Nathan M. Jensen

Professor of Government, University of Texas at Austin
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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.

In the News

Opinion: "Why Laws Meant to Create Jobs Can Be So Destructive for Our Cities," Nathan M. Jensen (with Steven Pedigo), The New York Times, May 15, 2023.
Opinion: "Could the Death of a Corporate Handout in Texas Be a Turning Point?," Nathan M. Jensen, The Hill, July 27, 2021.
Quoted by Joseph N. DiStefano in "Amazon Moves into the Void Left by GM. But it’s No Replacement," The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 2, 2020.
Research discussed by Allie Morris, in "Companies Awarded Millions of Dollars for Creating Jobs in Texas Can Quietly Renegotiate Those Deals," Houston Chronicle, February 22, 2019.
Research discussed by Alexandra Hart, in "Study Finds Texas Economic Incentives Don't Always Deliver Promised Benefits For Taxpayers," Texas Standard, February 13, 2019.
Opinion: "Amazon HQ2: Texas Experience Shows Why New Yorkers Should be Skeptica," Nathan M. Jensen, The Conversation, February 7, 2019.
Opinion: "Why Politicians are the Real Winners in Amazon’s HQ2 Bidding War," Nathan M. Jensen, The Conversation, November 15, 2018.
Research discussed by Heather Kelly, in "Why Amazon May Want a Big City for HQ2," CNN, October 19, 2018.
Opinion: "Righting the Wrongs of Amazon HQ2," Nathan M. Jensen, CityLab, August 17, 2018.
Interviewed in "Why Do Politicians Push for Corporate Welfare?," Mercatus Center at George Mason University, July 27, 2018.
Research discussed by Phil Lavelle, in "Why People are Moving to Some States and Not Others," CGTN, July 19, 2018.
Research discussed by Jill Cowan, in "Dallas Offers Nokia $4.8 Million to Move Headquarters Three Miles from Las Colinas, Jobs from Plano," Dallas News, July 12, 2018.
Research discussed by Dwyer Gunn, in "Cities and States Spend a Ton to Woo Big Companies. Is It Money Well Spent?," Pacific Standard, July 9, 2018.
Research discussed by Jimmy Quinn, in "The Foxconn Plant Is a Bad Deal for Wisconsin Taxpayers," National Review, July 5, 2018.
Opinion: "Why a Private Soccer Stadium is Not a Good Deal for Austin," Nathan M. Jensen, My Statesman, June 13, 2018.
Quoted by Kaya Yurieff in "How the Losing Amazon HQ2 Cities Can Still Win," CNN Tech, May 17, 2018.
Quoted by Travis Fain, Laura Leslie, and Tyler Dukes in "With Apple on Hook, Legislative Leaders Roll Out Incentive Reforms,", May 17, 2018.
Quoted by Eduardo Porter in "When All Else Fails, Tax Incentives Probably Will, Too," The New York Times, May 8, 2018.
Quoted by Mitchell Hartman in "Amazon Wants Tax Incentives, Texas Knows the Drill," Marketplace, May 3, 2018.
Interviewed in "Why Cities Shouldn't Lure Companies with Tax Breaks," WGBH & PRI Innovation Hub, April 6, 2018.
Opinion: "Why are Your State Tax Dollars Subsidizing Corporations?," Nathan M. Jensen, New York Times, March 6, 2018.
Quoted by Ethan Rothstein in "Delta CEO Says 'Our Home is Atlanta' as NRA-Related Politics Cloud Amazon HQ2 Bid," Bisnow, March 2, 2018.
Quoted by Kaya Yurieff in "Republicans' Spat with Delta Could Hurt Georgia's Amazon Hopes," CNN Tech, February 27, 2018.
Quoted by Robert McCartney and Katherine Shaver in "Hogan's Office Says Transit Chief 'Misspoke' in Promising Amazon a 'Blank Check'," Laredo Morning Times, February 7, 2018.
Opinion: "To Win Amazon HQ2, Cities Should Abandon Secrecy," Nathan M. Jensen, USA Today, November 4, 2017.
Opinion: "238 Cities are Wooing Amazon. The Winner May End Up with a Very Bad Deal.," Nathan M. Jensen, The Washington Post, October 24, 2017.
Quoted by Jeffrey Meitrodt in "Minnesota Plans 'Modest' Bid in High-Stakes Amazon Competition," Star Tribune, October 17, 2017.
Quoted by Mike Sunnucks in "Amazon and Its New Headquarters: Buyer Beware and ‘Winner’s Curse’," Phoenix Business Journal, September 19, 2017.
Research discussed by Paul Takahashi, in "Most Energy Firms Don’t Need Tax Breaks to Invest in Houston," Houston Business Journal, March 9, 2017.
Quoted by Chris Isidore and Eric Bradner in "How Donald Trump Got Carrier to Stay," CNN Money, December 1, 2016.
Research discussed by David Brodwin, in "You Lose When Businesses Win Tax Breaks," U.S. News & World Report, October 5, 2016.
Opinion: "States’ Job Creation Shell Game," Nathan M. Jensen (with Jason Wiens), Washington Monthly, August 1, 2016.
Opinion: "It’s Time for Kansas, Missouri to End the Economic Border War," Nathan M. Jensen, The Kansas City Star, September 11, 2014.
Opinion: "Which Host Government Actors are Most Involved in Disputes with Foreign Investors?," Nathan M. Jensen (with Jeremy Caddel), Columbia FDI Perspectives No. 120, April 28, 2014.
Opinion: "The Arab Spring: How Soon Will Foreign Investors Return?," Nathan M. Jensen (with Paul Barbour, Persephone Economonu, and and Daniel Villar), Columbia FDI Perspectives No. 67, May 7, 2012.
Opinion: "You Got Honda, but at What Cost?," Nathan M. Jensen, Indianapolis Star, July 9, 2009.
Opinion: "Reform, Not Tax Relief, is the Way to Lure Investors," Nathan M. Jensen, Financial Times, May 16, 2006.


"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.