News

Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Police tape

The fallacy of Trump’s “send in the Feds” fix for Chicago

February 20, 2017

Vox | Cites recent study by Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, Andrew V. Papachristos of Yale University, and David S. Kirk at University of Oxford, published in the American Sociological Review, which looked at the effects of highly publicized incidents of police brutality on 911 calls in Milwaukee.
View the research

Robert Sampson

To advance sustainability, fight inequality, researcher says

February 17, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Unless social and economic inequalities are addressed, sustainability efforts in urban centers will likely stall or never take hold, according to a new Harvard study by Robert J. Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences. 

San Francisco Chronicle

Trump’s storm keeps Democrats busy on many fronts

February 17, 2017

San Francisco Chronicle | Quoted: Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology.

Midterm elections such as 2018 favor opposition parties, which makes House Democrats “well positioned” as a fulcrum of the Trump resistance, said Theda Skocpol, a Harvard University sociologist. “That’s the place where Democrats will be able to make gains, if they can pick up support from a broader array of people,” Skocpol said. “That and the governors races are the really critical turning points.”

Monopoly

Monopolies Are Worse Than We Thought

February 15, 2017

Bloomberg View | New research suggests that growing market concentration may partly explain labor's declining share of national income, but what accounts for this growing market concentration? A new paper by  David Autor (MIT), David Dorn (University of Zurich), Lawrence Katz (Harvard), Christina Patterson (MIT), and John Van Reenen (MIT) suggests a technological explanation driving the rise of "superstar firms" in "winner take most' markets. This paper is forthcoming in American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings.
View the research

bakery

Bakeries are booming, but bakers are in short supply

February 15, 2017

Boston Globe | Why are Boston bakeries struggling to find skilled bakers? Alicia Sasser Modestino (Ph.D. '01) discusses the labor market. Modestino is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Economics at Northeastern University, and Associate Director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.

ACA alternatives in the JFK Jr Forum

The confused future of health care

February 14, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Coverage of the JFK Jr. Forum event, "Alternatives to the Affordable Care Act," with panelists Katherine Baicker, C. Boyden Gray Professor of Health Economics at Harvard; Jonathan Gruber, Ford Professor of Economics at MIT; Avik Roy, co-founder and president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity; and Gail R. Wilensky, senior fellow at Project HOPE and former director of Medicare and Medicaid. Moderated by Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy. Co-sponsored by the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.
View event video

Chicago Tribune building

Welcome to the 'Great Divergence'

February 14, 2017

The Atlantic—CityLab | "Before 1980, places in America with lower average incomes grew faster than their richer counterparts, so that incomes converged. Today, that’s no longer the case." Richard Florida delves into a recent study by economists Peter Ganong, Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago Harris School, and Daniel Shoag (Ph.'11), Associate Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.
View the research

Automation

The Relentless Pace of Automation

February 13, 2017

MIT Technology Review | Quotes Lawrence Katz, Elisabath Allison Professor of Economics:“I’m very worried that the next wave [of AI and automation] will hit and we won’t have the supports in place,” says Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard. Katz has published research showing that large investments in secondary education in the early 1900s helped the nation make the shift from an agriculture-based economy to a manufacturing one. And now, he says, we could use our education system much more effectively. For example, some areas of the United States have successfully connected training programs at community colleges to local companies and their needs, he says, but other regions have not, and the federal government has done little in this realm. As a result, he says, “large areas have been left behind.”

Also quotes MIT economist Daron Acemoglu, who presented his latest work in this area, "Machine vs. Man: The Labor Market in the Age of Robots," in the Harvard Inequality Seminar, Feb 6, 2017 (view seminar abstract).

Americans just can't leave retirement savings alone

Americans just can't leave retirement savings alone

February 13, 2017

Marketplace | “For every dollar people are contributing to the retirement savings system, about 40 cents of that money is coming out before people reach their late 50s,” said Brigitte Madrian, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. “That’s a quite striking amount of leakage, especially when many people are not saving enough in the first place.”

Illiquid savings

People Trying to Save Prefer Accounts That Are Hard to Tap

February 12, 2017

Wall Street Journal | Research suggests policy makers could make retirement accounts even more restrictive without reducing their appeal. Discusses findings of an experimental study by John Beshears (Harvard Business School), James J. Choi (Yale), Christopher Harris (University of Cambridge), David Laibson (Harvard Economics), Brigitte C. Madrian (Harvard Kennedy School), and Jung Sakong (University of Chicago).
View the research

More Women in their 60's and 70's are Working

More Women in their 60's and 70's are Working

February 11, 2017

The New York Times | The Upshot talks with Harvard economist Claudia Goldin on her recent study with Lawrence Katz, "Women Working Longer: Facts and Some Explanations." Also highlights Goldin's work with Joshua Mitchell (Ph.D. '11), a senior economist at the U.S. Census Bureau, which appears in the current issue of Journal of Economics Perspectives.

"Nearly 30 percent of women 65 to 69 are working, up from 15 percent in the late 1980s, one of the analyses, by the Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, found. Eighteen percent of women 70 to 74 work, up from 8 percent.

"This rejection of retirement is more common among women with higher education and savings, though not confined to them. Those who are not working are more likely to have poor health and low savings, and to be dependent on Social Security and sometimes disability benefits, Ms. Goldin said.

Of those still working, Ms. Goldin said, 'They’re in occupations in which they really have an identity.' She added, 'Women have more education, they’re in jobs that are more fulfilling, and they stay with them.'” 
View the research (by Goldin and Katz)
View JEP article (by Goldin and Mitchell)

Why Falling Home Prices Could Be a Good Thing

Why Falling Home Prices Could Be a Good Thing

February 10, 2017

The New York Times | "Suppose there were a way to pump up the economy, reduce inequality, and put an end to destructive housing bubbles like the one that contributed to the Great Recession." Discusses recent paper by economists Edward Glaeser of Harvard and Joe Gyourko at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, which reviews the basic economics and functioning of the U.S. housing market "to better understand the impacts on home prices, household wealth, and the spatial distribution of people across markets."

Also cites research by Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11), Associate Professor of Public Policy at Harvard, and Peter Ganong of the University of Chicago, on the role of housing prices in limiting the ability of low-income workers to migrate to higher-wage areas, thereby contributing income inequality.

JPAL North America

Government leaders gather at J-PAL North America to advance evidence-based policymaking

February 9, 2017

MIT News | Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard and co-scientific director of JPAL-North America, spoke on leveraging housing vouchers as a ladder to economic mobility for low-income families. 

The conference, held at MIT, brought together state and local policymakers with leading researchers to discuss "how governments and researchers have partnered to use evidence from randomized evaluations to reduce crime and violence, improve maternal and child health, and promote housing mobility."

Dani Rodrik

Balance of Trade

February 9, 2017

Harvard Kennedy School Magazine
By Robert Kuttner
There are economists who teach the well-known postulate that free trade improves global well-being. There are other social scientists and popular critics who contend that laissez-faire trade can be bad for equality, for social stability, and even for economic efficiency, just as pure laissez-faire is not optimal at home.

And then there is Dani Rodrik.

Rodrik, the Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at the Kennedy School, is close to a unique specimen in the field of economics. He is a respectful critic of some of the most cherished suppositions of his profession, notably in his books and articles expressing qualms about globalization. But Rodrik does it as a superb technical economist, with humility, precision, wit, intellectual curiosity, and an astonishing range of reading across disciplines. Continue reading»

kids

The most important skill for the workplace isn’t being taught in American schools

February 9, 2017

Quartz | Discusses research by David Deming (Ph.D. '10), a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education, who finds that the labor market  in recent decades "increasingly rewards social skills", with "employment and wage growth particularly strong for jobs requiring high levels of both cognitive skill and social skill." Also cites a recent brief from The Hamilton Project, "Seven Facts on Noncognitive Skills from Education to the Labor Market," which draws on Deming's work.
View the research

Skyscrapers

HKS Footprint: Cities

February 9, 2017

Harvard Kennedy School Magazine | At Harvard Kennedy School, cities are a focus for research and an opportunity to experiment with new and better ways of governing. Features the work of Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy and director of the Government Peformance Lab, and of Quinton Mayne, Associate Professor of Public Policy, whose research "has found that where local governments can shape welfare policies, such as in education or social services, citizens are much less likely to be politically disaffected."

School integration

Integration Works: Can It Survive the Trump Era?

February 9, 2017

The New York Times | Thomas B. Edsall reviews an extensive body of social science evidence, including the work of Raj Chetty of Stanford University and Harvard's Nathaniel Hendren, Assistant Professor of Economics.

Tea Party

The Tea Party's Revival as the Party of Trump

February 7, 2017

OZY | Quoted: Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology. 

“[The Tea Party] was never about small government; it was about small government for the elites who latched on,” says Theda Skocpol, a Harvard professor and co-author of The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism. “For the grassroots back then, it was about making sure the government didn’t spend on the wrong people. Rarely did anyone criticize Social Security, Medicare, veterans’ benefits — the big-ticket items.” The biggest common theme, she says: “cracking down on immigration.”

Radcliffe Day 2017

Judy Woodruff and the late Gwen Ifill named Radcliffe medalists

February 7, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Radcliffe Day 2017, on May 26, will honor PBS journalists Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff. Harvard's Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor, will participate in the morning panel, "(Un)truths and Their Consequences," joined by A’Lelia Bundles '74, E. J. Dionne ’73, and Peggy Noonan. For more information about the day's events, which will be webcast live, see Radcliffe Day 2017.

  •  
  • 1 of 48
  • »

Latest awards

William Julius Wilson to receive 2017 SAGE-CASBS Award

William Julius Wilson to receive 2017 SAGE-CASBS Award

February 21, 2017

One of the nation’s most accomplished scholars of race, inequality, and poverty will deliver a public award lecture in June at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

SAGE-CASBS | SAGE Publishing and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University are pleased to announce that William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard, is the 2017 recipient of the SAGE-CASBS Award.

Established in 2013, the SAGE-CASBS Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the behavioral and social sciences that advance our understanding of pressing social issues. It underscores the role of the social and behavioral sciences in enriching and enhancing public policy and good governance. 

Past winners of the award include psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, sociologist and education rights activist Pedro Noguera, and political scientist and former U.S. Census Bureau director Kenneth Prewitt.

Announcing the 2017 Sloan Research Fellows: Amanda Pallais

Announcing the 2017 Sloan Research Fellows: Amanda Pallais

February 21, 2017

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation | Harvard economics professor Amanda Pallais, the Paul Sack Associate Professor of Political Economy and Social Studies, has been awarded a 2017 Sloan Research Fellowship.

Sloan Research Fellows are early-career scholars who "represent the most promising scientific researchers working today....Since 1955, Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win 43 Nobel Prizes, 16 Fields Medals, 69 National Medals of Science, 16 John Bates Clark Medals, and numerous other distinguished awards."

Learn more about Amanda Pallais's work:
scholar.harvard.edu/pallais

Erasmus Prize 2017 awarded to Michèle Lamont

Erasmus Prize 2017 awarded to Michèle Lamont

February 20, 2017

Awardee | Michèle Lamont is the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Erasmus Prize, awarded annually by the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation to the person or institution who has made "an exceptional contribution to the humanities or the arts, in Europe and beyond." Lamont receives the prize "for her devoted contribution to social science research into the relationship between knowledge, power and diversity." 

Lamont is a Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies, the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, and Director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard.

The Erasmus Prize will be presented in Amsterdam in November 2017, and a varied program of activities arranged in conjunction with the event. Learn more:
Former Laureates
Prize and Adornments

Michele Lamont

Michèle Lamont wins Erasmus Prize

February 20, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Harvard Professor Michèle Lamont has been named winner of the 2017 Erasmus Prize, which recognizes individual or group contributions to European culture, society, or social science.

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.

Who are the 2017 RHSU Edu-Scholar Rising Stars?

Who are the 2017 RHSU Edu-Scholar Rising Stars?

January 11, 2017

Education Week | Education Week released its annual RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence  Rankings, which "recognize those university-based scholars in the U.S. who are doing the most to influence educational policy and practice."

Of the top 10 junior scholars on its "rising star" list, all are Harvard faculty members, doctoral alumni, or both—including Inequality & Social Policy affiliates Martin West (Ph.D. and faculty), Jal Mehta (Ph.D. and faculty), Joshua Goodman (faculty), and Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15, now Columbia University Teachers College). HGSE professor Roberto G. Gonzales, author of   Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America (University of California Press, 2015), led the list, which also included HGSE professor Stephanie M. Jones.

Among the Inequality & Social Policy affiliates on the full list of 200 are senior scholars Paul Peterson (Harvard Government), Richard Murnane (HGSE), Roland Fryer (Harvard Economics), Nora Gordon (Ph.D. alum, now Georgetown Public Policy), Jonah Rockoff (Ph.D. alum, now Columbia Business School), Judith Scott-Clayton (Ph.D. alum, now Columbia TC), Ronald Ferguson (HKS), and David Deming (Ph.D. alum and faculty).
View 2017 full list

Michèle Lamont awarded University of Amsterdam honorary doctorate for role in bridging European and American sociology

Michèle Lamont awarded University of Amsterdam honorary doctorate for role in bridging European and American sociology

January 9, 2017

Awardee | MIchèle Lamont received an honorary doctorate from the University of Amsterdam in recognition of her  "important theoretical and empirical contribution to the social sciences, particularly cultural sociology, and her important role in linking American and European social sciences." Lamont is Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies at Harvard.

Michèle Lamont delivers Vilhelm Auberts Memorial Lecture

Michèle Lamont delivers Vilhelm Auberts Memorial Lecture

January 6, 2017

Institute for Social Research (Oslo) | Michèle Lamont, Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies, and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies at Harvard, delivered the 2016 Vilhelm Auberts Memorial Lecture in Oslo. Her lecture addressed the themes of her new book, Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel (Princeton University Press, 2016.)

IZA Prize in Labor Economics awarded to Claudia Goldin at ASSA Meeting in Chicago

IZA Prize in Labor Economics awarded to Claudia Goldin at ASSA Meeting in Chicago

January 6, 2017

IZA Institute of Labor Economics | The 15th IZA Prize in Labor Economics was formally conferred to Harvard's Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics,during the traditional IZA Reception at the annual meeting of the Allied Social Science Associations in Chicago. Goldin was recognized for "her career-long work on the economic history of women in education and the labor market."

The best books of 2016, according to two best-selling authors

The best books of 2016, according to two best-selling authors

December 27, 2016

PBS NewsHour |Jeffrey Brown sat down recently with best-selling authors Jacqueline Woodson, a 2016 National Book Award finalist for fiction, and Daniel Pink, at Politics and Prose, a popular bookstore in Washington, D.C. First up: Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

The Best Books of 2016

The Best Books of 2016

December 21, 2016

Chicago Tribune | Ten selections, including Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences.

The Carnegie Interviews: Matthew Desmond

The Carnegie Interviews: Matthew Desmond

December 21, 2016

The Booklist Reader | One in a series of interviews with each of the finalists for the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

The Year in Reading

The Year in Reading

December 19, 2016

The New York Times Book Review
Poets, musicians, diplomats, filmmakers, novelists, actors, and artists share the books that accompanied them through 2016. "There was a lot of great nonfiction in 2016," writes novelist Ann Patchett, "but there are four books that I recommend with a sense of urgency"—among them, Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences.

Former U.S. Representative Barney Frank notes two pieces of conventional wisdom—one domestic; the other international—that have structured our national debates for deades. Subjecting the received wisdom to close examintion: The Globalization Paradox, by Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of Political Economy at the Harvard Kennedy School, 

The Books We Loved in 2016

The Books We Loved in 2016

December 13, 2016

The New Yorker | Among them, Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences.

'Evicted' Selected to 2017 PEN Literary Awards Longlist

'Evicted' Selected to 2017 PEN Literary Awards Longlist

December 9, 2016

PEN America | Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, is one of 10 books on the 2017 PEN America longlist in nonfiction for the John Kenneth Galbraith award. Finalists for this biennial award will be announced on January 18, 2017. The winner will be announced on February 22, 2017 and honored at the 2017 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on March 27, 2017. Desmond is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Social Science at Harvard.

  •  
  • 1 of 9
  • »

Latest commentary and analysis

Scientific American

Triumph of the City: Engines of Innovation

February 16, 2017

Scientific American | By Edward L. Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics. "In fact, the crush of people living in close quarters fosters the kind of collaborative creativity that has produced some of humanity's best ideas, including the industrial revolution and the digital age. In the years ahead such collaborations can be expected to help solve the world's most pressing problems—poverty, energy shortages, climate change—and to promote fundamental political transitions," writes Glaeser. 

The most important phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance

The most important phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance

February 13, 2017

Washington Post | By Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard. "We need a Cleisthenic moment," is the thought on Allen's mind, referring to the faltering and then recovery of Athenian democracy in ancient Greece as Athenians rose up against the tyrant Peisistratos. The takeaway from Cleisthenic moment? "The Athenians reorganized their political institutions to ensure connections among rural, urban and coastal populations," an essential task if America is to secure liberty and justice for all, Allen writes.

Eviction, photo by John Montgomery

No place like home: America's eviction epidemic

February 12, 2017

The Guardian | Soaring rents and low wages have hit the poorest families in the US hard. Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond introduces an extract from his heartbreaking book about the crisis.

Global Citizens, National Shirkers

Global Citizens, National Shirkers

February 10, 2017

Project Syndicate | By Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard Kennedy School.

David A. Moss

All hail partisan politics

February 9, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Harvard historian looks to the past, using case study method to suggest that dogged disputes can strengthen democracy. Interview with David Moss, Paul Whiton Cherington Professor at Harvard Business School and author of a new book, Democrcy: A Case Study (Harvard University Press, 2017).

Rubik's Cube: Equality

What's next? In the wake of the election, HKS faculty discuss the coming challenges

February 9, 2017

Harvard Kennedy School Magazine
Still fresh from the political earthquake of 2016, leading experts at the Harvard Kennedy School came together to assess the new landscape in a series of roundtables in November. Surveying the economy and social policy: Doug Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School; David Ellwood, Isabelle and Scott Black Professor of Political Economy and Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, and Brigitte Madrian, Aetna Professor of Public Policy and Corporate Management.

Mary Waters

Integrating Immigrants with Mary C. Waters and John Skrentny

February 8, 2017

University of California Television (UCTV) | Mary C. Waters, John L. Loeb Professor of Sociology at Harvard and Chair of a National Academy of Sciences Report on immigrant integration, talks with sociologist John Skrentny, co-director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego.

We were the victims of fake news

We were the victims of fake news

February 8, 2017

Brookings Institution | By Norm Eisen and Vanessa Williamson (Ph.D. '15),  both fellows in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. "This week, we discovered that our real work is being used to promote 'fake news'. As Yahoo News has reported, an obscure website, the “Center for Global Strategic Monitoring,” has been putting policy experts’ names on articles they did not write..."

When Do Renters Behave Like Homeowners? High Rent, Price Anxiety, and NIMBYism

When Do Renters Behave Like Homeowners? High Rent, Price Anxiety, and NIMBYism

February 7, 2017

JCHS Housing Perspectives | By Michael Hankinson, Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy. Hankinson's findings, "based on new national-level experimental data and city-specific behavioral data....help explain why it is so hard to build new housing in expensive cities even when there is citywide support for that housing."  Read the full paper in the Joint Center for Housing Studies Working Paper series, and learn more about Hankinson's work at his website.
mhankinson.com

Democracy: A Case Study

American Democracy is Not a Machine

February 7, 2017

Harvard University Press: Blog | Excerpt from new book by David A. Moss, Paul Whiton Cherington Professor at Harvard Business School. 

Democracy: A Case Study stems from a course that historian David Moss developed in order to bring the strengths of the Harvard Business School’s case study method to conversations about governance, citizenship, and democracy. In the spirit of that course, the book highlights nineteen key episodes in the history of American democracy...In the passage below, excerpted from the book’s Introduction and with reference to its cases, Moss explains why American democracy is better understood as a living organism than a machine...Continue reading»​​​​​​​

The Prophet of Profit

The Prophet of Profit

February 7, 2017

Slate | By Ray Fisman (Boston University) and Michael Luca (Harvard Business School). Betsy DeVos is right that some government services should be approached more like businesses. She’s wrong to think education is one of them, write Fisman and Luca.

"In understanding why different organizational forms have their distinct advantages, it’s useful to focus on the particular assumption that market participants can write a contract that ensures a good or service is delivered as expected," the authors explain.

Interview Series: How Incomplete is the Theory of the Firm? Q&A with Daniel Carpenter

Interview Series: How Incomplete is the Theory of the Firm? Q&A with Daniel Carpenter

February 6, 2017

ProMarket—Stigler Center Blog | Should the economic theory of the firm be modified? In March, Stigler Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Harvard Business School, and Oxford University will hold a conference on this topic. Ahead of the conference, the Stigler Center is launching an interview series with influential scholars in the field.

Why Betsy DeVos’ vision of education does little to ensure equity

Why Betsy DeVos’ vision of education does little to ensure equity

February 6, 2017

The Hechinger Report | By Natasha Kumar Warikoo (Ph.D. '05), Associate Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education. "Betsy DeVos promotes a vision for society that outwardly extols the idea of equity but in reality does little to ensure it," writes Warikoo.

  •  
  • 1 of 36
  • »

Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes
Williamson, Vanessa S. Forthcoming. Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 304.Abstract

 

Conventional wisdom holds that Americans hate taxes. But the conventional wisdom is wrong. Bringing together national survey data with in-depth interviews, Read My Lips presents a surprising picture of tax attitudes in the United States. Vanessa Williamson demonstrates that Americans view taxpaying as a civic responsibility and a moral obligation. But they worry that others are shirking their duties, in part because the experience of taxpaying misleads Americans about who pays taxes and how much. Perceived "loopholes" convince many income tax filers that a flat tax might actually raise taxes on the rich, and the relative invisibility of the sales and payroll taxes encourages many to underestimate the sizable tax contributions made by poor and working people.

Americans see being a taxpayer as a role worthy of pride and respect, a sign that one is a contributing member of the community and the nation. For this reason, the belief that many Americans are not paying their share is deeply corrosive to the social fabric. The widespread misperception that immigrants, the poor, and working-class families pay little or no taxes substantially reduces public support for progressive spending programs and undercuts the political standing of low-income people. At the same time, the belief that the wealthy pay less than their share diminishes confidence that the political process represents most people.

Upending the idea of Americans as knee-jerk opponents of taxes, Read My Lips examines American taxpaying as an act of political faith. Ironically, the depth of the American civic commitment to taxpaying makes the failures of the tax system, perceived and real, especially potent frustrations.

 

Urban Citizenship and American Democracy
Bridges, Amy, and Michael Javen Fortner, ed. 2016. Urban Citizenship and American Democracy. State University of New York Press.Abstract

After decades of being defined by crisis and limitations, cities are popular again—as destinations for people and businesses, and as subjects of scholarly study. Urban Citizenship and American Democracy contributes to this new scholarship by exploring the origins and dynamics of urban citizenship in the United States. Written by both urban and nonurban scholars using a variety of methodological approaches, the book examines urban citizenship within particular historical, social, and policy contexts, including issues of political participation, public school engagement, and crime policy development. Contributors focus on enduring questions about urban political power, local government, and civic engagement to offer fresh theoretical and empirical accounts of city politics and policy, federalism, and American democracy.

Competition in the Promised Land: Black Migrants in Northern Cities and Labor Markets
Boustan, Leah Platt. 2016. Competition in the Promised Land: Black Migrants in Northern Cities and Labor Markets. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 216.Abstract

From 1940 to 1970, nearly four million black migrants left the American rural South to settle in the industrial cities of the North and West. Competition in the Promised Land provides a comprehensive account of the long-lasting effects of the influx of black workers on labor markets and urban space in receiving areas.

Traditionally, the Great Black Migration has been lauded as a path to general black economic progress. Leah Boustan challenges this view, arguing instead that the migration produced winners and losers within the black community. Boustan shows that migrants themselves gained tremendously, more than doubling their earnings by moving North. But these new arrivals competed with existing black workers, limiting black–white wage convergence in Northern labor markets and slowing black economic growth. Furthermore, many white households responded to the black migration by relocating to the suburbs. White flight was motivated not only by neighborhood racial change but also by the desire on the part of white residents to avoid participating in the local public services and fiscal obligations of increasingly diverse cities.

Employing historical census data and state-of-the-art econometric methods, Competition in the Promised Land revises our understanding of the Great Black Migration and its role in the transformation of American society.

Children of the Great Recession
Wimer, Christopher. 2016. Children of the Great Recession. Edited by Irwin Garfinkel and Sara McLanahan. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 248.Abstract

Many working families continue to struggle in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the deepest and longest economic downturn since the Great Depression. In Children of the Great Recession, a group of leading scholars draw from a unique study of nearly 5,000 economically and ethnically diverse families in twenty cities to analyze the effects of the Great Recession on parents and young children. By exploring the discrepancies in outcomes between these families—particularly between those headed by parents with college degrees and those without—this timely book shows how the most disadvantaged families have continued to suffer as a result of the Great Recession.

Several contributors examine the recession’s impact on the economic well-being of families, including changes to income, poverty levels, and economic insecurity. Irwin Garfinkel and Natasha Pilkauskas find that in cities with high unemployment rates during the recession, incomes for families with a college-educated mother fell by only about 5 percent, whereas families without college degrees experienced income losses three to four times greater. Garfinkel and Pilkauskas also show that the number of non-college-educated families enrolled in federal safety net programs—including Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or food stamps)—grew rapidly in response to the Great Recession.

Other researchers examine how parents’ physical and emotional health, relationship stability, and parenting behavior changed over the course of the recession. Janet Currie and Valentina Duque find that while mothers and fathers across all education groups experienced more health problems as a result of the downturn, health disparities by education widened. Daniel Schneider, Sara McLanahan and Kristin Harknett find decreases in marriage and cohabitation rates among less-educated families, and Ronald Mincy and Elia de la Cruz-Toledo show that as unemployment rates increased, nonresident fathers’ child support payments decreased. William Schneider, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, and Jane Waldfogel show that fluctuations in unemployment rates negatively affected parenting quality and child well-being, particularly for families where the mother did not have a four-year college degree.

Although the recession affected most Americans, Children of the Great Recession reveals how vulnerable parents and children paid a higher price. The research in this volume suggests that policies that boost college access and reinforce the safety net could help protect disadvantaged families in times of economic crisis.

Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel
Lamont, Michèle, Graziella Moraes Silva, Jessica S. Welburn, Joshua Guetzkow, Nissim Mizrachi, Hanna Herzog, and Elisa Reis. 2016. Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Abstract

Racism is a common occurrence for members of marginalized groups around the world. Getting Respect illuminates their experiences by comparing three countries with enduring group boundaries: the United States, Brazil and Israel. The authors delve into what kinds of stigmatizing or discriminatory incidents individuals encounter in each country, how they respond to these occurrences, and what they view as the best strategy—whether individually, collectively, through confrontation, or through self-improvement—for dealing with such events.

This deeply collaborative and integrated study draws on more than four hundred in-depth interviews with middle- and working-class men and women residing in and around multiethnic cities—New York City, Rio de Janeiro, and Tel Aviv—to compare the discriminatory experiences of African Americans, black Brazilians, and Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as Israeli Ethiopian Jews and Mizrahi (Sephardic) Jews. Detailed analysis reveals significant differences in group behavior: Arab Palestinians frequently remain silent due to resignation and cynicism while black Brazilians see more stigmatization by class than by race, and African Americans confront situations with less hesitation than do Ethiopian Jews and Mizrahim, who tend to downplay their exclusion. The authors account for these patterns by considering the extent to which each group is actually a group, the sociohistorical context of intergroup conflict, and the national ideologies and other cultural repertoires that group members rely on.

Getting Respect is a rich and daring book that opens many new perspectives into, and sets a new global agenda for, the comparative analysis of race and ethnicity.

The Diversity Bargain: And Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities
Warikoo, Natasha K. 2016. The Diversity Bargain: And Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities. University of Chicago Press.Abstract

We’ve heard plenty from politicians and experts on affirmative action and higher education, about how universities should intervene—if at all—to ensure a diverse but deserving student population. But what about those for whom these issues matter the most? In this book, Natasha K. Warikoo deeply explores how students themselves think about merit and race at a uniquely pivotal moment: after they have just won the most competitive game of their lives and gained admittance to one of the world’s top universities.
           
What Warikoo uncovers—talking with both white students and students of color at Harvard, Brown, and Oxford—is absolutely illuminating; and some of it is positively shocking. As she shows, many elite white students understand the value of diversity abstractly, but they ignore the real problems that racial inequality causes and that diversity programs are meant to solve. They stand in fear of being labeled a racist, but they are quick to call foul should a diversity program appear at all to hamper their own chances for advancement. The most troubling result of this ambivalence is what she calls the “diversity bargain,” in which white students reluctantly agree with affirmative action as long as it benefits them by providing a diverse learning environment—racial diversity, in this way, is a commodity, a selling point on a brochure. And as Warikoo shows, universities play a big part in creating these situations. The way they talk about race on campus and the kinds of diversity programs they offer have a huge impact on student attitudes, shaping them either toward ambivalence or, in better cases, toward more productive and considerate understandings of racial difference.
           
Ultimately, this book demonstrates just how slippery the notions of race, merit, and privilege can be. In doing so, it asks important questions not just about college admissions but what the elite students who have succeeded at it—who will be the world’s future leaders—will do with the social inequalities of the wider world.  

Schooling the Next Generation: Creating Success in Urban Elementary Schools
Zuberi, Dan. 2015. Schooling the Next Generation: Creating Success in Urban Elementary Schools. University of Toronto Press.Abstract

Public schools are among the most important institutions in North American communities, especially in disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods. At their best, they enable students to overcome challenges like poverty by providing vital literacy and numeracy skills. At their worst, they condemn students to failure, both economically and in terms of preparing them to be active participants in a democratic society.

In Schooling the Next Generation, Dan Zuberi documents the challenges facing ten East Vancouver elementary schools in diverse lower-income communities, as well as the ways their principals, teachers, and parents are overcoming these challenges. Going beyond the façade of standardized test scores, Zuberi identifies the kinds of school and community programs that are making a difference and could be replicated in other schools. At the same time, he calls into question the assumptions behind a test score-driven search for “successful schools.” Focusing on early literacy and numeracy skills mastery, Schooling the Next Generation presents a slate of policy recommendations to help students in urban elementary schools achieve their full potential.

Cut Loose: Jobless and Hopeless in an Unfair Economy
Chen, Victor Tan. 2015. Cut Loose: Jobless and Hopeless in an Unfair Economy. Oakland, California: University of California Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Years after the Great Recession, the economy is still weak, and an unprecedented number of workers have sunk into long spells of unemployment. Cut Loose provides a vivid and moving account of the experiences of some of these men and women, through the example of a historically important group: autoworkers. Their well-paid jobs on the assembly lines built a strong middle class in the decades after World War II. But today, they find themselves beleaguered in a changed economy of greater inequality and risk, one that favors the well-educated—or well-connected.

Their declining fortunes in recent decades tell us something about what the white-collar workforce should expect to see in the years ahead, as job-killing technologies and the shipping of work overseas take away even more good jobs. Cut Loose offers a poignant look at how the long-term unemployed struggle in today’s unfair economy to support their families, rebuild their lives, and overcome the shame and self-blame they deal with on a daily basis. It is also a call to action—a blueprint for a new kind of politics, one that offers a measure of grace in a society of ruthless advancement.

Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment
Fortner, Michael Javen. 2015. Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Often seen as a political sop to the racial fears of white voters, aggressive policing and draconian sentencing for illegal drug possession and related crimes have led to the imprisonment of millions of African Americans—far in excess of their representation in the population as a whole. Michael Javen Fortner shows in this eye-opening account that these punitive policies also enjoyed the support of many working-class and middle-class blacks, who were angry about decline and disorder in their communities. Black Silent Majority uncovers the role African Americans played in creating today’s system of mass incarceration.

Current anti-drug policies are based on a set of controversial laws first adopted in New York in the early 1970s and championed by the state’s Republican governor, Nelson Rockefeller. Fortner traces how many blacks in New York came to believe that the rehabilitation-focused liberal policies of the 1960s had failed. Faced with economic malaise and rising rates of addiction and crime, they blamed addicts and pushers. By 1973, the outcry from grassroots activists and civic leaders in Harlem calling for drastic measures presented Rockefeller with a welcome opportunity to crack down on crime and boost his political career. New York became the first state to mandate long prison sentences for selling or possessing narcotics.

Black Silent Majority lays bare the tangled roots of a pernicious system. America’s drug policies, while in part a manifestation of the conservative movement, are also a product of black America’s confrontation with crime and chaos in its own neighborhoods.

When Movements Anchor Parties: Electoral Alignments in American History
Schlozman, Daniel. 2015. When Movements Anchor Parties: Electoral Alignments in American History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Throughout American history, some social movements, such as organized labor and the Christian Right, have forged influential alliances with political parties, while others, such as the antiwar movement, have not. When Movements Anchor Parties provides a bold new interpretation of American electoral history by examining five prominent movements and their relationships with political parties.

Taking readers from the Civil War to today, Daniel Schlozman shows how two powerful alliances—those of organized labor and Democrats in the New Deal, and the Christian Right and Republicans since the 1970s—have defined the basic priorities of parties and shaped the available alternatives in national politics. He traces how they diverged sharply from three other major social movements that failed to establish a place inside political parties—the abolitionists following the Civil War, the Populists in the 1890s, and the antiwar movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Moving beyond a view of political parties simply as collections of groups vying for preeminence, Schlozman explores how would-be influencers gain influence—or do not. He reveals how movements join with parties only when the alliance is beneficial to parties, and how alliance exacts a high price from movements. Their sweeping visions give way to compromise and partial victories. Yet as Schlozman demonstrates, it is well worth paying the price as movements reorient parties’ priorities.

Timely and compelling, When Movements Anchor Parties demonstrates how alliances have transformed American political parties.

Daniel Schlozman is assistant professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University.

The Luck of Politics: True Tales of Disaster and Outrageous Fortune
Leigh, Andrew. 2015. The Luck of Politics: True Tales of Disaster and Outrageous Fortune. Black, Inc. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A delightful look at chance and outrageous fortune

In 1968, John Howard missed out on winning the state seat of Drummoyne by just 420 votes. Howard reflects: ‘I think back how fortunate I was to have lost.’ It left him free to stand for a safe federal seat in 1974 and become one of Australia’s longest-serving prime ministers.

In The Luck of Politics, Andrew Leigh weaves together numbers and stories to show the many ways luck can change the course of political events.

This is a book full of fascinating facts and intriguing findings. Why is politics more like poker than chess? Does the length of your surname affect your political prospects? What about your gender?

And who was our unluckiest politician? Charles Griffiths served as the Labor member for Shortland for 23 years. It was an unusually long career, but alas, his service perfectly coincided with federal Labor’s longest stint out of power: 1949 to 1972!

From Winston Churchill to George Bush, Margaret Thatcher to Paul Keating, this book will persuade you that luck shapes politics – and that maybe, just maybe, we should avoid the temptation to revere the winners and revile the losers.

The Cultural Matrix : Understanding Black Youth
Patterson, Orlando, and Ethan Fosse, ed. 2015. The Cultural Matrix : Understanding Black Youth. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Abstract

The Cultural Matrix seeks to unravel a uniquely American paradox: the socioeconomic crisis, segregation, and social isolation of disadvantaged black youth, on the one hand, and their extraordinary integration and prominence in popular culture on the other. Despite school dropout rates over 40 percent, a third spending time in prison, chronic unemployment, and endemic violence, black youth are among the most vibrant creators of popular culture in the world. They also espouse several deeply-held American values. To understand this conundrum, the authors bring culture back to the forefront of explanation, while avoiding the theoretical errors of earlier culture-of-poverty approaches and the causal timidity and special pleading of more recent ones. There is no single black youth culture, but a complex matrix of cultures—adapted mainstream, African-American vernacular, street culture, and hip-hop—that support and undermine, enrich and impoverish young lives. Hip-hop, for example, has had an enormous influence, not always to the advantage of its creators. However, its muscular message of primal honor and sensual indulgence is not motivated by a desire for separatism but by an insistence on sharing in the mainstream culture of consumption, power, and wealth. This interdisciplinary work draws on all the social sciences, as well as social philosophy and ethnomusicology, in a concerted effort to explain how culture, interacting with structural and environmental forces, influences the performance and control of violence, aesthetic productions, educational and work outcomes, familial, gender, and sexual relations, and the complex moral life of black youth.

The Economics of Just About Everything : The hidden reasons for our curious choices and surprising successes
Leigh, Andrew. 2014. The Economics of Just About Everything : The hidden reasons for our curious choices and surprising successes. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.Abstract

Did you know that another 10 cm of height boosts your income by thousands of dollars per year? Or that a boy born in January is nearly twice as likely to play first grade rugby league as a boy born in December? Or that natural disasters attract more foreign aid if they happen on a slow news day? And that a perfectly clean desk can be as inefficient as a messy one?

  •  
  • 1 of 3
  • »

Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

Jurors' Subjective Experiences of Deliberations in Criminal Cases
Winter, Alix S., and Matthew Clair. Forthcoming. “Jurors' Subjective Experiences of Deliberations in Criminal Cases.” Law & Social Inquiry.Abstract

Research on jury deliberations has largely focused on the implications of deliberations for criminal defendants' outcomes. In contrast, this article considers jurors' outcomes by integrating subjective experience into the study of deliberations. We examine whether jurors' feelings that they had enough time to express themselves vary by jurors' gender, race, or education. Drawing on status characteristics theory and a survey of more than 3,000 real-world jurors, we find that the majority of jurors feel that they had enough time to express themselves. However, blacks and Hispanics, and especially blacks and Hispanics with less education, are less likely to feel so. Jurors' verdict preferences do not account for these findings. Our findings have implications for status characteristics theory and for legal cynicism among members of lower-status social groups.

Labor Unions as Activist Organizations: A Union Power Approach to Estimating Union Wage Effects
Wilmers, Nathan. Forthcoming. “Labor Unions as Activist Organizations: A Union Power Approach to Estimating Union Wage Effects.” Social Forces.Abstract

Amid the long decline of US unions, research on union wage effects has struggled with selection problems and inadequate theory. I draw on the sociology of labor to argue that unions use non-market sources of power to pressure companies into raising wages. This theory of union power implies a new test of union wage effects: does union activism have an effect on wages that is not reducible to workers’ market position? Two institutional determinants of union activity are used to empirically isolate the wage effect of union activism from labor market conditions: increased union revenue from investment shocks and increased union activity leading up to union officer elections. Instrumental variable analysis of panel data from the Department of Labor shows that a 1 percent increase in union spending increases a proxy for union members’ wages between 0.15 percent and 0.30 percent. These wage effects are larger in years of active collective bargaining, and when unions increase spending in ways that could pressure companies. The results indicate that non-market sources of union power can affect workers’ wages and that even in a period of labor weakness unions still play a role in setting wages for their members.

Can States Take Over and Turn Around School Districts? Evidence From Lawrence, Massachusetts
Beth E. Schueler,, Joshua S. Goodman, and David J. Deming. Forthcoming. “Can States Take Over and Turn Around School Districts? Evidence From Lawrence, Massachusetts.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis .Abstract

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to identify and turn around struggling schools, with federal school improvement money required to fund evidence-based policies. Most research on turnarounds has focused on individual schools, whereas studies of district-wide turnarounds have come from relatively exceptional settings and interventions. We study a district-wide turnaround of a type that may become more common under ESSA, an accountability-driven state takeover of Massachusetts’s Lawrence Public Schools (LPS). A differences-in-differences framework comparing LPS to demographically similar districts not subject to state takeover shows that the turnaround’s first 2 years produced sizable achievement gains in math and modest gains in reading. We also find no evidence that the turnaround resulted in slippage on nontest score outcomes and suggestive evidence of positive effects on grade progression among high school students. Intensive small-group instruction over vacation breaks may have led to particularly large achievement gains for participating students.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

The base rate principle and the fairness principle in social judgment
Cao, Jack, and Mahzarin R. Banaji. 2016. “The base rate principle and the fairness principle in social judgment.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113 (27).Abstract

Meet Jonathan and Elizabeth. One person is a doctor and the other is a nurse. Who is the doctor? When nothing else is known, the base rate principle favors Jonathan to be the doctor and the fairness principle favors both individuals equally. However, when individuating facts reveal who is actually the doctor, base rates and fairness become irrelevant, as the facts make the correct answer clear. In three experiments, explicit and implicit beliefs were measured before and after individuating facts were learned. These facts were either stereotypic (e.g., Jonathan is the doctor, Elizabeth is the nurse) or counterstereotypic (e.g., Elizabeth is the doctor, Jonathan is the nurse). Results showed that before individuating facts were learned, explicit beliefs followed the fairness principle, whereas implicit beliefs followed the base rate principle. After individuating facts were learned, explicit beliefs correctly aligned with stereotypic and counterstereotypic facts. Implicit beliefs, however, were immune to counterstereotypic facts and continued to follow the base rate principle. Having established the robustness and generality of these results, a fourth experiment verified that gender stereotypes played a causal role: when both individuals were male, explicit and implicit beliefs alike correctly converged with individuating facts. Taken together, these experiments demonstrate that explicit beliefs uphold fairness and incorporate obvious and relevant facts, but implicit beliefs uphold base rates and appear relatively impervious to counterstereotypic facts.

Does Your Home Make You Wealthy?
Killewald, Alexandra, and Brielle Bryan. 2016. “Does Your Home Make You Wealthy?.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 2 (6): 110–128 .Abstract

Estimating the lifetime wealth consequences of homeownership is complicated by ongoing events, such as divorce or inheritance, that may shape both homeownership decisions and later-life wealth. We argue that prior research that has not accounted for these dynamic selection processes has overstated the causal effect of homeownership on wealth. Using NLSY79 data and marginal structural models, we find that each additional year of homeownership increases midlife wealth in 2008 by about $6,800, more than 25 percent less than estimates from models that do not account for dynamic selection. Hispanic and African American wealth benefits from each homeownership year are 62 percent and 48 percent as large as those of whites, respectively. Homeownership remains wealth-enhancing in 2012, but shows smaller returns. Our results confirm homeownership’s role in wealth accumulation and that variation in both homeownership rates and the wealth benefits of homeownership contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in midlife wealth holdings.

Predicting Freshman Grade Point Average From College Admissions Test Scores and State High School Test Scores
Koretz, Daniel, Carol Yu, Preeya P. Mbekeani, Meredith Langi, Tasmin Dhaliwal, and David Braslow. 2016. “Predicting Freshman Grade Point Average From College Admissions Test Scores and State High School Test Scores.” AERA Open 2 (4). SAGE Publications: 1-13.Abstract

The current focus on assessing “college and career readiness” raises an empirical question: How do high school tests compare with college admissions tests in predicting performance in college? We explored this using data from the City University of New York and public colleges in Kentucky. These two systems differ in the choice of college admissions test, the stakes for students on the high school test, and demographics. We predicted freshman grade point average (FGPA) from high school GPA and both college admissions and high school tests in mathematics and English. In both systems, the choice of tests had only trivial effects on the aggregate prediction of FGPA. Adding either test to an equation that included the other had only trivial effects on prediction. Although the findings suggest that the choice of test might advantage or disadvantage different students, it had no substantial effect on the over- and underprediction of FGPA for students classified by race-ethnicity or poverty.

  •  
  • 1 of 5
  • »

Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

When Do Renters Behave Like Homeowners? High Rent, Price Anxiety, and NIMBYism

When Do Renters Behave Like Homeowners? High Rent, Price Anxiety, and NIMBYism

February 7, 2017

JCHS Housing Perspectives | By Michael Hankinson, Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy. Hankinson's findings, "based on new national-level experimental data and city-specific behavioral data....help explain why it is so hard to build new housing in expensive cities even when there is citywide support for that housing."  Read the full paper in the Joint Center for Housing Studies Working Paper series, and learn more about Hankinson's work at his website.
mhankinson.com

Dropbox logo

Open letter from political scientists clarifies evidence concerning Trump claim that millions of non-citizens voted in 2016 election

January 30, 2017

An open letter signed by nearly 200 professional political scientists and scholars of political behavior, including Harvard professor Ryan Enos and Inequality & Social Policy alumni Bernard Fraga PhD'13 (Indiana University), Alex Hertel-Fernandez PhD'16 (Columbia University), Jeremy Levine PhD'16 (University of Michigan), Daniel Schlozman PhD'11 (Johns Hopkins University), Ariel White PhD'16 (MIT), and Vanessa Williamson PhD'15 (Brookings Institution).

EconoFact

Will Manufacturing Jobs Come Back?

January 20, 2017

EconoFact | By David Deming (Ph.D '10), Professor at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Residential Mobility by Whites Maintains Segregation Despite Recent Changes

Residential Mobility by Whites Maintains Segregation Despite Recent Changes

December 21, 2016

NYU Furman Center | By Jackelyn Hwang (Ph.D. '15), essay for the NYU Furman Center discussion series "The Dream Revisited." Hwang is postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton University, and in fall 2017 will join the Stanford University faculty as Assistant Professor of Sociology.

Economic Report of the President 2017

Economic Report of the President 2017

December 15, 2016

Reducing inequality, reforming the health care system, investing in higher education, strengthening the financial system, and addressing climate change are the focus of this year's Economic Report of the President.

Draws on research by Inequality & Social Policy affiliates Amitabh Chandra, Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15), David Deming (Ph.D. '10 and faculty), Will Dobbie (Ph.D. '13), Roland Fryer, Claudia Goldin, Joshua Goodman, Nathaniel Hendren, Thomas Kane, Lawrence Katz, Adam Looney (Ph.D. '04), Brigitte Madrian, Sendhil Mullainathan, Jonah Rockoff (Ph.D. '04), and Judith Scott-Clayton (Ph.D. '09).

The fading American dream: trends in absolute income mobility since 1940

The fading American dream: trends in absolute income mobility since 1940

December 8, 2016

Washington Center for Equitable Growth | By Raj Chetty, David Grusky, Maximilian Hell, Nathaniel Hendren, Robert Manduca, and Jimmy Narang.

A summary of the authors' findings from a newly-released paper by a team of researchers from Stanford, Harvard, and UC Berkeley. Harvard Inequality & Social Policy affiliates are Nathaniel Hendren, Assistant Professor of Economics, and Robert Manduca, Ph.D. student in Sociology & Social Policy. Learn more: The Equality of Opportunity Project 

A principled federal role in PreK-12 education

A principled federal role in PreK-12 education

December 7, 2016

Brookings Institution | By Douglas N. Harris, Helen F. Ladd, Marshall S. Smith, and Martin R. West. A set of principles to guide the federal role in education policy from a bipartisan group of scholars and policy experts. Martin West (Ph.D. '06) is an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

High-Stakes Student Testing has Mixed Results in Texas Schools

High-Stakes Student Testing has Mixed Results in Texas Schools

December 1, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School | Discusses findings of new study forthcoming in the December issue of The Review of Economics and Statistics by David J. Deming (Ph.D. '10), Professor of Education and Economics, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15), Assistant Professor of Education an Public Policy, Teachers College, Columbia University; Jennifer Jennings of New York University; and Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, Emeritus, Harvard Kennedy School.

After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality

After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality

November 15, 2016

 

Harvard University Press | Ellora Derenoncourt, Ph.D. candidate in Economics, is a contributor to After Piketty, forthcoming from Harvard University Press in April 2017. Edited by Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong, and Marshall Steinbaum, the 640-page volume brings together published reviews by Nobel laureates Paul Krugman and Robert Solow and newly-commissioned essays by Suresh Naidu, Laura Tyson, Michael Spence, Heather Boushey, Branko Milanovic, and others. Emmanuel Saez lays out an agenda for future research on inequality, while a variety of essays examine the book's implications for the social sciences more broadly. Piketty replies in a substantial concluding chapter.

Derenoncourt's chapter explores the historical and institutional origins of the wealth and income inequality documented in Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. Drawing on the framework introduced by Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and James Robinson of extractive and inclusive institutions, Derenoncourt demonstrates how these institutions influence the distribution of economic outcomes in different countries and regions historically. In particular, she explores these questions in the context of slavery in the US South and European colonization in Africa and the Americas.

Learn more about her work:
Ellora Derenoncourt: Ph.D. fellow page ▶

Chart of the week: Do high taxes motivate star inventors to relocate?

Chart of the week: Do high taxes motivate star inventors to relocate?

November 4, 2016

American Economics Association | Is tax flight by the rich mostly a myth or a serious concern? Discusses new study co-authored by Stefanie Stantcheva, Assistant Professor of Economics, which appears in the October issue of the American Economic Review. The research is co-authored by Ufuk Akcigit, University of Chicago, and Salomé Baslandze, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance. 
View AER article (complimentary access)

Research highlight: Are hospitals more like other businesses than we thought?

Research highlight: Are hospitals more like other businesses than we thought?

November 2, 2016

American Economics Association | Delves into new article by Harvard's Amitabh Chandra (Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy), Amy Finkelstein (MIT), Adam Sacarny (Columbia University), and Chad Syverson (Chicago Booth).

"A study published in the August issue of American Economic Review found that hospitals – long thought to be economic islands apart from typical market pressures – are shaped by consumer-driven forces like in other industries. The findings challenge long-held beliefs about health care “exceptionalism” and raise questions for policymakers as they consider reforms to the $3 trillion U.S. health care sector."
View the AER article (complimentary access)

The Importance of Middle Skill Jobs

The Importance of Middle Skill Jobs

October 25, 2016

National Academy of Sciences—Issues in Science and Technology | By Alicia Sasser Modestino (Ph.D. '01). Middle-skill jobs are key for the nation and its workforce. Here is where things stand today and projections for future improvements. 

Alicia Sasser Modestino is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Economics at Northeastern University, and Associate Director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.

What do financial markets think of the 2016 election?

What do financial markets think of the 2016 election?

October 21, 2016

Brookings Institution | By Justin Wolfers (Ph.D. 01), Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Michigan and a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Eric Zitewitz, Professor of Economics at Darthmouth College.

  •  
  • 1 of 7
  • »