Meet our fellows

Fellows and alumni

Each year 8-12 new Doctoral Fellows are selected from Harvard's Ph.D. programs in the social sciences.
Meet the 2016-2017 fellows ▶

Over 165 Inequality doctoral fellows have earned their Ph.D.'s.
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New fellowship opportunities

for Harvard Ph.D. students 

The Inequality and Wealth Concentration Ph.D. Scholars
The Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Ph.D. Scholars in Poverty and Justice

Fellowship awards
$32,000 dissertation stipend + $5,000 research funds

New lines of research
Top-end income inequality and wealth concentration

A distinctive new component will be a coordinated endeavor to advance new lines of research on top-end inequality and wealth concentration, the main drivers of U.S. economic inequality in recent decades.

With designated resources for Ph.D. students pursuing empirical research that will contribute to our understanding the nature of trends at the top of the distribution and their economic, political, social, and policy consequences.

Deadline for 2016-2017 Ph.D. Scholars has now passed.
Look for 2017-2018 application materials in March 2017.

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Seminar and events


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Simon Jaeger

Simon Jäger: Upjohn Insitute 2016 Dissertation Award

October 17, 2016

Simon Jäger (Ph.D. in Economics, '16) has been awarded the Upjohn Institute's 2016 Dissertation Award for best dissertation in employment research. Jäger, currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute on Behavior and Inequality (briq) in Bonn, joins the MIT faculty as Assistant Professor of Economics in July 2017.

How to Hire with Algorithms

How to Hire with Algorithms

October 17, 2016

Harvard Business Review |  By Oren Danieli (Ph.D. candidate in Business Economics), Andrew Hillis, and Michael Luca (Assistant Professor of Business Administration). Algorithms have the potential to improve hiring and promotion decisions, the authors argue, but need to be managed.

"We explored that potential in a recent study (American Economic Review, May 2016) on selecting teachers and policemen. We used machine learning algorithms to transform data about teacher and police characteristics – for example, educational background, surveys, and test performance – into predictions about their likely performance in the future. Our results demonstrate that students and communities alike could benefit from a more data-driven selection process. Algorithms can help with some of the nation’s most challenging personnel issues. For example, the data suggest that police departments can predict, at the time of hire, which officers are most likely to be involved in a shooting or accused of abuse."
View the research

Who Are Immigration's Winners and Losers?

Who Are Immigration's Winners and Losers?

October 17, 2016

WBUR—Radio Boston | Both major party candidates have staked claims on the impact of immigration on the U.S. Harvard economist George Borjas says each side of the debate is ignoring key points about the economic impacts of immigration. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, is the author of We Wanted Workers: Unraveling the Immigration Narrative, published this month by W.W. Norton and Company.

Event video: Race and Justice in the Age of Obama

Event video: Race and Justice in the Age of Obama

October 12, 2016

Harvard IOP | Panelists Paul Monteiro, Acting Director of Community Relations Service at the U.S. Department of Justice; Brittany Packnett, Vice President of National Communities Alliances, Teach for America and Co-founder of Campaign Zero; and Avik Roy, President of The Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity and Editor of Forbes Opinion join moderator Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, for a John F. Kennedy, Jr. Forum event. Opening remarks by Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School. Co-sponsored by the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

A Prize Worth Celebrating

A Prize Worth Celebrating

October 9, 2016

Wall Street Journal | By Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics. In his review of “The Nobel Factor," Glaeser argues that "the best role for the Nobel Prize in economics is not to advance an ideology but rather to reinforce the requirement that economists should play by the same rules as scientists. "

Tax Me. Please.

Tax Me. Please.

October 8, 2016

The New York Times | By Vanessa Williamson (Ph.D. '15), fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. "Asked what bothers them most about taxes, Americans overwhelmingly say the feeling that the wealthy and corporations are not paying their fair share. This is the top issue for nearly two-thirds of Americans. In contrast, 8 percent of Americans say that their biggest concern is the amount they personally pay in taxes. What upsets most people about taxes is not the amount they contribute. They are angry about the amount that the wealthy can avoid contributing."

Sending Potatoes to Idaho? How the Free Market Can Fight Poverty

Sending Potatoes to Idaho? How the Free Market Can Fight Poverty

October 7, 2016

The New York Times | By Sendhil Mullainathan, Robert C. Waggoner Professor of Economics. "It turns out that when you analyze objections to free markets on these grounds, they contain two basic issues: First, goods go to the highest bidder; second, bidders possess different amounts of wealth. Disentangling these two factors is important. When markets produce outcomes that seem unfair, it is usually the second factor — the wealth disparity — that is to blame. Place bidders on an equal footing and the superior efficiency of the market becomes evident."

More news


Effects of a Summer Mathematics Intervention for Low-Income Children: A Randomized Experiment
Lynch, Kathleen, and James S. Kim. Forthcoming. “Effects of a Summer Mathematics Intervention for Low-Income Children: A Randomized Experiment.” Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis.Abstract

Prior research suggests that summer learning loss among low-income children contributes to income-based gaps in achievement and educational attainment. We present results from a randomized experiment of a summer mathematics program conducted in a large, high-poverty urban public school district. Children in the third to ninth grade (N = 263) were randomly assigned to an offer of an online summer mathematics program, the same program plus a free laptop computer, or the control group. Being randomly assigned to the program plus laptop condition caused children to experience significantly higher reported levels of summer home mathematics engagement relative to their peers in the control group. Treatment and control children performed similarly on distal measures of academic achievement. We discuss implications for future research.

The Racial Ecology of Lead Poisoning: Toxic Inequality in Chicago Neighborhoods, 1995-2013
Sampson, Robert J., and Alix S. Winter. Forthcoming. “The Racial Ecology of Lead Poisoning: Toxic Inequality in Chicago Neighborhoods, 1995-2013.” Du Bois Review 13 (2): 1-23.Abstract

This paper examines the racial ecology of lead exposure as a form of environmental inequity, one with both historical and contemporary significance. Drawing on comprehensive data from over one million blood tests administered to Chicago children from 1995-2013 and matched to over 2300 geographic block groups, we address two major questions: (1) What is the nature of the relationship between neighborhood-level racial composition and variability in children’s elevated lead prevalence levels? And (2) what is the nature of the relationship between neighborhood-level racial composition and rates of change in children’s prevalence levels over time within neighborhoods? We further assess an array of structural explanations for observed racial disparities, including socioeconomic status, type and age of housing, proximity to freeways and smelting plants, and systematic observations of housing decay and neighborhood disorder. Overall, our theoretical framework posits lead toxicity as a major environmental pathway through which racial segregation has contributed to the legacy of Black disadvantage in the United States. Our findings support this hypothesis and show alarming racial disparities in toxic exposure, even after accounting for possible structural explanations. At the same time, however, our longitudinal results show the power of public health policies to reduce racial inequities.

Concentrated Foreclosure Activity and Distressed Properties in New York City
Perkins, Kristin L., Michael J. Lear, and Elyzabeth Gaumer. Forthcoming. “Concentrated Foreclosure Activity and Distressed Properties in New York City.” Urban Affairs Review.Abstract

Recent research suggests that foreclosures have negative effects on homeowners and neighborhoods. We examine the association between concentrated foreclosure activity and the risk of a property with a foreclosure filing being scheduled for foreclosure auction in New York City. Controlling for individual property and sociodemographic characteristics of the neighborhood, being located in a tract with a high number of auctions following the subject property’s own foreclosure filing is associated with a significantly higher probability of scheduled foreclosure auction for the subject property. Concentration of foreclosure filings prior to the subject property’s own foreclosure filing is associated with a lower probability of scheduled foreclosure auction. Concentrated foreclosure auctions in the tract prior to a subject property’s own filing is not significantly associated with the probability of scheduled foreclosure auction. The implications for geographic targeting of foreclosure policy interventions are discussed.

Network Effects in Mexico—U.S. Migration: Disentangling the Underlying Social Mechanisms
Garip, Filiz, and Asad L. Asad. Forthcoming. “Network Effects in Mexico—U.S. Migration: Disentangling the Underlying Social Mechanisms.” American Behavioral Scientist.Abstract

Scholars have long noted how migration streams, once initiated, obtain a self-feeding character. Studies have connected this phenomenon, called the cumulative causation of migration, to expanding social networks that link migrants in destination to individuals in origin. While extant research has established a positive association between individuals’ ties to prior migrants and their migration propensities, seldom have researchers interrogated how multiple social mechanisms—as well as exposure to common environmental factors—might account for these interdependencies. This article uses a mixed-methods strategy to identify the social mechanisms underlying the network effects in Mexico–U.S. migration. Three types of social mechanisms are identified, which all lead to network effects: (a) social facilitation, which is at work when network peers such as family or community members provide useful information or help that reduces the costs or increases the benefits of migration; (b) normative influence, which operates when network peers offer social rewards or impose sanctions to encourage or discourage migration; and (c) network externalities, which are at work when prior migrants generate a pool of common resources that increase the value or reduce the costs of migration for potential migrants. The authors first use large-sample survey data from the Mexican Migration Project to establish the presence of network effects and then rely on 138 in-depth interviews with migrants and their family members in Mexico to identify the social mechanisms underlying these network effects. The authors thus provide a deeper understanding of migration as a social process, which they argue is crucial for anticipating and responding to future flows.

Getting 'What Works' working: Building blocks for the integration of experimental and improvement science
Peterson, Amelia. Forthcoming. “Getting 'What Works' working: Building blocks for the integration of experimental and improvement science.” International Journal of Research and Method in Education.Abstract

As a systemic approach to improving educational practice through research, ‘What Works’ has come under repeated challenge from alternative approaches, most recently that of improvement science. While ‘What Works’ remains a dominant paradigm for centralized knowledge-building efforts, there is need to understand why this alternative has gained support, and what it can contribute. I set out how the core elements of experimental and improvement science can be combined into a strategy to raise educational achievement with the support of evidence from randomized experiments. Central to this combined effort is a focus on identifying and testing mechanisms for improving teaching and learning, as applications of principles from the learning sciences. This article builds on current efforts to strengthen approaches to evidence-based practice and policy in a range of international contexts. It provides a foundation for those who aim to avoid another paradigm war and to accelerate international discussions on the design of systemic education research infrastructure and funding.

Intergroup Behavioral Strategies as Contextually Determined: Experimental Evidence from Israel
Enos, Ryan D., and Noam Gidron. Forthcoming. “Intergroup Behavioral Strategies as Contextually Determined: Experimental Evidence from Israel .” Journal of Politics. Supporting information: Online appendixAbstract

Why are the negative effects of social diversity more pronounced in some places than in others? What are the mechanisms underlying the relationship between diversity and discriminatory behaviors and why do they vary in prevalence and strength across locations? Experimental research has made advances in examining these questions by testing for differences in behavior when interacting with individuals from different groups. At the same time, research in American and comparative politics has demonstrated that attitudes toward other groups are a function of context. Uniting these two lines of research, we show that discriminatory behaviors are strongly conditioned by the ways in which groups are organized in space. We examine this claim in the context of intra-Jewish conflict in Israel, using original data compiled through multi-site lab-in-the-field experiments and survey responses collected across 20 locations.

Citizens Coerced: A Legislative Fix for Workplace Political Intimidation Post-Citizens United
Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander, and Paul Secunda. 2016. “Citizens Coerced: A Legislative Fix for Workplace Political Intimidation Post-Citizens United.” UCLA Law Review 64 (2).Abstract

This Essay examines the growing threat of workplace political coercion, such as when employers attempt to threaten or coerce their workers into supporting firm-favored issues, policies, or political candidates. We describe, for the first time, the prevalence of such coercion, and propose a relatively straightforward legislative fix that would protect private-sector workers from the risk of political intimidation from their employers.

This Essay responds to an earlier piece published by Professor Secunda in the YLJ Forum that described how the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FECopened up the possibility for employers to hold mandatory “captive audience” meetings for workers, in which managers could endorse candidates for elected office. Managers, Secunda noted, could discipline workers who refused to participate in such firm-sponsored partisan activities. Accordingly, Secunda recommended federal legislation that would ban the use of mandatory political meetings in the private sector.

At the time that Secunda’s Essay was published, however, we lacked any systematic evidence of the prevalence or characteristics of employer political coercion in the American workforce, and so his recommendations could not be tailored to the specifics of employer political recruitment. New survey research from an ongoing academic project from Mr. Hertel-Fernandez, however, has provided precisely that information, documenting the extent to which workers have experienced political coercion from their employers. Our present Essay summarizes that survey evidence, using the empirical data to craft a bipartisan policy proposal that would address employer political coercion in the private sector by adding political opinions and beliefs to the list of protected classes in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Lastly, we draw on survey research to describe why this proposal could attract bipartisan political support.

How Judges Think About Racial Disparities: Situational Decision-Making in the Criminal Justice System
Clair, Matthew, and Alix S. Winter. 2016. “How Judges Think About Racial Disparities: Situational Decision-Making in the Criminal Justice System.” Criminology 54 (2): 332-359.Abstract

Researchers have theorized how judges’ decision-making may result in the disproportionate presence of Blacks and Latinos in the criminal justice system. Yet, we have little evidence about how judges make sense of these disparities and what, if anything, they do to address them. By drawing on 59 interviews with state judges in a Northeastern state, we describe, and trace the implications of, judges’ understandings of racial disparities at arraignment, plea hearings, jury selection, and sentencing. Most judges in our sample attribute disparities, in part, to differential treatment by themselves and/or other criminal justice officials, whereas some judges attribute disparities only to the disparate impact of poverty and differences in offending rates. To address disparities, judges report employing two categories of strategies: noninterventionist and interventionist. Noninterventionist strategies concern only a judge's own differential treatment, whereas interventionist strategies concern other actors’ possible differential treatment, as well as the disparate impact of poverty and facially neutral laws. We reveal how the use of noninterventionist strategies by most judges unintentionally reproduces disparities. Through our examination of judges’ understandings of racial disparities throughout the court process, we enhance understandings of American racial inequality and theorize a situational approach to decision-making in organizational contexts.

Are Landlords Overcharging Housing Voucher Holders?
Desmond, Matthew, and Kristin L. Perkins. 2016. “Are Landlords Overcharging Housing Voucher Holders?.” City and Community 15 (2): 137-162.Abstract

The structure of rental markets coupled with the design of the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP), the largest federal housing subsidy for low-income families in the United States, provides the opportunity to overcharge voucher holders. Applying hedonic regression models to a unique data set of Milwaukee renters combined with administrative records, we find that vouchered households are charged between $51 and $68 more in monthly rent than unassisted renters in comparable units and neighborhoods. Overcharging voucher holders costs taxpayers an estimated $3.8 million each year in Milwaukee alone, the equivalent of supplying 620 additional families in that city with housing assistance. These findings suggest that the HCVP could be made more cost-effective—and therefore more expansive—if overcharging were prevented.

The Populist Style in American Politics: Presidential Campaign Rhetoric, 1952-1996
Bonikowski, Bart, and Noam Gidron. 2016. “The Populist Style in American Politics: Presidential Campaign Rhetoric, 1952-1996.” Social Forces 94 (4): 1593-1621.Abstract

This paper examines populist claims-making in US presidential elections. We define populism as a discursive strategy that juxtaposes the virtuous populace with a corrupt elite and views the former as the sole legitimate source of political power. In contrast to past research, we argue that populism is best operationalized as an attribute of political claims rather than a stable ideological property of political actors. This analytical strategy allows us to systematically measure how the use of populism is affected by a variety of contextual factors. Our empirical case consists of 2,406 speeches given by American presidential candidates between 1952 and 1996, which we code using automated text analysis. Populism is shown to be a common feature of presidential politics among both Democrats and Republicans, but its prevalence varies with candidates' relative positions in the political field. In particular, we demonstrate that the probability of a candidate's reliance on populist claims is directly proportional to his distance from the center of power (in this case, the presidency). This suggests that populism is primarily a strategic tool of political challengers, and particularly those who have legitimate claims to outsider status. By examining temporal changes in populist claims-making on the political left and right, its variation across geographic regions and field positions, and the changing content of populist frames, our paper contributes to the debate on populism in modern democracies, while integrating field theory with the study of institutional politics.