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.
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Inequality doctoral fellows on the job market in AY 2015-16.
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Over 150 Inequality doctoral fellows have earned their Ph.D.'s.
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Seminar series


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Spotlight feature


Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Professor of Social Sciences at Harvard and 2015 MacArthur Fellow: "We as a country are having a national conversation about inequality and about justice, and about really asking the hard questions about who we want to be." MacArthur Foundation, Sep 28, 2015.


Anthony A. Jack

Taking Nothing for Granted

October 13, 2015

GSAS Bulletin | Anthony Jack, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, profiled: "How one GSAS student challenges assumptions about the undergraduate experience."

New Findings from War on Poverty: Just Give Cash

New Findings from War on Poverty: Just Give Cash

October 9, 2015

Bloomberg View | Notes  Sendhil Mullainathan's work as part of an emerging program of research on the science of scarcity, the ways in which poverty affect decision-making and behavior.

Addressing Economic Challenges in an Evolving Health Care Market [Event]

Addressing Economic Challenges in an Evolving Health Care Market [Event]

October 7, 2015

The Hamilton Project  | Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, participated in a policy forum addressing economic challenges in an evolving health care market, with a focus on three new papers released in conjunction with the event. The event, held at The Brookings Institution, featured opening remarks by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, and framing remarks by CEA Chairman Jason Furman.  View papers, presentation slides, and event video online.

The Hon. Andrew Leigh to give IPR Distinguished Public Policy Lecture

The Hon. Andrew Leigh to give IPR Distinguished Public Policy Lecture

October 6, 2015

Institute for Policy Research | Andrew Leigh (Ph.D. '04), Member of Parliament, Australia; Shadow Assistant Treasurer; and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences, will give IPR's 2015 Distinguished Public Policy Lecture at Northwestern University: "Humans Need Not Apply: Will the Robot Economy Pit Entrepreneurship Against Equality?"

ISA Medal of Science

ISA Medal of Science

October 6, 2015

Awardee | Robert D. Putnam to receive the Institute for Advanced Studies' (University of Bologna) highest honor for scientific excellence and international acclaim.

Behind the Rise in Mass Incarceration

Behind the Rise in Mass Incarceration

October 2, 2015

The New York Times | By Jeremy Travis (John Jay College of Criminal Justice) and Bruce Western. Letter to the Editor in response to David Brooks's Sep 29 column, "The Prison Problem."

101 economists defend the'Cadillac tax'

101 economists defend the'Cadillac tax'

October 1, 2015

Letter to Congress | A group of prominent health economists and policy analysts issued a statement urging that Congress take no action to weaken the Cadillac tax "unless and until it enacts an alternative tax change that would more effectively curtail cost growth." Signatories include Amitabh Chandra, David Cutler, David Ellwood, Douglas Elmendorf, Lawrence Katz, Tom Vogl (Ph.D. '11), and Justin Wolfers (Ph.D. '01).

More news


Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander, and Theda Skocpol. Forthcoming. “Asymmetric Interest Group Mobilization and Party Coalitions in U.s. Tax Politics.” Studies in American Political Development.Abstract
Arguments about national tax policy have taken center stage in U.S. politics in recent times, creating acute dilemmas for Democrats. With Republicans locked into antitax agendas for some time, Democrats have recently begun to push back, arguing for maintaining or even increasing taxes on the very wealthy in the name of deficit reduction and the need to sustain funding for public programs. But the Democratic Party as a whole has not been able to find a consistent voice on tax issues. It experienced key defections when large, upward-tilting tax cuts were enacted under President George W. Bush, and the Democratic Party could not control the agenda on debates over continuing those tax cuts even when it enjoyed unified control in Washington, DC, in 2009 and 2010. To explain these cleavages among Democrats, we examine growing pressures from small business owners, a key antitax constituency. We show that organizations claiming to speak for small business have become more active in tax politics in recent decades, and we track the ways in which constituency pressures have been enhanced by feedbacks from federal tax rules that encourage individuals to pass high incomes through legal preferences for the self-employed. Comparing debates over the inception and renewal of the Bush tax cuts, we show how small business organizations and constituencies have divided Democrats on tax issues. Our findings pinpoint the mechanisms that have propelled tax resistance in contemporary U.S. politics, and our analysis contributes to theoretical understandings of the ways in which political parties are influenced by policy feedbacks and by coalitions of policy-driven organized economic interests.
Feigenbaum, James J, and Andrew B Hall. Forthcoming. “How Legislators Respond to Localized Economic Shocks: Evidence from Chinese Import Competition.” Journal of Politics. Publisher's versionAbstract
We explore the effects of localized economic shocks from trade on roll-call behavior and electoral outcomes in the US House, 1990–2010. We demonstrate that economic shocks from Chinese import competition—first studied by Autor, Dorn, and Hanson—cause legislators to vote in a more protectionist direction on trade bills but cause no change in their voting on all other bills. At the same time, these shocks have no effect on the reelection rates of incumbents, the probability an incumbent faces a primary challenge, or the partisan control of the district. Though changes in economic conditions are likely to cause electoral turnover in many cases, incumbents exposed to negative economic shocks from trade appear able to fend off these effects in equilibrium by taking strategic positions on foreign-trade bills. In line with this view, we find that the effect on roll-call voting is strongest in districts where incumbents are most threatened electorally. Taken together, these results paint a picture of responsive incumbents who tailor their roll-call positions on trade bills to the economic conditions in their districts.
Abeler, Johannes, and Simon Jäger. Forthcoming. “

Complex Tax Incentives

.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.Abstract
How does tax complexity affect people’s reaction to tax changes? To answer this question, we conduct an experiment in which subjects work for a piece rate and face taxes. One treatment features a simple, the other a complex tax system. The payoff-maximizing output level and the incentives around this optimum are, however, identical across treatments. We introduce the same sequence of additional taxes in both treatments. Subjects in the complex treatment underreact to new taxes; some ignore new taxes entirely. The underreaction is stronger for subjects with lower cognitive ability. Contrary to predictions from models of rational inattention, subjects are equally likely to ignore large or small incentive changes. 
Angrist, Joshua D., Sarah R. Cohodes, Susan M. Dynarski, Parag A. Pathak, and Christopher R. Walters. Forthcoming. “Stand and Deliver: Effects of Boston’S Charter High Schools on College Preparation, Entry, and Choice.” Journal of Labor Economics 34 (2). NBER Working Paper 19275. NBER version (2013)Abstract
We use admissions lotteries to estimate effects of attendance at Boston's charter high schools on college preparation and enrollment. Charter schools increase pass rates on Massachusetts' high-stakes exit exam, with large effects on the likelihood of qualifying for a state-sponsored scholarship. Charter attendance boosts SAT scores sharply, and also increases the likelihood of taking an Advanced Placement (AP) exam, the number of AP exams taken, and AP scores. Charters induce a substantial shift from two- to four-year institutions, though the effect on overall college enrollment is modest. Charter effects on college-related outcomes are strongly correlated with gains on earlier tests.
Asad, Asad L., and Tamara Kay. 2015. “Toward a Multidimensional Understanding of Culture for Health Interventions.” Social Science & Medicine 144: 79-87. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Although a substantial literature examines the relationship between culture and health in myriad individual contexts, a lack of comparative data across settings has resulted in disparate and imprecise conceptualizations of the concept for scholars and practitioners alike. This article examines scholars and practitioners’ understandings of culture in relation to health interventions. Drawing on 169 interviews with officials from three different nongovernmental organizations working on health issues in multiple countries—Partners in Health, Oxfam America, and Sesame Workshop—we examine how these respondents’ interpretations of culture converge or diverge with recent developments in the study of the concept, as well as how these understandings influence health interventions at three different stages—design, implementation, and evaluation—of a project. Based on these analyses, a tripartite definition of culture is built—as knowledge, practice, and change—and these distinct conceptualizations are linked to the success or failure of a project at each stage of an intervention. In so doing, the study provides a descriptive and analytical starting point for scholars interested in understanding the theoretical and empirical relevance of culture for health interventions, and sets forth concrete recommendations for practitioners working to achieve robust improvements in health outcomes.
Desmond, Matthew, Carl Gershenson, and Barbara Kiviat. 2015. “Forced Relocation and Residential Instability Among Urban Renters.” Social Service Review 89. The University of Chicago Press: pp. 227-262. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Abstract Residential instability often brings about other forms of instability in families, schools, and communities that compromise the life chances of adults and children. Social scientists have found that low-income families move frequently without fully understanding why. Drawing on novel data of more than 1,000 Milwaukee renters, this article explores the relationship between forced relocation and residential instability. It finds that low incomes are associated with higher rates of mobility due to poorer renters’ greater exposure to forced displacement. Not only do higher rates of formal and informal eviction, landlord foreclosure, and building condemnation directly increase the mobility of poorer renters, but forced displacement also increases subsequent unforced mobility. A forced move often compels renters to accept substandard housing, which drives them to soon move again. This article reveals mechanisms of residential mobility among low-income renters, identifies previously undocumented consequences of forced displacement, and develops a more comprehensive model of residential instability and urban inequality.
Hwang, Jackelyn, Michael Hankinson, and Kreg Steven Brown. 2015. “Racial and Spatial Targeting: Segregation and Subprime Lending Within and Across Metropolitan Areas.” Social Forces 93 (3): 1081-1108. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Recent studies find that high levels of black-white segregation increased rates of foreclosures and subprime lending across US metropolitan areas during the housing crisis. These studies speculate that segregation created distinct geographic markets that enabled subprime lenders and brokers to leverage the spatial proximity of minorities to disproportionately target minority neighborhoods. Yet, the studies do not explicitly test whether the concentration of subprime loans in minority neighborhoods varied by segregation levels. We address this shortcoming by integrating neighborhood-level data and spatial measures of segregation to examine the relationship between segregation and subprime lending across the 100 largest US metropolitan areas. Controlling for alternative explanations of the housing crisis, we find that segregation is strongly associated with higher concentrations of subprime loans in clusters of minority census tracts but find no evidence of unequal lending patterns when we examine minority census tracts in an aspatial way. Moreover, residents of minority census tracts in segregated metropolitan areas had higher likelihoods of receiving subprime loans than their counterparts in less segregated metropolitan areas. Our findings demonstrate that segregation played a pivotal role in the housing crisis by creating relatively larger areas of concentrated minorities into which subprime loans could be efficiently and effectively channeled. These results are consistent with existing but untested theories on the relationship between segregation and the housing crisis in metropolitan areas.
Glaeser, Edward L, Joshua D Gottlieb, and Oren Ziv. Forthcoming. “

Unhappy Cities

.” Journal of Labor Economics.Abstract
There are persistent differences in self-reported subjective well-being across U.S. metropolitan areas, and residents of declining cities appear less happy than others. Yet some people continue to move to these areas, and newer residents appear to be as unhappy as longer term residents. While historical data on happiness are limited, the available facts suggest that cities that are now declining were also unhappy in their more prosperous past. These facts support the view that individuals don’t maximize happiness alone, but include it in the utility function along with other arguments. People may trade off happiness against other competing objectives.