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 teaches courses on comparative public policy and political economy, 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 projects focus on the politics of inequality, public attitudes toward policy tradeoffs and public-goods investment, the sources of rightwing populist electoral support, and process-tracing and mixed-methods inquiry.
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 of Palgrave Macmillan’s Political Analysis series. He is President-Elect of the APSA’s Qualitative and Multi-Method Research section and a member of 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.
Jacobs’ current research has three major foci (see Publications tab for relevant papers):
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
The comparative politics of inequality. In collaborative work with Tim Hicks and Scott Matthews, Jacobs is examining the political consequences of rising economic inequality in advanced industrialized democracies. This project seeks to understand a.) how differences in citizens’ economic resources get translated into differences in political influence and b.) whether and how different democratic political systems translate economic inequality into political inequality to differing degrees. A key concern of the project is how political institutions in different developed democracies either amplify or dampen the effect of economic resources on political influence. Hicks, Jacobs, and Matthews’ current work in this area is focusing on how patterns of economic voting across income classes reinforces the political influence of the rich in different advanced democracies; on distributive biases in economic news (with Eric Merkley); and attitudinal responses to information about the distribution of income.
Qualitative and mixed methodology. With Macartan Humphreys, Jacobs is developing a Bayesian framework for integrating integrating theory and empirical research design as well as qualitative with quantitative analysis. 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 correlational and process-tracing data, to use those 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 and was published in the American Political Science Review. A video presentation of part of this project is here. 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.
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
“Whose News? Class-Biased Economic Reporting in the United States.” (with Timothy Hicks, J. Scott Matthews, and Eric Merkley), forthcoming at the American Political Science Review.
“The Qualitative Transparency Deliberations: Insights and Implications,” with Tim Büthe and all Qualitative Transparency Deliberations Working Group and Steering Committee members, Perspectives on Politics (FirstView).
- Download full set of QTD final reports here.
- Full archive of online deliberations on Harvard Dataverse here.
- Original QTD website here.
“Pre-Registering Qualitative Research: A Delphi Study,” with Tamarinde Haven (lead author), Timothy Errington, Kristian Gleditsch, Leonie van Grootel, Florian Kern, Rafael Piñeiro, Fernando Rosenblatt, Lidwine Mokkink, International Journal of Qualitative Methods (forthcoming).
“Of Bias and Blind Selection: Pre-Registration and Results-Blind Review in Observational and Qualitative Research.” forthcoming in Colin Elman, John Gerring, and James Mahoney (eds.), The Production of Knowledge, Cambridge University Press.
“Policy Attitudes in Institutional Context: Rules, Uncertainty, and the Mass Politics of Public Investment,” American Journal of Political Science, 61.1(2017): 194-207 (with J. Scott Matthews). Summary blog post here. Pre-print here.
“Inequality and Electoral Accountability: Class-Biased Economic Voting in Comparative Perspective,” Journal of Politics, 78.4 (2016): 1076-1093 (with Timothy Hicks and J. Scott Matthews). Pre-print here.
“Policymaking for the Long Term in Advanced Democracies,” Annual Review of Political Science, vol. 16 (2016): 433-454.
“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.
“When Policies Undo Themselves: Self-Undermining Feedback as a Source of Policy Change,” with R. Kent Weaver, Governance. 28.4 (2015): 441-457. Pre-print here.
“Why Do Citizens Discount the Future? Public Opinion and the Timing of Policy Consequences,” with J. Scott Matthews, British Journal of Political Science, 42(4), 2012, 903-935.
“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.
“How Do Ideas Matter? Mental Models and Attention in German Pension Politics,” Comparative Political Studies, 42(2), 2009, 252-279. Pre-print here.
“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.
“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, with Steven Teles.
“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.)
“Budgeting for the Future: Public Investment as Intertemporal Politics.” National Budgeting Roundtable, New Ideas for Federal Budgeting Series, Working Paper #6, July 2016.
“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 (with Tim Büthe).
“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 (with Tim Büthe).
Work in Progress
Integrated Inferences. Book under contract with Cambridge University Press, Strategies in Social Inquiry Series, with Macartan Humphreys.
“Qualitative Inference from Causal Models” (with Macartan Humphreys).
- 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.