Jacob Hacker

Author, American Amnesia
Professor of Political Science and Director at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University

Policy thought leader on restoring security to the American dream.

Add to Shortlist


Jacob Hacker is an important contributor of public policy ideas in the areas of healthcare, social welfare and economic opportunity. Jacob has spent his career researching how the institutions of social protection work, practically and economically.

He is the coauthor of American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper (with Paul Pierson), a timely and topical work that examines what’s good for American business and what’s good for Americans — and why those interests are misaligned.

Professor Hacker’s previous book (with Paul Pierson) is Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. Hacker and Pierson’s groundbreaking work identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crimes of our time: the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich.

Jacob's other books include:

The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream. Here Jacob describes how government and businesses are shifting risk of all kinds — job and income security, healthcare, and retirement — onto the shoulders of individuals and families. The Great Risk Shift is an indispensable message for any audience that helps people manage financial risk, including those in healthcare, human resources, financial services and, especially, insurance; plus policymakers and organisations intent on restoring security to the American dream.

He is the author of the white paper, Health Care for America, is a proposal for guaranteed, affordable health care for all Americans sponsored by the Economic Policy Institute and the foundation for President Obama's healthcare plan. He co-edited Health at Risk: America's Ailing Health System — and How to Heal It.

Jacob Hacker is the Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale University, and Director at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies. He heads a Social Science Research Council project on the privatization of risk. He is a Fellow at the New America Foundation and sits on the American Political Science Association's public presence Task Force on Inequality and Democracy.

Professor Hacker’s scholarly articles have appeared in such outlets as The American Political Science Review, The British Journal of Political Science, Health Affairs, The New England Journal of Medicine, Perspectives on Politics, Politics & Society, Studies in American Political Development, and The Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law.


  • Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale University
  • Director, Institution for Social and Policy Studies
  • Fellow, New American Foundation
  • Former Professor of Political Science, UC Berkeley
  • Formerly, Peter Strauss Family Professor of Political Science, Yale University
  • Former Resident Fellow, Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale
  • Member, Task Force on Inequality and Democracy, American Political Science Association
  • Author of four books and of Health Care for America; editor of Health at Risk
  • Co-chair, National Academy of Social Insurance conference 2007
  • Former Junior Fellow, Harvard Society of Fellows
  • Former Guest Scholar and Research Fellow, the Brookings Institution
  • Co-winner, Louis Brownlow Book Award, National Academy of Public Administration (The Road to Nowhere)
  • Dissertation prizes from the American Political Science Association, the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management, and the National Academy of Social Insurance


American Amnesia

How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper

Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

From the groundbreaking author team behind the bestselling Winner-Take-All Politics, a timely and topical work that examines what’s good for American business and what’s good for Americans — and why those interests are misaligned.

In Winner-Take-All Politics, Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson explained how political elites have enabled and propelled plutocracy. Now in American Amnesia, they trace the economic and political history of the United States over the last century and show how a viable mixed economy has long been the dominant engine of America’s prosperity.

Like every other prospering democracy, the United States developed a mixed economy that channeled the spirit of capitalism into strong growth and healthy social development. In this bargain, government and business were as much partners as rivals. Public investments in education, science, transportation, and technology laid the foundation for broadly based prosperity. Programs of economic security and progressive taxation provided a floor of protection and business focused on the pursuit of profit — and government addressed needs business could not.

The mixed economy was the most important social innovation of the twentieth century. It spread a previously unimaginable level of broad prosperity. It enabled steep increases in education, health, longevity, and economic security. And yet, extraordinarily, it is anathema to many current economic and political elites. And as the advocates of anti-government free market fundamentalist have gained power, they are hell-bent on scrapping the instrument of nearly a century of unprecedented economic and social progress. In American Amnesia, Hacker and Pierson explain how — and why they must be stopped.

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (1 April 2016)


Political Scientist Jacob Hacker Explains the Crisis of American's Mixed Economy — The Colin McEnroe Show WNPR


The Forgotten StateBoston Review
ReviewCrooked Timber
American Amnesia: Three Cheers for the Mixed Economy!Mother Jones
The People vs. the GovernmentThe New York Times Book Review


In this lively,engaging, and persuasive book, Hacker and Pierson explain how much of our health and prosperity rests on what governments have done. American Amnesia will help slow the intellectual pendulum that is currently swinging towards ananarchic libertarianism that threatens more than a century of American progress.”
— Angus Deaton, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics in 2015

“This is a fascinating and much-needed book. America once invented universal public education and sharply progressive taxation of income and inherited wealth, and has shown to the world that strong government and efficient markets are complementary — not substitutes. But since 1980 a new wave of anti-governmentideology has prospered, and is about to make America more unequal andplutocratic than Europe on the eve of World War I. If you want to understand why this great amnesia occurred, and how it can be reversed, read this book!”
— Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Winner-Take-All Politics

How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class

Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

A groundbreaking work that identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crimes of our time — the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich.

We all know that the very rich have gotten a lot richer these past few decades while most Americans haven’t. In fact, the exorbitantly paid have continued to thrive during the current economic crisis, even as the rest of Americans have continued to fall behind. Why do the “have it- alls” have so much more? And how have they managed to restructure the economy to reap the lion’s share of the gains and shift the costs of their new economic playground downward, tearing new holes in the safety net and saddling all of us with increased debt and risk? Lots of so-called experts claim to have solved this great mystery, but no one has really gotten to the bottom of it — until now.

In their lively and provocative Winner-Take-All Politics, renowned political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson demonstrate convincingly that the usual suspects — foreign trade and financial globalization, technological changes in the workplace, increased education at the top — are largely innocent of the charges against them. Instead, they indict an unlikely suspect and take us on an entertaining tour of the mountain of evidence against the culprit. The guilty party is American politics. Runaway inequality and the present economic crisis reflect what government has done to aid the rich and what it has not done to safeguard the interests of the middle class. The winner-take-all economy is primarily a result of winner-take-all politics.

In an innovative historical departure, Hacker and Pierson trace the rise of the winner-take-all economy back to the late 1970s when, under a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, a major transformation of American politics occurred. With big business and conservative ideologues organizing themselves to undo the regulations and progressive tax policies that had helped ensure a fair distribution of economic rewards, deregulation got under way, taxes were cut for the wealthiest, and business decisively defeated labor in Washington. And this transformation continued under Reagan and the Bushes as well as under Clinton, with both parties catering to the interests of those at the very top. Hacker and Pierson’s gripping narration of the epic battles waged during President Obama’s first two years in office reveals an unpleasant but catalyzing truth: winner-take-all politics, while under challenge, is still very much with us.

Winner-Take-All Politics — part revelatory history, part political analysis, part intellectual journey — shows how a political system that traditionally has been responsive to the interests of the middle class has been hijacked by the superrich. In doing so, it not only changes how we think about American politics, but also points the way to rebuilding a democracy that serves the interests of the many rather than just those of the wealthy few.

Simon & Schuster (15 Mar 2011)
Simon & Schuster (14 Sep 2010)


The State of LiberalismThe New York Times


"The worst social change in America during my lifetime has been its shift from the land of middle-class opportunity to the land of super-rich privilege. The economic polarization of America is a familiar problem, but Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson approach it in an original way, using detective-story procedure to identify an unsuspected culprit — one that has little to do with 'globalization' or 'technological revolution' or China or the like. Their case is convincing, and it builds to a recommendation of how Americans could organize to save their country's promise. I hope people read the book and follow its advice."
— James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic

"Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson combine enormous learning about how our political system actually works with a spritely facility for getting their ideas across—rare gifts in American political debate. Winner-Take-All Politics carries forward the argument from their path-breaking book Off-Center. It explains why the 2006 and 2008 elections only began a reform process that still has a ways to go. Hacker and Pierson have always stayed ahead of the conventional arguments and Winner-Take-All Politics keeps them in the lead."
— E.J. Dionne, Jr., author of Why Americans Hate Politics and Souled Out

"Hacker and Pierson deftly pose and solve a political mystery: How could our democracy have turned away from a politics of broadly shared prosperity that served most citizens? Clue: take a close look at the elite capture of the Democratic Party. Winner-Take-All Politics — stylishly written and well documented with evidence — is a must-read for understanding the great political puzzle of our time."
— Robert Kuttner, author of A Presidency in Peril and co-editor of The American Prospect

"Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson brilliantly break the intellectual logjam over the causes of runaway inequality. Their findings put responsibility and control back into the hands of officeholders, elected and appointed. Winner-Take-All Politics is crucial reading for all those engaged in American politics."
— Thomas B. Edsall, political editor, Huffington Post, and correspondent, The New Republic

"Over the past generation, the middle class has been repeatedly battered, and its once-solid foundations have begun to tremble. Uncovering the hidden political story behind this great economic challenge, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson shed light on what has gone wrong — and why. Their book is must-reading for anyone who wants to understand how Washington stopped working for the middle class."
— Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Law School, Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel on the U.S. banking bailout, and author of The Two-Income Trap

The Great Risk Shift

The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream

Jacob Hacker

America's leaders say the economy is strong and getting stronger. But ordinary Americans aren't buying it. They see what the rosy statistics hide: We are all struggling under the weight of terrifying economic instability. No matter how well educated and hard working we are, we know that the bottom can fall out at any moment. Meanwhile, the safety net that once protected us is fast unraveling. With retirement plans in growing jeopardy while health coverage erodes, more and more economic risk is shifting from government and business onto the fragile shoulders of the American family.

In The Great Risk Shift, Jacob S. Hacker lays bare this unsettling new economic climate, showing how it has come about, what it is doing to our families, and how we can fight back. Behind this shift, he contends, is the Personal Responsibility Crusade, eagerly embraced by corporate leaders and Republican politicians who speak of a nirvana of economic empowerment, an "ownership society" in which Americans are free to choose. But as Hacker reveals, the result has been quite different: a harsh new world of economic insecurity, in which far too many Americans are free to lose.

The book documents how two great pillars of economic security — the family and the workplace — guarantee far less financial stability than they once did. The final leg of economic support — the public and private benefits that workers and families get when economic disaster strikes — has dangerously eroded as political leaders and corporations increasingly cut back protections of our health care, our income security, and our retirement pensions.

Blending powerful human stories, big-picture analysis, and compelling ideas for reform, this remarkable volume will hit a nerve, serving as a rallying point in the vital struggle for economic security in an increasingly uncertain world.

OUP USA; Rev Upd edition (7 Feb 2008)
OUP USA; First Edition edition (12 Oct 2006)

Health at Risk

America's Ailing Health System — and How to Heal It

Jacob Hacker

In this volume, the nation's leading advisors on health policy and financing appraise America's ailing healthcare system and suggest reasonable approaches to its rehabilitation. Each chapter confronts a major challenge to the country's health security, from runaway costs and uneven quality of care to declining levels of insurance coverage, medical bankruptcy, and the growing enthusiasm for health plans that put patients in charge of risk and cost. Bringing the latest research to bear on these issues, contributors diagnose the problems of our present system and offer treatments grounded in extensive experience. Free of bias and rhetoric, Health at Risk is an invaluable tool for those who are concerned with the current state of healthcare and are eager to effect change.

Columbia University Press (4 Nov 2008)

Off Center

The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy

Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

The Republicans who run American government today have defied the normal laws of political gravity. They have ruled with the slimmest of majorities and yet have transformed the nation's governing priorities. They have strayed dramatically from the moderate middle of public opinion and yet have faced little public backlash. Again and again, they have sided with the affluent and ideologically extreme while paying little heed to the broad majority of Americans. And much more often than not, they have come out on top. This book shows why — and why this troubling state of affairs can and must be changed.

Written in a highly accessible style by two professional political scientists, Off Center tells the story of a deliberative process restricted and distorted by party chieftains, of unresponsive power brokers subverting the popular will, and of legislation written by and for powerful interests and deliberately designed to mute popular discontent. In the best tradition of engaged social science, Off Center is a powerful and informed critique that points the way toward a stronger foundation for American democracy.

Yale University Press; New edition edition (6 Oct 2006)
Yale University Press; First Printing edition (12 May 2005)

The Divided Welfare State

The Battle over Public and Private Social Benefits in the United States

Jacob Hacker

The Divided Welfare State is the first comprehensive political analysis of America's distinctive system of public and private social benefits. Everyone knows that the American welfare state is unusual — less expensive and extensive, later to develop and slower to grow, than comparable programs abroad. Yet, U.S. social policy does not stand out solely for its limits. American social spending is actually as high as spending is in many European nations. What is truly distinctive is that so many social welfare duties are handled not by the state, but by the private sector with government support. With sweeping historical reach and a wealth of statistical and cross-national evidence, The Divided Welfare State demonstrates that private social benefits have not merely been shaped by public policy, but have deeply influenced the politics of public social programs--to produce a social policy framework whose political and social effects are strikingly different than often assumed. At a time of fierce new debates about social policy, this book is essential to understanding the roots of America's distinctive model and its future possibilities.

Cambridge University Press (9 Sep 2002)

The Road to Nowhere

The Genesis of President Clinton’s Plan for Health Security

Jacob Hacker

During the 1992 presidential campaign, health care reform became a hot issue, paving the way for one of the most important yet ill-fated social policy initiatives in American history: Bill Clinton's 1993 proposal for comprehensive coverage under "managed competition." Here Jacob Hacker not only investigates for the first time how managed competition became the president's reform framework, but also illuminates how issues and policies emerge. He follows Clinton's policy ideas from their initial formulation by policy experts through their endorsement by medical industry leaders and politicians to their inclusion — in a new and unexpected form — in the proposal itself. Throughout he explores key questions: Why did health reform become a national issue in the 1990s? Why did Clinton choose managed competition over more familiar options during the 1992 presidential campaign? What effect did this have on the fate of his proposal?

Princeton University Press; New Ed edition (8 Mar 1999)


Jacob tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Winner-Take-All Politics


Economic Status of the States | C-Span


An employee benefits resource company:
He had a very nice rapport with the audience, and the timing of his presentation the same day Clinton announced her health proposal also worked out great. Our conference dept is still crunching the session evaluations but buzz at the show about Jacob was excellent. He was also very gracious with us, our staff, and attendees at his book signing.

A state budget conference:
I hope this email finds you well. Last week I saw your presentation on The Great Risk Shift and I wanted to thank you for your amazing presentation. Rarely have I seen a more engaging speaker that is able to captivate his audience with numbers and charts.