Welcome! I’m Mark Hand, PhD Candidate at the University of Texas-Austin. Among other things, I’m interested in the decision-making and network-building strategies of entrepreneurs and policymakers, U.S. immigration policy, theories of the policymaking process and network analysis. Prior to academia, I worked in start-up investing, impacting investing and community development.

Active Projects

At the end of a successful electoral campaign, a winning candidate is rewarded with a new challenge: What happens to the organization they built to win the campaign, and how should they staff the organization they are now tasked with building, their legislative office? Some policymakers solve both problems at a stroke by hiring their political campaign staff onto their legislative teams. This paper examines the effects of those staffing choices on U.S. House Members’ issue attention, legislative effectiveness, and chances of re-election.

The paper will test three hypotheses: That policymakers who hire more campaign staffers into their legislative offices will spend more of their legislative attention on issues pertinent to their particular district, as measured by the topics of the bills they introduce; that they will be less effective legislators, as measured by Volden and Wiseman’s Legislative Effectiveness Score; and that they will be more likely to win re-election. By understanding the effects of political hiring decisions, policymakers can make smarter hires, and students of the policy process can better understand the impact of teams on policymakers’ priorities and effectiveness.

Energy Booms, Entrepreneurship and Economic Resilience in Texas (with Varun Rai)

Over 7% of the Fortune 500 companies in the US are energy companies based in Texas, and 300,000 Texans are employed by upstream oil and gas companies. Many more Texans work in energy delivery, energy efficiency, and renewables. Many of those energy jobs, however, burn away as quickly as they spring up. And even as Texas cities have grown at breakneck paces, the post-Recession economy of rural Texas looks much like the rest of the country, lagging in job growth and economic stagnation. Texas has yet to figure how to refine economic boom, whether energy-driven or not, into the type of broad-based entrepreneurial activity that leads to sustained job growth. And many rural Texas areas remain precariously dependent on the fate of a single large industry. This project examines the relationship among economic booms, entrepreneurial activity, and economic resilience of rural Texas, with the goal of contributing to an empirical foundation for recommendations to policymakers, energy producers, and local communities about how best to capitalize on rapid economic growth. How can rural areas move from dependence upon a single industry, or even a single employer, to broad-based growth?

You’re Hired! An examination of the impact of staffer experience and networks on US political campaigns

At the outset of their campaigns, first-time candidates for US Congress are forced to make a series of rapid and difficult decisions about whom they will hire on to their campaign staff. Yet despite the fact that over 1,000 candidates for the House of Representatives make such decisions every two years, most of the guidance they receive is made up of untested, often contradictory rules of thumb. Which of that advice should candidates follow? This paper begins to address that question empirically, examining three factors that previous research on entrepreneurial team formation has shown contribute to team effectiveness: The individual experience levels of staff members, their level of experience working together as a team, and the centrality of those team members in their industry. After creating a campaign staff database from the Federal Election Commission’s records of campaign expenditures, I create measures of campaign experience and centrality, then link that database to campaign finance and election records. Then, using multilinear regression models, I test the contribution of those potential factors against two measures of campaign success: Ability to fundraise and eventual vote share. I expect to see candidates perform better when they have staff that are experienced, network central in the campaign industry, and contain a mix of familiar and fresh faces, results which will begin to illuminate the effect that campaign staff have on election outcomes in the United States.

Do campaign contribution limits limit corruption, or the appearance of corruption?

From the 1970s through Citizens United to the present day, the US Supreme Court has frustrated efforts at campaign finance reform, arguing that most limits on political spending violate the first amendment’s protection of free speech. They only exception is in cases of “corruption of the appearance of corruption.” Using state-level data on contribution limits, corruption and perceptions of corruption in a fixed effects time series linear regression, this paper asks whether campaign contribution limits lead to lower levels of corruption or public perception of corruption. As current challenges to individual contribution limits wind their way through federal courts, the answer to this question may inform the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold or strike down any limits on campaign finance. Working paper and replication materials available on GitHub.

Once and Future Projects

Some Assembly Required: The Complex Relational Webs of Social Enterprises (with Andrea Caldwell)

In their recent (2017) review of academic literature on social enterprise, Tina Saebi and her colleagues argue for further work examining the various types of social enterprise business models. This paper examines their four-part categorization of social enterprise models (one-sided, two-sided, market-oriented, and social oriented) and adds a fifth, the intermediated value model. Building from recent work describing entrepreneurial action as assembly, we describe the web of relationships around each social enterprise model by identifying who are its users, customers, and beneficiaries; and whether those actors are distinct or overlapping. Using examples from the portfolios of two social enterprise investors, Acumen Fund and Techstars Impact, we show that the web of relationships created by different social enterprise business models have distinct implications for those enterprises’ human capital needs, sales and marketing activities, financing requirements, impact evaluation needs and risks, and appropriate regulatory regimes.

Entrepreneurial Behavior in Political Campaigns: Strategically sequencing thinking and doing (with Peter Boumgarden)

Political campaigns are a brutally competitive market. Throughout an election, political campaigns often engage in activity that meets most definitions be appropriately entrepreneurial: devising strategies that adapt to emergent patterns in the midst of a campaign, balancing the need to change with the need to maintain enough strategic and rhetorical consistency for voters to understand the candidate, and organizing resources around core commitments and policy agendas. Our aim in this paper is to determine whether the frameworks through which we understand entrepreneurship in a business setting might also help us understand entrepreneurship in a political setting. In line with Ott, Eisenhardt, and Bingham (2017)’s work, we explore the ways in which political campaigns engage in search processes (strategy by doing) and stable positions (strategy by thinking), first through case studies of the 2016 US Presidential election and then empirically with US Congressional elections. 

Agents of Policy Change? A pragmatic review and test of policy entrepreneurship

What role do individual agents play in the policy process? Theories of the policy process often specify or leave room for a special class of individuals that drive the policy process. These individuals are often, but vaguely, described as policy entrepreneurs. In line with the pragmatist method, this paper examines what scholars claim that policy entrepreneurs do: What actions they take, as opposed to their characteristics or positions. Using immigration enforcement law in the US states in the 2010s as a case, the paper employs interview-based process tracing and network analysis of news media to test scholars’ claims against the actions of political actors viewed as instrumental to passing or blocking those laws. It explores (1) who took actions that determined policy outcomes; (2) which theories of public entrepreneurship prove most predictive of that behavior; and (3) whether public entrepreneurship is the most useful metaphor for describing those actions. Ultimately, this paper aims to contribute to a conversation about the role of individual agency in the policy process. Draft paper available on GitHub.

Winning by Being Boring: Uncertainty reduction as an entrepreneurial strategy in nascent markets

Existing research on entrepreneurial strategy points to a key tension that entrepreneurs face: When to pursue efficiency, structure and routine; and when to prioritize flexibility, experimentation and bricolage. Building on recent entrepreneurial strategy research on the microfoundations of firm success, this paper tests whether adding elements of structure and routinization in the early days of a nascent market is associated with improved firm performance. Using as a case the solar panel installation market in Austin, Texas from 2004-2014, the paper employs a linear panel regression model to determine the association of efficiency in installation time, pricing and cost estimation are correlated with greater firm revenues and market share. Results suggest that minimizing variation in the time required to install panels is associated with higher revenues, but not market share; other measures of routinization, however, are not correlated with firm success. If future works concludes that these results are consistent across other geographies and markets, then entrepreneurs, incubators and policymakers would do well to update how they train entrepreneurs and support nascent markets. Paper draft and replication materials available on GitHub.

The effect of bipartisan cosponsorship on bill success in the 2015 Texas State Legislature

This paper examines legislative partisanship, productivity and success. In the United States, partisanship is at historic highs and is blamed for low productivity and legislative gridlock. Using the 2015 Texas legislative session as a case, this paper looks at cross-party bill cosponsorship as a measure of legislative partisanship, examining whether legislation with both Republican and Democratic cosponsors are more or less likely to be successful. I find that the more bipartisan a piece of legislation, the more likely it is to become Texas law. This holds even when excluding resolutions and looking only at bills. I also find that bills originating in the Senate are more likely to be successful than those originating in the House, as are bills with a larger number of sponsors. Surprisingly, whether a bill has more Republican or Democratic sponsors does not give it greater odds of success.

Do legislators work together (and across the aisle) more or less over time? A look at the 2015 Texas legislature

To what extent do Texas legislators work across the aisle, and how does time together in the legislature affect that? This study looks at the 84th Texas legislature, which met in 2015. We look at how often legislators work together, as measured by how many bills they write together; this is called cosponsorship. We ask two questions: (1) Are these two legislators in the same party? and (2) How long have they been in the legislature together? Our results show that regardless of party overlap, veteran legislators are slightly less likely to work together than new legislators, and that this effect is strongest for Republican-Democrat pairs. We also found that pairs of Republicans are more likely to work together than pairs of Democrats or Republican-Democrat pairs.