Alan M. Jacobs

Associate Professor

Office: Buch C318
Office Phone: 604-822-6830

Alan M. Jacobs (Ph.D. Harvard, 2004) specializes in the comparative politics of advanced industrialized democracies, the politics of public policy, public opinion, and research methodology. He currently teaches courses on comparative public policy, on qualitative research methods, and on research design.

Jacobs' first book, Governing for the Long Term: Democracy and the Politics of Investment (Cambridge, 2011) was 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. This book and related articles seek 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' papers have appeared or are forthcoming in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, the Annual Review of Political Science, the British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, and other outlets.

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 to invest in 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, political uncertainty, and political trust on citizens' confidence in policy promises and on their willingness to exchange short-run pain for long-term gain. A recent Monkey Cage (Washington Post) blog post on this work can be found here; a post on the LSE's American Politics blog is here.

The comparative politics of inequality. Jacobs has recently launched a project, with Tim Hicks and Scott Matthews, that 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; and systematically measuring the relationship between economic position and political influence cross-nationally and over time.

Qualitative and mixed methodology. With Macartan Humphreys, Jacobs is writing a book that elaborates a new Bayesian framework for integrating quantitative and qualitative causal inferences. This integrative approach allows the researcher to draw inferences that derive leverage 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 appeared in the American Political Science Review. Jacobs has also written on the logic of process tracing as applied to analyzing the causal effects of ideas in politics.


Curriculum Vitae

Click here for CV

Currently Teaching

POLI 110 Investigating Politics: An Introduction to Scientific Political Analysis

POLI 352A The Comparative Politics of Public Policy (Fall 2012 syllabus)

POLI 571A Qualitative Research Methods (Spring 2015 syllabus)


Graduate Supervision

Jacobs welcomes dissertations and theses on the politics of public policy, political and economic inequality, political economy, public attitudes toward policy, or the welfare state in advanced democracies, particularly projects with a North American or European focus.





        Working Papers


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