Jacob Grumbach — 2019 William Anderson Award Recipient

The American Political Science Association (APSA) will present the William Anderson Award to Jacob M. Grumbach at the 2019 APSA Annual Meeting & Exhibition, the world’s largest gathering of political scientists and source for emerging scholarship in the discipline.  The $750 award recognizes the best dissertation in the general field of federalism or intergovernmental relations, state and local politics. 

Jacob M. Grumbach is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington.  He completed his PhD from UC Berkeley in 2018, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton.  He has previously published articles in Business & Politics, Election Law JournalLegislative Studies Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, and public health journals.  His current research focuses on federalism, campaign finance, public policy, and the political economy of race.

Here is what the Award Committee had to say about their decision:

Linking the study of federalism to other areas of political science, Polarized Federalism: Activists, Voters, and Resurgence of State Policy in the U.S., offers an innovative way of analyzing the evolution, workings, and implications of divided government.  Empirically impressive and extremely timely, Grumbach investigates the cause and consequences of policy variation and policy polarization among the U.S. states.  Detailing policy change over time, this research exposes the ways in which changes in party organization are key to understanding the polarization of state policy over the past generation.  Grumbach’s work, moreover, also uncovers a new shift in the organization landscape – the remarkable and increasingly sophisticated coordination of activist groups.  Tracking campaign contributions, Grumbach finds that since 2000, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of individual campaign donors connected to single issue and ideological activist organizations such as the NRA, American for Tax Reform, and Planned Parenthood.  Put together, these transformations in the U.S. state policy landscape have enabled and contributed to the polarization of state policies.

Grumbach’s work also challenges the conventional view of the structure of federalism in the United States: ‘Rather than a decentralized federalist system with vertical differences across levels and horizontal differences across regions, American governmental institutions look increasingly like a single arena of partisan combat over public policy.’  Grumbach displays a remarkable set of methodological tools to complete this research.  Chapter two, for example, entailed the building of a large dataset of state policies to estimate policy variation and polarization in the states since 1970.  Tracking polarization over 16 issue areas, polarization can be seen in 14 but not in the key areas of education and criminal justice policy.  Here is where Grumbach shows he is not content to simply count policies but also consider the substantive outcomes of state action declaring that ‘both Democratic and Republican state governments have driven the rise of mass incarceration in recent decades.’

The committee warmly congratulates Grumbach on a dissertation that challenges conventional wisdom, offers a new means to explore and understand federalism, while tackling what is arguably one of the leading issues of American politics today.

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