Nathan Jensen

Professor of Government, University of Texas at Austin
Areas of Expertise:
  • State & Local Government
  • Economic Growth & Innovation
  • Jobs & Workers

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About Nathan

Jensen’s research involves the public policy and the study of companies’ investment decisions. His main areas of research include: how state and local government economic development policies affect companies and how political events abroad affect the investments of companies. The first of these areas focuses largely on government “incentive” programs to attract investment, which his work argues are largely inefficient and motivated by political considerations. He is also involved in projects centered on making social science more transparent and credible. Jensen has worked with the World Bank on their World Investment and Political Risk Report as well as with the Missouri Partnership in a survey of investors.



"Nonstate Actors and Compliance with International Agreements: An Empirical Analysis of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention" (with Edmund J. Malesky). International Organization (2017): 1-37.

Finds that after the onset of Phase 3 of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (ABC)  in 2010, when the risk of noncompliance increased for firms subject to the OECD-ABC, those multinational corporations reduced their actual bribery relative to their nonsignatory competitors.

"The Effect of Economic Development Incentives and Clawback Provisions on Job Creation: A Pre-Registered Evaluation of Maryland and Virginia Programs" Research & Politics 4, no. 2 (2017).

Analyzes two different state economic development incentive programs using the same methods and time-period allowing for direct comparability.

"Political Regimes and Political Risk: Democratic Institutions and Expropriation Risk for Multinational Investors" Journal of Politics 70, no. 4 (2008): 1040-1052.

Discusses, in one of a series of projects, how politics can affect the risk environment for firms investing abroad.

"Pass the Bucks: Credit, Blame and the Global Competition for Investment" (with Edmund Malesky, Mariana Medina, and and Ugur Ozdemir). International Studies Quarterly 58, no. 3 (2014): 433-447.

Surveys American voters on their views towards the use of incentives and finds that incentives (tax credits given to firms) are an effective way for politicians to take credit for investment in their district, and to deflect blame for not attracting investment.

"Competing for Global Capital or Local Voters? The Politics of Business Location Incentives" (with Edmund Malesky and Matthew Walsh). Public Choice 164, no. 3 (2015): 331-356.

Finds that directly elected government officials offered more tax incentives to firms and had weaker oversight of these programs, which fits with this team’s previous work on the electoral benefits of using tax incentives to attract firms.

"Field Experiments in Strategy" (with Aaron Chatterji, Michael Findley, Stephan Meier, and and Daniel Nielson). Strategic Management Journal 37, no. 1 (2016): 116-132.

Employs a field experiment to query U.S. cities on their willingness to offer tax incentives to firms.

"Job Creation and Firm-Specific Location Incentives" Journal of Public Policy 1 (2016): 1-28.

Finds that a major economic development program in Kansas had no impact on job creation.

"Can Results Free Review Reduce Publication Bias? The Results and Implications of a Pilot Study" (with Michael G. Findley, Edmund J. Malesky, and and Thomas B. Pepinsky). Comparative Political Studies (2016).

Reviews the researchers’ pilot study of accepting journal articles without themselves or peer reviewers seeing the actual results of the studies to gauge the transparency of academic research.

In the News

"Why a Private Soccer Stadium is Not a Good Deal for Austin," Nathan Jensen, My Statesman, June 13, 2018.
Nathan Jensen quoted in Travis Fain, Laura Leslie, and Tyler Dukes, "With Apple on Hook, Legislative Leaders Roll Out Incentive Reforms", May 17, 2018.
Nathan Jensen quoted in Kaya Yurieff, "How the Losing Amazon HQ2 Cities Can Still Win" CNN Tech, May 17, 2018.
Nathan Jensen quoted in Kaya Yurieff , "How the Losing Amazon HQ2 Cities Can Still Win" CNN Tech, May 17, 2018.
Nathan Jensen quoted in Eduardo Porter, "When All Else Fails, Tax Incentives Probably Will, Too" The New York Times, May 8, 2018.
Nathan Jensen quoted on tax incentives in Mitchell Hartman, "Amazon Wants Tax Incentives, Texas Knows the Drill" Marketplace, May 3, 2018.
"Why Cities Shouldn't Lure Companies with Tax Breaks," Nathan Jensen, Interview with Marc Sollinger, WGBH & PRI Innovation Hub, April 6, 2018.
"Why are Your State Tax Dollars Subsidizing Corporations?," Nathan Jensen, New York Times, March 6, 2018.
Nathan Jensen quoted in Ethan Rothstein, "Delta CEO Says 'Our Home is Atlanta' as NRA-Related Politics Cloud Amazon HQ2 Bid" Bisnow, March 2, 2018.
Nathan Jensen quoted in Robert McCartney and Katherine Shaver, "Hogan's Office Says Transit Chief 'Misspoke' in Promising Amazon a 'Blank Check'" Laredo Morning Times, February 7, 2018.
Nathan Jensen quoted in Kaya Yurieff, "Republicans' Spat with Delta Could Hurt Georgia's Amazon Hopes" CNN Tech, February 27, 2018.
"238 Cities are Wooing Amazon. The Winner May End Up with a Very Bad Deal.," Nathan Jensen, The Washington Post, October 24, 2017.
Nathan Jensen quoted on corporate tax incentives in Jeffrey Meitrodt, "Minnesota Plans 'Modest' Bid in High-Stakes Amazon Competition" Star Tribune, October 17, 2017.
Nathan Jensen quoted on corporate tax incentives in Mike Sunnucks, "Amazon and Its New Headquarters: Buyer Beware and ‘Winner’s Curse’" Phoenix Business Journal, September 19, 2017.
Nathan Jensen's research on tax incentives for corporations discussed in Paul Takahashi. Nathan Jensen, "Most Energy Firms Don’t Need Tax Breaks to Invest in Houston," Houston Business Journal, March 9, 2017.
Nathan Jensen quoted on tax incentives for businesses in Chris Isidore and Eric Bradner, "How Donald Trump Got Carrier to Stay" CNN Money, December 1, 2016.
Nathan Jensen's research on political incentives discussed in David Brodwin. Nathan Jensen, "You Lose When Businesses Win Tax Breaks," U.S. News & World Report, October 5, 2016.
"Reform, Not Tax Relief, is the Way to Lure Investors," Nathan Jensen, Financial Times, May 16, 2006.
"You Got Honda, but at What Cost?," Nathan Jensen, Indianapolis Star, July 9, 2009.
"The Arab Spring: How Soon Will Foreign Investors Return?," Nathan Jensen (with Paul Barbour, Persephone Economonu, and and Daniel Villar), Columbia FDI Perspectives No. 67, May 7, 2012.
"Which Host Government Actors are Most Involved in Disputes with Foreign Investors?," Nathan Jensen (with Jeremy Caddel), Columbia FDI Perspectives No. 120, April 28, 2014.
"It’s Time for Kansas, Missouri to End the Economic Border War," Nathan Jensen, The Kansas City Star, September 11, 2014.
"States’ Job Creation Shell Game," Nathan Jensen (with Jason Wiens), Washington Monthly, August 1, 2016.