Karen Jacobsen

Henry J. Leir Professor of Global Migration

  • PhD, Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • MA, Political Science, Northeastern University
  • BA, University of Witwatersrand


Karen Jacobsen is the Henry J. Leir Professor of Global Migration at the Fletcher School and the Friedman School of Nutrition, and directs the Refugees and Forced Migration Program at the Feinstein International Center. Professor Jacobsen’s current research explores urban displacement and global migration systems, with a focus on the livelihoods and financial resilience of migrants and refugees. In 2013-2014 she was on leave from Tufts, leading the Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS) in Geneva. From 2000-2005, she directed the Alchemy Project, which explored the use of microfinance as a way to support people in refugee camps and other displacement settings. Professor Jacobsen’s publications include "A View from Below: Conducting Research in Conflict Zones," (with Mazurana and Gale), and "The Economic Life of Refugees" (2005), which is widely used in courses on forced migration. She is a citizen of both South Africa and the U.S., and lives in Brookline with her son and two dogs.

Professional Activities
  • Consultant for UNHCR, World Bank and NGOs
  • Coordinator, Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS), Gevena (2013-14)
  • Assistant Professor, Regis College (1995-99)

  • Institute for Human Security
  • International Association for the Study of Forced Migration

Research Interests
  • Refugee and migration issues
  • Field methods, Africa
  • Humanitarian assistance, livelihoods in complex emergencies
  • Developing countries

• Karen Jacobsen and Susan Fratzke, “Building Livelihoods Opportunities for Refugee Populations”, TransAtlantic Council on Migration and Migration Policy Institute. 2016.
• Karen Jacobsen, Maysa Ayoub & Alice Johnson, “Remittances to Transition Countries: Sudanese refugee livelihoods in Cairo,” Journal of Refugee Studies 27 (1): 145-159 (2014)
• Helen Young and Karen Jacobsen, "No way back? Adaptation and urbanization of IDP livelihoods in the Darfur region of Sudan," Development and Change, 44(1) 2012.
Rebecca Furst Nichols and Karen Jacobsen, “African Migration to Israel: Debt, Employment and Remittances,” Forced Migration Review, 2011.
• Anne Davies and Karen Jacobsen. ‘Profiling urban IDPs’. Forced Migration Review, 2010.
• “Introduction: Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Urban Areas: A Livelihoods Perspective” Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol. 19 (3): 273-286. June 2006.
• Karen Jacobsen and Loren B. Landau. 2003. “The Dual Imperative in Refugee Research: Some Methodological and Ethical Considerations in Social Science Research on Forced Migration,” Disasters, Vol. 27(3) September. Pp. 185-206.
• “Livelihoods in Conflict: the Pursuit of Livelihoods by Refugees and the Impact on the Human Security of Host Communities,” International Migration, Volume 40(5), Special Issue 2. pp. 95-124. 2002.
• “Can refugees benefit the state? Refugee resources and African statebuilding ,” Journal of Modern African Studies, 40(4). 2002 pp. 577-596.
• "Factors Influencing the Policy Responses of Host Governments to Mass Refugee Influxes," International Migration Review, Vol. XXX, No. 3, Fall 1996.

• D. Mazurana, K. Jacobsen and L. Gale (eds.) A View from Below: Conducting Research in Conflict Zones. Cambridge University Press. 2013.
• Jacobsen, Karen. The Economic Life of Refugees. Kumarian Press, 2005.

• “Livelihoods and Economics in Forced Migration” The Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, Oxford University Press. 2014.
• Karen Jacobsen, “Profiling Urban IDPs: How IDPs differ from their non-IDP neighbors in three cities.” The Migration-Displacement Nexus: Patterns, Processes, and Policies, Edited by Khalid Koser and Susan Martin, Berghahn, 2012.
• Karen Jacobsen, “Refugees and Poverty” Refugees Worldwide, Editors: Uma A. Segal and Doreen Elliott. Praeger, 2012
• Karen Jacobsen, “The economic security of refugees and IDPs: social capital, remittances and humanitarian assistance,” Global Challenges: Migration, edited by Kavita Khoury, Palgrave/MacMillan, 2012.
• Karen Jacobsen, H. Young and A. Osman, “Refugees and IDPs in Peacemaking Processes” Contemporary Peacemaking: Conflict, Peace Processes and Post-war Reconstruction. 2nd Edition. Edited by John Darby and Roger Mac Ginty. Palgrave 2008



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