Alan Michael Jacobs


Research Classification

Research Interests

Social Organization and Political Systems
economic inequality
Political economy
public opinion
Public Policy
Research Methodology

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters


Research Methodology

Case Studies
process tracing
survey experiments
Statistical analysis
multi-method research


Doctoral students
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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

The impact of investor-state arbitrations on foreign direct investment and domestic public opinion : evidence from FDI flows, elite interviews and a survey experiment (2023)

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is among the most studied phenomena in international economic relations and presents a dilemma: it can drive economic growth in recipient countries, but it may tempt governments to expropriate foreign investors to redistribute wealth. Scholars noted that when countries expropriate, they may suffer damages to their reputation as safe investment destinations, thereby discouraging future FDI, especially when investors lodge complaints at international institutions.In the dissertation, I leverage a multi-method approach to examine the economic and political consequences of investor-state disputes on FDI and domestic public opinion. I apply three different research methods to three different sources of evidence: bilateral FDI flows, original elite interviews and a survey experiment.Two chapters focus on reputational theories of FDI, which posit that investment arbitrations generate reputational cues which investors use for locational decisions. Most studies assume that arbitrations damage the trustworthiness of the recipient country, regardless of the outcome. Complementing the literature, in Chapter 1 I argue that when countries settle a dispute their reputation can improve, thereby influencing FDI, and present results from a statistical analysis of FDI flows. In Chapter 2, I leverage process-level evidence from original interviews to test and explore causal steps and observable implications derived from the assumptions of existing reputational theories.FDI can have salient economic and political consequences for voters, beyond governments and investors. In Chapter 3, I identify the factors influencing public preferences for government behavior in investor-state disputes and empirically examine them in a survey experiment fielded in the United States. The results show that citizens are more likely to support their government litigating the dispute (rather than settling it) when there were prior disputes with companies from the same partner country, or when the partner country is authoritarian. Other economic factors seem to have a lesser influence on public support, including concerns about jobs or the amount of investment.The dissertation contributes to the empirical literature on FDI, investment treaties and dispute settlement, and their economic and political impact. The findings can inform policy discussions on economic treaties, the international investment regime, and transparency in international investment practices.

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Governing on the left: essays on governance and party development in contemporary Latin America (2022)

This dissertation is comprised of three papers that explore the governance challenges of left-wingpresidents in Latin America and the instrumental role that political parties play in solving thesechallenges. It builds on extensive fieldwork in Ecuador and Bolivia and interviews with formerministers, congresspeople, party officials, media owners, journalists, and experts. The first paper looks at the widespread phenomenon of personalist electoral vehicles and examines why some develop into full-fledged organized parties while others do not. Through a mixed-method approach combining process tracing on the case studies of Venezuela’s MVR/PSUV and Ecuador’s Alianza PAIS and large-N statistical analysis, the paper finds that leaders’ formative political experiences shape whether such parties decide to invest in party organization. Party officials that were socialized in radical left parties early in their career are more likely to advocate for party building and their presence within party cadres is associated with stronger party organization. The second paper explains variation in the communication strategies of left-wing incumbents in response to hostile media environments. Through process-tracing of the cases of Ecuador and Bolivia, the paper finds that the composition of governing parties’ core constituencies shapes the communication strategy of left governments. Parties whose core constituencies are unorganized lack societal channels of communication with the electorate and are forced to create and use state-controlled media structures to disseminate information. On the contrary, parties that draw support from organized constituencies take advantage of affiliated societal organizations to communicate with their electoral base, and do not depend on mediatized communication. The third paper explains the dramatic downfall of Alianza PAIS, the most electorally successful party in Ecuador’s recent history. It shows how, after his switch to a neoliberal policy agenda, President Moreno (2017-2021) dismantled his own party by starving it of the resources necessary to thrive. The paper marshals evidence from interviews, newspaper articles, and roll call votes to demonstrate how three conditions were causally important for this outcome to happen: the top-down structure of the party, the support Moreno received from the opposition, and the fact that Alianza PAIS represented a future threat to Moreno’s policy legacy.

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The unequal descriptive and substantive representation of class (2021)

This dissertation seeks to contribute to our understanding of unequal class representation among legislators in advanced democracies. In particular, the consequences of unequal class representation are examined quantitatively at the levels of both individual legislators and policy outcomes. This builds on a small number of recent studies showing that class representation does indeed matter, contrary to an earlier wave of literature and assumptions on this question. In addition, the possible causes of and potential solutions to the underrepresentation of working-class people are also explored. Paper 1 studies the relationship between legislators’ class and their attitudes and self-reported behaviour, drawing on existing survey data from 15 countries including 73 national and subnational parliaments in Europe and Israel. The results show that legislators from business backgrounds are more likely to support income inequality and small government, as well as less likely to consult with labour groups, than those from working-class and other backgrounds. An exploratory analysis also suggests that these class-based differences between legislators may vary across different institutional contexts.Paper 2 examines the relationship between the share of working-class representatives on Finnish municipal councils and the levels of social spending in those municipalities. Using an instrumental variables approach to exploit as-if-random variation in close elections, the analysis shows that a higher share of workers on these municipal councils is associated with higher levels of social spending. This represents one of the only studies showing that the effect of class carries through to policy outcomes.Paper 3 looks further back in the causal chain to explore the possible barriers to working-class people taking office, reviewing and analyzing the sparse literature on the topic and employing an exploratory analysis of the data sets used in the first paper to probe for further evidence. The paper also examines possible solutions and interventions that could help increase working-class representation. While recent research has examined these questions in some depth in the US case, this paper considers how we would expect barriers and solutions to vary across social and institutional contexts.

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Essays on political participation and the quality of democracy (2019)

In advanced industrial democracies, a substantial number of citizens feel alienated from mainstream politics and political elites. This dissertation analyzes factors that help mitigate two crucial aspects of citizen political alienation in these countries: political disengagement by an increasing segment of the electorate, especially poor and young voters; and the turn to radical alternatives such as far-right populist politicians and parties.Study 1 assesses the effect of procedural information costs - in particular, uncertainty about whether one has to be 18 by the registration deadline or by Election Day - on youth voter turnout across U.S. states. Using a regression discontinuity design with official state voter records and leveraging a discontinuity in voter turnout around the registration deadline, this study shows that uncertainty about the registration requirements for first-time voters depresses voter turnout both in the immediate, and also in subsequent, elections among this group of voters, turning many of them into habitual non-voters.Study 2 takes a new look at the relationship between levels of political participation and support for left-wing parties and policies. It reanalyzes a critical case - Australia in the early 20th century - frequently cited as a strong demonstration of such a relationship. Based on an original and more fine-grained dataset of district electoral data in combination with a difference-in-differences design, this study tests the robustness of the previously found relationship and investigates its mechanisms.Study 3 uses survey experimentation to test the responsiveness of populist voters to mainstream political messages. Based on a large-scale survey experiment with the polling firm YouGov shortly before the 2017 German federal election, it finds that emphasizing the good performance of the German economy was the most effective strategy to increase support for the incumbent Christian Democrats among likely rightwing populist voters.Overall, these findings speak to ongoing debates about the ability of politicians to shape citizens’ political behavior. Improving on previous quantitative research in this area, this research highlights the limitations of institutional fixes and provides new insights into the role of procedural information and political framing for civic engagement.

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The politics of consultative authoritarianism: bureaucratic competition, deliberation and responsiveness in China (2019)

This dissertation, which consists of two separate but related components, examines publicconsultation in authoritarian regimes, with a focus on China, where expert consultation is now astandard procedure in the drafting process of major policies. While expert consultation isubiquitous, not all episodes of expert participation display high-quality deliberation. In themajority of cases, the bureaucracy recruits a cohort of advisors espousing similar positions andinstructs them to draft a unified blueprint while constraining debate. In other cases, however, theprocedure is highly deliberative, as the government enlists experts with diverse persuasions, andpermits them to produce parallel blueprints while also encouraging debate. What accounts forvariation in the design of these consultative procedures? I argue that the degree of intra-elitecompetition shapes expert consultation processes. In cases of fierce bureaucratic conflict, atdifferent stages during the policymaking process, bureaucratic actors who perceive themselves asweak opt for the expansion of the consultation procedure. The end result of this process is theinclusion of experts representing a wide spectrum of opinions. However, in cases of bureaucraticconsensus, government officials have fewer incentives to either diversify or expand the roster ofadvisors. As a result, experts’ consultation is likely to become insipid. To test this theory, thedissertation analyzes the drafting processes of two cases of expert participation, the drafting ofChina’s Healthcare Reform (2009) and Education Reform (2010).In the second component of the dissertation, I study authoritarian responsiveness toconsultative input originating from grassroots groups. In 2008, the Chinese government unveileda blueprint for healthcare reform, inviting the public to post their opinions online. Havingcollected 27,899 online comments, the government subsequently published a revised draft. Ipresent a statistical analysis based on the coding of a random sample of two percent of thiscorpus of comments, assessing the effect of comments on revisions while controlling for bothmedia content and bureaucratic preferences. Demonstrating that public comments have an impact upon policy revisions, the findings also suggest that bureaucrats’ calculus of ensuring smooth policy implementation underlie a higher degree of responsiveness to frontline implementers than to other social groups.

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The origin of fiscal rules (2017)

Austerity is one of the most controversial policies in Europe. Fiscal rules are a key political institution that entrench austerity as a permanent feature of government budgetary policy. These rules fix numerical targets to constrain government budgets under the assumption that, in the long run, this might help to prevent fiscal crisis. In the last 30 years, the number of countries using fiscal rules has exploded. This thesis studies the political process leading to the creation of fiscal rules. Contrary to previous research, this thesis considers explanations coming both from national and international politics. It is composed of three articles. The first uses time series analysis in a European panel to arbitrate between different mechanisms that could lead political actors to adopt fiscal rules. It finds that fiscal rules are strengthened when countries are facing fiscal stress over an extended period or when governments are in a position of relative weakness toward European institutions. The latter result suggests that fiscal rules might diffuse through coercive diplomacy. The second paper uses a process tracing approach to test the possibility that the creation of fiscal rules is driven by the coercive diplomacy of the IMF and the EU. Our conclusion is that the coercive diplomacy of these two actors explains a large proportion of all fiscal rules existing in the world today. The final paper takes this result and compares the impact of fiscal rules on debt and bond yields between those that are externally-coerced and those that are nationally-driven. The conclusion is that externally-coerced fiscal rules do not help to control government debt and favour fiscal gimmickry. The main conclusion of the thesis is that a large fraction of fiscal rules are the result of coercive diplomacy and that these rules are less efficient than those which result from national politics. 

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The Regulatory Ties That Bind Markets: The Political Economy of Cross-Border Integration in the Exchange Industry (2016)

This dissertation considers cross-border integration from the perspective of financial market regulators. It analyzes market authorities’ responses to the phenomenon of cross-border mergers and acquisitions in financial services, particularly involving exchanges. In some instances, regulators have approved these proposals, but in others they have intervened, even blocking proposals in high-profile decisions. This variation is puzzling and cannot be accounted for by standard explanations, including regime type or political pressures on regulators. When do officials interfere in the market for corporate control of financial service firms, and why? To explain this variation, the dissertation develops a theory of regulator dependence that focuses on the relationship between regulators and firms. The theory considers the conditions under which regulators’ preferences are insulated from social and political pressures, where regulators can act on their own preferences regarding integration. These preferences are a function of regulators’ dependence on firms’ cooperation and compliance to deliver on desired public policy outcomes. Mergers are threatening where regulators depend on a merging firm, and in these contexts regulators interfere with integration proposals. This dependence is a consequence of historical policy outcomes shaping the structure of the market and the allocation of regulatory authority. Empirical analysis of ten cases corroborates the theory’s predictions. The theory of regulator dependence establishes the analytical and empirical significance of considering regulators’ discrete views about market integration in order to explain certain financial market outcomes. In doing so, the dissertation contributes to our understanding of the conditions under which cross-border market integration is more or less politically feasible, and adds nuance to the established view that the historical development of domestic markets has significant and systematic effects on international market integration.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Institutionalizing labor market dualism : the role of the family policy-VET dyad (2014)

The dualization literature looks to explain the institutional underpinnings of cross-class coalitions that support the growth of labor market dualism in Continental Europe, but has little consideration of institutional arenas that critically impact women’s employment. The gendered Varieties of Capitalism framework predicts that in coordinated market economies (CMEs), care-related employment risks attributed to women by the gender division of labor will result in a segregated labor market. The institutional complementarities that facilitate specific skills formation in male workers have distinct ramifications for women workers who are more likely to take time away from work to raise children. In both bodies of work, the gendered characteristic of labor market dualism or segregation is attributed to women’s irregular employment biography, thus taking for granted and naturalizing the gender division of labor. Fleshing out the policies that shape the gender division of labor, family policies as well as the vocational education and training (VET) system are identified in this thesis as a key institutional dyad that shapes the divergent incentive structure for female employment, and subsequently, a gendered dualistic labor market. Family policy and the VET system therefore become critical sites for investigating labor market dualization. The case studies look at changes to family policy between 1980 and 2000 in France and Germany. Using the family policy-VET institutional dyad as a tool for analysis, we observe the impact of this dynamic on women’s increasing rate of part-time work and decreasing specific skills acquisition. The gendered characteristic of dualism suggests that growing labor market segregation does not just result in unequal distributional outcomes in Continental Europe. With the proportion of women active in the labor market increasing, and the lack of family policies distributing care-related employment risks across both male and female employees, women workers and firms employing women face a pro-flexibility incentive structure with regards to training and employment strategies. As CMEs, Continental Europe creates growth and upkeeps a system of social security based on a specific skills labor market and industrial product strategy; a dualistic labor market based on gender thus poses problems for maintaining the specific skills competitive institutional advantage.

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Unorthodox approaches to participation in authoritarian regimes: the making of China's recent healthcare reforms (2011)

In recent years, non-democratic regimes have introduced a host of participatory forums. This paper asks why, given the absence of binding constitutional or institutional designs, authoritarian governments introduce, at their own initiative, participatory forums? To respond to this question, the paper suggests three theoretical possibilities: fragmented authoritarianism, enhancing legitimacy and information-gathering. Looking at the drafting of China’s recent healthcare reforms--where the government enacted various forums of participation--the paper tests these theories. Its findings indicate that these theories are not mutually exclusive, as each could explain the causes for the introduction particular participatory forums. This paper argues that this analytical framework could extend beyond the scope of China’s healthcare reform, and be applied to other episodes of policymaking both in China, and other non-democratic regimes.

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Unorthodox approaches to participation in authoritarian regimes: the making of China's recent healthcare reforms (2011)

In recent years, non-democratic regimes have introduced a host of participatory forums. This paper asks why, given the absence of binding constitutional or institutional designs, authoritarian governments introduce, at their own initiative, participatory forums? To respond to this question, the paper suggests three theoretical possibilities: fragmented authoritarianism, enhancing legitimacy and information-gathering. Looking at the drafting of China’s recent healthcare reforms--where the government enacted various forums of participation--the paper tests these theories. Its findings indicate that these theories are not mutually exclusive, as each could explain the causes for the introduction particular participatory forums. This paper argues that this analytical framework could extend beyond the scope of China’s healthcare reform, and be applied to other episodes of policymaking both in China, and other non-democratic regimes.

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