Jake Grumbach

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Academic Subfields: 
American Politics
Personal Statement: 

I study the political economy of the United States. I'm broadly interested in the politics of race, business and labor, political and economic inequality, American federalism, health policy, and the politics of climate change. My book project investigates the causes and consequences of the nationalization of state politics since the 1970s.

Before graduate school, I earned a B.A. from Columbia University. Outside of academia, I’m a nerd for 70s funk/soul and 90s hip hop.

Here is my CV, and here is my Google Scholar page.


Politics and Political Economy

“From Backwaters to Major Policymakers: Policy Polarization in the States, 1970-2014” 2018. Perspectives on Politics, 16(2): 416-435. (Coverage in Salon)

“Voting Without Your Feet: Mandatory Mail Ballot Elections” with Gabrielle Elul and Sean Freeder. 2017. Election Law Journal16(3): 397-415.

“Does the American Dream Matter for Members of Congress? Social Class Backgrounds and Roll-Call Votes” 2015. Political Research Quarterly. 68(2): 306–323. (Coverage in Washington Post Wonkblog)

“Polluting Industries as Climate Protagonists? Cap and Trade and the Problem of Preferences” 2015. Business & Politics 17(4): 633-659.

Public Health

Hecht AA, Grumbach JM, Hampton KE, Hecht K, Braff-Guajardo E, Brindis CD, McCulloch CE, Patel AI. “Validation of a survey to examine drinking-water access, practices and policies in schools” 2017. Public Health Nutrition. 20(17):3068-74.

Patel AI, Chandran K, Hampton KE, Hecht K, Grumbach JM, Kimura AT, et al “Tapping into Water: Key Considerations for Achieving Excellence in School Drinking Water Access” 2014. American Journal of Public Health 104(7): 1314-1319.

Patel AI, Chandran K, Hampton KE, Hecht K, Grumbach JM, Kimura AT, et al. “Observations of Drinking Water Access in School Food Service Areas Before Implementation of Federal and State School Water Policy, California” 2011. Prev Chronic Dis 2012;9:110315.



“Race and Representation in Campaign Finance” with Alexander Sahn: Racial inequality in voter turnout is well-documented, but we know less about racial inequality in another important form of political participation: campaign contributions. Using new data on the racial identities of over 27 million donors, we find a highly unrepresentative contributor class. Black and Latino share of contributions is smaller than their share of the population, electorate, and elected offices, and has not changed appreciably since 1980. However, we find strong evidence of coethnic contribution behavior. Results from regression discontinuity and difference-in-difference designs show that the presence of ethnoracial minority candidates increases the share of minority contributions in U.S. House elections. By orders of magnitude, candidate race is a stronger predictor of the racial distribution of donors than is district racial composition. We find little evidence of a white donor backlash from either party to minority candidates. The results suggest that the nomination of minority candidates can increase the ethnoracial representativeness of campaign contributions without costs to fundraising.

“Interest Group Activists, Party Insiders, and the Polarization of State Legislatures”: Emerging research suggests that interest group contributions moderate, and individual contributions polarize, state legislators. However, interest groups are comprised of individuals, and public opinion data suggests that group-affiliated individual donors are more politically active have more extreme attitudes. This article investigates the relationship between group-affiliated donors and legislative polarization in the U.S. states. In recent years, individual donors have become more closely tied to national activist organizations, such as environmental and anti-abortion groups. Prevalence of these group-affiliated donors better predicts legislative extremism than overall contributions from interest groups or individual donors. In contrast, party insiders, individuals affiliated with national party committees, show no consistent relationship. Using a novel dataset of state legislative primary dates, I confirm that this relationship is concentrated in the nomination process. Although the potential for endogeneity merits caution, the findings highlight the importance of breaking down the theoretical firewall between individuals and organizations in research on parties, interest groups, and campaign finance.

“Are Large Corporations Politically Moderate? Using Money in Politics to Infer the Preferences of Business” with Paul Pierson (manuscript available upon request): The political preferences of business interests has been a topic of debate for decades. Recent measures of the political preferences of large corporations have focused on campaign contributions to legislative candidates from corporate political action committees (PACs). We investigate an alternative source of evidence: contributions to politically-engaged intermediary organizations. We argue that these expenditures—often substantially larger than traditional PAC expenditures—are important sources of information about corporate political preferences. Compared with traditional analyses, they suggest a corporate community that is both more conservative and more closely aligned with the Republican Party.

“Testing City Limits: The Rise of Healthy San Francisco”: Dominant theories argue that cities have a hard time passing redistributive policies, so what explains the development of Healthy San Francisco, a local public health option and employer mandate to provide health care to uninsured workers?

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