Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Police will aid early-childhood campaign in Mattapan

Police will aid early-childhood campaign in Mattapan

April 25, 2017

Boston Globe | Reports on a new Boston Basics campaign, targeted in one city's poorest neighborhoods, to build babies’ cognitive and learning abilities from birth to age 3.

Research shows that 80 percent of brain growth occurs during the first three years of life and that racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic gaps can become apparent by age 2, said Ron Ferguson, faculty director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University, which is helping to launch the campaign.

“By the age of two, those gaps are already there,” Ferguson said at a presentation to more than two dozen officers at the B-3 police precinct in Mattapan on Monday. “And by the time [children] start school those gaps are way behind."

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

Cracking the Mystery of Labor's Falling Share of GDP

Cracking the Mystery of Labor's Falling Share of GDP

April 24, 2017
Bloomberg View | Cites a recent study by David Autor (MIT), David Dorn (University of Zurich), Lawrence Katz (Harvard), Christina Patterson (MIT), and John Van Reenen (MIT), "Concentrating on the Fall of the Labor Share," which appears in American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings (May 2017).  For a more detailed treatment, see "The Fall of the Labor Share and the Rise of Superstar Firms," released as an NBER Working Paper in May 2017.
View AER paper
View NBER paper
Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen - The New York Times

A New Parchment Declaration of Independence Surfaces. Head-Scratching Ensues.

April 21, 2017
The New York Times | A remarkable discoverty by Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard. "Its subtle details, the scholars argue, illuminate an enduring puzzle at the heart of American politics: Was the country founded by a unitary national people, or by a collection of states? 'That is really the key riddle of the American system,' said Danielle Allen, a professor of government at Harvard, who discovered the document with a colleague, Emily Sneff."
Ruth Lopez Turley

Rice researchers are helping close the socio-economic gaps in achievement and attainment

April 18, 2017
Rice University | Read about the work of Rice University sociology professor Ruth López Turley (PhD '01), who leads the university's Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC), a research-practice partnership between Rice and the Houston Independent School District that aims to close socioeconomic achievement gaps. HERC has been awarded a $10.7 million grant to expand its work to school districts in the Greater Houston region.
Boston Basics

Can Love Close the Achievement Gap?

April 17, 2017

The Atlantic | Feature on Boston Basics, a series of evidence-based parenting principles designed for children under the age of 3, created by Ronald Ferguson of Harvard Kennedy School and director of Harvard University's Achievement Gap Initiative.

Democracy: A Case Study

Democracy on the Brink: Protecting the Republic in Trump's America

April 17, 2017

Foreign Affairs | Review essay by political scientist Suzanne Mettler of Cornell University examines David A. Moss's new book, Democracy: A Case Study (Harvard University Press, 2017), and Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels, Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government (Princeton University Press, 2016).

Donald Trump

A riveting relationship: Donald Trump woos the unions

April 8, 2017

The Economist | Cites research by Alex Hertel Fernandez (PhD '16), Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University:

Forthcoming research by Alexander Hertel-Fernandez of Columbia University suggests that limits on collective bargaining, which are mainly aimed at public-sector unions, made government workers in Indiana and Wisconsin less likely to take part in political campaigns, or to vote. In a study of 111 border counties in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, he also calculates that the right-to-work laws they introduced between 2012 and 2016 could account for two percentage points of Mrs Clinton’s underperformance in those states compared with Barack Obama in 2012. Given that Mr Trump’s victory in the electoral college was based on a combined total of 70,000 votes across Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, that could have cost her the presidency.

No, Donald Trump's triumph is not a setback for the Koch brothers

No, Donald Trump's triumph is not a setback for the Koch brothers

April 7, 2017

Minnesota Post | Coverage of Theda Skocpol's talk, "Battle  of the Mega-Donors: Koch Network vs. Democracy Alliance," delivered in the Humphrey Forum at the University of Minnesota. Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard.

Bernie Sanders

Despair is Not an Option: Bernie Sanders in Conversation

April 4, 2017

Boston Review | In the latest episode of BR: A Political and Literary Podcast, Bernie Sanders talks to Archon Fung, Boston Review board member and Professor and Academic Dean at the Harvard Kennedy School, about his new book, 'Our Revolution,' the future of progressive politics, and what must be done to resist the Trump regime. Includes an edited transcript of their conversation.

Tax policy Alvin Cheng

These 4 questions could change your views on tax fairness

March 29, 2017

Vox | A Tax Policy Center quiz published earlier this year in Vox was actually an experiment by Vanessa Williamson (Ph.D. '15) designed to test how pliable people's attitudes on taxes on are when given more information. Understanding how political knowledge correlates with political attitudes "is a really important question for democratic accountability," said Williamson, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

Read more about Williamson's study in her TPC research brief, "What Makes Taxes Seem Fair." The Tax Policy Center is a joint venture between the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.
View the research


What Works Cities: Tackling Homelessness in Seattle [video]

March 28, 2017

What Works Cities | Seattle teamed up with What Works Cities' partner the Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School to strengthen its approach to tackling homelessness. Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy, directs the Government Performance Lab. To learn more, read the GPL brief," Shaking up the Routine: How Seattle is Implementing Results-Driven Contracting Practices to Improve Outcomes for People Experiencing Homelessness."
Read the brief

Latest awards

Stefanie Stantcheva

Stefanie Stantcheva named a 2018 Sloan Research Fellow

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

Learn more about Stefanie Stantcheva's work
American Academy of Political and Social Science Elects Five Scholars as 2018 Fellows

American Academy of Political and Social Science Elects Five Scholars as 2018 Fellows

January 16, 2018
Edward L. Glaeser is one of five scholars elected to the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences as a 2018 Fellow.  Each year the AAPSS elects scholars who have contributed to the advancement of the social sciences and whose research has informed the public good. Glaeser, the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard University, will be officially inducted into the Academy as the 2018 Herbert Simon Fellow on May 17, 2018, in Washington, DC.
TIAA Samuelson Award 2017

David Laibson, Brigitte Madrian: TIAA Institute Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security

January 5, 2018
Awardees | Professors David Laibson (Harvard Economics) and  Brigitte C. Madrian (Harvard Kennedy School), together with  colleagues John Beshears (Harvard Business School) and James J. Choi (Yale SOM), are the winners of the TIAA Institute's 2017 Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security. They received the award at the 2018 Allied Social Science Associations Annual Meeting (ASSA) for their article, "Does Aggregated Returns Disclosure Increase Portfolio Risk Taking?," published in The Review of Financial Studies (June 2017).
View the research
Bernard Fraga: MPSA Latino/a Caucus Early Career Award

Bernard Fraga: MPSA Latino/a Caucus Early Career Award

December 20, 2017
Awardee | Bernard L. Fraga (PhD '13) is the 2018 recipient of the Midwest Political Science Association Latino/a Caucus Early Career Award. An Assistant Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Fraga's  research examines American electoral politics, racial and ethnic politics, and political behavior.
New RSF grant: Inequality, Institutions, and the Making of Financial Policy

New RSF grant: Inequality, Institutions, and the Making of Financial Policy

December 1, 2017
Russell Sage Foundation | Daniel Carpenter, Allie S. Freed Professor of Government and Director of Social Sciences at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, in collaboration with Susan Yackee of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has been awarded a Russell Sage Foundation grant to examine the ways that special interests use their considerable resources to influence administrative and executive decisionmaking, focusing on financial industry influence on rulemaking in the aftermath of Dodd-Frank.
Michele Lamont

Michèle Lamont awarded Erasmus Prize: Honored for contributions to social science

November 28, 2017
Harvard Gazette | Michèle Lamont, Harvard’s Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, professor of sociology, professor of African and African-American studies, and director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, has been awarded the prestigious 2017 Erasmus Prize.

See also
Laudatio and Acceptance speech

Erasmus Prize Winner 2017 Michèle Lamont - Film portrait (video) by Shanti van Dam of Praemium Erasmianum Foundation
Washington Center for Equitable Growth

Jason Furman, Former Council of Economic Advisers Chairman, Joins Equitable Growth Steering Committee

November 17, 2017
Washington Center for Equitable Growth | Equitable Growth announced today that Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, has joined the organization's steering committee.

“Equitable Growth is a leader in advancing academic and policy-relevant research into whether and how inequality affects growth,” said Furman. “I am thrilled to be joining an organization that is driving the conversation on issues that are central to today’s economic policy debate.”
Mario Luis Small

Mario Luis Small Joins RSF Board of Trustees

November 10, 2017
Russell Sage Foundation | The Russell Sage Foundation announced the appointment of sociologist Mario Luis Small to its board of trustees. Mario Luis Small (PhD '01) is Grafstein Family Professor at Harvard University. 
Orlando Patterson honored by historians

Orlando Patterson honored by historians

September 12, 2017
Harvard Sociology | Wiley Blackwell has recently published a book, On Human Bondage: After Slavery and Social Death, edited by two of the nation’s most eminent historians of antiquity, that assesses the impact of Orlando Patterson's  work, Slavery and Social Death, on ancient, and comparative cultural and historical studies.  

This is the first time that a living sociologist’s work has been so honored by historians of classical antiquity and comparative historical studies. Read more
Amelia Peterson: Emerging Education Policy Scholars program

Amelia Peterson: Emerging Education Policy Scholars program

September 1, 2017

Thomas B. Fordham Institute | Amelia Peterson a PhD candidate in Education, has been selected for the 2017-2018 cohort of Emerging Education Policy Scholars, a program of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and American Enterprise Insitute that brings together newly-minted PhD scholars and PhD candidates to the nation's capital to meet with education-policy experts and to share and brainstorm new directions for K–12 education research. 

Alex Hertel-Fernandez awarded APSA McGillivray Best Paper Award

Alex Hertel-Fernandez awarded APSA McGillivray Best Paper Award

September 1, 2017
Awardee | Alex Hertel-Fernandez (PhD '16) has been awarded the 2017 Fiona McGillivray Prize for the best paper in political economy presented at the previous year’s American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. The paper, "American Employers as Political Machines," has been published in the Journal of Politics 79,1 (2017). Hertel-Fernandez is now Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
Peter Hall one of 66 newly-elected Fellows of the British Academy

Peter Hall one of 66 newly-elected Fellows of the British Academy

July 21, 2017
The British Academy announced the election of its 2017 Fellows, a group representing "the very best of humanities an social science research, in the UK and globally." Harvard's Peter A. Hall, Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies, is one of 20 overseas scholars, known as Corresponding Fellows, selected from outside the U.K.
Devah Pager

RSF Recent Awards for the Future of Work: Devah Pager

July 20, 2017
Russell Sage Foundation | Devah Pager, Director of the Inequality & Social Policy program and a Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, has been awarded a research grant (joint with David Pedulla of Stanford University) to investigate "The Organizational Bases of Discrimination."
Helen B. Marrow

RSF Announces New Visiting Researchers: Helen Marrow

June 20, 2017

Russell Sage Foundation | Helen Marrow (PhD '07), Associate Professor of Sociology at Tufts University, has been selected to be a Visiting Researcher at the Russell Sage Foundation in 2017-2018. While in residence, she will work on her next book on Immigrant-Native Relations in 21st Century America. The book is a collaborative project with scholars Dina Okamato of Indiana University, Linda Tropp of University of Massachsuetts-Amherst, and Michael Jones-Correa of University of Pennsylvania. Read more about Helen Marrow's work:

Carlos Lastra-Anadon

Technological Change, Inequality, and the Collapse of the Liberal Order

June 17, 2017

G20 Insights | Carlos Lastra-Anadón, PhD candidate in Government & Social Policy, has co-authored a policy brief that has been selected to appear in "20 Solution Proposals for the G20" to be circulated to summit participants at the G20 Hamburg summit, July 7-8, 2017. Theirs is one of 20 policy recommendations "chosen for their novelty, implementability, and relevance to the G20 during the German presidency."

The brief is co-authored by Manuel Muñiz (Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University), Karl Kaiser (Harvard University), Henning Meyer (London School of Economics), and Manuel Torres (Accenture).

Latest commentary and analysis

Mario Luis Small: Spencer Lecture 2019

How can social science improve the public discourse in a polarized society?

April 6, 2019

2019 Spencer Lecture | Widespread deficits in qualitative literacy--the ability to use and interpret data collected from interviews, observations, and similar methods--has contributed to a polarized public discourse, argued Mario Small, Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, in his 2019 Spencer Lecture at the AERA Annual Meeting in Toronto.

While there have been considerable gains in quantitative literacy in recent years, Small argued, there has been no commensurate improvement in the public's qualitative literacy. As a result, both producers and consumers of news struggle to identify or produce empirically sound  journalism and commentary. "This paucity is part of the reason that the election of Trump caught many unaware, that the rise of white supremacist movements seemed to many to come out of nowhere, and that our debates about everything from conditions in poor neighborhoods to the motivations of working class people have been stagnant," Small asserted. 

Small maintained that the “habits of thought” practiced by skilled qualitative researchers can provide a path forward, and he outlined three indicators that researchers, journalists, pundits, and all those who strive to inform and influence the public should meet.

View video, slides, written remarks ▶

... Read more about How can social science improve the public discourse in a polarized society?

Jal Mehta

High School Doesn't Have to Be Boring

March 30, 2019

The New York Times | By Jal Mehta PhD 2006 and Sarah Fine. Debate, drama and other extracurriculars provide the excitement many classrooms lack. And they can help overhaul the system, Mehta and Fine argue. The authors spent six years traveling the country studying high schools for their book, In Search of Deeper Learning, just published by Harvard University Press. Mehta is Associate Professor of Education at Harvard. Fine runs a teacher preparation program at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education in San Diego.

A letter to the class of 2023

A letter to the class of 2023

March 29, 2019

New York Daily News | By Natasha Warikoo PhD 2005. Warikoo is Associate Professor of Education at Harvard and the author of The Diversity Bargain.

Robert Manduca

To Fix Regional Inequality, Target the One Percent

March 25, 2019

Washington Monthly | By Robert Manduca, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy. Because some places are doing well while others are not, we tend to assume that disparities are largely a local problem, writes Robert Manduca. But if national income inequality in the US is largely responsible for the growing economic dispartity between its regions, as Manduca's research suggests, fixing struggling regions will require a different set of policies.

... View the research ▶

... Read more about To Fix Regional Inequality, Target the One Percent

Boston Review

Economics After Neoliberalism

February 15, 2019

Boston Review | By Suresh Naidu (Columbia University), Dani Rodrik (Harvard Kennedy School), and Gabriel Zucman (University of California Berkeley). Contemporary economics is finally breaking free from its market fetishism, offering plenty of tools we can use to make society more inclusive, the authors argue.

The Philanthropy Con

The Philanthropy Con

January 10, 2019

Dissent | By Vanessa Williamson PhD 2015, Senior Fellow in Governance Studies, Brookings Institution. In a democracy, taxes are better than charity, argues Williamson.

Why elite colleges should use a lottery to admit students

Why elite colleges should use a lottery to admit students

January 8, 2019

The Conversation | By Natasha Warikoo PhD 2005, Associate Professor of Education, Harvard University. Reprinted in Times Higher Education, Quartz, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. Selected for Five Best Ideas of the Day by The Aspen Institute.

Time Traveler: Claudia Goldin

Time Traveler: Claudia Goldin

December 14, 2018
IMF Finance and Development | People in Economics interview with Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard. By Peter J. Walker.
I voted sticker

Why letting ex-felons vote probably won’t swing Florida

November 2, 2018

Vox | By Marc Meredith and Michael Morse. We analyzed ex-felons with voting rights. Their party affiliation is more mixed than you might think. Michael Morse is a JD candidate at Yale Law School and a PhD candidate in Government at Harvard. Marc Meredith is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Andrew Leigh

The End of the Australian Miracle?

October 9, 2018

The New York Times | By Andrew Leigh (PhD 2004). The country needs to find ways to share prosperity with workers, writes Andrew Leigh, a Labor Party member of the Australian Parliament.

Protesters march in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014 after the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

What happens to police departments that collect more fines? They solve fewer crimes.

September 24, 2018

Washington Post | By Rebecca Goldstein, Michael Sances, and Hye Young You PhD 2014. Based on the authors' research, "Exploitative Revenues, Law Enforcement, and the Quality of Government Service," forthcoming in Urban Affairs Review.

Rebecca Goldstein is a PhD candidate in Government and a Malcolm Hewitt Wiener PhD Scholar in Poverty and Justice. Hye Young You received her PhD in Political Economy and Government from Harvard and is now Assistant Professor in the Wilf Family Department of Politics at New York University.

Read more about What happens to police departments that collect more fines? They solve fewer crimes.
JAMA Pediatrics

A Social Justice Framework for Lead Policy

August 27, 2018

JAMA Pediatrics | By Jessica Wolpaw Reyes PhD '02, Professor of Economics, Amherst College. How, given scarce resources, should society best address the threats that lead poses?

Anthony Abraham Jack

It's Hard to Be Hungry on Spring Break

March 17, 2018

The New York Times | By Anthony Abraham Jack, PhD '16. It is one thing to extend coveted invitations to poor students in recruiting them, writes Jack. it's another to really prepare for their arrival. Jack is a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Putting a Face to Anti-Trump Voters

Putting a Face to Anti-Trump Voters

March 10, 2018
NPR Weekend Edition | Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol discusses what she has found in talking to members of the resistance movemet in eight counties in North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence

Beginning in the mid-1990s, American cities experienced an astonishing drop in violent crime. By 2014, the United States was safer than it had been in sixty years. Sociologist Patrick Sharkey gathered data from across the country to understand why this happened, and how it changed the nature of urban inequality. He shows that the decline of violence is one of the most important public health breakthroughs of the past several decades, that it has made schools safer places to learn and increased the chances of poor children rising into the middle class. Yet there have been costs, in the abuses and high incarceration rates generated by aggressive policing.

Sharkey puts forth an entirely new approach to confronting violence and urban poverty. At a time when inequality, complacency, and conflict all threaten a new rise in violent crime, and the old methods of policing are unacceptable, the ideas in this book are indispensable.

The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life
Jiménez, Tomás R. 2017. The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 296. Abstract

The immigration patterns of the last three decades have profoundly changed nearly every aspect of life in the United States. What do those changes mean for the most established Americans—those whose families have been in the country for multiple generations?
The Other Side of Assimilation shows that assimilation is not a one-way street. Jiménez explains how established Americans undergo their own assimilation in response to profound immigration-driven ethnic, racial, political, economic, and cultural shifts. Drawing on interviews with a race and class spectrum of established Americans in three different Silicon Valley cities, The Other Side of Assimilation illuminates how established Americans make sense of their experiences in immigrant-rich environments, in work, school, public interactions, romantic life, and leisure activities. With lucid prose, Jiménez reveals how immigration not only changes the American cityscape but also reshapes the United States by altering the outlooks and identities of its most established citizens. 


(Re)Generating Inclusive Cities: Poverty and Planning in Urban North America
Zuberi, Dan, and Ariel Judith Taylor. 2017. (Re)Generating Inclusive Cities: Poverty and Planning in Urban North America. Routledge, 144. Abstract

As suburban expansion declines, cities have become essential economic, cultural and social hubs of global connectivity. This book is about urban revitalization across North America, in cities including San Francisco, Toronto, Boston, Vancouver, New York and Seattle. Infrastructure projects including the High Line and Big Dig are explored alongside urban neighborhood creation and regeneration projects such as Hunters Point in San Francisco and Regent Park in Toronto. Today, these urban regeneration projects have evolved in the context of unprecedented neoliberal public policy and soaring real estate prices. Consequently, they make a complex contribution to urban inequality and poverty trends in many of these cities, including the suburbanization of immigrant settlement and rising inequality. 

(Re)Generating Inclusive Cities wrestles with challenging but important questions of urban planning, including who benefits and who loses with these urban regeneration schemes, and what policy tools can be used to mitigate harm? We propose a new way forward for understanding and promoting better urban design practices in order to build more socially just and inclusive cities and to ultimately improve the quality of urban life for all.

Someone To Talk To
Small, Mario Luis. 2017. Someone To Talk To. Oxford University Press, 288. Abstract

When people are facing difficulties, they often feel the need for a confidant-a person to vent to or a sympathetic ear with whom to talk things through. How do they decide on whom to rely? In theory, the answer seems obvious: if the matter is personal, they will turn to a spouse, a family member, or someone close. In practice, what people actually do often belies these expectations. 

In Someone To Talk To, Mario L. Small follows a group of graduate students as they cope with stress, overwork, self-doubt, failure, relationships, children, health care, and poverty. He unravels how they decide whom to turn to for support. And he then confirms his findings based on representative national data on adult Americans. 

Small shows that rather than consistently rely on their "strong ties," Americans often take pains to avoid close friends and family, as these relationships are both complex and fraught with expectations. In contrast, they often confide in "weak ties," as the need for understanding or empathy trumps their fear of misplaced trust. In fact, people may find themselves confiding in acquaintances and even strangers unexpectedly, without having reflected on the consequences. 

Someone To Talk To reveals the often counter-intuitive nature of social support, helping us understand questions as varied as why a doctor may hide her depression from friends, how a teacher may come out of the closet unintentionally, why people may willingly share with others their struggle to pay the rent, and why even competitors can be among a person's best confidants.

Amid a growing wave of big data and large-scale network analysis, Small returns to the basic questions of who we connect with, how, and why, upending decades of conventional wisdom on how we should think about and analyze social networks.

Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes
Williamson, Vanessa S. 2017. 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.


Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

Do Tax Cuts Produce more Einsteins? The Impacts of Financial Incentives Versus Exposure to Innovation on the Supply of Inventors
Bell, Alex, Raj Chetty, Xavier Jaravel, Neviana Petkova, and John Van Reenen. 2019. “Do Tax Cuts Produce more Einsteins? The Impacts of Financial Incentives Versus Exposure to Innovation on the Supply of Inventors.” Journal of the European Economic Association 17 (3): 651–677. Abstract
Many countries provide financial incentives to spur innovation, ranging from tax incentives to research and development grants. In this paper, we study how such financial incentives affect individuals’ decisions to pursue careers in innovation. We first present empirical evidence on inventors’ career trajectories and income distributions using deidentified data on 1.2 million inventors from patent records linked to tax records in the United States. We find that the private returns to innovation are extremely skewed—with the top 1% of inventors collecting more than 22% of total inventors’ income—and are highly correlated with their social impact, as measured by citations. Inventors tend to have their most impactful innovations around age 40 and their incomes rise rapidly just before they have high-impact patents. We then build a stylized model of inventor career choice that matches these facts as well as recent evidence that childhood exposure to innovation plays a critical role in determining whether individuals become inventors. The model predicts that financial incentives, such as top income tax reductions, have limited potential to increase aggregate innovation because they only affect individuals who are exposed to innovation and have essentially no impact on the decisions of star inventors, who matter most for aggregate innovation. Importantly, these results hold regardless of whether the private returns to innovation are fully known at the time of career choice or are fully stochastic. In contrast, increasing exposure to innovation (e.g., through mentorship programs) could have substantial impacts on innovation by drawing individuals who produce high-impact inventions into the innovation pipeline. Although we do not present direct evidence supporting these model-based predictions, our results call for a more careful assessment of the impacts of financial incentives and a greater focus on alternative policies to increase the supply of inventors.
Antitrust Enforcement as Federal Policy to Reduce Regional Economic Disparities
Manduca, Robert. 2019. “Antitrust Enforcement as Federal Policy to Reduce Regional Economic Disparities.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 685 (1): 156-171. Abstract
Regions of the United States have seen their incomes diverge dramatically over the last four decades. This article makes the empirical and political case for treating regional economic disparities as a national phenomenon best resolved through federal policy, rather than exclusively as a matter of local responsibility. It then considers reinvigorated antitrust enforcement as an example of a federal policy that would strengthen local economies while benefiting from policy feedback effects.
The Cognitive Dimension of Household Labor
Daminger, Allison. 2019. “The Cognitive Dimension of Household Labor.” American Sociological Review 84 (4): 609-633. Abstract
Household labor is commonly defined as a set of physical tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Sociologists sometimes reference non-physical activities related to “household management,” but these are typically mentioned in passing, imprecisely defined, or treated as equivalent to physical tasks. Using 70 in-depth interviews with members of 35 couples, this study argues that such tasks are better understood as examples of a unique dimension of housework: cognitive labor. The data demonstrate that cognitive labor entails anticipating needs, identifying options for filling them, making decisions, and monitoring progress. Because such work is taxing but often invisible to both cognitive laborers and their partners, it is a frequent source of conflict for couples. Cognitive labor is also a gendered phenomenon: women in this study do more cognitive labor overall and more of the anticipation and monitoring work in particular. However, male and female participation in decision-making, arguably the cognitive labor component most closely linked to power and influence, is roughly equal. These findings identify and define an overlooked—yet potentially consequential—source of gender inequality at the household level and suggest a new direction for research on the division of household labor.
Unemployment insurance and reservation wages: Evidence from administrative data
Barbanchon, Thomas Le, Roland Rathelot, and Alexandra Roulet. 2019. “Unemployment insurance and reservation wages: Evidence from administrative data.” Journal of Public Economics 171: 1-17. Abstract

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

Environmental Inequality: The Social Causes and Consequences of Lead Exposure
Muller, Christopher, Robert J. Sampson, and Alix S. Winter. 2018. “Environmental Inequality: The Social Causes and Consequences of Lead Exposure.” Annual Review of Sociology 44 (1): 263-282 . Abstract
In this article, we review evidence from the social and medical sciences on the causes and effects of lead exposure. We argue that lead exposure is an important subject for sociological analysis because it is socially stratified and has important social consequences—consequences that themselves depend in part on children's social environments. We present a model of environmental inequality over the life course to guide an agenda for future research. We conclude with a call for deeper exchange between urban sociology, environmental sociology, and public health, and for more collaboration between scholars and local communities in the pursuit of independent science for the common good.
he consequences of lead exposure for later crime are theoretically compelling, but direct evidence from representative, longitudinal samples is sparse. By capitalizing on an original follow-up of more than 200 infants from the birth cohort of the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods matched to their blood lead levels from around age 3 years, we provide several tests. Through the use of four waves of longitudinal data that include measures of individual development, family background, and structural inequalities in how lead becomes embodied, we assess the hypothesized link between early childhood lead poisoning and both parent-reported delinquent behavior and official arrest in late adolescence. We also test for mediating developmental processes of impulsivity and anxiety or depression. The results from multiple analytic strategies that make different assumptions reveal a plausibly causal effect of childhood lead exposure on adolescent delinquent behavior but no direct link to arrests. The results underscore lead exposure as a trigger for poisoned development in the early life course and call for greater integration of the environment into theories of individual differences in criminal behavior.
Public Campaign Financing, Candidate Socioeconomic Diversity, and Representational Inequality at the U.S. State Level: Evidence from Connecticut
Conventional wisdom holds that public campaign financing can diversify the socioeconomic makeup of candidate pools and, therefore, of U.S. elected officials, which could make U.S. public policy more responsive to lower socioeconomic status (SES) citizens. I argue that in addition to the absence of a positive relationship between public financing and candidate socioeconomic diversity, public financing, depending on the program design, may, in fact, reduce candidate socioeconomic diversity. Using occupational data on state legislative candidates in public financing state Connecticut and two paired control states to execute a difference in difference analysis, I demonstrate that when public financing is available, fewer low SES candidates run for state legislative office, and those who do run are not more likely to win and are less likely to utilize public financing.
Environmental Inequality: The Social Causes and Consequences of Lead Exposure
Muller, Christopher, Robert J. Sampson, and Alix S. Winter. 2018. “Environmental Inequality: The Social Causes and Consequences of Lead Exposure.” Annual Review of Sociology 44 (1): 263-282. Abstract
In this article, we review evidence from the social and medical sciences on the causes and effects of lead exposure. We argue that lead exposure is an important subject for sociological analysis because it is socially stratified and has important social consequences—consequences that themselves depend in part on children's social environments. We present a model of environmental inequality over the life course to guide an agenda for future research. We conclude with a call for deeper exchange between urban sociology, environmental sociology, and public health, and for more collaboration between scholars and local communities in the pursuit of independent science for the common good.
Introducing a performance-based component into Jakarta's school grants: What do we know about its impact after three years?
Samarrai, Samer Al, Unika Shrestha, Amer Hasan, Nozomi Nakajima, Santoso Santoso, and Wisnu Harto Adi Wijoyo. 2018. “Introducing a performance-based component into Jakarta's school grants: What do we know about its impact after three years?” Economics of Education Review 67: 110-136. Abstract
Using administrative data, this paper evaluates the early impact of introducing a performance-based component into Jakarta's long-standing school grant program on learning outcomes. The authors use difference-in-differences and regression discontinuity approaches to identify the component's impact on both government primary and junior secondary schools. Learning outcomes improved in primary schools at the bottom of the performance distribution, which narrowed the performance gaps between schools. However, the component had a negative impact on the better performing primary schools. Overall, primary examination scores fell slightly but this effect was only temporary. In contrast, the performance-based component improved examination scores in junior secondary schools. This impact seems to have been greatest among better-performing schools, thus widening the performance gap between these schools and those whose performance was worse. The data suggest that the main impact of the performance-based grant in terms of learning outcomes operated through an increase in competition among schools to earn the performance-based grant rather than through receipt of the actual grant funds.
Beyond the Border and Into the Heartland: Spatial Patterning of U.S. Immigration Detention
The expansion of U.S. immigration enforcement from the borders into the interior of the country and the fivefold increase in immigration detentions and deportations since 1995 raise important questions about how the enforcement of immigration law is spatially patterned across American communities. Focusing on the practice of immigration detention, the present study analyzes the records of all 717,160 noncitizens detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2008 and 2009—a period when interior enforcement was at its peak—to estimate states’ detention rates and examine geographic variation in detention outcomes, net of individual characteristics. Findings reveal substantial state heterogeneity in immigration detention rates, which range from approximately 350 detentions per 100,000 noncitizens in Connecticut to more than 6,700 detentions per 100,000 noncitizens in Wyoming. After detainment, individuals’ detention outcomes are geographically stratified, especially for detainees eligible for pretrial release. These disparities indicate the important role that geography plays in shaping individuals’ chances of experiencing immigration detention and deportation.
Attitudes Toward Mass Arrivals: Variations by Racial, Spatial, and Temporal Distances to Incoming Disaster Evacuees
Raker, Ethan J., and James R. Elliott. 2018. “Attitudes Toward Mass Arrivals: Variations by Racial, Spatial, and Temporal Distances to Incoming Disaster Evacuees.” Social Science Quarterly 99 (3): 1200-1213. Abstract


Disasters can send large numbers of evacuees into new contexts of reception, where attitudes toward them can vary significantly by perceived social distance. To conventional assessment of such distance along racial lines, we add spatial and temporal distance from point of central arrival.


A novel research design combines the natural experiment triggered by Hurricane Katrina with five consecutive Kinder Houston Area Surveys (2006–2010), which gather data on attitudes toward arrived evacuees as well as tract‐level data on residential context.


Regression analyses reveal that spatial and temporal distance act similarly to racial distance in predicting negative attitudes toward evacuees. Results also show these effects are moderated by the racial context of incumbents’ residential neighborhoods.


Social distance exerts a multifaceted influence on evacuee reception in ways that become especially pertinent in the arrival of communities from large‐scale, urban evacuations.

Does ‘right to work’ imperil the right to health? The effect of labour unions on workplace fatalities
Zoorob, Michael. 2018. “Does ‘right to work’ imperil the right to health? The effect of labour unions on workplace fatalities.” Occupational and Environmental Medicine 75: 736-738. Abstract

Objective Economic policies can have unintended consequences on population health. In recent years, many states in the USA have passed ‘right to work’ (RTW) laws which weaken labour unions. The effect of these laws on occupational health remains unexplored. This study fills this gap by analysing the effect of RTW on occupational fatalities through its effect on unionisation.

Methods Two-way fixed effects regression models are used to estimate the effect of unionisation on occupational mortality per 100 000 workers, controlling for state policy liberalism and workforce composition over the period 1992–2016. In the final specification, RTW laws are used as an instrument for unionisation to recover causal effects.

Results The Local Average Treatment Effect of a 1% decline in unionisation attributable to RTW is about a 5% increase in the rate of occupational fatalities. In total, RTW laws have led to a 14.2% increase in occupational mortality through decreased unionisation.

Conclusion These findings illustrate and quantify the protective effect of unions on workers’ safety. Policymakers should consider the potentially deleterious effects of anti-union legislation on occupational health.

The Persistent Effect of U.S. Civil Rights Protests on Political Attitudes
Mazumder, Soumyajit. 2018. “The Persistent Effect of U.S. Civil Rights Protests on Political Attitudes.” American Journal of Political Science 62 (4): 922-935. Publisher's Version Abstract
Protests can engender significant institutional change. Can protests also continue to shape a nation's contemporary politics outside of more formalized channels? I argue that social movements can not only beget institutional change, but also long‐run, attitudinal change. Using the case of the U.S. civil rights movement, I develop a theory in which protests can shift attitudes and these attitudes can persist. Data from over 150,000 survey respondents provide evidence consistent with the theory. Whites from counties that experienced historical civil rights protests are more likely to identify as Democrats and support affirmative action, and less likely to harbor racial resentment against blacks. These individual‐level results are politically meaningful—counties that experienced civil rights protests are associated with greater Democratic Party vote shares even today. This study highlights how social movements can have persistent impacts on a nation's politics.
Political Consequences of Survival Strategies among the Urban Poor
Desmond, Matthew, and Adam Travis. 2018. “Political Consequences of Survival Strategies among the Urban Poor.” American Sociological Review 83 (5): 869–896. Abstract
Combining ethnographic and statistical methods, this study identifies interlocking mechanisms that help explain how disadvantaged neighborhoods influence their residents’ political capacity. Support systems that arise in low-income neighborhoods promote social interaction that helps people make ends meet, but these systems also expose residents to heavy doses of adversity, which dampens perceptions of collective political capacity. For the poorest residents of these neighborhoods in particular, the expected positive effect of informal social support is suppressed by the negative effect of perceived trauma. These findings present a micro-level account of poverty, social interaction, and political capacity, one that holds implications for scholarship and public policy on participatory inequality.
Income Inequality and the Persistence of Racial Economic Disparities
Manduca, Robert. 2018. “Income Inequality and the Persistence of Racial Economic Disparities.” Sociological Science 5 (8): 182-205. Abstract
More than 50 years after the Civil Rights Act, black–white family income disparities in the United States remain almost exactly the same as what they were in 1968. This article argues that a key and underappreciated driver of the racial income gap has been the national trend of rising income inequality. From 1968 to 2016, black–white disparities in family income rank narrowed by almost one-third. But this relative gain was negated by changes to the national income distribution that resulted in rapid income growth for the richest—and most disproportionately white—few percentiles of the country combined with income stagnation for the poor and middle class. But for the rise in income inequality, the median black–white family income gap would have decreased by about 30 percent. Conversely, without the partial closing of the rank gap, growing inequality alone would have increased the racial income gap by 30 percent.
Is Running Enough? Reconsidering the Conventional Wisdom about Women Candidates
BucchianerI, Peter. 2018. “Is Running Enough? Reconsidering the Conventional Wisdom about Women Candidates.” Political Behavior 40 (2): 435-466. Abstract
The conventional wisdom in the literature on women candidates holds that “when women run, they win as often as men.” This has led to a strong focus in the literature on the barriers to entry for women candidates and significant evidence that these barriers hinder representation. Yet, a growing body of research suggests that some disadvantages persist for Republican women even after they choose to run for office. In this paper, I investigate the aggregate consequences of these disadvantages for general election outcomes. Using a regression discontinuity design, I show that Republican women who win close House primaries lose at higher rates in the general election than Republican men. This nomination effect holds throughout the 1990s despite a surge in Republican voting starting in 1994. I find no such effect for Democratic women and provide evidence that a gap in elite support explains part of the cross-party difference.
Racialized legal status as a social determinant of health
Asad, Asad L., and Matthew Clair. 2018. “Racialized legal status as a social determinant of health.” Social Science & Medicine 199: 19-28. 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. 2018. “Jurors' Subjective Experiences of Deliberations in Criminal Cases.” Law & Social Inquiry 43 (4): 1458-1490. 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.

Discretionary Disenfranchisement: The Case of Legal Financial Obligations
Meredith, Marc, and Michael Morse. 2017. “Discretionary Disenfranchisement: The Case of Legal Financial Obligations.” Journal of Legal Studies 46 (2). Abstract
Conditioning voting rights on the payment of legal financial obligations (LFOs) may be unconstitutional if there are no exceptions for indigency. Appellate courts, though, generally have upheld felon-disenfranchisement laws that withhold voting rights until all fees, fines, and restitution are paid in full. These decisions, however, have been made with limited evidence available about the type, burden, and disparate impact of criminal debt. We address this by detailing who owes LFOs, how much they owe, and for what purpose using representative statewide samples in Alabama. The median amount of LFOs assessed to discharged felons across all of their criminal convictions is $3,956, more than half of which stems from court fees. As a result, most ex-felons remain disenfranchised after completing their sentences. People who are disproportionately indigent—blacks and those utilizing a public defender—are even less likely to be eligible to restore their voting rights.
Measuring the natural rate of interest: International trends and determinants
Holston, Kathryn, Thomas Lobach, and John C. Williams. 2017. “Measuring the natural rate of interest: International trends and determinants.” Journal of International Economics 108 (1): S59-S75. Abstract

U.S. estimates of the natural rate of interest – the real short-term interest rate that would prevail absent transitory disturbances – have declined dramatically since the start of the global financial crisis. For example, estimates using the Laubach–Williams (2003) model indicate the natural rate in the United States fell to close to zero during the crisis and has remained there into 2016. Explanations for this decline include shifts in demographics, a slowdown in trend productivity growth, and global factors affecting real interest rates. This paper applies the Laubach–Williams methodology to the United States and three other advanced economies – Canada, the Euro Area, and the United Kingdom. We find that large declines in trend GDP growth and natural rates of interest have occurred over the past 25 years in all four economies. These country-by-country estimates are found to display a substantial amount of comovement over time, suggesting an important role for global factors in shaping trend growth and natural rates of interest.


Awarded the Bhagwati Prize for 2017-2018, given every two years for the best article published in the Journal of International Economics during the previous two years.
The fading American dream: Trends in absolute income mobility since 1940
Chetty, Raj, David Grusky, Maximilian Hell, Nathaniel Hendren, Robert Manduca, and Jimmy Narang. 2017. “The fading American dream: Trends in absolute income mobility since 1940.” Science 356 (6336): 398-406. Abstract
We estimated rates of “absolute income mobility”—the fraction of children who earn more than their parents—by combining data from U.S. Census and Current Population Survey cross sections with panel data from de-identified tax records. We found that rates of absolute mobility have fallen from approximately 90% for children born in 1940 to 50% for children born in the 1980s. Increasing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rates alone cannot restore absolute mobility to the rates experienced by children born in the 1940s. However, distributing current GDP growth more equally across income groups as in the 1940 birth cohort would reverse more than 70% of the decline in mobility. These results imply that reviving the “American dream” of high rates of absolute mobility would require economic growth that is shared more broadly across the income distribution.
Does Consumer Demand Reproduce Inequality? High-Income Consumers, Vertical Differentiation, and the Wage Structure

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

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

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

Wealth Inequality and Accumulation
Killewald, Alexandra, Fabian T. Pfeffer, and Jared N. Schachner. 2017. “Wealth Inequality and Accumulation.” Annual Review of Sociology 43 (1). Abstract
Research on wealth inequality and accumulation and the data upon which it relies have expanded substantially in the twenty-first century. Although the field has experienced rapid growth, conceptual and methodological challenges remain. We begin by discussing two major unresolved methodological concerns facing wealth research: how to address challenges to causal inference posed by wealth’s cumulative nature and how to operationalize net worth, given its highly skewed distribution. Next, we provide an overview of data sources available for wealth research. To underscore the need for continued empirical attention to net worth, we review trends in wealth levels and inequality and evaluate wealth’s distinctiveness as an indicator of social stratification. We then review recent empirical evidence on the effects of wealth on other social outcomes, as well as research on the determinants of wealth. We close with a list of promising avenues for future research on wealth, its causes, and its consequences.
Autocracies and the international sources of cooperation
Mazumder, Soumyajit. 2017. “Autocracies and the international sources of cooperation.” Journal of Peace Research 54 (3): 412-426. Publisher's Version Abstract
Under what conditions do autocracies peacefully settle disputes? Existing studies tend to focus on the domestic factors that shape conflict initiation. In this article, I show how domestic institutions interact with international institutions to produce more cooperative outcomes. Particularly, this study argues that as autocracies become more central in the network of liberal institutions such as preferential trade agreements (PTAs), they are less likely to initiate a militarized interstate dispute (MID). As a state becomes more democratic, the effect of centrality within the PTA network on the peaceful dispute settlement dissipates. This is because greater embeddedness in the PTA regime is associated with enhanced transparency for autocracies, which allows autocracies to mitigate ex ante informational problems in dispute resolution. Using a dataset of MID initiation from 1965 to 1999, this study finds robust empirical support for the aforementioned hypothesis. Moreover, the results are substantively significant. Further analysis into the causal mechanisms at work provides evidence in favor of the information mechanism. Autocrats who are more embedded in the PTA network tend to have higher levels of economic transparency and economic transparency itself is associated with lower rates of conflict initiation. The results suggest that an autocrat’s structural position within the international system can help to peacefully settle its disputes.
One Egalitarianism or Several? Two Decades of Gender-Role Attitude Change in Europe
Knight, Carly R., and Mary C. Brinton. 2017. “One Egalitarianism or Several? Two Decades of Gender-Role Attitude Change in Europe.” American Journal of Sociology 122 (5): 1485-1532. Abstract
This article challenges the implicit assumption of many cross-national studies that gender-role attitudes fall along a single continuum between traditional and egalitarian. The authors argue that this approach obscures theoretically important distinctions in attitudes and renders analyses of change over time incomplete. Using latent class analysis, they investigate the multidimensional nature of gender-role attitudes in 17 postindustrial European countries. They identify three distinct varieties of egalitarianism that they designate as liberal egalitarianism, egalitarian familism, and flexible egalitarianism. They show that while traditional gender-role attitudes have precipitously and uniformly declined in accordance with the “rising tide” narrative toward greater egalitarianism, the relative prevalence of different egalitarianisms varies markedly across countries. Furthermore, they find that European nations are not converging toward one dominant egalitarian model but rather, remain differentiated by varieties of egalitarianism.
Urban Income Inequality and the Great Recession in Sunbelt Form: Disentangling Individual and Neighborhood-Level Change in Los Angeles
Sampson, Robert J., Jared N. Schachner, and Robert L. Mare. 2017. “Urban Income Inequality and the Great Recession in Sunbelt Form: Disentangling Individual and Neighborhood-Level Change in Los Angeles.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 3 (2): 102-128. Abstract

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

Labor Unions as Activist Organizations: A Union Power Approach to Estimating Union Wage Effects

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.

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