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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

'After Piketty' released today

'After Piketty' released today

May 8, 2017

Harvard University Press | Ellora Derenoncourt, Ph.D. candidate in Economics, has authored a chapter in After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality, released today by Harvard University Press. Derenoncourt's contribution "addresses the deep historical and institutional origins of [global] wealth inequality, which she argues may be driven by what Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson identify as 'extractive' versus 'inclusive' institutions."

The 688-page volume, edited by Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong, and Marshall Steinbaum, 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 many 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. Harvard Inequality & Social Policy alumna Elisabeth Jacobs (PhD '08), now senior director of research and a senior fellow at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, probes the political dimension in her contribution, "Everywhere and Nowhere: Politics in Capital in the Twenty-First Century." Piketty replies in a substantial concluding chapter.

The gender pay gap

The Gender Pay Gap Is Largely Because of Motherhood

May 27, 2017
The New York Times | Features research on the gender pay gap by Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, including a new paper—joint with Sari Pekkala Kerr of Wellesley College, Claudia Olivetti of Boston College, and Erling Barth of the Institute for Social Research in Oslo—in the May 2017 issue of American Economic Review.
View the research
Commencement banner 2017

“The Value of Noticing”

May 23, 2017

Harvard Magazine | In her Baccalaureate address to graduating seniors, Harvard University President Drew Faust drew from Sendhil Mullainathan's recent column in The New York Times on the cognitive biases that shape our responses to problems of ineqauality and opportunity:

 

As one of your economics professors, Sendhil Mullainathan, recently pointed out in a column in The New York Times, we remember the headwinds that blow against us and forget the tailwinds that help us along. Notice and be grateful for those tailwinds How often do we remind ourselves that to some degree we won a global lottery over which we had no control? “The most important things that happened to me here happened to me by accident,” one of you said. There is a responsibility that comes with recognizing that.

Young men falling to the bottom of the income ladder

Young men falling to the bottom of the income ladder

May 22, 2017
Boston Globe | Quotes Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics: "People from elite colleges moving to Wall Street and top law firms and to tech companies are doing perfectly fine. In fact, they're doing much better than comparable people in their parents' generation," Katz said. "But for the typical young man, they're donig substantially worse economically than their father."
Nudge comes to shove: Policymakers around the world are embracing behavioural science

Nudge comes to shove: Policymakers around the world are embracing behavioural science

May 18, 2017

The Economist | Cites Todd Rogers, Associate Professor at Harvard Kennedy School. Also features work in which Elizabeth Linos (PhD '16) of  Behavioural Insights Team North America participated, a collaboration with the Chattanooga Police Department to attract more minority applicants to the force. (Read a detailed account of the Chattanooga experiment, including an interview with Linos, which appeared earlier this year in Quartz).

Modern motherhood

Modern Motherhood Has Economists Worried

May 12, 2017
Bloomberg | Cites Harvard economist Claudia Goldin and Joshua Mitchell (PhD '11), a senior economist at the U.S. Census: "A new life cycle of women's labor force participation has emerged," Goldin and Mitchell found in a recent study published in the Winter 2017 issue of Journal of Economic Perspectives. "Women in the U.S. participate in the workforce at high rates in their 20s—but fewer of them are working in their 30s and early 40s, a time Goldin and Mitchell call 'the sagging middle.'"
View the research
Portals via CityLab

The 'Portals' Encouraging Real Conversations About Policing and Race

May 8, 2017
The Atlantic—CityLab | Two Yale professors—Inequality & Social Policy alum Vesla Weaver (PhD '07) and Tracey Meares of Yale Law School—are using immersive technology to enable connections between communities of color in low-income neighborhoods across four U.S. cities. In summer 2017, Weaver joins the faculty of Johns Hopkins University as Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of Political Science and Sociology.
Child at play

Flipping the Switch

May 5, 2017

Huffington Post | Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund, urges Congress to heed the evidence and invest in early childhood brain development, citing Ron Ferguson's work with the Boston Basics initiative and findings from Harvard's Center on the Developing Child. Ferguson is faculty director of Harvard's Achievement Gap Initiative and a fellow in the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

The New Study That Shows Trumpcare’s Damage

The New Study That Shows Trumpcare’s Damage

May 3, 2017

The New York Times | A new study by Amy Finkelstein (MIT), Nathaniel Hendren (Harvard Economics), and Matthew Shepard (Harvard Kennedy School) exploits a natural experiment from Massachusetts health insurance subsidies and finds that "as subsidies fall, insurance take-up falls rapidly" among low-income individuals.
View the research

Is the Trump Presidency Getting More Normal? Experts Rate 28 Events

Is the Trump Presidency Getting More Normal? Experts Rate 28 Events

May 3, 2017
The New York Times | Providing perspective: Harvard's Jennifer Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and Professor of African and African American Studies; and alumna Vesla Weaver (PhD '07), Professor of Political Science at Yale University.
Black People Are Not All 'Living in Hell'

Black People Are Not All 'Living in Hell'

April 27, 2017

The New York Times | Thomas B. Edsall column discusses a growing body of scholarly work showing that upper-middle class and affluent African-Americans have experienced substantial income gains within the past 15 years. Cites William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard, who has drawn attention to growing economic inequality and the increased heterogeneity of experience within the black community. Wilson is writing a book on upward social mobility among African-Americans.

Money magazine

How a Harvard Economist Would Make Free Tuition Even Better

April 26, 2017

Money | Discusses new Hamilton Project policy proposal by David J. Deming (PhD '10), Professor of Education and Economics at HGSE and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.

The rising cost of a college degree is only one-half of the problem. The other? Far too few students who start college actually go on to earn a degree. And free tuition models could exacerbate that problem by increasing enrollment at already under-resourced state colleges without improving colleges’ ability to handle an influx of students.

The solution, according to a paper released today by Harvard economist David Deming, is to provide states with a financial incentive to focus on improving outcomes while also reducing costs to families. Deming is suggesting Congress establish a matching grant program, to be paid by the federal government to states with free tuition programs.
Get the full paper

School classroom

The Privilege of School Choice

April 25, 2017

The Atlantic | When given the chance, will wealthy parents ever choose to desegregate schools? Features research by Ann Owens (PhD '12), now Assistant Professor of Sociology and Spatial Sciences at USC, Sean Reardon of Stanford, and Christopher Jencks of Harvard Kennedy School, which "found that segregation between poor and non-poor students in public schools grew more than 40 percent from 1991 to 2012." (AERJ 2016)
View the research

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Latest awards

RSF

New Awards in Intergenerational Mobility in the United States

May 18, 2017

Russell Sage Foundation | The Russell Sage Foundation announced four new awards from its small grant competition in intergenerational mobility, three of which will support research by Harvard Inequality & Social Policy affiliates:

  • Ellora Derenoncourt (Harvard University)
    Did Great Migration Destinations become Mobility Traps?
    Ellora Derenoncourt is a PhD candidate in Economics.
     
  • Ryan D. Enos (Harvard University)
    Do Public Works Programs Increase Intergenerational Mobility? Evidence from the Works Progress Administration
    Ryan Enos is Associate Professor of Government.
     
  • James J. Feigenbaum (Princeton University), Maximillian Hell (Stanford University), and Robert Manduca (Harvard University)
    The American Dream in the Great Depression: Absolute Income Mobility in the United States, 1915-1940
    James Feigenbaum (Harvard PhD '16) is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University. In fall 2017 he will join the Boston University faculty as Assistant Professor of Economics. Maximillian Hell is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Stanford University.  Robert Manduca is a PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy at Harvard University.

Read the project abstracts

RFK Human Rights

2017 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award Winner Announced

May 8, 2017

Awardee | Matthew Desmond receives 2017 top honor for Evicted, announced today by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights. Desmond is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.
 

Hope Harvey

Hope Harvey named a Radcliffe Institute Graduate Student Fellow for 2017-2018

May 4, 2017

Awardee | Hope Harvey, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy is one of three Harvard University doctoral students selected to be a Graduate Student Fellow in the 2017-2018 class of Radcliffe Fellows at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Hope will spend the year completing her dissertation, Exploring the Impacts of Doubling Up on American Families, with a Radcliffe Institute Dissertation Completion Fellowship. Learn more about Hope's work at her homepage.

Harvard Magazine

Radcliffe Institute Announces 2017-2018 Fellows

May 4, 2017

Harvard Magazine | Devah Pager, Leah Wright Rigueur, and Alexandra Killewald are featured among the 52 fellows who will be in residence at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study for the 2017-2018 academic year. 

Devah Pager, director of the the Inequality & Social Policy program and Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, will investigate "Race, Discrimination, and the Search for Work." Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, whose work focuses on race and the American political system, will be conducting research for her project “Black Men in a White House.” Sociology professor Alexandra Killewald’s project, “Tethered Lives: How the Male Breadwinner Norm Constrains Men and Women” will build off of her research, which focuses on the work-family intersection and the effects of marriage and parenting on income.
View the full list of fellows

'Evicted' awarded 2017 Hillman Prize for Book Journalism

'Evicted' awarded 2017 Hillman Prize for Book Journalism

April 25, 2017
Awardee | Matthew Desmond is the recipient of the 2017 Hillman Prize for Book Journalism, for "investigative reporting and deep storytelling in the service of the common good." The Sidney Hillman Foundation honors the legacy of union leader and New Deal architect Sidney Hillman (1887-1946).
Matthew Clair and Alix Winter

John Hope Franklin Prize: Matthew Clair and Alix Winter

April 17, 2017

Awardees | The Law and Society Association has awarded Matthew Clair, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, and Inequality fellow Alix Winter, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, its John Hope Franklin Prize for the best article on race, racism, and the law published in the past two years. The article, How Judges Think about Racial Disparties: Situational Decision-Making in the Criminal Justice System, "reveals that judges who routinely impose sentences with a differential racial impact sometimes intervene to mitigate the effects, and in many cases, justify decision making that continues to perpetuate disparities," in the words of the award citation. In so doing, "this article provides valuable new insights into the legal consciousness of elite actors and their thinking about the discriminatory impact of their decisions."
View the research

Torben Iversen

Torben Iversen elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

April 12, 2017

Awardee | Torben Iversen, Harold Hitchings Burbank Professor of Political Economy, is one of 228 newly-elected members to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Founded in 1780, membership in the Academy recognizes "some of the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists, as well as civic, business, and philanthropic leaders."
View the 2017 class by field

Pulitzer Prize

Matthew Desmond wins Pulitzer Prize for 'Evicted'

April 10, 2017

Awardee | Matthew Desmond's Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City has won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction. The award citation lauded Desmond's book "as a deeply researched exposé that showed how mass evictions after the 2008 economic crash were less a consequence than a cause of poverty." Desmond is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

Natasha Warikoo awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

Natasha Warikoo awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

April 7, 2017

Natasha Warikoo (Ph.D. '05), Associate Professor in the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is one of 173 scholars, artists, and scientists announced today as 2017 Guggenheim Fellows. "Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise," this year's class was selected from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Guggenheim Foundation's 93rd annual competition.

Warikoo will spend her fellowship year working on a book about racial change in suburban America. "She is studying how the settlement of the nation’s most successful immigrant groups in privileged, previously predominantly white communities shapes the nature of racial boundaries, beliefs about success and achievement, and youth cultures," notes her Guggenheim Fellow profile (Read more).

'Evicted' honored with  2017 PEN New England Award

'Evicted' honored with 2017 PEN New England Award

March 22, 2017

PEN New England | Sociologist Matthew Desmond's Evicted has won the 2017 PEN New England Award for Nonfiction. Earlier thiis year, Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, was named the recipient of PEN America's John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction.

'Evicted' wins National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction

'Evicted' wins National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction

March 16, 2017

Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, was recognized tonight with the 2016 National Books Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction for Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

"Just a few books have reframed the national conversation about poverty: How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York by Jacob Riis, The Other America by Michael Harrington, When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor by William Julius Wilson, There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America by Alex Kotlowitz," wrote NBCC board member Elizabeth Taylor.

"With his ground-breaking book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond now forcefully shapes our understanding of poverty. His focus is on the dynamics of poverty, and with remarkable clarity explains why solutions directed at joblessness or low wages reflect a misunderstanding of the problem. He eloquently argues: poverty is a product of exploitation, and that eviction not just a condition of it but rather a cause of it."

Stefanie Stantcheva wins NSF CAREER Award

Stefanie Stantcheva wins NSF CAREER Award

March 13, 2017

Awardee | Stefanie Stantcheva, Assistant Professor of Economics, is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, an NSF-wide initiative "that offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty." Stantcheva will investigate "Taxes and Innovation: Optimal Taxation and the Effects of Taxes on Entrepreneurs, Inventors, and Firms' Innovation."

Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Teachers College Convocation 2017 Medalists Announced: Khalil Gibran Muhammad

March 6, 2017

Awardee | Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, has been selected to receive Columbia University Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service, the highest honor it bestows. Muhammad will be honored and address the graduates at TC's doctoral hooding ceremony on May 17.

2016 Discover Great New Writers Awards: Matthew Desmond

2016 Discover Great New Writers Awards: Matthew Desmond

March 1, 2017

Awardee | The winners of the 2016 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Awards in fiction and nonfiction were announced today in a ceremony in New York City. Matthew Desmond's Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City took first place in the non-fiction category. Desmond is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

Maya Sen

Maya Sen named a Stanford CASBS Fellow for 2017-2018

February 28, 2017

Awardee | Political scientist Maya Sen, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, has been selected to be a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University for the 2017-2018 academic year. Sen's research examines issues in the political economy of race relations, the American legal system, and law and politics. 

Learn more about Sen's work:
scholar.harvard.edu/msen

Danielle Allen named 2017 SSRC Democracy Fellow

Danielle Allen named 2017 SSRC Democracy Fellow

February 24, 2017

Social Science Research Council | The Anxieties of Democracy program announced that its 2017 Democracy Fellow will be Harvard's Danielle Allen, James Conant Bryant University Professor and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. As Democracy Fellow, Allen will spend November 2017 in residence at the Social Science Research Council headquarters in New York, where she will participate in a series of "Democracy in the City" public talks and debates, as well as a series of in-house Democracy Seminars. The theme of her residency: "Democracy and Justice."

PEN/John Kennedy Galbraith Award for NonFiction: Matthew Desmond

PEN/John Kennedy Galbraith Award for NonFiction: Matthew Desmond

February 22, 2017

PEN America | Matthew Desmond's Evicted has been named the winner of the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction, a biennial award for a distinguished work of nonfiction "possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective and illuminating important contemporary issues." Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, will be honored at the PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony in NYC on March 27.

L.A. Times Book Prize Finalists Announced

L.A. Times Book Prize Finalists Announced

February 22, 2017

Los Angeles Times  | The finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were announced today, including Matthew Desmond's Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City in the current interest category. The prizes will be awarded on April 21, the evening before the L.A. Times Festival of Books begins on the USC campus.

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.

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Latest commentary and analysis

Douglas W. Elmendorf

The Republican Health Care Debacle: How Not to Make Public Policy

May 24, 2017

Foreign Affairs | By Douglas W. Elmendorf. "The development and passage of the ACHA is a case study in how not to make public policy," writes Elmendorf. Douglas Elmendorf is Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy. He served as the director of the Congressional Budget Office from January 2009 through March 2015.

Investigating the Causes and Consequences of Inequality

Investigating the Causes and Consequences of Inequality

May 18, 2017

Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast | Professor David Deming (PhD '10) sits down with PolicyCast host Matt Cadwallader to talk about his new Harvard Kennedy School course, The Causes and Consequences of Inequality (SUP-206). If traditional jobs like manufacturing aren’t coming back, how can the economy adapt? How can the American education system better prepare the next generation for the needs of the modern economy? Deming's research grapples with these questions.

Harvard Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging: A Discussion with the Co-Chairs

Harvard Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging: A Discussion with the Co-Chairs

May 17, 2017

Harvard Gazette | This past fall, Harvard President Drew Faust convened a University-wide task force to examine ways to help Harvard thrive as a place where all members of its increasingly diverse community feel that they truly belong. The task force is co-chaired by James Bryant Conant University Professor Danielle Allen, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics; Harvard Kennedy School Academic Dean Archon Fung, the Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship; and Vice President for Campus Services Meredith Weenick.

The task force’s co-chairs recently sat down with the Harvard Gazette to discuss this report, their first year, and what’s next for this important work.

U.S. Congress

The State of Social Capital in America

May 17, 2017

U.S. Congress Joint Economic Commitee | Professors Robert D. Putnam and Mario L. Small (PhD '01), joined by Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute and Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs, testified before the Joint Economic Committee on the potential role for social capital in addressing U.S. economic and social challenges.

Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, focused on two generational concerns: why social capital matters in narrowing the opportunity gap among today's children, and what a boomer generation "aging alone" portends for U.S. eldercare costs in the years ahead.
Read Robert Putnam testimony

Mario Small, Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology, discussed the evidence that "early education and childcare programs may be an especially effective venue to help low-income parents generate social capital,"..." that this social capital is beneficial, and that there is reason to believe that targeted interventions may help such programs maximize these benefits."
Read Mario Small testimony

How Massachusetts provides education policymakers with research insights: An interview with Carrie Conaway, Chief Strategy and Research Officer, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

How Massachusetts provides education policymakers with research insights: An interview with Carrie Conaway, Chief Strategy and Research Officer, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

May 12, 2017

Gov Innovator Podcast | Andy Feldman (PhD '07) interviews Carrie Conaway (AM '01), Chief Strategy and Research Officer for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Conaway was recently appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Board for Education Sciences. Feldman is currently a visiting fellow with the Center for Children and Families at the Brookings Institution.

What can (or should) activists learn from the tea party?

What can (or should) activists learn from the tea party?

May 11, 2017
Washington Post | By Vanessa Williamson and Theda Skocpol. Vanessa Williamson (PhD '15) is a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and author of the new book Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes (Princeton University Press, 2017). Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas professor of government and sociology at Harvard University and director of the Scholars Strategy Network.
Can Macron Pull It Off?

Can Macron Pull It Off?

May 9, 2017
Project Syndicate | By Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard Kennedy School.
The Ambition-Marriage Trade-Off Too Many Single Women Face

The Ambition-Marriage Trade-Off Too Many Single Women Face

May 8, 2017
Harvard Business Review | By Leonardo Bursztyn, Thomas Fujiwara, and Amanda Pallais. Harvard economist Amanda Pallais and co-authors discuss the findings of their latest research on marriage market incentives and labor market investments, forthcoming in the American Economic Review: "Many schooling and initial career decisions, such as whether to take advanced math in high school, major in engineering, or become an entrepreneur, occur early in life, when most women are single. These decisions can have labor market consequences with long-lasting effects," they write. 
View the research
Gentrification and its Discontents

Gentrification and its Discontents

May 5, 2017
Wall Street Journal | By Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics. Cities attract the rich with amenities and the poor with services. But they are failing the middle class. Edward Glaeser reviews “The New Urban Crisis” by Richard Florida.
Declaration of Independence

Thanks to this agency, we identified an unknown copy of the Declaration of Independence

May 3, 2017
Washington Post | By Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard. "In the middle of the 20th century, this research project would have consumed at least a lifetime, and possibly several. Without [these] digital resources...it is highly unlikely that a researcher would have been able to assemble the vast body of evidence necessary to make the identification that we have made."
What the Press Still Doesn't Get About Trump

What the Press Still Doesn't Get About Trump

April 28, 2017

Politico | Politco surveys a range of experts—among them, historian Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor at Harvard Kennedy School. Says Rigueur: We need to take Trump's tweets more seriously.

Headwinds and tailwinds

To Help Tackle Inequality, Remember the Advantages You’ve Had

April 28, 2017

The New York Times | By Sendhil Mullainathan, Robert C. Waggoner Professor of Economics. 

This cognitive bias, I think, sheds light on persistent disagreements over inequality and opportunity that affect many of us in American society.

Op-Ed: How Boston Basics helps our children

Op-Ed: How Boston Basics helps our children

April 28, 2017

Jamaica Plain Gazette (and others) | By Mayor Martin Walsh and Ron Ferguson, Faculty Director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University.

As the science tells us, 80 percent of a child’s brain growth happens during the first three years of life. Racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic skill gaps can become apparent by the age of two. How we engage our babies and toddlers in those first years are critical. We must foster stimulating learning environments across all households and neighborhoods in our city.

"That purpose is what brought organizations like the Black Philanthropy Fund, Boston Children’s Museum, the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard, Boston Medical Center, WGBH, and the City of Boston together to launch the Boston Basics campaign.

Trump's presidency is teaching elites like me a lesson

Trump's presidency is teaching elites like me a lesson

April 26, 2017
Washington Post | By Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor and a political theorist at Harvard. "One of the key questions for any effort to rebuild our capacity to collaborate is whether members of the professional elite can recover a commitment to the people as a whole, and not merely to those who live near them — near us, I should say — in urban enclaves," Allen writes.… Read more about Trump's presidency is teaching elites like me a lesson
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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?

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Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

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.

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 Joshua S. Goodman. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Annual Review of Sociology

Wealth Inequality and Accumulation

May 12, 2017

Annual Review of Sociology | By Alexandra Killewald, Fabian T. Pfeffer, and Jared Schachner. Alexandra Killewald is Professor of Sociology at Harvard. Jared Schachner is a PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Policy.

Science

Documenting decline in U.S. economic mobility

April 24, 2017

Science | By Lawrence F. Katz and Alan B. Krueger. A discussion of the Chetty et. al. study in this issue of Science. Katz is the Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard.

How tax rates influence the migration of superstar inventors

How tax rates influence the migration of superstar inventors

May 24, 2017
Microeconomic Insights | By Ufak Akcigit (University of Chicago), Salome Baslandze (Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance), and Stefanie Stantcheva (Harvard University). The authors summarize the findings from their recent American Economic Review article, "Taxation and the International Mobility of Inventors." Stantcheva is Associate Professor of Economics (effective 7/1) at Harvard.
View the research
The Ambition-Marriage Trade-Off Too Many Single Women Face

The Ambition-Marriage Trade-Off Too Many Single Women Face

May 8, 2017
Harvard Business Review | By Leonardo Bursztyn, Thomas Fujiwara, and Amanda Pallais. Harvard economist Amanda Pallais and co-authors discuss the findings of their latest research on marriage market incentives and labor market investments, forthcoming in the American Economic Review: "Many schooling and initial career decisions, such as whether to take advanced math in high school, major in engineering, or become an entrepreneur, occur early in life, when most women are single. These decisions can have labor market consequences with long-lasting effects," they write. 
View the research
The Hamilton Project

Leveling the Playing Field: Policy Options to Improve Postsecondary Education and Career Outcomes

April 26, 2017

The Hamilton Project | A policy forum held at the Brookings Institution. The forum began with introductory remarks by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, followed by three roundtable discussions. Papers by David J. Deming (PhD '10) and by Tara E. Watson (PhD '03) and Adam Looney (PhD'04) were the focus of two of the roundtables. View event video and dowload papers, full transcript, and presentation slides from the event webpage.

David Deming is Professor of Education and Economics at HGSE and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Tara Watson is Associate Professor of Economics at Williams College and served in the U.S. Treasury Department from 2015-2016 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Microeconomic Analysis. Adam Looney is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings and served in the U.S. Treasury Department from 2013-2017 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Analysis.

The Hamilton Project

A Risk Sharing Proposal for Student Loans

April 26, 2017

The Hamilton Project | A policy proposal by Tiffany Chou, Adam Looney, and Tara Watson. Adam Looney (PhD '04) is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings and served in the U.S. Treasury Department from 2013-2017 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Analysis. Tara Watson (PhD '03) is Associate Professor of Economics at Williams College and served in the U.S. Treasury Department from 2015-2016 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Microeconomic Analysis.

Economic Mobility: State-of-the-Art

Economic Mobility: A State-of-the-Art Primer

April 3, 2017

Archbridge Institute | By Scott Winship (Ph.D. '09), now project director with the U.S. Joint Economic Committee, Office of Vice Chairman Senator Mike Lee. Winship is an honorary advisor to the Archbridge Institute.

Early Childhood Development

Early Childhood Development: Statewide Policy Forum

March 30, 2017

Judge Baker Children's Center | Julie Boatight Wilson, Harry Kahn Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, joined a panel of experts today for a Statewide Policy Forum on Early Childhood Development, hosted by Judge Baker Children's Center, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School. Wilson also co-authored a companion policy brief, "Early Childhood Development: Implications for Policy, Systems, and Practice," by Robert P. Franks, Matthew Pecoraro, Jayne Singer, Sarah Swenson, and Julie Boatright Wilson.
View the policy brief

The Impact of the House ACA Repeal Bill on Enrollees’ Costs

The Impact of the House ACA Repeal Bill on Enrollees’ Costs

March 16, 2017

Center for American Progress | By David Cutler, Topher Spiro, and Emily Gee. David Cutler is the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics at Harvard University. Topher Spiro is the Vice President for Health Policy at the Center for American Progress. Emily Gee is a Health Economist at the Center for American Progress.

Crystal S. Yang

The economy and the odds of criminal recidivism

March 7, 2017

Journalists' Resource | Reviews new study by economist Crystal Yang (Ph.D. '13), Assistant Professor at Harvard Law School, which appears in the March 2017 issue of the Journal of Public Economics. 

In the study, "Local Labor Markets and Criminal Recidivism," Yang finds "that being released to a county with higher low-skilled wages significantly decreases the risk of recidivism," with the impact of favorable labor market conditions greater for black and first-time offenders. "Overall," Yang writes, "the findings suggest that the release of a large number of ex-offenders during the Great Recession likely had substantial consequences for recidivism," increasing the risk of recidivism by 5.5 to 9.6 percent.
View the research

Research: Lawyering and Lobbying: Why Banks Shape Rules

Research: Lawyering and Lobbying: Why Banks Shape Rules

March 3, 2017
Stigler Center at Chicago Booth | Brian Libgober, PhD candidate in Government, and Daniel Carpenter, Allie S. Freed Professor of Government and Director of Social Sciences at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, presented their research, Lawyering and Lobbying: Why Banks Shape Rules, at a jointly organized  conference hosted by the Stigler Center. The conference, How Incomplete is the Theory of the Firm?,  was jointly organized by Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, David Moss and Rebecca Henderson of Harvard Business School, and Karthik Ramanna of Oxford University.
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

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