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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

How America Lost its Mojo

How America Lost its Mojo

May 27, 2016

The AtlanticAmericans are less likely to switch jobs, move to another state, or create new companies than they were 30 years ago (or 100 years ago). What’s going on? Cites research by Raven Molloy (Ph.D. '06, now a senior economist with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System) and colleagues (See their BPEA paper). Also cites research by Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11, now Assistant Professor, HKS) linking rising housing prices in wealthy areas to declining income convergence (See their paper).

Chicago's Murder Problem

Chicago's Murder Problem

May 27, 2016

The New York Times | Why homicide rates in Chicago outpace those in New York, with insights from Robert Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences.

Prosperity and Equality

Prosperity and Equality

May 27, 2016

Harvard Magazine | Dean  Douglas Elmendorf of  the Harvard Kennedy School and Claudia Goldin, Harvard's Henry Lee Professor of Economics, were among the participants in "Building an Economy for Prosperity and Equality," the opening symposium of Radcliffe Day, which honored  Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair, with this year's Radcliffe Medal. Harvard Magazine writes that the panel, which also included economists David Autor of MIT, Louise Sheiner of the Brookings Institution, and Celia Rouse of Princeton University as moderator, "featured some of the most interesting researchers addressing these problems...in a searching, intelligent exchange of the sort that rarely occurred in the debates televised during the primary season."
View the discussion [85 minutes] ▶

Janet Yellen Talks Policy and Inequality at Radcliffe Day Celebration

Janet Yellen Talks Policy and Inequality at Radcliffe Day Celebration

May 27, 2016

Harvard Magazine | Harvard's Commencement week concluded with a a program "honoring Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, the recipient of this year’s Radcliffe Medal and one of today’s most publicly vocal advocates of shared prosperity." Harvard Magazine notes that "Yellen has been unapologetic in her view that promoting broadly shared prosperity is inherent in the Fed’s mandate, a role which has cemented her leadership in the public conversation on inequality."
View event video ▶

Janet Yellen to receive Radcliffe Medal

Janet Yellen to receive Radcliffe Medal

May 26, 2016

Harvard Gazette | Dean Douglas Elmendorf of  Harvard Kennedy School and Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard, are among the participants in a Radcliffe Day event on May 27 honoring Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair and this year's Radcliffe Medalist. The day will open with the panel "Building an Economy for Prosperity and Equality," featuring Elmendorf and Goldin. Other Radcliffe Day participants include former Fed Chair Ben S. Bernanke; economics professor Gregory Mankiw of Harvard; Cecilia Rouse, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs at Princeton University; economics professor David Autor of MIT, and Louise Sheiner of the Brookings Institution. The day's events will be webcast live beginning at 10:30 am.

Inside the Eviction Epidemic

Inside the Eviction Epidemic

May 26, 2016

WNET Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America | Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, provides a firsthand look at the harsh realities of living in a trailer park [video segment: 8:27 minutes]. See the full documentary, The Last Trailer Park, which includes Desmond's interview [26:47 minutes].

Bringing Back Labor, Without the Unions

Bringing Back Labor, Without the Unions

May 24, 2016

Bloomberg View | Cites study by Bruce Western (Professor of Sociology and Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice) and Jake Rosenfeld (Washington University in St. Louis), which found that the decline of organized labor between 1973 and 2007 explains one-third of the rise in wage inequality among men during this time (See their ASR article), and by Richard Freeman (Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics) and colleagues, which finds a "strong, though not necessarily causal link between unions, the middle class, and intergenerational mobility." (See Freeman et. al. study)

Neighborhoods Can Shape Success—Down to the Level of a City Block

Neighborhoods Can Shape Success—Down to the Level of a City Block

May 23, 2016

The Atlantic | A small but intriguing study done in West Philadelphia points to the importance of what researchers call microenvironments.  Features Laura Tach (Ph. '10) of Cornell University, lead author of the study. Also cites work of  Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren and Lawrence Katz.

Not Leaving, Just Changing Jobs

Not Leaving, Just Changing Jobs

May 23, 2016

Education Next | By Paul E. Peterson, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government. With this issue, Peterson passes leadership of the journal Education Next to Martin West (Ph.D. 06), Associate Professor of Education, who will now serve as editor-in-chief. Peterson will continue to serve as senior editor for the publication, which he and collaborators launched 17-years ago.

Researchers Find Surprising Results After Testing A New Way To Measure Poverty

Researchers Find Surprising Results After Testing A New Way To Measure Poverty

May 19, 2016

NPR Morning Edition | Christopher Wimer (Ph.D. '07), Co-Director of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, is working with colleagues on a better way to measure poverty in New York City. Visit the interactive website to learn more about the Robin Hood Poverty Tracker. Scott Winship (Ph.D. '09), Walter B. Wriston Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, agrees that the research reveals some useful findings but expresses reservations about the measures, arguing that they may misdirect attention and public resources from those who really are struggling.

The Complex Relationship between Data and Cities

The Complex Relationship between Data and Cities

May 18, 2016

The Atlantic CityLab |Checking in on the latest advancements, and the challenges that remain. Highlights work by faculty affiliate Robert Sampson and Jackelyn Hwang (Ph.D. '15, now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Princeton University), and a recent NBER paper by faculty affiliates Edward L. Glaeser and Michael Luca (with colleagues Scott Duke Kominers and Nikhil Naik), which uses computer visioning to better understand geographic differences in income and housing prices.

The Destructive Legacy of Housing Segregation

The Destructive Legacy of Housing Segregation

May 17, 2016

The Atlantic | By Patrick Sharkey (Ph.D. '07), New York University. Less visible than the rise of economic inequality is the way it has altered America's urban neighborhoods. Two books—Evicted by Harvard's Matthew Desmond and Ghetto by Mitchell Duneier (Princeton)—should help change that, writes Sharkey.

Latest commentary and analysis

Leah Wright Rigueur “Between the Lines: The Republican Party at a Racial Crossroads”

Leah Wright Rigueur “Between the Lines: The Republican Party at a Racial Crossroads”

November 16, 2016

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library | Leah Wright Rigueur's spoke at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan, providing "a new understanding of the interactions between African Americans and the Republican Party, and the seemingly incongruous intersection of civil rights and American conservatism." Rigueur, an historian, is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and the author of The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power  (Princeton University Press, 2014).

Fixing Discrimination in Online Marketplaces

Fixing Discrimination in Online Marketplaces

November 15, 2016

Harvard Business Review | By Ray Fisman (Boston University) and Michael Luca (Harvard Business School). Also cites economist Claudia Goldin's well-known article (with Cecilia Rouse) on the lessons we can learn from symphony orchestras.

Straight Talk on Trade

Straight Talk on Trade

November 15, 2016

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

Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise

Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise

November 15, 2016

PBS | Historian Leah Wright Rigueur of the Harvard Kennedy School is among those featured in this four-part documentary written and hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Watch Tuesday, November 15 and 22 at 8 pm on PBS. (If you miss the premiere, watch videos online)

Responding to our Oral Culture

Responding to our Oral Culture

November 11, 2016

Nieman Reports | By Danielle Allen, Professor of Government. Part of NR's "Election '16: Lessons for Journalism" series. 

Education in the Trump Presidency

Education in the Trump Presidency

November 10, 2016

HGSE Usable Knowledge | Five faculty members, inluding Thomas Kane, Walter H. Gale Professor of Economics and Education, share their thoughts on the election and its implications for education.

"As the mushroom cloud of uncertainty settles on Washington, D.C., educators should understand that the game moved out of Washington a year ago," says Kane. "The federal government handed the reins of K–12 education reform back to state and local leaders with the signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act in December 2015. We will soon see whether governors, state commissioners, school boards and district leaders are ready to step up and accept the challenge."

Why neither Christie nor Giuliani should be the next attorney general

Why neither Christie nor Giuliani should be the next attorney general

November 10, 2016

Washington Post | By Danielle Allen, a political theorist at Harvard and a contributing columnist for the Post. "We need to de-politicize the judicial branch to preserve our constitutional fabric," argues Allen. "Appoint a nonpartisan legal figure with a deep record for integrity and public service, who is squeaky clean with regard to conflicts and the appearance of conflict...Only such an appointment will make it clear that the Justice Department will protect liberty and justice for all Americans. There could be no more important early signal for the president-elect to send."

Election Autopsy

Election Autopsy

November 10, 2016

No Jargon [Podcast—Ep. 57] | With Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology. What to expect from a Trump presidency. Analyzing the factors that swayed voters, Skocpol offers insight on what the Democrats need to do moving forward. A production of the Scholars Strategy Network, No Jargon presents interviews with top university scholars on the politics, policy problems, and social issues facing the nation.

Watch: Populism and the Future of American Politics

Watch: Populism and the Future of American Politics

November 10, 2016

American Academy of Arts & Sciences | Jennifer Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government, Lawrence D. Bobo, W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences, and Charles Stewart III of MIT.

Trumpcast: What does Trump’s Victory Mean for Education Policy?

Trumpcast: What does Trump’s Victory Mean for Education Policy?

November 10, 2016

EdNext Podcast | Education Next’s Paul E. Peterson (Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government) and Martin West (Ph.D ''06, Associate Professor of Education) talk about what education reforms they expect from President-elect Donald Trump. Will he move on school choice, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, Title I portability, charter schools, or something entirely unexpected? 

Seeing Red in Trump's America

Seeing Red in Trump's America

November 10, 2016

Radio OpenSource | Among this week's guests, Nathan J. Robinson, Ph.D. student in Sociology & Social Policy.

Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

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

Arguments about national tax policy have taken center stage in U.S. politics in recent times, creating acute dilemmas for Democrats. With Republicans locked into antitax agendas for some time, Democrats have recently begun to push back, arguing for maintaining or even increasing taxes on the very wealthy in the name of deficit reduction and the need to sustain funding for public programs. But the Democratic Party as a whole has not been able to find a consistent voice on tax issues. It experienced key defections when large, upward-tilting tax cuts were enacted under President George W. Bush, and the Democratic Party could not control the agenda on debates over continuing those tax cuts even when it enjoyed unified control in Washington, DC, in 2009 and 2010. To explain these cleavages among Democrats, we examine growing pressures from small business owners, a key antitax constituency. We show that organizations claiming to speak for small business have become more active in tax politics in recent decades, and we track the ways in which constituency pressures have been enhanced by feedbacks from federal tax rules that encourage individuals to pass high incomes through legal preferences for the self-employed. Comparing debates over the inception and renewal of the Bush tax cuts, we show how small business organizations and constituencies have divided Democrats on tax issues. Our findings pinpoint the mechanisms that have propelled tax resistance in contemporary U.S. politics, and our analysis contributes to theoretical understandings of the ways in which political parties are influenced by policy feedbacks and by coalitions of policy-driven organized economic interests.

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

We explore the effects of localized economic shocks from trade on roll-call behavior and electoral outcomes in the US House, 1990–2010. We demonstrate that economic shocks from Chinese import competition—first studied by Autor, Dorn, and Hanson—cause legislators to vote in a more protectionist direction on trade bills but cause no change in their voting on all other bills. At the same time, these shocks have no effect on the reelection rates of incumbents, the probability an incumbent faces a primary challenge, or the partisan control of the district. Though changes in economic conditions are likely to cause electoral turnover in many cases, incumbents exposed to negative economic shocks from trade appear able to fend off these effects in equilibrium by taking strategic positions on foreign-trade bills. In line with this view, we find that the effect on roll-call voting is strongest in districts where incumbents are most threatened electorally. Taken together, these results paint a picture of responsive incumbents who tailor their roll-call positions on trade bills to the economic conditions in their districts.

Forced Relocation and Residential Instability among Urban Renters
Desmond, Matthew, Carl Gershenson, and Barbara Kiviat. 2015. “Forced Relocation and Residential Instability among Urban Renters.” Social Service Review 89. The University of Chicago Press: pp. 227-262. Abstract

Abstract Residential instability often brings about other forms of instability in families, schools, and communities that compromise the life chances of adults and children. Social scientists have found that low-income families move frequently without fully understanding why. Drawing on novel data of more than 1,000 Milwaukee renters, this article explores the relationship between forced relocation and residential instability. It finds that low incomes are associated with higher rates of mobility due to poorer renters’ greater exposure to forced displacement. Not only do higher rates of formal and informal eviction, landlord foreclosure, and building condemnation directly increase the mobility of poorer renters, but forced displacement also increases subsequent unforced mobility. A forced move often compels renters to accept substandard housing, which drives them to soon move again. This article reveals mechanisms of residential mobility among low-income renters, identifies previously undocumented consequences of forced displacement, and develops a more comprehensive model of residential instability and urban inequality.

This study draws upon cognitive maps and interviews with 56 residents living in a gentrifying area to examine how residents socially construct neighborhoods. Most minority respondents, regardless of socioeconomic status and years of residency, defined their neighborhood as a large and inclusive spatial area, using a single name and conventional boundaries, invoking the area’s black cultural history, and often directly responding to the alternative way residents defined their neighborhoods. Both longterm and newer white respondents defined their neighborhood as smaller spatial areas and used a variety of names and unconventional boundaries that excluded areas that they perceived to have lower socioeconomic status and more crime. The large and inclusive socially constructed neighborhood was eventually displaced. These findings shed light on how the internal narratives of neighborhood identity and boundaries are meaningfully tied to a broader structure of inequality and shape how neighborhood identities and boundaries change or remain.

Racial and Spatial Targeting: Segregation and Subprime Lending within and across Metropolitan Areas
Hwang, Jackelyn, Michael Hankinson, and Kreg Steven Brown. 2015. “Racial and Spatial Targeting: Segregation and Subprime Lending within and across Metropolitan Areas.” Social Forces 93 (3): 1081-1108. Abstract

Recent studies find that high levels of black-white segregation increased rates of foreclosures and subprime lending across US metropolitan areas during the housing crisis. These studies speculate that segregation created distinct geographic markets that enabled subprime lenders and brokers to leverage the spatial proximity of minorities to disproportionately target minority neighborhoods. Yet, the studies do not explicitly test whether the concentration of subprime loans in minority neighborhoods varied by segregation levels. We address this shortcoming by integrating neighborhood-level data and spatial measures of segregation to examine the relationship between segregation and subprime lending across the 100 largest US metropolitan areas. Controlling for alternative explanations of the housing crisis, we find that segregation is strongly associated with higher concentrations of subprime loans in clusters of minority census tracts but find no evidence of unequal lending patterns when we examine minority census tracts in an aspatial way. Moreover, residents of minority census tracts in segregated metropolitan areas had higher likelihoods of receiving subprime loans than their counterparts in less segregated metropolitan areas. Our findings demonstrate that segregation played a pivotal role in the housing crisis by creating relatively larger areas of concentrated minorities into which subprime loans could be efficiently and effectively channeled. These results are consistent with existing but untested theories on the relationship between segregation and the housing crisis in metropolitan areas.

Faller, Julie, Noah Nathan, and Ariel White. 2015. “What Do I Need to Vote? Bureaucratic Discretion and Discrimination by Local Election Officials.” American Political Science Review. Publisher's Version Abstract

Do street-level bureaucrats discriminate in the services they provide to constituents? We use a field experiment to measure differential information provision about voting by local election administrators in the United States. We contact over 7,000 election officials in 48 states who are responsible for providing information to voters and implementing voter ID laws. We find that officials provide different information to potential voters of different putative ethnicities. Emails sent from Latino aliases are significantly less likely to receive any response from local election officials than non-Latino white aliases and receive responses of lower quality. This raises concerns about the effect of voter ID laws on access to the franchise and about bias in the provision of services by local bureaucrats more generally. 

Complex Tax Incentives
Abeler, Johannes, and Simon Jäger. 2015. “Complex Tax Incentives.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 7 (3): 1-28. Author's version Abstract

How does tax complexity affect people’s reaction to tax changes? To answer this question, we conduct an experiment in which subjects work for a piece rate and face taxes. One treatment features a simple, the other a complex tax system. The payoff-maximizing output level and the incentives around this optimum are, however, identical across treatments. We introduce the same sequence of additional taxes in both treatments. Subjects in the complex treatment underreact to new taxes; some ignore new taxes entirely. The underreaction is stronger for subjects with lower cognitive ability. Contrary to predictions from models of rational inattention, subjects are equally likely to ignore large or small incentive changes. 

Cutler, David M, Wei Huang, and Adriana Lleras-Muney. 2015. “When Does Education Matter? The Protective Effect of Education for Cohorts Graduating in Bad Times.” Social Science & Medicine 127: 63-73. Publisher's Version Abstract

Using Eurobarometer data, we document large variation across European countries in education gradients in income, self-reported health, life satisfaction, obesity, smoking and drinking. While this variation has been documented previously, the reasons why the effect of education on income, health and health behaviors varies is not well understood. We build on previous literature documenting that cohorts graduating in bad times have lower wages and poorer health for many years after graduation, compared to those graduating in good times. We investigate whether more educated individuals suffer smaller income and health losses as a result of poor labor market conditions upon labor market entry. We confirm that a higher unemployment rate at graduation is associated with lower income, lower life satisfaction, greater obesity, more smoking and drinking later in life. Further, education plays a protective role for these outcomes, especially when unemployment rates are high: the losses associated with poor labor market outcomes are substantially lower for more educated individuals. Variation in unemployment rates upon graduation can potentially explain a large fraction of the variance in gradients across different countries.

Collaborating with People Like Me: Ethnic Co-authorship within the US
Freeman, Richard B., and Wei Huang. 2015. “Collaborating with People Like Me: Ethnic Co-authorship within the US.” Journal of Labor Economics 33 (S1): S289-S318. Abstract

By examining the ethnic identity of authors in over 2.5 million scientific papers written by US-based authors from 1985 to 2008, we find that persons of similar ethnicity coauthor together more frequently than predicted by their proportion among authors. The greater homophily is associated with publication in lower-impact journals and with fewer citations. Meanwhile, papers with authors in more locations and with longer reference lists get published in higher-impact journals and receive more citations. These findings suggest that diversity in inputs by author ethnicity, location, and references leads to greater contributions to science as measured by impact factors and citations.

Huang, Wei. 2015. “Do ABCs Get More Citations Than XYZs?” Economic Inquiry 53: 773-789. Publisher's Version Abstract

Using a sample of US-based scientific journal articles, I examine the relationship between author surname initials and paper citations, finding that the papers with first authors whose surname initials appear earlier in the alphabet get more citations, and that this effect does not exist for non-first authors. Further analysis shows that the alphabetical order effect is stronger in those fields with longer reference lists, and that such alphabetical bias exists among citations by others and not for self-citations. In addition, estimates also reveal that the alphabetical order effect is stronger when the length of reference lists in citing papers is longer. These findings suggest that the order in reference lists plays an important role in the alphabetical bias.

Asad, Asad L. 2015. “Contexts of Reception, Post-Disaster Migration, and Socioeconomic Mobility.” Population and Environment 36 (3): 279-310. Publisher's Version Abstract

Current theories conceptualize return migration to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as an individual-level assessment of costs and benefits. Since relocation is cost prohibitive, return migration is thought to be unlikely for vulnerable populations. However, recent analyses of longitudinal survey data suggest that these individuals are likely to return to New Orleans over time despite achieving socioeconomic gains in the post-disaster location. I extend the “context of reception” approach from the sociology of immigration and draw on longitudinal data from the Resilience in the Survivors of Katrina Project to demonstrate how institutional, labor market, and social contexts influence the decision to return. Specifically, I show how subjective comparisons of the three contexts between origin and destination, perceived experiences of discrimination within each context, and changing contexts over time explain my sample’s divergent migration and mobility outcomes. I conclude with implications for future research on, and policy responses to, natural disasters.

Winner of 2014 Marvin E. Olsen Student Paper Award, Section on Environment and Technology, American Sociological Association.

Tach, Laura, Kathryn Edin, Hope Harvey, and Brielle Bryan. 2014. “The Family-Go-Round: Family Complexity and Father Involvement from a Father's Perspective.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social SciencesAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 654 (1): 169-184. Abstract

Men who have children with several partners are often assumed to be “deadbeats” who eschew their responsibilities to their children. Using data from the nationally representative National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 cohort (NLSY-97), we show that most men in complex families intensively parent the children of one mother while being less involved, or not involved at all, with children by others. Repeated qualitative interviews with 110 low-income noncustodial fathers reveal that men in complex families often engage with and provide, at least to some degree, for all of the biological and stepchildren who live in one mother’s household. These activities often exceed those extended to biological children living elsewhere. Interviews also show that by devoting most or all of their resources to the children of just one mother, men in complex families feel successful as fathers even if they are not intensively involved with their other biological children.

Moynihan, Donald, Pamela Herd, and Hope Harvey. 2014. “Administrative Burden: Learning, Psychological, and Compliance Costs in Citizen-State Interactions.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. Abstract

This article offers two theoretical contributions. First, we develop the concept of administrative burden as an important variable in understanding how citizens experience the state. Administrative burden is conceptualized as a function of learning, psychological, and compliance costs that citizens experience in their interactions with government. Second, we argue that administrative burden is a venue of politics, that is, the level of administrative burden placed on an individual, as well as the distribution of burden between the state and the individual, will often be a function of deliberate political choice rather than simply a product of historical accident or neglect. The opaque nature of administrative burdens may facilitate their use as forms of “hidden politics,” where significant policy changes occur without broad political consideration. We illustrate this argument via an analysis of the evolution of Medicaid policies in the state of Wisconsin. Across three Governorships, the level of burden evolved in ways consistent with the differing political philosophies of each Governor, with federal actors playing a secondary but important role in shaping burden in this intergovernmental program. We conclude by sketching a research agenda centered on administrative burden.

Hwang, Jackelyn, and Robert J Sampson. 2014. “Divergent Pathways of Gentrification: Racial Inequality and the Social Order of Renewal in Chicago Neighborhoods.” American Sociological Review 79. Abstract

Gentrification has inspired considerable debate, but direct examination of its uneven evolution across time and space is rare. We address this gap by developing a conceptual framework on the social pathways of gentrification and introducing a method of systematic social observation using Google Street View to detect visible cues of neighborhood change. We argue that a durable racial hierarchy governs residential selection and, in turn, gentrifying neighborhoods. Integrating census data, police records, prior street-level observations, community surveys, proximity to amenities, and city budget data on capital investments, we find that the pace of gentrification in Chicago from 2007 to 2009 was negatively associated with the concentration of blacks and Latinos in neighborhoods that either showed signs of gentrification or were adjacent and still disinvested in 1995. Racial composition has a threshold effect, however, attenuating gentrification when the share of blacks in a neighborhood is greater than 40 percent. Consistent with theories of neighborhood stigma, we also find that collective perceptions of disorder, which are higher in poor minority neighborhoods, deter gentrification, while observed disorder does not. These results help explain the reproduction of neighborhood racial inequality amid urban transformation. 

Asad, Asad L, and Monica C Bell. 2014. “Winning to Learn, Learning to Win: Evaluative Frames and Practices in Urban Debate.” Qualitative Sociology 37: 1-26. Abstract

Sociologists of (e)valuation have devoted considerable attention to understanding differences in evaluative practices across a number of fields. Yet, little is understood about how individuals learn about and navigate multivalent valid group styles within a single setting. As a social phenomenon, many accept how central processes of evaluation are to everyday life. Accordingly, scholars have attempted to link research on evaluation to processes of inequality. Nevertheless, the sociology of evaluation only has tenuous, often implicit connections to literature on inequality and disadvantage. This article addresses these two gaps. Drawing on over two hundred hours of ethnographic fieldwork in an urban high school debate league (“League”), twenty-seven semi-structured interviews with League judges, and archival data, we illustrate how high school policy debate judges employ evaluative frames and link them to the implementation of evaluative practices in a disadvantaged setting. We show that the cultural meanings that emerge within the evaluation process—in this case, urban uplift and competition—stem from the conflicted context in which evaluation is occurring. We also make a first step toward applying the conceptual tools within the sociology of evaluation to a disadvantaged setting, and more broadly, suggest that micro-processes of evaluation are important to the study of urban inequality.

Jack, Anthony Abraham. 2014. “Culture Shock Revisited: The Social and Cultural Contingencies to Class Marginality.” Sociological Forum 29: 453-475. Abstract

Existing explanations of class marginality predict similar social experiences for all lower-income undergraduates. This paper extends this literature by presenting data highlighting the cultural and social contingencies that account for differences in experiences of class marginality. The degree of cultural and social dissimilarity between one’s life before and during college helps explain variation in experiences. I contrast the experiences of two groups of lower-income, black undergraduates—the Doubly Disadvantaged and Privileged Poor. Although from comparable disadvantaged households and neighborhoods, they travel along divergent paths to college. Unlike the Doubly Disadvantaged, whose precollege experiences are localized, the Privileged Poor cross social boundaries for school. In college, the Doubly Disadvantaged report negative interactions with peers and professors and adopt isolationist strategies, while the Privileged Poor generally report positive interactions and adopt integrationist strategies. In addition to extending present conceptualizations of class marginality, this study advances our understanding of how and when class and culture matter in stratification processes in college.

"Culture Shock Revisited" won the 2014 Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Award from the ASA Section on Children and Youth and honorable mention for the 2014 David Lee Stevenson Award for Best Graduate Student Paper from the ASA Section on Sociology of Education

Asad, Asad L, Michel Anteby, and Filiz Garip. 2014. “Who Donates Their Bodies to Science? The Combined Role of Gender and Migration Status among California Whole-Body Donors.” Social Science & Medicine 106: 53-58. Publisher's Version Abstract

The number of human cadavers available for medical research and training, as well as organ transplantation, is limited. Researchers disagree about how to increase the number of whole-body bequeathals, citing a shortage of donations from the one group perceived as most likely to donate from attitudinal survey data - educated white males over 65. This focus on survey data, however, suffers from two main limitations: First, it reveals little about individuals’ actual registration or donation behavior. Second, past studies’ reliance on average survey measures may have concealed variation within the donor population. To address these shortcomings, we employ cluster analysis on all whole-body donors’ data from the Universities of California at Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Two donor groups emerge from the analyses: One is made of slightly younger, educated, married individuals, an overwhelming portion of whom are U.S.-born and have U.S.-born parents, while the second includes mostly older, separated women with some college education, a relatively higher share of whom are foreign-born and have foreign-born parents. Our results demonstrate the presence of additional donor groups within and beyond the group of educated and elderly white males previously assumed to be most likely to donate. More broadly, our results suggest how the intersectional nature of donors’ demographics - in particular, gender and migration status - shapes the configuration of the donor pool, signaling new ways to possibly increase donations.

Asad, Asad L, and Tamara Kay. 2014. “Theorizing the Relationship between NGOs and the State in Medical Humanitarian Development Projects.” Social Science & Medicine 120: 325-333. Publisher's Version Abstract

Social scientists have fiercely debated the relationship between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the state in NGO-led development projects. However, this research often carries an implicit, and often explicit, anti-state bias, suggesting that when NGOs collaborate with states, they cease to be a progressive force. This literature thus fails to recognize the state as a complex, heterogeneous, and fragmented entity. In particular, the unique political context within which an NGO operates is likely to influence how it carries out its work. In this article, we ask: how do NGOs work and build relationships with different types of states and – of particular relevance to practitioners – what kinds of relationship building lead to more successful development outcomes on the ground? Drawing on 29 in-depth interviews with members of Partners in Health and Oxfam America conducted between September 2010 and February 2014, we argue that NGOs and their medical humanitarian projects are more likely to succeed when they adjust how they interact with different types of states through processes of interest harmonization and negotiation. We offer a theoretical model for understanding how these processes occur across organizational fields. Specifically, we utilize field overlap theory to illuminate how successful outcomes depend on NGOs’ ability to leverage resources – alliances and networks; political, financial, and cultural resources; and frames – across state and non-state fields. By identifying how NGOs can increase the likelihood of project success, our research should be of interest to activists, practitioners, and scholars.

Waters, Mary C, Philip Kasinitz, and Asad L Asad. 2014. “Immigrants and African Americans.” Annual Review of Sociology 40: 369-390. Publisher's Version Abstract

We examine how recent immigration to the United States has affected African Americans. We first review the research on the growing diversity within the black population, driven largely by the presence of black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa. As their children and grandchildren come of age, relations between immigrants and African Americans are complicated by the fact that a growing portion of the African American community has origins in both groups. We then review literature on both new destinations and established gateway cities to illustrate the patterns of cooperation, competition, and avoidance between immigrants of diverse races and African Americans in neighborhoods, the labor market, and politics. We explore the implications of the population’s increasing racial diversity owing to immigration for policies that aim to promote racial equality but that are framed in terms of diversity. We conclude with suggestions for new areas of research.

Marshall, John, and Stephen D Fisher. 2014. “Compensation or Constraint? How Different Dimensions of Economic Globalization Affect Government Spending and Electoral Turnout.” British Journal of Political Science FirstView: 1–37. Publisher's Version Abstract
ABSTRACT This article extends theoretical arguments regarding the impact of economic globalization on policy making to electoral turnout and considers how distinct dimensions of globalization may produce different effects. It theorizes that constraints on government policy that reduce incentives to vote are more likely to be induced by foreign ownership of capital, while compensation through increased government spending is more likely (if at all) to be the product of structural shifts in production associated with international trade. Using data from twenty-three OECD countries from 1970–2007, the study finds strong support for the ownership-constraint hypothesis in which foreign ownership reduces turnout, both directly and – in strict opposition to the compensation hypothesis – indirectly by reducing government spending (and thus the importance of politics). The results suggest that increased foreign ownership, especially the most mobile capital flows, can explain up to two-thirds of the large declines in turnout over recent decades.
Aghion, Philippe, and Alexandra Roulet. 2014. “Growth and the Smart State.” Annual Review of Economics 6: 913-926. Publisher's Version Abstract
As countries develop, the main driver of economic growth shifts from imitation to innovation. These two sources of growth require different policies and institutions. In particular, in this article we argue that the transition from an imitation-based to an innovation-based economy calls the old welfare state model into question. It is not so much the size of the state that is at stake but rather its governance. What we need to foster economic growth in developed economies is not a reduced state but a strategic state, which acts as a catalyst using selective and properly governed support to the market-driven innovation process. This idea of a strategic state that targets its investments to maximize growth in the face of hard budget constraints departs both from the Keynesian view of a state sustaining growth through demand-driven policies and from the neoliberal view of a minimal state confined to its regalian functions.

ABSTRACT Which policymakers are most likely to enact legislation drafted by organized business interests? Departing from the business power scholarship that emphasizes structural, electoral, or financial mechanisms for corporate influence, I argue that lawmakers are likely to rely on businesses' proposals when they lack the time and resources to develop legislation on their own, especially when they also hold an ideological affinity for business. Using two new datasets of “model bills” developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a policy group that promotes pro-business legislation across the states, I find strong support for this theory. These results indicate that ALEC provides private policy capacity to state legislators who would otherwise lack such support, and relatedly, that low state policy capacity may favor certain organized interests over others—namely the business interests affiliated with ALEC. My findings have implications for the study of business influence in policymaking, as well as for state politics.

Herd, Pamela, Thomas DeLeire, Hope Harvey, and Donald P Moynihan. 2013. “Shifting Administrative Burden to the State: The Case of Medicaid Take‐Up.” Public Administration Review 73 (s1): S69-S81. Abstract
Administrative burden is an individual's experience of policy implementation as onerous. Such burdens may be created because of a desire to limit payments to ineligible claimants, but they also serve to limit take-up of benefits by eligible claimants. For citizens, this burden may occur through learning about a program; complying with rules and discretionary bureaucratic behavior to participate; and the psychological costs of participating in an unpopular program. Using a mixed-method approach, the authors explain process changes that reduced individual burden and demonstrate how this resulted in increased take-up in Medicaid in the state of Wisconsin. The findings inform the planned expansion of Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A key design principle for Medicaid and other means-tested programs is that it is possible to increase program take-up while maintaining program integrity by shifting administrative burdens from the citizen to the state.

Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Residential Mobility by Whites Maintains Segregation Despite Recent Changes

Residential Mobility by Whites Maintains Segregation Despite Recent Changes

December 21, 2016

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

Economic Report of the President 2017

Economic Report of the President 2017

December 15, 2016

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

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

Washington Center for Equitable Growth

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

December 8, 2016

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

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

A principled federal role in PreK-12 education

A principled federal role in PreK-12 education

December 7, 2016

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

High-Stakes Student Testing has Mixed Results in Texas Schools

High-Stakes Student Testing has Mixed Results in Texas Schools

December 1, 2016

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

After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality

After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality

November 15, 2016

 

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

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

Learn more about her work:
Ellora Derenoncourt: Ph.D. fellow page ▶... Read more about After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality

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

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

November 4, 2016

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

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

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

November 2, 2016

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

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

The Importance of Middle Skill Jobs

The Importance of Middle Skill Jobs

October 25, 2016

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

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

6 charts showing race gaps within the American middle class

6 charts showing race gaps within the American middle class

October 21, 2016

Brookings Institution | Latest Social Mobility Memo by Richard V. Reeves and Dana Bowen Matthew of the Brookings Institution features findings of new study by Judith-Scott Clayton (Ph.D. '09), Associate Professor of Education and Economics, Teachers College, Columbia University, and Jing-Li, also of Columbia University, revealing large black-white disparities in student loan debt, which more than triples after graduation.

Invention, place, and economic inclusion

Invention, place, and economic inclusion

October 20, 2016

Brookings Institution | Delves into research by Inequality fellow Alex Bell (Ph.D. candidate in Economics), Raj Chetty (Stanford University), Xavier Jaravel (now a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford), and John Van Reenen (LSE and MIT) showing that "children of low-income parents are much less likely to become inventors than their higher-income counterparts (as are minorities and women)." Their research explores the sources of differences, and "establishes the importance of 'innovation exposure effects' during childhood," both geographic and parental.
View the research

Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation

Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation

October 20, 2016

Brookings Institution | By Judith Scott Clayton (Ph.D. '09), Associate Professor of Economics and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, and Jing Li, Research Associate, Teachers College: "While previous work has documented racial disparities in student borrowing, delinquencies, and defaults, in this report we provide new evidence that racial gaps in total debt are far larger than even recent reports have recognized, far larger now than in the past, and correlated with troubling trends in the economy and in the for-profit sector. We conclude with a discussion of policy implications."

Recommendations for Federal Budget Policy

Recommendations for Federal Budget Policy

October 7, 2016

Brookings Institution | By Douglas W Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School. This brief is part of "Election 2016 and America’s Future." a Brookings-wide initiative in which Brookings scholars have identified the biggest issues facing the country this election season and are providing individual ideas for how to address them. Elmendorf was a visiting fellow with Brookings until he became Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School in January 2016.

Seven Facts on Noncognitive Skills from Education to the Labor Market

Seven Facts on Noncognitive Skills from Education to the Labor Market

October 4, 2016

The Hamilton Project | New policy brief  by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and colleagues draws from research by Harvard faculty member David Deming, "The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market." Deming (Ph.D. '10), Professor of Education and Economics at Harvard Graduate School of Education, first presented this work in the Inequality & Social Policy Seminar Series in fall 2015.
View the latest version of Deming's paper (Aug 2016).... Read more about Seven Facts on Noncognitive Skills from Education to the Labor Market

Housing Development Toolkit

Housing Development Toolkit

September 26, 2016

The White House | The Obama administration issued a policy brief that takes aim at accumulated barriers to housing development, zoning and other land-use regulations that the administration argues are jeopardizing housing affordability, increasing income inequality by reducing access to high-wage labor  markets, and stifling economic growth. The report cites Sociology faculty member Matthew Desmond's Evicted, noting the lasting trauma that extreme rent burdens and housing insecurity can pose for families, and draws extensively on research by Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11 and HKS faculty), Edward Glaeser (Economics), and Raven (Saks) Malloy (Ph.D. '05), now section chief with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, on the rise and consequences of land-use regulations.