Scott LaCombe studies the role of political institutions in the American states. His primary research interests focus on institutional design and its effect on state politics, particularly how institutions can strengthen or weaken the influence of public opinion on policy. He also researches state policy diffusion and innovation, with an emphasis on using big data to answer key longstanding questions about why some policies spread quickly across the country while others do not. He uses multilevel modeling, Bayesian factor analysis, and network analysis to better understand the context by which U.S. states behave. He has helped develop the most comprehensive dataset of state policy adoptions to date, the State Policy Innovation and Diffusion Database, in a collaboration with researchers at several other universities.
In partnership with domain provider GoDaddy, his recent research has incorporated the rise of broadband internet in state and local communities to evaluate how more interconnected communities not only are more likely to adopt new policies but are more economically resilient in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.
LaCombe earned his bachelor’s in political science and Spanish from Missouri State University. He then earned his master’s and doctorate in political science from the University of Iowa with a focus on American politics and quantitative methods. He joined Smith College as an assistant professor in the fall of 2020 and will be teaching courses in government and statistical and data sciences.