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, and political behavior. He currently teaches courses on comparative public policy, on qualitative research methods, and on research design. In 2013-14, he is Acting Director of the UBC Institute for European Studies.
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 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 recent Monkey Cage (Washington Post) blog post on this work.
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. The project is examining a range of mechanisms through which economic inequality might undermine political equality, including economic voting patterns and party electoral strategies; the changing organization of business and labor; and campaign finance rules. One of the project's key concern 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 has focused on how patterns of economic voting across income classes reinforces the political influence of the rich in different advanced democracies.
Qualitative and mixed methodology. Some of Jacobs' current work examines the logic of process tracing and how the method can be applied to studying the causal effects of ideas in politics. With Macartan Humphreys, he is developing a new Bayesian framework for integrating quantitative and qualitative methods. This integrative approach allows the researcher to drawing causal inferences that derive leverage simultaneously from both correlational and process-based data and to choose the optimal mix of extensive and intensive analysis in a research design.
Jacobs' prior work has focused on the comparative politics of health-care reform and on decision-making in the European Union. He was a lecturer (1994-96) in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Bath, UK.
POLI 110 Investigating Politics: An Introduction to Scientific Political Analysis (Spring 2013 syllabus)
POLI 352A The Comparative Politics of Public Policy (Fall 2012 syllabus)
POLI 571A Qualitative Research Methods (Spring 2013 syllabus)
Jacobs welcomes dissertations and theses on the politics of public policy, political economy, or the welfare state in advanced democracies, particularly projects with a North American or European focus.