Jessica Gottlieb, assistant professor in the Bush School’s Department of International Affairs (INTA), joined the faculty in the fall of 2013 after earning her PhD from Stanford University. Gottlieb also earned her master’s degree in economics from Stanford and previously studied at Yale University, where she received a dual BA degree cum laude in political science and international studies. At the Bush School, Gottlieb teaches courses in the political economy of development in Africa, field research methods, and political and economic institutions.
“Globally, I think about how democracy fails to engender accountability,” Gottlieb said. “I’m looking at ways to hold politicians accountable to voters in developing countries.”
Much of Gottlieb’s research has focused on sub-Saharan Africa, where she has conducted field experiments, behavioral games, and surveys. Recently, Gottlieb led a group of Bush School students to Senegal to conduct field research for two months. Based out of a local research institute in Dakar, the nation’s capital, the team sought to understand how local elites—religious, traditional, or political leaders—wield their influence to guide voters’ decisions.
“It turned out we needed the students’ help a lot more than we expected,” Gottlieb said. “I think it was an incredibly beneficial experience for them as well in that they participated in a project in the field from start to finish.”
Gottlieb’s dissertation research was a study in Mali of why free and fair elections failed to generate government accountability in the new democracy. An article from that research was published in World Politics in January 2015. She also has a forthcoming article in the American Journal of Political Science on a field experiment conducted in Mali evaluating the effect a civics course on voter expectations and behavior. Prior to her doctoral studies, Gottlieb worked at the Center for Global Development on a project encouraging donors, country governments, and multilateral organizations to better learn what works in development by using impact evaluation. Since joining the Bush School faculty, Gottlieb said one of the best parts of working at the School is her interactions with the faculty and students. “Overall, it’s been really encouraging to work among faculty members and students who care about real-world problems and make a concentrated effort to help solve them,” Gottlieb said.
This month, Gottlieb is leading a group of four Bush School students to the West African country of Benin to help with a large-scale field experiment studying the effects of providing accurate information to voters about legislator performance prior to the upcoming elections. Students will be interviewing local politicians and radio hosts in the country in an effort to better understand the current political context and how political information is already being disseminated.
Looking ahead, Gottlieb hopes to continue to build ties with Texas A&M’s Center on Conflict and Development (ConDev), a foundation that seeks to solidify the effectiveness of development programs and policies for conflict-affected and fragile countries through applied research. Additionally, she wants to continue to provide opportunities for students to conduct research in the field.
“When I was a graduate student at Stanford, I took a research assistant position that led me to field research in Liberia,” Gottlieb said. “That experience was vital to my development as a student and researcher. I hope to mentor students and give them the same opportunities.”