Scott Lacombe Receives the 2021 William Anderson Award

The William Anderson Award is presented annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA)to honor the best dissertation in the general field of federalism or intergovernmental relations, state, and local politics. 

Scott Lacombe is an assistant professor of Government and Statistical and Data Sciences at Smith College in Northampton, MA. He studies the politics of the American states, with a focus on institutional design and its effect on state politics, including policy responsiveness, attitudes toward government, and representation in US states. He also researches state policy diffusion and innovation, with a particular emphasis on using big data to understand policy and cultural connections between states.  He uses multi-level modeling, factor analysis, and network analysis to understand how institutions affect US state politics. I have published in Political Research Quarterly, Policy Studies Journal, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, and recently published a book with Oxford University Press on the role of broadband in state and local economic and political outcomes. In his free time, Scott enjoys hiking with his dog, watching the Kansas City Chiefs, and traveling with his family.  

Citation from the Award Committee:  

The award committee selected the dissertation titled “Institutional Design and the Politics of US States” as the recipient of the 2021 William Anderson Award for best doctoral dissertation in the general field of federalism or intergovernmental relations, state, and local politics.  

Scholars of state politics have long used the variation inherent in the United States’ federalist system of government to understand the roles that governing institutions play in shaping politically important outcomes, from responsiveness to citizens’ policy preferences to the internal workings of government. However, this research often investigates the effects of institutional choices in isolation rather than as an interconnected set of attributes. This dissertation improves on past work by examining state institutions in a holistic manner. It first develops a novel strategy to measure the dimensions of state institutional choices, finding that institutions can generally be categorized as those that impact the connection between citizens and elected officials and those that alter the relative strength of checks and balances in state government. It then uses these measures in several empirical analyses, including states’ responsiveness to public opinion, the stability of state policies, and citizen approval of state government. The result is a comprehensive assessment of how institutions confront the many challenges of maintaining the functions of a democratic government.  

This dissertation is an excellent example of how researchers can leverage federalist systems to gain insight into how governing institutions impact politics. The committee congratulates the author on making a novel contribution to our understanding of political institutions, federalism, and American state politics. 


APSA thanks the committee members for their service: Jeffrey J. Harden (Chair), University of Notre Dame; Dr. Shelly R. Arsneault, California State University; and Brian Roberts, University of Texas at Austin.