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, Why Cities Lose: The Deep Roots of the Urban-Rural Political Divide (Basic Books, 2019), Rodden demonstrates the left's electoral challenges have deeper roots in economic and political geography. 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

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.

Jonathan Rodden is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a pr

Jonathan Rodden: A Growing Rural-Urban Divide Has Led To The Political Underrepresentation Of People Living In Cities, Stanford Political Scientist Finds

interview with Jonathan Roddenvia Stanford News
Monday, June 3, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Jonathan Rodden talks about the geographic divide, which pits Democratic voters living mostly in cities against Republican voters living mostly in exurban and rural areas; and the impact on representation and policymaking.

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.