Jacob Anbinder

Klarman Postdoctoral Fellow


Jacob Anbinder is a historian of the modern United States with a particular focus on the politics of cities and suburbs in the twentieth century. His research interests include the political economy of major infrastructure projects, movements for and against change to the built environment, and the ways in which sprawl and spatial segregation create social inequities. His writing has been published in The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, Business History Review, The Week, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, and other outlets.

Jacob received his PhD in history from Harvard University in 2023.

Research Focus

Cities of Amber, Jacob's current book project, is the first history of the modern urban affordability crisis and the political origins of the liberal “NIMBY.” It traces their roots to the national party realignment of the late twentieth century and, specifically, to the ideological transformations that took place among liberals around the issue of urban growth. During the New Deal Era, Democrats across the country emphatically supported the growth of cities and suburbs. Beginning in the fifties, however, Americans dismayed by the unfulfilled promises of postwar society began to question the idea that “the good life” demanded the continued development of the places in which they lived. Over the decades that followed, a constellation of loosely related citizen efforts to guide, limit, or reverse the course of metropolitan growth coalesced into a powerful movement uniting voters, activists, intellectuals, and politicians who once had little in common. By the late twentieth century, their work had produced a new antigrowth liberalism that appealed to disillusioned New Dealers, lapsed leftists, and moderates abandoning the Republican Party. This new generation of Democrats was much more skeptical of—and in many cases downright hostile toward—not only urban growth itself, but also the idea that such growth was in any way compatible with liberalism as they now defined it. Showing how debates about urban growth were central to the process by which the fragile social order of the twentieth century gave way to the fractious politics of the twenty-first, Cities of Amber offers a new understanding of the thing that we call “liberalism,” the influence of local politics in its creation, and its role in making modern American society.

Awards and Honors

•   History Prize Instructorship, Harvard University History Department, Spring 2023.

•   Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize for excellence in the art of teaching (2x), Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, 2022 and 2023.

•   Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University, Spring 2021.

•   Raymond J. Cunningham Prize, American Historical Association, for best article published in an undergraduate history journal, awarded to “The South Shall Ride Again: The Origins of MARTA and the Making of the Urban South,” 2014.

•   Writing contest winner for a model essay in the discipline of history, Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, Yale University, awarded to “In the Fold of America: Immigration Politics in the Alien and Sedition Era,” 2013.

Professional Experience

Courses taught:

  • HIST 15J, “Suburban Wars: The American Suburb in the Twentieth Century,” Spring 2023, Harvard University (as instructor of record).
  • HIST 97H, “What Is Urban History?”, Spring 2021, Harvard University (instructor of record: Prof. Lizabeth Cohen).
  • HIST 97H, “What Is Urban History?”, Spring 2019, Harvard University (instructor of record: Prof. Elizabeth Hinton).
  • HIST 60O, “American Indian History in Four Acts” Fall 2018, Harvard University (instructor of record: Prof. Philip J. Deloria).​


  • American Historical Association
  • Organization of American Historians
  • Society for American City and Regional Planning History
  • Urban History Association


Academic publications:


Selected writing for popular audiences: