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 2015-2016 fellows ▶

Hire a Harvard Ph.D.
Inequality doctoral fellows on the job market in AY 2015-16.
View job market candidates ▶

Over 150 Inequality doctoral fellows have earned their Ph.D.'s.
See where they are now ▶

Seminar and events


Dec 07


12:00pm to 1:45pm


Harvard Kennedy School: Allison Dining Room

Kyle Crowder, Professor of Sociology, University of Washington.



Why the Economic Fates of America's Cities Diverged

Why the Economic Fates of America's Cities Diverged

November 28, 2015

The Atlantic | Highlights research by Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11, now Harvard Kennedy School faculty) and Peter Ganong (Harvard Ph.D. candidate in Economics) on the importance of regional income convergence in reducing U.S. wage inequality between 1940-1980 and explanations for declining convergence in recent decades.

Why White House Economists Worry About Land-Use Regulations

Why White House Economists Worry About Land-Use Regulations

November 20, 2015

Wall Street Journal | Delves into papers by Raven Molloy (Ph.D. '05, now Federal Reserve Board of Governors) and by Peter Ganong (a Harvard Ph.D. candidate in Economics) and Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11, now HKS faculty), which CEA Chair Jason Furman highlighted in a recent address on the links between land-use regulations, wages, inequality, and intergenerational mobility.

Suffrage in America

Suffrage in America

November 20, 2015

James Madison's Montpelier | Alex Keyssar interviewed in a series of videos for the "Suffrage in America" online course by the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier. Read more about the course ▶

Electing to Ignore the Poorest of the Poor

Electing to Ignore the Poorest of the Poor

November 17, 2015

The New York Times | Quotes William Julius Wilson, Matthew Desmond, Robert Sampson, and Kristin Perkins (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy). 

Also highlights the launch of a new peer-reviewed, open-access journal, The Russell Sage Foundation Journal in the Social Sciences, which leads with a two-volume issue, 'Severe Deprivation in America', edited by Matthew Desmond and featuring articles by Inequality & Social Policy affiliates Christopher Wimer (Ph.D. '07), Kristin L. Perkins and Robert J. Sampson, Bruce Western, and David J. Harding (Ph.D. '05).
Severe Deprivation in America: Issue 1 ▶
Severe Deprivation in America: Issue 2 ▶

More news


(No) Harm in Asking: Class, Acquired Cultural Capital, and Academic Engagement at an Elite University
Jack, Anthony Abraham. Forthcoming. “(No) Harm in Asking: Class, Acquired Cultural Capital, and Academic Engagement at an Elite University,” Sociology of Education, .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.
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.
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.
Racial and Spatial Targeting: Segregation and Subprime Lending within and across Metropolitan Areas
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.Abstract
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.
Complex Tax Incentives
Abeler, Johannes, and Simon Jäger. 2015. “Complex Tax Incentives,” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 7 (3): 1-28. Author's versionAbstract
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.