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DOCTORAL FELLOWS 
Each year 8-12 new Doctoral Fellows are selected from Harvard's Ph.D. programs in the social sciences.
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Over 150 Inequality doctoral fellows have earned their Ph.D.'s.
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Spotlight

LATEST NEWS AND COMMENTARY

David Ellwood to Chair New Partnership on Mobility from Poverty

David Ellwood to Chair New Partnership on Mobility from Poverty

February 5, 2016

Urban Institute | The Urban Institute announced the establishment with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of the U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, aimed at discovering permanent ladders of mobility for the poor in the U.S. David Ellwood, the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School, will chair the group of 24 leading experts, advocates, and academics from across the country, which also includes Lawrence F. Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard University; Kathryn Edin, former director of the Inequality & Social Policy program, now Johns Hopkins University; and Raj Chetty of Stanford University. "We hope that as a result, we can reset our country's approach to social mobility," Ellwood said.

The Race to November 8th

The Race to November 8th

February 5, 2016

WGBH  Basic Black [video] | Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor, Harvard Kennedy School, joins the discussion to explore the significance of black and latino voters to the 2016 election.

The Inequality Problem

The Inequality Problem

February 4, 2016

London Review of Books | Essay by Ed Miliband, MP and former leader of the Labour Party, draws from Robert Putnam's Our Kids to argue that inequality is a defining issue for progressives in the UK, that Labour's renewal must be built on ideas and a determination to tackle inequality.

Sanders Beats Clinton 49-49: The Real Story Behind the Iowa Numbers

Sanders Beats Clinton 49-49: The Real Story Behind the Iowa Numbers

February 3, 2016

The Root | By Lawrence D. Bobo, W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences and chair of the Department of African and African American Studies: "Americans, especially African Americans, interested in finding a successful, progressive successor to Barack Obama, need to think very carefully about the choices and decisions and all-important votes that lie ahead. Because things that may have seemed obvious six months ago are no longer obvious today."

Roland Fryer: 2015 John Bates Clark Medalist

Roland Fryer: 2015 John Bates Clark Medalist

February 3, 2016

Journal of Economic Perspectives | By Lawrence F. Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics: "Roland Fryer is an extraordinary applied microeconomist whose research output related to racial inequality, the US racial achievement gap, and the design and evaluation of educational policies make him a worthy recipient of the 2015 John Bates Clark Medal. I will divide this survey of Roland's research into five categories..."

Do Snow Days Hurt Student Learning?

Do Snow Days Hurt Student Learning?

February 3, 2016

EdNext Podcast [audio] | Marty West, Associate Professor of Education, talks with Josh Goodman, Associate Professor of Public Policy.

Changing Neighborhoods for Better or Worse

Changing Neighborhoods for Better or Worse

February 2, 2016

No Jargon [Podcast—Ep. 19] | Jackelyn Hwang (Ph.D. '15, now a postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton University) discusses gentrification in America—how race and class influence who moves where and when, and how can decision-makers encourage investment that protects long-time residents? No Jargon presents interviews with top university scholars on the politics, policy problems, and social issues facing the nation. Subscribe  in iTunes, or listen to individual episodes at the SSN website.

Finding Common Political Ground on Poverty

Finding Common Political Ground on Poverty

February 2, 2016

The New York Times | Economic Scene column by Eduardo Porter examines the AEI-Brookings plan for reducing poverty and enhancing mobility, which David T. Ellwood, the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy and a participant of the working group that crafted the plan, presented at a Washington Press Club event in December. The plan is a coherent approach, writes Porter, that "raises a tantalizing prospect. Is it possible that combating America’s entrenched poverty — the deepest among advanced industrialized nations— may have finally become salient enough for the left and right to break through the ideological gridlock?"

Event video: The American Dream in Crisis: Can Education Restore Social Mobility?

Event video: The American Dream in Crisis: Can Education Restore Social Mobility?

February 1, 2016

HGSE Askwith Forum | Robert D. Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, shares insights from Our Kids, his examination of how the American Dream of equal opportunity is in crisis. He is joined by Roland G. Fryer, Jr., Henry Lee Professor of Economics and Professor of Education, and Meira Levinson, Professor of Education, who consider what educators can do. The research of doctoral fellow Anthony Abraham Jack, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, gets a shout-out at the 1:09:23 mark.

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LATEST ACADEMIC ARTICLES BY OUR DOCTORAL FELLOWS

The Populist Style in American Politics: Presidential Campaign Rhetoric, 1952-1996
Bonikowski, Bart, and Noam Gidron. Forthcoming. “The Populist Style in American Politics: Presidential Campaign Rhetoric, 1952-1996.” Social Forces. Full text (authors' version)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.

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.

Stand and Deliver: Effects of Boston’s Charter High Schools on College Preparation, Entry, and Choice
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. June 2014 versionAbstract

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.

(No) Harm in Asking: Class, Acquired Cultural Capital, and Academic Engagement at an Elite University
Jack, Anthony Abraham. 2016. “(No) Harm in Asking: Class, Acquired Cultural Capital, and Academic Engagement at an Elite University.” Sociology of Education 89 (1): 1-15.Abstract

How do undergraduates engage authority figures in college? Existing explanations predict class-based engagement strategies. Using in-depth interviews with 89 undergraduates at an elite university, I show how undergraduates with disparate precollege experiences differ in their orientations toward and strategies for engaging authority figures in college. Middle-class undergraduates report being at ease in interacting with authority figures and are proactive in doing so. Lower-income undergraduates, however, are split. The privileged poor—lower-income undergraduates who attended boarding, day, and preparatory high schools—enter college primed to engage professors and are proactive in doing so. By contrast, the doubly disadvantaged—lower-income undergraduates who remained tied to their home communities and attended local, typically distressed high schools—are more resistant to engaging authority figures in college and tend to withdraw from them. Through documenting the heterogeneity among lower-income undergraduates, I show how static understandings of individuals’ cultural endowments derived solely from family background homogenize the experiences of lower-income undergraduates. In so doing, I shed new light on the cultural underpinnings of education processes in higher education and extend previous analyses of how informal university practices exacerbate class differences among undergraduates.

Compounded Deprivation in the Transition to Adulthood: The Intersection of Racial and Economic Inequality Among Chicagoans, 1995–2013
Perkins, Kristin L., and Robert J. Sampson. 2015. “Compounded Deprivation in the Transition to Adulthood: The Intersection of Racial and Economic Inequality Among Chicagoans, 1995–2013” 1 (1): 35-54.Abstract

This paper investigates acute, compounded, and persistent deprivation in a representative sample of Chicago adolescents transitioning to young adulthood. Our investigation, based on four waves of longitudinal data from 1995 to 2013, is motivated by three goals. First, we document the prevalence of individual and neighborhood poverty over time, especially among whites, blacks, and Latinos. Second, we explore compounded deprivation, describing the extent to which study participants are simultaneously exposed to individual and contextual forms of deprivation—including material deprivation (such as poverty) and social-organizational deprivation (for example, low collective efficacy)—for multiple phases of the life course from adolescence up to age thirty-two. Third, we isolate the characteristics that predict transitions out of compounded and persistent poverty. The results provide new evidence on the crosscutting adversities that were exacerbated by the Great Recession and on the deep connection of race to persistent and compounded deprivation in the transition to adulthood.

Asymmetric Interest Group Mobilization and Party Coalitions in U.S. Tax Politics
Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander, and Theda Skocpol. 2015. “Asymmetric Interest Group Mobilization and Party Coalitions in U.S. Tax Politics.” Studies in American Political Development 29 (2): 235-249.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.

Toward a Multidimensional Understanding of Culture for Health Interventions
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.

How Legislators Respond to Localized Economic Shocks: Evidence from Chinese Import Competition
Feigenbaum, James J., and Andrew B. Hall. 2015. “How Legislators Respond to Localized Economic Shocks: Evidence from Chinese Import Competition.” Journal of Politics 77 (4): 1012-1030.Abstract

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.

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.

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