Heidi Jane Smith, Ph.D.


Universidad Iberoamericana A.C.

Phone: +52 (55) 5950-4000 y 9177-4400 ext 4758

Address: Prolongación Paseo de Reforma 880, Lomas de Santa Fe

City: Ciudad de México. - 01219

Country: Mexico

About Me:

Heidi Jane Smith is a professor in the Economics Department at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City.  She has Ph.D. in Public Affairs from Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Masters in Public Policy from American University in Washington, DC and a BA in Political Science, Spanish and Latin American Studies from the University of Wisconsin (Madison). Dr. Smith has extensive experience working with local and regional governments in Latin America as a consultant (the World Bank, IDB, OAS, OECD) and serving in the U.S. government working both at the US Department of State’s Economic Policy office for Western Hemisphere Affairs (2009-2012) and at the Inter-American Foundation (2001-2007).  Since 2010, working as a Fulbright-García Robles fellow, Dr. Smith has lived in Mexico City.   She has taught research methods, political economy and public policy. Dr. Smith’s research focuses on expanding capital markets, comparative public finance of subnational debt, local policy decision making and the concept of social equity in developing countries in particular in Mexico, but also in Korea and China.  This research has been published in English, French and Spanish in journals such as World Development, Public Administration Review, Governance, International Review of Administrative Science, among many other academic outlets. For example, the chapter defining Paradiplomacy in the Oxford Dictionary for Global and Transnational Policy (January 2019). The World Bank’s Urban Unit and the IDB’s Fiscal and Municipal Management Division have supported her research. In the fall of 2016, the Mexican National Research System CONACyT nominated her to the 2nd level (SNI II) for her academic production.

Research Interests

Public Administration

Latin American And Caribbean Politics

Foreign Aid

Political Economy


Municipal Debt Policy

Fiscal Policy Coordination

Federalism, Regionalism, Decentralization

Urban Development

Social Equity

Countries of Interest


United States



South Korea

My Research:

Currently Dr. Smith is preparing a book manuscript using a political economy framework to describe how the municipal bond market was created in Mexico. The book project offers a unique case with the Mexican government offering not only private sector commercial loans, but also developing a local bond market, trusts, and serving the more peripheral municipalities with a public sector bond bank called BANOBRAS. With the plethora of options, the research has found information asymmetries of public officials unable to determine which financial instrument is more efficient and economically viable thus increasing the amount of subnational debt. This research adds to the literature established by Alesina and Tabelllini (1990) Ter-Minassinan (1997) and Rodden (2002) which debate separately how to create harder budget constraints and control of subnational debt. Yet, the fast and expedient growth of the market has outpaced the ability of the Mexican government to create sufficient regulation.


Journal Articles:

(2019) Administrative Structure, Financial Sustainability, and Local Capital Markets: A Comparison Between Mexico, South Korea, China and US,, Journal of International Public Administration

This study explores the financial sustainability of subnational governments in four different countries. Scholars argue that subnational fiscal capacity helps local governments deliver better public services and provide public goods, which in turn helps to promote economic growth. While administrative control by the central governments contributes to reducing moral hazard from the soft budget constraints, bottom-up strategies to manage fiscal profligacy also need attention. The study first provides understanding about the characteristics of central-local governance and management of subnational government debt of each country. Then, we test our hypotheses regarding local fiscal capacity and administrative control, including political-economic factors that may affect debt spending by local governments. Our findings show that subnational fiscal sustainability improves when the central governments have clear rules to intergovernmental transfers in place and more (market) liberal policies, meanwhile when subnational governments have a more fiscal capacity and less intergovernmental transfers they are able to manage their debt more soundly.

(2017) US Sub-national Governmental Response to the “Great Recession”: Implications for the Equitable Distribution of the Costs and Benefits of Public Services, International Review of Administrative Sciences

Experts suggest that when faced with fiscal stress public managers can engage in three coping practices: an actual cutback in services, expansion of existing financial resources, or reduction in workforce. During the Great Recession (2007–2012), US subnational governments utilized all three of these practices. The purpose of this article is to identify coping mechanisms used by state and local governments to respond to the Great Recession and identify approaches to minimize the negative and disproportionate impact of these actions on women, minorities, and the economically disadvantaged. The authors provide specific examples of tactics employed by US subnational governments in response to fiscal stress and evaluate the equity of their consequences on the distribution of goods and services. A review of the concept of social equity, its related literature, and an analysis of the disparate impact of coping practices on underrepresented groups is provided. Finally, the article presents mitigating strategies in order to reduce the regressive impact of these coping practices on the vulnerable populations.

(2016) Micro-Incentives and Municipal Behavior: Political Decentralization and Fiscal Federalism in Argentina and Mexico, World Development

This article analyzes the mixed results of political and fiscal decentralization in Latin America by comparing taxing and spending policies in six cities in Argentina and Mexico. Consistent with previous studies, we find that decentralization has been frustrated by over-concentration of power at the provincial level and large vertical fiscal imbalances, though we characterize these as functional elements in a system of redistributive policy-making that benefits a wide array of provincial and municipal actors. We seek to add a new dimension to the literature by arguing that micro-level incentives (conditions and circumstances particular to specific places) are more important determinants of municipal behavior than macro-level structures (those policy and institutional changes intended to make officials more responsive to local conditions – federalism, local elections, intergovernmental transfers, and own-source revenues). We conclude that the theory of decentralization relies on a flawed conception of the causal mechanisms that are hypothesized to create responsiveness in local officials.

(2016) What encourages Cities to become Sustainable? Measuring the effectiveness of implementing local adaptation policies,, Journal of International Public Administration

This research seeks to understand which essential characteristics are necessary to drive municipal governments to adopt smart growth measures. By testing previously expected outcomes for why a local government would adopt a particular policy, we find an inherent need to create strong needs-based policies promoted by interest groups. We conducted a principal component analysis and a linear regression model to test several hypotheses. A discussion of this analysis is provided along with policy recommendations to explain why and when metropolitan areas use sustainability plans and how to encourage more to do so.

Media Appearances:

TV Appearances:

(2018) EfectoTV

As part of the new placement of the US Ambassador EfectoTV did an extensive interview on April 28, 2018. Coverage of US policy in the Mexico election, Radio Ibero invited my participation on several occasion in May and June 2018. On June 19, I testified to the Mexican Congress as part of the outgoing senators, the consequences of the National Financial Disciple law that was created in 2016 as part of a book initiative on public policy in Mexico with the Instituto Belisario Dominguez and Department of Economics at Iberoamericana. On September 2, I was again invited to present at Radio Ibero 90.9 on the final report by the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. December 1 Inauguration day in Mexico, I discussed the new assignment of the President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for Radio Ibero 90.9.

(2016) EfectoTV ; ForoTV

As part of US 2016 elections cycle, I participated in the Spanish cable television program EfectoTV to discuss the Democratic Convention (July 25-28); post-debate outcomes (September 26, October 4 and 9); and finally on the day of the election at various venues including: ForoTV program in the morning, Radio Ibero 90.9 in the afternoon and twice more in the radio of the Tec de Monterrey, on the 8th and November 9. Revista Expansión published an opinion of mine in "Trump won the elections ... what's in your pocket?" on November 9. In addition, on October 27, the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) invited me to talk about the US election. Finally, the Movimiento Ciudadano party invited me to speak at the Chamber of Deputies in the forum "Demolishing that Wall" on October 3, 2016.

Newspaper Quotes:

(2019) Animal Político

¿Balazo en el pie? Aumento de aranceles de Trump afectarán más a consumidores en EU

(2019) cuestione.com

¿Nos afecta que bajen calificación a Pemex? Pensarías que no, pero… todo indica que sí

(2016) expansion.mx

Trump ganó las elecciones... ¿qué le depara a tu bolsillo?Advice,