Nathan 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

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

"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.

"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.