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


Jonathan Rodden: Poll Hub: Geography Matters

interview with Jonathan Roddenvia Marist Poll
Friday, August 16, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Jonathan Rodden discusses his new book, Why Cities Lose: The Deep Roots of the Urban-Rural Political Divide. Rodden also talks about the origins of polarization.

Analysis and Commentary

Geography And The Dilemma Of The Left

by Jonathan Roddenvia Medium
Thursday, August 1, 2019
The story of why cities lose in democracies with winner-take-all districts does not begin with the advent of sophisticated gerrymandering or the outbreak of contemporary culture wars.
In the News

Why Democrats Lose

featuring Jonathan Roddenvia City Journal
Wednesday, July 31, 2019

For many urbanites, “rural America” is another way of saying “provincialism.” City-dwellers—especially on the coasts—give a strong impression of disdaining heartland voters and blaming them for unfavorable election results. A liberal policy agenda, they believe, would thrive if not for partisan gerrymandering, which favors sparsely populated areas.

In the News

‘Why Cities Lose’ Review: Where Politics Meets Geography

featuring Jonathan Roddenvia The Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Why have American politics become so polarized? One reason is that in recent years, while Democratic politicians have increased their dominance in urban areas ever further, the traditional rural support base for Democratic candidates in Appalachia and the South has collapsed. Conservative “blue dog” Democrats are nearly extinct.


Jonathan Rodden: Do Urban Voters Get Short Shrift In Congress?

interview with Jonathan Roddenvia Futurity
Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Jonathan Rodden argues that ever since President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s, the Democratic Party has evolved to become an almost exclusively urban party. Rodden’s analysis—which included a geo-spatial, statistical deep dive into election and Census data from the 19th century to the present—appears in his new book, Why Cities Lose: The Deep Roots of the Urban-Rural Political Divide.


Jonathan Rodden: The American Urban-Rural Split Examined: "Cities Lose"

interview with Jonathan Roddenvia Jefferson Public Radio
Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Jonathan Rodden talks about his book Why Cities Lose: The Deep Roots of the Urban-Rural Political Divide, and shows how events both accidental and deliberate make Democrats and the left stronger in cities, and Republicans and the right stronger in rural areas.


Jonathan Rodden: Bloomberg Pledges $500 Million To Help Eliminate Coal

interview with Jonathan Roddenvia MSNBC
Friday, June 7, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Jonathan Rodden discusses the realities behind eliminating coal and how Democratic candidates can use issues like climate change to win back rural voters.

Why Cities Lose: The Deep Roots of the Urban-Rural Political Divide

by Jonathan Roddenvia Books by Hoover Fellows
Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Why is it so much easier for the Democratic Party to win the national popular vote than to build and maintain a majority in Congress? Why can Democrats sweep statewide offices in places like Pennsylvania and Michigan yet fail to take control of the same states' legislatures? Many place exclusive blame on partisan gerrymandering and voter suppression. But as political scientist Jonathan A. Rodden demonstrates in Why Cities Lose, the left's electoral challenges have deeper roots in economic and political geography.

In the News

How America’s Urban-Rural Divide Shapes Elections

featuring Jonathan Roddenvia The Economist
Wednesday, June 5, 2019

IN NINE OF America’s 13 congressional elections between 1994 and 2018, the Republican Party won a greater share of seats than votes. In 2012, Democrats failed to garner a majority of seats while winning a broad popular vote victory. Even in the 2018 mid-terms, which were described as a “wave” election, The Economist predicted that the Democrats had to win the popular vote in the House of Representatives by 5-6 percentage points to obtain a bare majority of seats. In the Senate, the situation is worse because of the way states magnify the pro-rural bias of America’s electoral institutions.


Jonathan Rodden: The Consequences Of America’s Urban-Rural Political Divide

interview with Jonathan Roddenvia WAMU 88.5
Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Jonathan Rodden discusses the political divisions within the United States. One of the starkest is the fault line that runs between the rural and urban regions of the country, and the history of this geographical split as well as the profound consequences it has had for politics in the US. His recent book goes into further detail about this divide, Why Cities Lose: The Deep Roots of the Urban-Rural Political Divide.