New Faculty Feature: Meet Assistant Professor Quinton Mayne

January 23, 2013

There are more than 180 faculty members at Harvard Kennedy School, and every semester we are fortunate to welcome a few new ones.

We asked those joining us for this spring semester a few questions – about their research, their teaching, their other interests – so they could introduce themselves to the Kennedy School community in their own words.

Quinton Mayne is an assistant professor of public policy. He received his Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University and his dissertation entitled, "The Satisfied Citizen: Participation, Influence, and Public Perceptions of Democratic Performance," won the American Political Science Association's 2011 Ernst B. Haas Best Dissertation Award in European Politics as well as the 2011 Best Dissertation Award in Urban Politics.

Q:What are your primary areas of research?
Mayne:Over the past half century we have witnessed a massive expansion of the welfare state, in Europe and beyond, not only in traditional areas such as education and health care but also in new ones such as social assistance for the elderly and the young. When it comes to planning and delivering services in these areas, local governments in some countries have assumed far-reaching powers.
In other countries, however, local politicians either play a negligible role in promoting welfare or find themselves dominated in their efforts to do so by national governments.
With my research I am trying to better understand just exactly how high-income democracies differ from one another in terms of the role played by local governments in promoting public welfare. More importantly though I am interested in finding out how these cross-national differences affect the ways in which citizens think and act politically.
Q:What courses will you be teaching?
Mayne:I will be offering two new courses at the Kennedy School. The first is called “Rethinking Policy Design,” which I’m teaching this spring. The course focuses on some of the most important policy tools being used in different parts of the developed and developing world to tackle pressing social issues. This includes, for example, tools that see governments working with or contracting out services to the private sector or non-profit organizations as well as tools that involve governments “nudging” citizens to change how they think and behave. By taking this course students will learn not only about why certain tools are chosen over others, but also about the far-reaching effects that tool choice has on ideals of citizenship, community life, and the size and visibility of the state.
In the fall I’m very much looking forward to offering a second course on comparative urban politics. This will be a successor to Professor Alan Altshuler’s course on the politics of urban planning,
Q:How can the work being done here at HKS help address some of the world’s most significant public policy challenges?
Mayne:In national capitals across the world as well as in international organizations such as the World Bank and the United Nations there is a great deal of debate about the merits and shortcomings of decentralization.
Some see strong, elected local governments as a powerful tool in the fight against public-sector corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency, poverty and social exclusion, as well as political disengagement and disaffection. Others are much more skeptical about the power of decentralization to address major public-policy challenges such as these.
Focused as my research is on relations between central and local governments and on the welfare-promoting potential of local governments, I hope it can contribute in some way to moving this debate forward.
Q:What are you currently reading?
Mayne:I’ve just finished reading "Coping with Crisis", a volume edited by Nancy Bermeo and Jonas Pontusson that looks at how, why, and to what effect governments across the advanced industrial world responded differently to the economic crisis of 2007-2008.

I’ve also just started "Boundary Control" by Edward L. Gibson. Comparing the United States of the late-nineteenth-century with contemporary Argentina and Mexico, Gibson examines the conditions under which subnational authoritarian enclaves are able to exist alongside national democratic governments.

Quinton Mayne, assistant professor of public policy

Quinton Mayne, assistant professor of public policy

"With my research I am trying to better understand just exactly how high-income democracies differ from one another in terms of the role played by local governments in promoting public welfare," writes Mayne.


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