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 2017-2018 fellows ▶

Over 175 Inequality doctoral fellows have earned their Ph.D.'s.
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The Inequality and Wealth Concentration Ph.D. Scholars

The Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Ph.D. Scholars in Poverty and Justice

Fellowship awards
$32,000 dissertation stipend + $5,000 research funds

New lines of research
Top-end income inequality and wealth concentration

A distinctive component aims to spur new empirical research that contributes to our understanding of top-end inequality and wealth concentration, the main drivers of U.S. economic inequality in recent decades.

Significant resources are available for students pursuing research on the determinants of trends at the top of the distribution and their economic, political, social, or policy consequences.

Wed, June 14, 2017

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Inequality Seminar

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Our latest issue


Stefanie Stantcheva

Stefanie Stantcheva named a 2018 Sloan Research Fellow

February 15, 2018
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Stefanie Stantcheva, Associate Professor of Economics, is one of 126 early-career scholars selected for the 2018 Sloan Research Fellowship. The Sloan Research Fellows, drawn from eight scientific fields, "represent the most promising scientific researchers working today." Since 1955, Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win 45 Nobel Prizes, 16 Fields Medals, 69 National Medals of Science, 17 John Bates Clark Medals, and numerous other distinguished awards.

Learn more about Stefanie Stantcheva's work
Can the Financial Benefit of Lobbying be Quantified?

Can the Financial Benefit of Lobbying be Quantified?

January 16, 2018
Washington Center for Equitable Growth | A look at a new paper by Inequality doctoral fellow Brian Libgober, PhD candidate in Government, and Daniel Carpenter, Allie S. Freed Professor of Government, "Lobbying with Lawyers: Financial Market Evidence for Banks' Influence on Rulemaking."
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Lawrence F. Katz

Imagining a Future of Work That Fosters Mobility for All

February 1, 2018
U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty | Idea paper by Lawrence Katz, Ai-Jen Poo, and Elaine Waxman. Lawrence Katz is Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard and a member of U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty.
Fragments Were What I Had Available to Me: Talking to Danielle Allen

Fragments Were What I Had Available to Me: Talking to Danielle Allen

January 26, 2018
Los Angeles Review of Books |Interivew with Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard. How to address in catalyzing prose the policy ramifications of your family’s most intimate personal struggles? How (and why) to construct a poetics of prison reform? When I want to ask such questions, I pose them to Danielle Allen. This conversation, transcribed by Phoebe Kaufman, focuses on Allen’s Cuz, a kaleidoscopic account of her cousin Michael’s life before, during, and after incarceration. Read more>>
Jason Furman

‘Repeal and Replace’ the Trump Tax Cuts

January 25, 2018
Wall Street Journal | By Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. We need to repeal and replace the tax cuts with something more sustainable, efficient, simple and better for American families, Furman argues.
Restoring the American Dream: What Would It Take to Dramatically Increase Mobility from Poverty?

Restoring the American Dream: What Would It Take to Dramatically Increase Mobility from Poverty?

January 23, 2018

US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty | The US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty is a collaboration of 24 leading scholars, policy experts, and practitioners tasked with answering one big, bold, and exciting question: What would it take to dramatically increase mobility from poverty? This two-year project was funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Co-authored by David T. Ellwood, Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and Nisha G. Patel, Executive Director of the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, Urban Institute

Jason Furman

The Right Question about Inequality and Growth

January 19, 2018
Project Syndicate | By Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. Whether inequality is good or bad for growth should and will continue to concern social scientists, Furman writes. But policymakers would do better, he urges, to focus on how policies impact average incomes and other welfare indicators
David J. Deming

The Value of Soft Skills in the Labor Market

January 17, 2018
NBER Reporter | By David J. Deming (PhD '10), Professor at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education. Deming provides an overview of the current state of research on soft skills in the labor market. His own work in this area, "The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market," appears in the November 2017 issue of Quarterly Journal of Economics.
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Racialized legal status as a social determinant of health
Asad, Asad L., and Matthew Clair. Forthcoming. “Racialized legal status as a social determinant of health.” Social Science & Medicine.Abstract

This article advances the concept of racialized legal status (RLS) as an overlooked dimension of social stratification with implications for racial/ethnic health disparities. We define RLS as a social position based on an ostensibly race-neutral legal classification that becomes colored through its disparate impact on racial/ethnic minorities. To illustrate the implications of RLS for health and health disparities in the United States, we spotlight existing research on two cases: criminal status and immigration status. We offer a conceptual framework that outlines how RLS shapes disparities through (1) direct effects on those who hold a legal status and (2) spillover effects on racial/ethnic in-group members, regardless of these individuals' own legal status. Direct effects of RLS operate by marking an individual for material and symbolic exclusion. Spillover effects result from the vicarious experiences of those with social proximity to marked individuals, as well as the discredited meanings that RLS constructs around racial/ethnic group members. We conclude by suggesting multiple avenues for future research that considers RLS as a mechanism of social inequality with fundamental effects on health.

Autocracies and the international sources of cooperation
Mazumder, Soumyajit. Forthcoming. “Autocracies and the international sources of cooperation.” Journal of Peace Research.Abstract
Under what conditions do autocracies peacefully settle disputes? Existing studies tend to focus on the domestic factors that shape conflict initiation. In this article, I show how domestic institutions interact with international institutions to produce more cooperative outcomes. Particularly, this study argues that as autocracies become more central in the network of liberal institutions such as preferential trade agreements (PTAs), they are less likely to initiate a militarized interstate dispute (MID). As a state becomes more democratic, the effect of centrality within the PTA network on the peaceful dispute settlement dissipates. This is because greater embeddedness in the PTA regime is associated with enhanced transparency for autocracies, which allows autocracies to mitigate ex ante informational problems in dispute resolution. Using a dataset of MID initiation from 1965 to 1999, this study finds robust empirical support for the aforementioned hypothesis. Moreover, the results are substantively significant. Further analysis into the causal mechanisms at work provides evidence in favor of the information mechanism. Autocrats who are more embedded in the PTA network tend to have higher levels of economic transparency and economic transparency itself is associated with lower rates of conflict initiation. The results suggest that an autocrat’s structural position within the international system can help to peacefully settle its disputes.
Is Running Enough? Reconsidering the Conventional Wisdom about Women Candidates
BucchianerI, Peter. Forthcoming. “Is Running Enough? Reconsidering the Conventional Wisdom about Women Candidates .” Political Behavior.Abstract
The conventional wisdom in the literature on women candidates holds that “when women run, they win as often as men.” This has led to a strong focus in the literature on the barriers to entry for women candidates and significant evidence that these barriers hinder representation. Yet, a growing body of research suggests that some disadvantages persist for Republican women even after they choose to run for office. In this paper, I investigate the aggregate consequences of these disadvantages for general election outcomes. Using a regression discontinuity design, I show that Republican women who win close House primaries lose at higher rates in the general election than Republican men. This nomination effect holds throughout the 1990s despite a surge in Republican voting starting in 1994. I find no such effect for Democratic women and provide evidence that a gap in elite support explains part of the cross-party difference.
Unemployment insurance and reservation wages: Evidence from administrative data
Barbanchon, Thomas Le, Roland Rathelot, and Alexandra Roulet. Forthcoming. “Unemployment insurance and reservation wages: Evidence from administrative data.” Journal of Public Economics.Abstract

Although the reservation wage plays a central role in job search models, empirical evidence on the determinants of reservation wages, including key policy variables such as unemployment insurance (UI), is scarce. In France, unemployed people must declare their reservation wage to the Public Employment Service when they register to claim UI benefits. We take advantage of these rich French administrative data and of a reform of UI rules to estimate the effect of the Potential Benefit Duration (PBD) on reservation wages and on other dimensions of job selectivity, using a difference-in-difference strategy. We cannot reject that the elasticity of the reservation wage with respect to PBD is zero. Our results are precise and we can rule out elasticities larger than 0.006. Furthermore, we do not find any significant effects of PBD on the desired number of hours, duration of labor contract and commuting time/distance. The estimated elasticity of actual benefit duration with respect to PBD of 0.3 is in line with the consensus in the literature. Exploiting a Regression Discontinuity Design as an alternative identification strategy, we find similar results.

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. 2017. “Labor Unions as Activist Organizations: A Union Power Approach to Estimating Union Wage Effects.” Social Forces 95 (4): 1451-1478.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
Schueler, Beth E, Joshua S. Goodman, and David J. Deming. 2017. “Can States Take Over and Turn Around School Districts? Evidence From Lawrence, Massachusetts.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 39 (2): 311-332.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.

The Historical Origins of Global Inequality
Derenoncourt, Ellora. 2017. “The Historical Origins of Global Inequality.” After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality, edited by Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong, and Marshall Steinbaum. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Abstract
Economist Ellora Derenoncourt addresses the deep historical and institutional origins of wealth inequality, which she argues may be driven by what Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson identify as "extractive" versus "inclusive" institutions. Derenoncourt's core point is that while institutions underlying wealth accumulation may be inclusive for "citizens", or those individuals granted rights in the body politic, they may at the same time be extractive for "subjects," including slaves, members of historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups, and others not accorded equal legal status. Derenoncourt discusses several examples of this dichotomy playing out, with documented ramifications for the current distribution of wealth.
Voting But For the Law: Evidence from Virginia on Photo Identification Requirements
Hopkins, Daniel J., Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, Sarah Smith, and Jesse Yonder. 2017. “Voting But For the Law: Evidence from Virginia on Photo Identification Requirements.” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 14 (1): 79-128.Abstract

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

Surprising Ripple Effects: How Changing the SAT Score-Sending Policy for Low-Income Students Impacts College Access and Success
Hurwitz, Michael, Preeya P. Mbekeani, Margaret M. Nipson, and Lindsay C. Page. 2017. “Surprising Ripple Effects: How Changing the SAT Score-Sending Policy for Low-Income Students Impacts College Access and Success.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 39 (1): 77-103.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.

Effects of a Summer Mathematics Intervention for Low-Income Children: A Randomized Experiment
Lynch, Kathleen, and James S. Kim. 2017. “Effects of a Summer Mathematics Intervention for Low-Income Children: A Randomized Experiment.” Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis 39 (1): 31-53.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.

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.

Does Consumer Demand Reproduce Inequality? High-Income Consumers, Vertical Differentiation, and the Wage Structure
Wilmers, Nathan. 2017. “Does Consumer Demand Reproduce Inequality? High-Income Consumers, Vertical Differentiation, and the Wage Structure.” American Journal of Sociology 123 (1): 178-231.Abstract

This article considers the effects on the wage structure of the U.S. economy’s growing reliance on demand from high-income consumers. Relative to the mass consumers that defined the post–World War II U.S. economy, high-income consumers are willing to pay for high-quality and high-status products. These spending patterns split producers into up-market and down-market segments and stoke winner-take-all dynamics among up-market producers. Economic dependence on high-income consumers could thus lead to a new form of industrial segmentation, based on vertical differentiation by product quality or status. To test these predictions, data from consumer expenditure and wage surveys are linked using input-output tables and used to fit variance function regressions. Results show that industries more dependent on high-income consumers have greater wage inequality. This analysis identifies a new structural source of wage inequality not considered in previous research: the increasingly unequal composition of consumer demand reproduces wage inequality.

Police Reform and the Dismantling of Legal Estrangement
Bell, Monica C. 2017. “Police Reform and the Dismantling of Legal Estrangement .” Yale Law Journal 126 (7): 2054-2150.Abstract

In police reform circles, many scholars and policymakers diagnose the frayed relationship between police forces and the communities they serve as a problem of illegitimacy, or the idea that people lack confidence in the police and thus are unlikely to comply or cooperate with them. The core proposal emanating from this illegitimacy diagnosis is procedural justice, a concept that emphasizes police officers’ obligation to treat people with dignity and respect, behave in a neutral, nonbiased way, exhibit an intention to help, and give them voice to express themselves and their needs, largely in the context of police stops. This Essay argues that legitimacy theory offers an incomplete diagnosis of the policing crisis, and thus de-emphasizes deeper structural, group-centered approaches to the problem of policing. The existing police regulatory regime encourages large swaths of American society to see themselves as existing within the law’s aegis but outside its protection. This Essay critiques the reliance of police decision makers on a simplified version of legitimacy and procedural justice theory. It aims to expand the predominant understanding of police mistrust among African Americans and the poor, proposing that legal estrangement offers a better lens through which scholars and policymakers can understand and respond to the current problems of policing. Legal estrangement is a theory of detachment and eventual alienation from the law’s enforcers, and it reflects the intuition among many people in poor communities of color that the law operates to exclude them from society. Building on the concepts of legal cynicism and anomie in sociology, the concept of legal estrangement provides a way of understanding the deep concerns that motivate today’s police reform movement and points toward structural approaches to reforming policing. 

Wealth Inequality and Accumulation
Killewald, Alexandra, Fabian T. Pfeffer, and Jared N. Schachner. 2017. “Wealth Inequality and Accumulation.” Annual Review of Sociology 43 (1).Abstract
Research on wealth inequality and accumulation and the data upon which it relies have expanded substantially in the twenty-first century. Although the field has experienced rapid growth, conceptual and methodological challenges remain. We begin by discussing two major unresolved methodological concerns facing wealth research: how to address challenges to causal inference posed by wealth’s cumulative nature and how to operationalize net worth, given its highly skewed distribution. Next, we provide an overview of data sources available for wealth research. To underscore the need for continued empirical attention to net worth, we review trends in wealth levels and inequality and evaluate wealth’s distinctiveness as an indicator of social stratification. We then review recent empirical evidence on the effects of wealth on other social outcomes, as well as research on the determinants of wealth. We close with a list of promising avenues for future research on wealth, its causes, and its consequences.
One Egalitarianism or Several? Two Decades of Gender-Role Attitude Change in Europe
Knight, Carly R., and Mary C. Brinton. 2017. “One Egalitarianism or Several? Two Decades of Gender-Role Attitude Change in Europe.” American Journal of Sociology 122 (5): 1485-1532.Abstract
This article challenges the implicit assumption of many cross-national studies that gender-role attitudes fall along a single continuum between traditional and egalitarian. The authors argue that this approach obscures theoretically important distinctions in attitudes and renders analyses of change over time incomplete. Using latent class analysis, they investigate the multidimensional nature of gender-role attitudes in 17 postindustrial European countries. They identify three distinct varieties of egalitarianism that they designate as liberal egalitarianism, egalitarian familism, and flexible egalitarianism. They show that while traditional gender-role attitudes have precipitously and uniformly declined in accordance with the “rising tide” narrative toward greater egalitarianism, the relative prevalence of different egalitarianisms varies markedly across countries. Furthermore, they find that European nations are not converging toward one dominant egalitarian model but rather, remain differentiated by varieties of egalitarianism.
Urban Income Inequality and the Great Recession in Sunbelt Form: Disentangling Individual and Neighborhood-Level Change in Los Angeles
Sampson, Robert J., Jared N. Schachner, and Robert L. Mare. 2017. “Urban Income Inequality and the Great Recession in Sunbelt Form: Disentangling Individual and Neighborhood-Level Change in Los Angeles.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 3 (2): 102-128.Abstract

New social transformations within and beyond the cities of classic urban studies challenge prevailing accounts of spatial inequality. This paper pivots from the Rust Belt to the Sunbelt accordingly, disentangling persistence and change in neighborhood median income and concentrated income extremes in Los Angeles County. We first examine patterns of change over two decades starting in 1990 for all Los Angeles neighborhoods. We then analyze an original longitudinal study of approximately six hundred Angelenos from 2000 to 2013, assessing the degree to which contextual changes in neighborhood income arise from neighborhood-level mobility or individual residential mobility. Overall we find deep and persistent inequality among both neighborhoods and individuals. Contrary to prior research, we also find that residential mobility does not materially alter neighborhood economic conditions for most race, ethnic, and income groups. Our analyses lay the groundwork for a multilevel theoretical framework capable of explaining spatial inequality across cities and historical eras.