in politics, and on the promise of pre-registration and results-blind review for qualitative and other observational research.
Humphreys, Macartan and Alan M. Jacobs. Integrated Inferences: Causal Models for Qualitative and Mixed-Method Research. Cambridge University Press, Strategies in Social Inquiry Series, In Press.
- Full manuscript available here.
- CausalQueries software package on CRAN here.
- Guide for CausalQueries package here.
Governing for the Long Term: Democracy and the Politics of Investment, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
- Co-winner of the APSA’s 2012 Gregory Luebbert Award for the Best Book in Comparative Politics
- Winner of the APSA’s 2012 Giovanni Sartori Award for the Best Book Developing or Applying Qualitative Methods
- Winner of the IPSA’s 2012 Charles H. Levine Memorial Book Prize for the Best Book in Comparative Policy and Administration, Research Committee on the Structure of Governance.
- Download Chapter 1 here.
Articles and Book Chapters
Jacobs, Alan M., Diana Kapiszewski and Sebastian Karcher. “Using Annotation for Transparent Inquiry (ATI) to Teach Qualitative Research Methods,” PS: Political Science and Politics, 55.1: 216-220.
Jacobs, Alan M. J. Scott Matthews, Timothy Hicks, and Eric Merkley. “Whose News? Class-Biased Economic Reporting in the United States.” , American Political Science Review 115.3: 1016-1033.
- Washington Center for Equitable Growth article on this research
- Academic Times article on this research
- Summary Twitter thread
- MarketWatch op-ed based on this research
“The Qualitative Transparency Deliberations: Insights and Implications,” with Tim Büthe and all Qualitative Transparency Deliberations Working Group and Steering Committee members, Perspectives on Politics 19.1: 171-208.
- Download full set of QTD final reports here.
- Full archive of online deliberations on PoP’s Harvard Dataverse here.
- Original QTD website here.
Haven, Tamarinde, Timothy Errington, Kristian Gleditsch, Leonie van Grootel, Alan M. Jacobs, Florian Kern, Rafael Piñeiro, Fernando Rosenblatt, Lidwine Mokkink. “Pre-Registering Qualitative Research: A Delphi Study,”, International Journal of Qualitative Methods (2020).
Jacobs, Alan M. “Of Bias and Blind Selection: Pre-Registration and Results-Blind Review in Observational and Qualitative Research.” in Colin Elman, John Gerring, and James Mahoney (eds.), The Production of Knowledge, New York: Cambridge University Press (2020).
Jacobs, Alan M. and J. Scott Matthews. “Policy Attitudes in Institutional Context: Rules, Uncertainty, and the Mass Politics of Public Investment,” American Journal of Political Science, 61.1(2017): 194-207.
Hicks, Timothy, Alan M. Jacobs, and J. Scott Matthews. “Inequality and Electoral Accountability: Class-Biased Economic Voting in Comparative Perspective,” Journal of Politics, 78.4 (2016): 1076-1093. Pre-print here.
Jacobs, Alan M. “Policymaking for the Long Term in Advanced Democracies,” Annual Review of Political Science, vol. 16 (2016): 433-454.
Humphreys, Macartan and Alan M. Jacobs. “Mixing Methods: A Bayesian Approach,” American Political Science Review, 109.4 (2015): 653-673.
Jacobs, Alan M. “Process Tracing the Effects of Ideas,” in Andrew Bennett and Jeffrey T. Checkel, (eds.), Process Tracing in the Social Sciences: From Metaphor to Analytic Tool. New York: Cambridge University Press, Series in Strategies for Social Inquiry.
Jacobs, Alan M. and R. Kent Weaver. “When Policies Undo Themselves: Self-Undermining Feedback as a Source of Policy Change,” Governance. 28.4 (2015): 441-457. Pre-print here
Jacobs, Alan M. and J. Scott Matthews. “Why Do Citizens Discount the Future? Public Opinion and the Timing of Policy Consequences,” British Journal of Political Science, 42(4), 2012, 903-935.
- Monkey Cage blog post here.
Jacobs, Alan M. “Policymaking as Political Constraint: Institutional Development in the U.S. Social Security Program,” in Explaining Institutional Change: Ambiguity, Agency and Power, eds. James Mahoney and Kathleen Thelen, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009, 94-131.
Jacobs, Alan M. “How Do Ideas Matter? Mental Models and Attention in German Pension Politics,” Comparative Political Studies, 42(2), 2009, 252-279. Pre-print here.
Jacobs, Alan M. “The Politics of When: Redistribution, Investment, and Policy Making for the Long Term,” British Journal of Political Science, 38(2), 2008, 193-220. (Winner of the APSA’s 2009 Mary Parker Follett Award for Best Article or Chapter in Politics and History.) Pre-print here.
Jacobs, Alan M. and Steven Teles. “The Perils of Market-Making: The Case of British Pension Reform,” in Creating Competitive Markets: The Politics of Regulatory Reform. Ed. Martin Levin, Martin Shapiro, and Marc Landy. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution Press, 2007, 157-183.
Jacobs, Alan M. “Seeing Difference: Market Health Reform in Europe,” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 23(1), 1998, 1-33.
Decision Making in the European Union, London: Sage Publications, 1998. (Multimedia teaching package on CD-ROM.)
Jacobs, Alan M. “Budgeting for the Future: Public Investment as Intertemporal Politics.” National Budgeting Roundtable, New Ideas for Federal Budgeting Series, Working Paper #6, July 2016.
Jacobs, Alan M. and Tim Büthe. “Introduction to Symposium: Transparency in Qualitative and Multi-Method Research.” In “Symposium: Transparency in Qualitative and Multi-Method Research.” Qualitative and Multi-Method Research Newsletter, Newsletter of the APSA’s Organized Section for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research. 13.1 (Spring 2015): 2-8.
Büthe, Tim and Alan M. Jacobs. “Conclusion: Transparency for a Diverse Discipline.” In “Symposium: Transparency in Qualitative and Multi-Method Research.” Qualitative and Multi-Method Research Newsletter, Newsletter of the APSA’s Organized Section for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research. 13.1 (Spring 2015): 52-64.
Works in Progress
Blumenau, Jack, Timothy Hicks, Alan M. Jacobs, J. Scott Matthews, and Tom O’Grady. “Testing Negative: The Non-Consequences of COVID-19 on Mass Political Attitudes” (R&R).
Jacobs, Alan M. and Mark Kayser, “Downward Class Mobility and Far-Right Party Support.”
Hicks, Timothy, J. Scott Matthews, and Alan M. Jacobs. “Inequality and Willingness to Pay for Public Goods.”
Matthews, J. Scott, Timothy Hicks, and Alan M. Jacobs “The News Media and the Politics of Inequality in Advanced Democracies,” draft chapter for Noam Lupu and Jonas Pontusson (eds.) Unequal Democracies.
- David Collier Mid-Career Achievement Award (co-recipient), 2017, Organized Section for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, American Political Science Association
- Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers (2016-17)
- Award for Best Qualitative or Multi-Method Submission to American Political Science Review, 2015, Organized Section for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, American Political Science Association, (for “Mixing Methods” with Macartan Humphreys).
- Fernand Braudel Senior Fellowship, European University Institute, 2015.
- Sage Best Paper Award, 2014, Organized Section for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, American Political Science Association, for the bestpaper on qualitative or multi-method research presented at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the APSA (for “Mixing Methods” with Macartan Humphreys).
- Gregory Luebbert Best Book Award (co-recipient), 2012, Organized Section for Comparative Politics, American Political Science Association, for the best book in the field of comparative politics published in 2010 or 2011 (for Governing for the Long Term).
- Giovanni Sartori Book Award, 2012, Organized Section for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, American Political Science Association, for the best book developing or applying qualitative methods (for Governing for the Long Term).
- Charles Levine Memorial Book Prize, 2012, Research Committee on the Structure of Governance, International Political Science Association, for the best book on comparative policy and administration (for Governing for the Long Term).
- Mary Parker Follett Award, 2009, Organized Section for Politics and History, American Political Science Association, for the best article or chapter on politics and history published in 2007 or 2008 (for “The Politics of When,” British Journal of Political Science).
- John Heinz Dissertation Award, 2005, National Academy of Social Insurance, for the best Ph.D. dissertation in any discipline on topic of social insurance, 2005.
Jacobs welcomes dissertations and theses on the political economy, politics of public policy, politics of inequality, and mass political behavior as it relates to public policy and inequality, particularly projects with a North American or European focus.