Jonathan Rodden

Senior Fellow

Jonathan Rodden is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor in the political science department at Stanford. Rodden was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, 2006–7, and a W. Glenn Campbell and Rita Ricardo-Campbell National Fellow, 2010–12.

He has written several articles and a pair of books on federalism and fiscal decentralization. His most recent book, Hamilton’s Paradox: The Promise and Peril of Fiscal Federalism, received the Gregory Luebbert Prize for the best book in comparative politics in 2007. He frequently works with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on issues related to fiscal decentralization.

His research focuses on the comparative political economy of institutions. Rodden has also written papers on the geographic distribution of political preferences within countries, legislative bargaining, the distribution of budgetary transfers across regions, and the historical origins of political institutions. He is currently writing a series of articles and a book on political geography and the drawing of electoral districts around the world.

Rodden received his PhD in political science from Yale University and his BA from the University of Michigan and was a Fulbright student at the University of Leipzig, Germany. Before joining the Stanford faculty in 2007, he was the Ford Associate Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Recent Commentary

In the News

Kirkus Review On Why Cities Lose: The Deep Roots Of The Urban-Rural Political Divide

featuring Jonathan Roddenvia Kirkus Reviews
Monday, April 29, 2019

The enduring importance of geography in American politics. Many argue that partisan gerrymandering causes cities to lose to rural areas in countywide, winner-take-all elections. That is too simple an explanation, writes Rodden (Political Science/Stanford Univ.; Hamilton’s Paradox: The Promise and Peril of Fiscal Federalism, 2005). Much more important is the geographical location of a political party’s base. 

In the News

When Does Political Gerrymandering Cross The Line?

quoting Jonathan Roddenvia The Wall Street Journal
Friday, March 15, 2019

With the Supreme Court set to consider political gerrymandering, a look at ways to measure the impact of redrawing election maps.

Decentralized Governance and Accountability

by Jonathan Rodden, Erik Wibbels
Monday, February 11, 2019

At the end of the twentieth century, academics and policymakers welcomed a trend toward fiscal and political decentralization as part of a potential solution for slow economic growth and poor performance by insulated, unaccountable governments. For the past two decades, researchers have been trying to answer a series of vexing questions about the political economy of multilayered governance.


Jonathan Rodden And Richard Pildes: Democrats Can't Decide Best Course For Elections

by Jonathan Rodden, Richard Pildesvia The Virginian-Pilot
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Democrats have engaged in a passionate debate leading into the midterms on Nov 6. "Progressives" argue that the path to victory this year and beyond lies in motivating their youthful urban base by moving the party to the left. "Pragmatic" centrists, on the other hand, argue that victory requires ideological moderation that will attract independents.

Analysis and Commentary

The Urban-Rural Divide

by Jonathan Roddenvia Stanford Magazine
Friday, May 11, 2018

Americans take the identities of their two political parties for granted. But it is worthwhile to ask: why does the party that supports higher taxation and more regulation of the domestic economy also support freer international trade and immigration? Why does the party that favors less regulation of markets for labor and firearms also advocate more regulation of abortion and sexuality?

Analysis and Commentary

‘Red’ America Is An Illusion. Postindustrial Towns Go For Democrats.

by Jonathan Roddenvia The Washington Post
Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Media professionals and intellectuals in the large coastal cities have long struggled to understand the white, non-metropolitan counties in the middle of the country. 


This Map Will Change How You Think About American Voters — Especially Small-Town, Heartland White Voters

by Jonathan Roddenvia The Washington Post
Monday, October 31, 2016

In perhaps the most painful gaffe of his 2008 campaign, speaking to a group of donors in San Francisco, President Obama offered an infamous description of voters in post-industrial small towns in Pennsylvania and the Midwest: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Multi-Racial Circle of Hands
Analysis and Commentary

Is Segregation The Problem in Ferguson?

by Jonathan Roddenvia The Washington Post
Monday, August 18, 2014

Over the last few days, punditry about Ferguson, Mo., has converged on a common, well-rehearsed narrative about segregation in St. Louis that goes back to the 19th century: whites will do whatever it takes to prevent blacks from moving into their neighborhoods, including redlining, restrictive covenants, large-lot zoning, intimidation and violence. When these ultimately fail, whites build new interstates and move en masse to the next ring of undeveloped farmland, leaving behind destitute neighborhoods with no investment or opportunity.

Why House Republicans Don’t Need the Gerrymander

by Jowei Chen, Jonathan Roddenvia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Commissions can redraw district lines all they like. The GOP would almost certainly retain a majority in the House.

Map of US Flag

Special: Bruno and Rodden on the John Batchelor Show

by Carson Bruno, Jonathan Roddenvia John Batchelor Show
Friday, May 9, 2014

In conjunction with a special live taping of the John Batchelor Show at the Hoover Spring Retreat, John Batchelor and Mary Kissel of the Wall Street Journal hosted Hoover research fellow Carson Bruno and Hoover senior fellow Jonathan Rodden. First, Bruno discusses the Draper plan to divide California into six states from a political and economic perspective; second, Rodden discusses political polarization in the US.