Karen Jacobsen

Karen Jacobsen

(617) 627-5321
Research/Areas of Interest: My research focuses on migration and displacement in developing countries, mainly in Africa and the Middle East. I focus on the experience, rights, vulnerability and resilience of forced migrants both in camps and in urban settings, and the policy and program responses developed by governments and international agencies towards refugees and internally displaced people. Two major areas of my work are the household economic and financial security of displaced people, and urban migration. .


  • Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States, 1992
  • SM, Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, United States, 1988
  • MA, Sociology, Northeastern University, Boston, United States, 1985
  • Bachelor of Art, Political Science and English, University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, 1979


Karen Jacobsen is the Henry J. Leir Professor in Global Migration and the Associate Dean of Research at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University,. Professor Jacobsen's current research explores urban displacement and global migration, with a focus on the livelihoods and financial resilience of migrants and refugees, and on climate- and environment-related mobility. She directs the Refugees in Towns Project at the Leir Institute for Migration and Human Security. In 2013-2014, she was on leave from Tufts, leading the Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS) at United Nations in Geneva. From 2000-2005, she directed the Alchemy Project, which explored the use of microfinance to support people in refugee camps.

Prof. Jacobsen's Ph.D. in Political Science is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her areas of expertise include refugee and migration issues, humanitarian assistance in developing countries, urban impact, and climate change and migration. She is currently at work on a book that examines the impact of displacement on cities. Her previous books include: Handbook of Forced Migration (Edward Elgar, 2023); A View from Below: Conducting Research in Conflict Zones (with Mazurana and Gale, Cambridge UP 2013 ); and The Economic Life of Refugees (Lynne Rienner, 2005). She consults and works closely with UNHCR and other UN agencies and international NGOs. She is a citizen of both South Africa and the U.S., and splits her time between Brookline, MA and western Maine.
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