Jennifer McDonald

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Senior Research Analyst


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Jennifer McDonald is a senior research analyst at the Institute for Justice, where she conducts original social science research as part of the strategic research team.

Her research is featured in Flour Power: How Cottage Food Entrepreneurs Are Using Their Home Kitchens to Become Their Own Bosses,  License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing (2nd ed.), Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture (2nd ed.), and Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability: State-by-State and Federal Report Cards. Prior to joining IJ, McDonald worked in California politics. She holds a Master of Public Administration, with emphases on management and economic policy, from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a bachelor’s degree in history with a political science minor from California State University San Marcos.

In the News

Research and Reports

  • December 10, 2018    |    Strategic Research

    Forfeiture in Arizona

    An Institute for Justice Analysis of FY2018 Reporting Data

    In 2017, Arizona adopted incremental but important bipartisan reforms of the state’s civil forfeiture system. These reforms included new transparency requirements for forfeiture, obliging agencies to report the value, type and date of a property seizure, whether any criminal charges were filed, and the final disposition of the seized property. This reporting reform was designed…

  • December 7, 2018    |    Strategic Research

    Civil Forfeiture, Crime Fighting and Safeguards for the Innocent

    An Analysis of Department of Justice Forfeiture Data

    In 2017, the Department of Justice revived a controversial federal forfeiture program the previous administration had sharply curtailed. In defense of these “adoptive forfeitures” or “adoptions,” as well as of civil forfeiture in general, the DOJ claims that 1) civil forfeiture overwhelmingly targets criminals, not innocents, and is thus a valuable crime-fighting tool and 2)…

  • November 15, 2018    |    Strategic Research

    Ready to Roll

    Nine Lessons from Ending Wisconsin's Home-Baking Ban

    Most states have “cottage food laws,” which regulate the sale of homemade foods. The specifics vary from state to state, but most such laws restrict the types of homemade foods that may be sold. Research suggests such restrictions may hinder entrepreneurship. Now, a recent change in Wisconsin law provides an opportunity to examine what it…

  • December 7, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Flour Power

    How Cottage Food Entrepreneurs Are Using Their Home Kitchens to Become Their Own Bosses

    All across the country, thousands of Americans are making food at home to sell in their communities. Together, they form the small but growing “cottage food” industry. With renewed interest in this age-old industry, laws are being made with little understanding of cottage food producers and their businesses. This first-of-its-kind study surveyed 775 cottage food…

  • December 5, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Finding the American Dream at Home

    How Home-Based Businesses Benefit Entrepreneurs and Their Communities

    Across the country, millions of enterprising people are running businesses out of their homes. This report outlines the myriad benefits of home-based businesses and suggests that government regulations curtailing them are short-sighted. It details how home-based businesses make entrepreneurship possible for people of all different backgrounds and socio-economic circumstances, all while making meaningful contributions to…

  • November 13, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Today, more Americans than ever must get a government permission slip before they can earn an honest living, thanks to the spread of occupational licensing laws. Licensing laws now guard entry into hundreds of occupations, including jobs that offer upward mobility to those of modest means, such as cosmetologist, auctioneer, athletic trainer and landscape contractor.…

  • January 16, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Every year, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies across the United States seize and keep billions of dollars in cash, cars, homes and other property using a legal tool called forfeiture. Criminal forfeiture requires that prosecutors prove people are guilty by securing a conviction before forfeiting their property as part of their punishment. But…

  • November 10, 2015    |    Strategic Research

    Policing for Profit

    The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture: 2nd Edition

    Civil forfeiture laws pose some of the greatest threats to property rights in the nation today, too often making it easy and lucrative for law enforcement to take and keep property—regardless of the owner’s guilt or innocence. This updated and expanded second edition of Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture makes the…

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