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.
See where they are now ▶

Spotlight Ph.D. fellows

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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Get application materials

Seminar and events


Remembering Tony Atkinson


Brookings forum on public investment

Larry Summers v. Edward Glaeser: Two Harvard economists debate increased infrastructure investments

January 18, 2017

Brookings Institution | As politicians debate the merits of increased federal spending on infrastructure, the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy asked two prominent economists—Harvard University’s Lawrence Summers and Edward Glaeser—about the economic case for stepped-up infrastructure spending and their thoughts on how to spend any additional money most wisely. Here are the highlights of the conversation. (Read more)

Leah Wright Rigueur on ABC Nightline

How Donald Trump Has Used Twitter as Bully Pulpit

January 18, 2017

ABC News Nightline | Features Leah Wright Rigueur of the Harvard Kennedy School: "If we have a president who's blocking all access and trying to discredit the press, we don't have people who are holding the President's feet to the fire."

Khalil Gibran Muhammad at Bates College, MLK Day 2017

Khalil Gibran Muhammad: 'No Reparation without Racial Education'

January 16, 2017

Bangor Daily News | "Americans who fail to acknowledge the role racism has played in shaping U.S. history and culture miss the true legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., scholar and author Khalil Gibran Muhammad said in Maine on Monday."

Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, was at Bates College on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to deliver his keynote address, "No Reparation without Racial Education: Martin Luther King on the Tyranny of Ignorance," as part of the Bates College program "Reparations: Addressing Racial Injustices."

Carrie Conaway

President Obama announces appointment of Carrie Conaway to National Board of Education Sciences

January 13, 2017

President Barack Obama announced the appointment of alumna Carrie Conaway to the 15-member National Board for Education Sciences. "This is fabulous news," wrote Susan Dynarski, Professor of Public Policy, Education, and Economics at the University of Michigan, commenting on the appointment on Twitter. "Conaway has helped put Massachusetts on its path of research-driven, educational excellence."

Conaway is Associate Commissioner of Planning and Research for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

health care

Do Markets Work in Health Care?

January 13, 2017

The New York Times | David Brooks column cites research by Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy (joint with Amy Finkelstein of MIT, Adam Sacarny of Columbia, and Chad Syverson of Chicago Booth), summarized in their recent piece in Harvard Business Review, "Perhaps Market Forces Do Work in Health Care After All."

Yet, as Chandra pointed out, in other work, he and colleagues also found that people struggle to be good 'consumers'  with high-deductible health plans, contrary to his expectation before conducting the research. That study (joint with Zarek Brot-Goldberg, Benjamin Handel, and Jonathan Holstad, all of UC Berkeley) was the subject of Margot Sanger-Katz column in The New York Times last year.

Amazon workers

Amazon to Add 100,000 Jobs as Bricks-and-Mortar Retail Crumbles

January 12, 2017

The New York Times | "The rise of automation...has prompted an intense debate among economists and some policy makers about just what society and especially government owes these workers. One place to start, [Harvard economist] Lawrence Katz said, would be for the government to provide more funding for retraining and also develop a wage insurance program to cover differences in salaries as workers migrate to new, lower-paid jobs from disappearing, higher-paid ones."

More news


Derenoncourt, Ellora. Forthcoming. “TBA.” After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality, edited by Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong, and Marshall Steinbaum. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Greenberg, Claire, Marc Meredith, and Michael Morse. Forthcoming. “The Growing and Broad Nature of Legal Financial Obligations: Evidence from Court Records in Alabama.” Connecticut Law Review 48 (4).Abstract

In 2010, Harriet Cleveland was imprisoned in Montgomery, Alabama for failing to pay thousands of dollars in fines and fees stemming from routine traffic violations. More than thirty years after a series of Supreme Court rulings outlawed debtor's prisons, Ms. Cleveland's case brought national attention to both the sheer amount of lega lfinancial obligations (LFOs) that could be accrued, even in cases without a criminal conviction, and the potential consequences of non-payment. But it has been nearly impossible to know how common Ms. Cleveland's experience is because of a general lack of individual-level data on the incidence and payback of LFOs, particularly for non-felonies. 

In this vein, we gather about two hundred thousand court records from Alabama over the last two decades to perform the most comprehensive exploration of the assessments and payback of LFOs to date across an entire state. Consistent with conventional wisdom, we demonstrate that the median LFOs attached to a case with a felony conviction nearly doubled between 1995 and 2005, after which it has remained roughly steady. But a felony-centric view of criminal justice underestimates the extent of increasing LFOs in the United States. Our systematic comparison of LFOs in felony, misdemeanor, and traffic cases across Alabama demonstrates how the signficant debt Ms. Cleveland accumulated for a series of minor traffic offenses is not such an aberration. We show that only a minority of LFOs are assessed in cases where someone was convicted of a felony and incarcerated. Rather, most LFOs are assessed in cases without an imposed sentence, in cases with a misdemeanor or traffic violation, or even in cases that did not result in a conviction at all. These case records also reveal substantial heterogeneity in the assessment of LFOs-both within and across local judicial districts-even in cases in which defendants were convicted on exactly the same charge.


Voting But For the Law: Evidence from Virginia on Photo Identification Requirements
Hopkins, Daniel J., Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, Sarah Smith, and Jesse Yonder. Forthcoming. “Voting But For the Law: Evidence from Virginia on Photo Identification Requirements.” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.Abstract

One contentious question in contemporary election administration is the impact of voter identification requirements. We study a Virginia law which allows us to isolate the impact of requiring voters to show photo identification. Using novel, precinct-level data, we find that the percentage of registered voters without a driver's license and over age 85 are both positively associated with the number of provisional ballots cast due to lacking a photo ID. To examine the law's impact on turnout, we associate precinct-level demographics with the change in turnout between the 2013 gubernatorial and 2014 midterm elections. All else equal, turnout was higher in places where more active registered voters lacked a driver's license. This unexpected relationship might be explained by a targeted Department of Elections mailing, suggesting that the initial impact of voter ID laws may hinge on efforts to notify voters likely to be affected.

Surprising Ripple Effects: How Changing the SAT Score-Sending Policy for Low-Income Students Impacts College Access and Success
Hurwitz, Michael, Preeya P. Mbekeani, Margaret M. Nipson, and Lindsay C. Page. Forthcoming. “Surprising Ripple Effects: How Changing the SAT Score-Sending Policy for Low-Income Students Impacts College Access and Success.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.Abstract

Subtle policy adjustments can induce relatively large “ripple effects.” We evaluate a College Board initiative that increased the number of free SAT score reports available to low-income students and changed the time horizon for using these score reports. Using a difference-in-differences analytic strategy, we estimate that targeted students were roughly 10 percentage points more likely to send eight or more reports. The policy improved on-time college attendance and 6-year bachelor’s completion by about 2 percentage points. Impacts were realized primarily by students who were competitive candidates for 4-year college admission. The bachelor’s completion impacts are larger than would be expected based on the number of students driven by the policy change to enroll in college and to shift into more selective colleges. The unexplained portion of the completion effects may result from improvements in nonacademic fit between students and the postsecondary institutions in which they enroll.

Cities as Lobbyists
Goldstein, Rebecca, and Hye Young You. Forthcoming. “Cities as Lobbyists.” American Journal of Political Science.Abstract

Individual cities are active interest groups in lobbying the federal government, and yet the dynamics of this intergovernmental lobbying are poorly understood. We argue that preference incongruence between city and its parent state government leads to under-provision of public goods, and cities need to appeal to the federal government for additional resources. We provide evidence for this theory using a dataset of over 13,800 lobbying disclosures filed by cities with populations over 25,000 between 1999 and 2012. Income inequality and ethnic fragmentation are also highly related to federal lobbying activities. Using an instrumental variables analysis of earmark and Recovery Act grant data, we show that each dollar a city spends on lobbying generates substantial returns.

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.