Welcome! I’m Mark Hand, PhD student at the University of Texas-Austin. Among other things, I’m interested in the decision-making of entrepreneurs, immigration in the US and Latin America, theories of the policymaking process, and complex adaptive systems research (including network analysis and agent-based modeling). I’m also a recovering startup/impact investor and non-profit do-gooder.

The deal with the asterisk: This blog makes some assertions. They’re probably wrong, but it is poor rhetorical form to begin every post with that. So: What am I missing? What am I wrong about? What should I learn next?

Working papers

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.


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.

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. 

Abandoned papers

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.