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Jacob S. Bower-Bir

I have a joint PhD in political science and public policy, as well as a master’s degree in architecture. I am an Affiliated Faculty at the Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University. In my academic research, I study the evolution of social norms and institutions, especially those related to matters of morality and justice. I am a frequent consultant to, and field researcher for, international "development" and governance agencies (e.g., UN Women,  USAID etc.), usually in conflict or post-conflict settings. I am the Founding Designer at Terran Robotics, a startup that uses artificial intelligence and flying robots to build houses out of mud, and I am a Member-Owner of Design Anarchy Co-operative where I help design buildings meant to foster democratic, egalitarian interactions. You can read my academic CV, my consulting CV, and my (data-backed) rants about the absurdities of elite education, but you can't see my architecture portfolio because I haven't gotten around to that yet. Hit me up at <>.

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research     teaching     int'l consulting     architecture


publications (selected)

Desert and redistribution: Justice as a remedy for, and cause of, inequality. Policy studies journal 50(4):757-795. 2021. DOI: 10.1111/psj.12439.    [download]

Too different to solve climate change: Experimental evidence on the effects of production and benefit heterogeneity on collective action. Ecological economics 184:1-16. 2021. Elsevier. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2021.106998. With U.W. Kreitmair.     [download]

Earning our place, more or less: responsibility's flexible relationship with desert. Economia politica 38:131-170. 2020. DOI: 10.1007/s40888-020-00201-9.     [download]

Predicting majority rule: Evaluating the uncovered set and the strong point. Journal of theoretical politics 27(4): 650-672. 2015. DOI: 10.1177/0951629814562289. With W. Bianco, N. D’Amico, C. Kam, I. Sened, and R. Smyth.     [download]

Estimating state and sub-state economic effects of a carbon dioxide tax policy: An application of a new multi-region energy-economy econometric model. Regional science policy & practice 7(3): 119-139. 2015. DOI: 10.1111/rsp3.12060. With D.C. Warren, Z.A. Wendling, H. Fields, K.R. Richards, S. Carley, and B.M. Rubin.    [download]

What we deserve: The moral origins of economic inequality and our policy responses to it. Dissertation. 2014. ISBN: 978-1-321-33897-3.     [download]

Redistribution preferences and low socio-economic status. In T. K. Shackelford & V. A. Weekes-Shackelford (eds.), Encyclopedia of evolutionary psychological science. Springer. 2017. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1702-1.     [download]

Externalities. In T. K. Shackelford & V. A. Weekes-Shackelford (eds.), Encyclopedia of evolutionary psychological science. Springer. 2017. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1597-1. With U.W. Kreitmair.     [download]

working papers


Desert as a parsimonious, emergent social institution. Working paper. 2020.     [download]


Parallels and promising directions in the study of genetic, cultural, and moral evolution. Working paper (arXiv). 2018. With R. Maddamsetti.     [download]

A tool for all people, but not all occasions: How voting heuristics interact with political knowledge and environment. American Political Science Association annual meeting. 2012. With N. D'Amico.     [download]     earlier conference version available [here]

When and for whom moral proximity matters: Measuring the economic and moral distances between citizens and candidates, and their effects on voting. Midwest Political Science Association annual conference. 2011.     [download]


I have taught undergraduate and graduate classes in politics, economics, statistics, policy, philosophy, and sustainability to students at IU, MIT, the American University in Cairo, and Massachusetts State Prisons through Boston University. You can find a full list of my courses in my academic CV, and you can see recent-ish student evaluations here.


int'l consulting

I am a senior consultant with GK Consulting and am available for freelance contract work relating to governance, political institutions, public policy and management, and quantitative and experimental evaluation. I have designed, fielded, and analyzed development projects around the world for major international donors (e.g., UNWomen, USAID, PwC, DFID), and advised on local- to constitutional-level projects for real-world and academic organizations. Below are a few examples. Please see my consulting CV for a more thorough account. References are here.


Polio vaccination uptake and field monitoring - UNICEF

Large-scale electrification and poverty surveys - USAID

Government and donor consultation on export and trade - USAID


Papua New Guinea

Mixed method field research on sexual violence - UN Women


Archival research on land tenure policy - Liberian Governance Commission (GC)

Advise Governance Commission on democracy initiatives - Liberian Governance Commission (GC)

Mixed methods field research on female economic activity during the Ebola outbreak - UN Women



Economic and education counsel to academic and civic groups working on constitutional reform - Center for Constitutional Democracy in Plural Societies (CCDPS)



Design experimental methodology for girl's education intervention - UK DFID



Field research on electoral violence.



I do most of my architecture work either in my capacity as Founding Designer at Terran Robotics, or as one of seven Member-Owners at Design Anarchy Co-operative.  I have been entirely delinquent in cobbling together a portfolio, largely because I have been busy doing architecture. I don't expect that to change soon. In the meantime, I'll try to get a smattering of images from recent projects slapped up here... eventually...


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