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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

New Progress on Using Behavioral Sciences Insights

New Progress on Using Behavioral Sciences Insights

September 15, 2016

The White House | One year ago President Obama issued an executive order directing Federal Government agencies to apply behavioral science insights to their programs to better serve the American people. To mark the past year of progress, today the White House is hosting a Summit on Behavioral Science Insights and releasing the SBST Second Annual Report. The report draws extensively from research by Inequality & Social Policy faculty affiliates Sendhil Mullainathan (Economics), Brigitte Madrian (HKS), David Laibson (Economics), Jeffrey Liebman (HKS), Todd Rogers (HKS), and Michael Norton (HBS). It also cites work by Inequality & Social Policy alumni Judith Scott-Clayton (Ph.D. '09), Associate Professor of Economics and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University; W. Adam Looney (Ph.D. '04), Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Analysis, U.S. Treasury; and David Hureau (Ph.D. '16), Assistant Professor, School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany, SUNY.

How We Undercounted Evictions by Asking the Wrong Questions

How We Undercounted Evictions by Asking the Wrong Questions

September 15, 2016

FiveThirtyEight | The Milwaukee Area Renter's Study (MARS), the brainchild of Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, "may be the first rigorous, detailed look at eviction in a major city...Now the survey is going national: The Census Bureau recently agreed to add some of the MARS questions to its massive, biennial housing survey."

Introducing the Evidence-Based Policymaking Collaborative

Introducing the Evidence-Based Policymaking Collaborative

September 13, 2016

Andrew Feldman (Ph.D. '07), Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution Center on Children and Families, has been appointed to the newly-launched Evidence-Based Policymaking Collaborative. Funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the collaborative brings together researchers from the Urban Institute, the Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative to create tools to inform evidence-based policymaking at all levels of government. 

The Politico 50: Matthew Desmond

The Politico 50: Matthew Desmond

September 12, 2016

Politico | Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Social Science at Harvard—"for turning to a powerful source in explaining poverty: poor people themselves,"—has been named to The Politico 50, Politico's annual list of "thinkers transforming politics." From the citation: "In 2008, when Matthew Desmond moved into a poor Milwaukee neighborhood to begin what would become his groundbreaking study of eviction and its role in exacerbating poverty, the notion that a presidential race would be defined by progressive ideas about the evils of income inequality would have seemed almost inconceivable. But this year, the book that Desmond produced from that research—Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City—landed in the middle of a campaign in which outsider candidates from both parties pushed populist messages aimed at the working poor."

"Desmond, a Harvard sociologist, challenged stale notions about how poverty works through intimate portraits of eight families. One of his most notable discoveries was that evictions often were not the result of losing a job but rather the cause, a potentially game-changing insight into what traps people in poverty." A word of advice for the next president? "Fight poverty."

The Politico 50: George J. Borjas

The Politico 50: George J. Borjas

September 12, 2016

Politico | George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, has been named to The Politico 50, Politico's annual list of "thinkers transforming politics."  From the citation: "But Borjas isn’t necessarily anti-immigration; in fact, his research shows immigration can benefit the nation overall. The real message he has been delivering since his pioneering 1994 study is that both political parties are far too simplistic when they talk about immigration’s harms and benefits. The problem is that immigration doesn’t lift everyone equally: Immigrants themselves get a lot out of it, as do business owners and people on the top of the economic pyramid. But it genuinely hurts many native-born Americans, especially low-skilled workers."

Poor Students’ Futures Are on the Ballot in Massachusetts

Poor Students’ Futures Are on the Ballot in Massachusetts

September 3, 2016

Daily Beast | Highlights research findings by Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15), Professor of Education and Public Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. This work includes “Teaching to the Student: Charter School Effectiveness in Spite of Perverse Incentives,” Education Finance and Policy; and "Stand and Deliver: Effects of Boston’s Charter High Schools on College Preparation, Entry, and Choice,” by Joshua D. Angriest, Sarah Cohodes, Susan Dynarski, Parag A. Pathak, and Christopher R. Walters,  Journal of Labor Economics.
View the research

The Array of Things is Coming to Chicago (and the World)

The Array of Things is Coming to Chicago (and the World)

September 2, 2016

Chicago Magazine | What can we learn from environmental sensors in these new fixtures? Highlights pioneering work of Robert Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, "doing Google Street View before there was a Google," and Edward Glaeser and colleagues, who have used a machine learning algorithm with Google Street View to answer social science questions.

Clinton drug plan: Is it enough?

Clinton drug plan: Is it enough?

September 2, 2016

Marketplace | Marketplace talks with Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, for his analysis.

School reform: After freedom, what?

School reform: After freedom, what?

August 27, 2016

The Economist | Cites research by Roland Fryer, Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard, and Will Dobbie (Ph.D. '13), Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton, on the essential qualities of the best charter schools. "In a new paper, Mr Dobbie and Mr Fryer found that although the best charter schools in Houston did better than equivalent state schools in tests and college admissions, attending one had no discernible impact on wages."
View this research

Tobin Project Holds Conference on Inequality and Decision Making

Tobin Project Holds Conference on Inequality and Decision Making

August 26, 2016

Tobin Project | A number of Inequality & Social Policy affiliates participated in the Tobin Project's Conference on Inequality and Decision-Making, held Aug 4-5 in Cambridge. The conference, whose organizers included faculty members David Moss and Michael Norton of Harvard Business School, "brought together leading scholars from across the social and behavioral sciences to explore the effects of economic inequality on individual behavior and decision making."

"Participants examined the ways in which rising inequality might influence the perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors of Americans..., [with the aim] to improve understanding of the mechanisms through which inequality affects our democracy, economy, and society as a whole."

In addition to Moss and Norton, speakers included Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellow Beth Truesdale (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology) and alumnae Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington (Ph.D. '14) and Vanessa Williamson (Ph.D. '15), who presented pilot research at the conference. Robert Manduca (Ph.D. student in Sociology & Social Policy) presented research in progress on income inequality and structural change at a smaller doctoral student workshop organized by the Tobin Project on August 6.
View conference program 

Why you should save more than 3% in your 401(k)

Why you should save more than 3% in your 401(k)

August 26, 2016

San Francisco Chronicle | Quotes and cites early research by Brigitte Madrian, Aetna Professor of Public Policy and Corporate Management at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Employees who are auto-enrolled in 401(k) plans often contribute 3 percent of pay 
because this is the most popular default contribution level. How did this become the default? The 3 percent rate was used as a hypothetical example in two Internal Revenue Service rulings in 1998 and 2000, in which the IRS explained how 401(k) plans could automatically enroll workers without jeopardizing their tax benefits.... Read more about Why you should save more than 3% in your 401(k)

Latest awards

Soledad Artiz Prillaman

Soledad Artiz Prillaman: APSA Juan Linz Prize for Best Dissertation in the Comparative Study of Democracy

August 31, 2018
Awardee | Soledad Artiz Prillaman PhD 2017 is the recipient of the 2019 Juan Linz Prize for best dissertation from the American Political Science Association's Section on Democracy and Autocracy. The award recognizes the best dissertation on democratization and/or the development and dynamics of democracy and authoritarianism completed within the two previous calendar years. Prillaman earned her PhD in Political Science from Harvard and is a Prize Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Oxford's Nuffield College. In July 2019 Prillaman joins the faculty of Stanford University as Assistant Professor of Political Science.
Beth Truesdale: ASA Best Graduate Student Paper Award in Aging and the Life Course

Beth Truesdale: ASA Best Graduate Student Paper Award in Aging and the Life Course

August 15, 2018

Awardee | Beth Truesdale PhD 2017 is the recipient of the Best Graduate Student Paper Award from the American Sociological Association Section on Aging and the Life Course, for “Coming of Age in an Unequal State: The Life Course Effects of Economic Inequality on Health." Truesdale received her PhD in Sociology from Harvard in 2017 and is now a Sloan Postdoctoral Research Fellow on Aging and Work, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.

Barbara Kiviat receives ASA Ronald Burt Outstanding Student Paper Award in Economic Sociology

Barbara Kiviat receives ASA Ronald Burt Outstanding Student Paper Award in Economic Sociology

August 10, 2018

Awardee | Barbara Kiviat, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, is the 2018 recipient of the Ronald Burt Outstanding Student Paper Award by the American Sociological Association's section on Economic Sociology, for her paper, "The Art of Deciding with Data: Evidence from how Employers Translate Credit Reports into Hiring Decisions," published in Socio-Economic Review.

Washington Center for Equitable Growth announces 2018 grantees: Ellora Derenoncourt

Washington Center for Equitable Growth announces 2018 grantees: Ellora Derenoncourt

July 25, 2018

Awardee | Ellora Derenoncourt, PhD candidate in Economics, is one of 12 doctoral student grantees announced today by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.  Ellora and colleague Claire Montialoux of CREST and UC Berkeley will invetigate how effective basic and universal labor standards are at reducing group inequality in order to increase our understanding of how a higher wage floor and universal federal labor standards can impact the racial and gender wage gaps. 

View the announcement
Ellora Derenoncourt website
Karen Dynan

Karen Dynan joins Equitable Growth Steering Committee

June 27, 2018

Washington Center for Equitable Growth | Karen Dynan, a former assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy and amcurrent professor of the practice of economics at Harvard, has joined the Washington Center for Equitable Growth's Steering Committee, the organization announce today.

“As policymakers continue to confront the challenges of stagnant wages and rising economic inequality, Equitable Growth’s support of new research and evidence-based policy solutions is essential,” Dynan said. “Economic policymaking will ultimately be more effective when we take into account the question of how and to what degree inequality may be altering our understanding of the economic landscape facing households and the broader economy. Equitable Growth’s growing network and body of supported research is critical for policymakers looking to better understand how to attain growth that benefits all, not only the few.”

... Read more about Karen Dynan joins Equitable Growth Steering Committee

Barbara Kiviat receives ASA Best Student Paper Award

Barbara Kiviat receives ASA Best Student Paper Award

June 19, 2018

Awardee | Barbara Kiviat, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, is a recipient of the Best Student Paper Award by the American Sociological Association's Consumers and Consumption Section for her paper, "The Art of Deciding with Data: Evidence from How Employers Translate Credit Reports into Hiring Decisions," published in Socio-Economic Review.

... View the research ▶

Hope Harvey

Hope Harvey awarded SSSP Poverty, Class, and Inequality paper prize

June 15, 2018

Awardee | Hope Harvey, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, has been awarded the 2018 Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) Poverty, Class , and Inequality dvision graduate student paper prize for her paper, "Exchange and Relational Work within Doubled-up Households."

Hope Harvey will receive her PhD in November 2018, and will be a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University, 2018-2020.

Aaron Benavidez

Aaron Benavidez: Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Undergraduates

May 2, 2018

Awardee | Aaaron Benavidez, PhD candidate in Sociology, is one of five recipeients of the 2018 Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching of Undergraduates. Benavidez was referred to by his nominator as “one of the very best teaching fellows that we have ever had the pleasure of employing in sociology.” Students and faculty praised Aaron for his pedagogical innovation, leadership, and his attention and care for each of his students...Read more ►

Jane Mansbridge

Jane Mansbridge awarded the 2018 Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science

April 15, 2018

Jane Mansbridge, the Charles F. Adams Professor in Political Leadership and Democratic Values at Harvard University, is awarded the 2018 Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science. Professor Mansbridge wins the prize for “having shaped our understanding of democracy in its direct and representative forms, with incisiveness, deep commitment and feminist theory.”

The Johan Skytte Prize, often referred to as political-science equivalent of the Nobel Prizes, is awarded annually since 1995 to a scholar who in the view of the Prize Committee has made the most valuable contribution to political science

Christopher Bail

Christopher Bail awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

April 5, 2018

John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Christopher A. Bail PhD 2011, Douglas and Ellen Lowey Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Duke University, is one of 173 scholars, artists, and scientists named today as 2018 Guggenheim Fellows. "Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise," this year's class was selected from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Guggenheim Foundation's 94th annual competition.

During his year as a Guggenheim Fellow, Bail will work on a book about political polarization based on a large field experiment designed to disrupt social media echo chambers on Twitter that combines survey data, text analysis, and in-depth interviews with hundreds of Republicans and Democrats in the United States.

Robert Sampson

Robert J. Sampson awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

April 5, 2018

John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Robert J. Sampson, the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, is one of 173 scholars, artists, and scientists named today as 2018 Guggenheim Fellows. "Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise," this year's class was selected from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Guggenheim Foundation's 94th annual competition.

As a Guggenheim Fellow, Sampson will work on a book project that examines how children navigated the transition to adulthood during the transformation of crime, punishment, and inequality in America during the latter part of the 20th century until the present. Becoming Marked draws on an original long-term original study that originated in the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, for which Sampson served as Scientific Director.

Peter A. Hall awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

Peter A. Hall awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

April 5, 2018

John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Peter A. Hall, Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies at Harvard, is one of 173 scholars, artists, and scientists named today as 2018 Guggenheim Fellows. "Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise," this year's class was selected from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Guggenheim Foundation's 94th annual competition.

Professor Hall's Guggenheim project will focus on the renegotiation of the social contract in the developed democracies over the years since 1945 and on the role of electoral politics and producer group politics in that process.

Maya Sen

Maya Sen recognized with 2018 Early Career Award

March 20, 2018
Awardee | Political scientist Maya Sen, an associate professor at Harvard Kennedy School, has been awarded the Midwest Women's Caucus for Political Science's 2018 Early Career Award for research contributions and impact on the discipline.
Blythe George

Blythe George awarded NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant

March 14, 2018

National Science Foundation | Blythe George, PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Policy, has been awarded a National Science Foundation doctoral dissertation research grant for her doctoral dissertation work on "Employment of Native Americans with Criminal Records."

Stefanie Stantcheva

Stefanie Stantcheva awarded tenure in Economics

March 5, 2018
Harvard Economics | Stefanie Stantcheva has been promoted to Professor of Economics. Stantcheva's research focuses on the optimal design of the tax system, taking into account important labor market features, social preferences, and long-term effects such as human capital acquisition and innovation by people and firms. She also examines the empirical effects of taxation on inequality, top incomes, migration, human capital, and innovation. Stantcheva earned her PhD in Economics from MIT in 2014 and was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows from 2014-2016.
Todd Rogers

Todd Rogers awarded tenure at Harvard Kennedy School

February 27, 2018
Harvard Kennedy School | Harvard's Behavioral Science Insights Group celebrated behavioral scientist Todd Rogers, who has been promoted to Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Marie Lawrence (MPP'18) sat down with Prof. Rogers about his work to date, some of his ongoing projects, and upcoming plans in the years ahead.
Amanda Pallais awarded tenure in Economics

Amanda Pallais awarded tenure in Economics

February 23, 2018
Harvard Economics | Amanda Pallais, formerly Paul Sack Associate Professor of Political Economy  and Social Studies, has been promoted to Professor of Economics. Palliais studies the labor market performance and educational investment decisions of  disadvantaged and socially excluded groups. Pallais's research has shown how manager bias can depress the job performance of minorities, how the cost of developing a reputation can make it difficult for young workers to enter the labor market, how marriage market concerns can lead women to invest less in labor market success, and how financial aid can increase the educational attainment of low-income students.

Latest commentary and analysis

The 2017 Hutchins Forum: Race and Racism in the Age of Trump

August 17, 2017

PBS Newshour | Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard, and PBS NewsHour’s special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault hosted and moderated the 2017 Hutchins Forum on “Race and Racism in the Age of Trump.” They were joined by Inequality & Social Policy faculty members Leah Wright Riguer and Lawrence D. Bobo, as well as New York Times columnist Charles Blow, Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law, NPR Politics reporter Asma Khalid, White House corrrspondent April Ryan, and conservative radio host Armstrong Williams. ...

Read more about The 2017 Hutchins Forum: Race and Racism in the Age of Trump
Gainful Employment regulations will protect students and taxpayers. Don’t change them.

Gainful Employment regulations will protect students and taxpayers. Don’t change them.

August 4, 2017
Brookings Institution | By Stephanie Riegg Cellini, Adam Looney (PhD '04), David Deming (PhD '10), and Jordan Matsudaira. Adam Looney is now a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution. David Deming is a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education. For more details on their argument, read the full comment the authors submitted to the Department of Education (pdf download).
The New Yorker

The Life of a South Central Statistic

July 24, 2017
The New Yorker | By Danielle Allen. My cousin became a convicted felon in his teens. I tried to make sure he got a second chance. What went wrong?  Danielle Allen is a political theorist and the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard. She is the author of Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A., from which this essay is drawn.
The Prospects and Limits of Deliberative Democracy

The Prospects and Limits of Deliberative Democracy

June 28, 2017
American Academy of Arts & Sciences | “Democracy is under siege.” So begins the Summer 2017 issue of Dædalus on “The Prospects and Limits of Deliberative Democracy.” In their introduction to the issue, editors James S. Fishkin of Stanford University and Jane Mansbridge, the Charles F. Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values at Harvard Kennedy School, consider the crisis of confidence in the ideal of democracy as rule by the people. If the “will of the people” can be manufactured by marketing strategies, fake news, and confirmation bias, then how real is our democracy? If the expanse between decision-making elites and a mobilized public grows, then how functional is our democracy? If political alienation and apathy increase, then how representative is our democracy? [ead more]
View issue contents
View introduction and selected articles (open access)
War on Work

Ending the 'War on Work'

June 28, 2017
City Journal Podcast | Harvard economics professor Edward L. Glaeser joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson discuss the great American domestic crisis of the twenty-first century: persistent joblessness, particularly among prime-age men. [Audio and transcript]
The War on Work and How to End It

The War on Work and How to End It

June 25, 2017
City Journal | By Edward L. Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics. An agenda to address joblessness, the great American domestic crisis of the twenty-first century.
Luck, Chance, and Taxes

Luck, Chance, and Taxes

June 23, 2017
The American Interest | By Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, Emeritus. Luck has more to do with economic success than Americans like to believe. Robert Frank’s new book challenges us to reckon honestly with fortune, and what it means for social policy,  Jencks writes.
NBC News

Analysis: DACA Boosts Young Immigrants' Well-Being, Mental Health

June 15, 2017
NBC News | By Roberto G. Gonzales (Assistant Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education) and Kristina Brant (PhD student in Sociology). Roberto Gonazles is Principal Investigator of the National UnDACAmented Research Project. Kristina Brant is the Project Coordinator.
Michèle Lamont

Trois questions à Michèle Lamont

June 15, 2017
Université de Bordeaux | Interview with Michèle Lamont, awarded a Doctorate Honoris Causa by the Université de Bordeaux in recognition of her work in the social sciences. Michèle Lamont is Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies at Harvard.
Jal Mehta, Radcliffe Institute

Learning Deeply at Scale: The Challenge of Our Times (video)

June 13, 2017
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study | As part of the 2016–2017 Fellows’ Presentation Series at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Jal Mehta RI ’17 looks beneath the surface of pedagogical methods in American high schools. What does instruction in high schools look like? Where is it better? What can we do about it?

Jal Mehta (PhD '06) is the 2016–2017 Evelyn Green Davis Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute and Associate Professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The CFPB Is Making Government More Accountable. The GOP Wants to Stop It

The CFPB Is Making Government More Accountable. The GOP Wants to Stop It

June 9, 2017
Washington Monthly | By Barbara Kiviat, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy. The Financial CHOICE Act would remove the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s popular consumer complaints database from public view. At a time when many Americans feel government is unaccountable and out of touch with the day-to-day lives of everyday people, Kiviat argues, "Keeping complaints visible to the full American public, and not just to government bureaucrats, represents one of the more innovative mechanisms of accountability to emerge from federal government in recent years."
Christine Desan - HLS Thinks Big

The Dollar as a Democratic Medium: Making Money a Currency of Social Justice

June 8, 2017
Harvard Law Today | HLS Thinks Big: Harvard Law School's annual event featuring Christine Desan, who asks whether we can re-design money to deliver fairness in a world in which inequality is escalating. Christine Desan is the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law and co-founder of Harvard's Program on the Study of Capitalism. (Text + video)

Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Diversity Bargain: And Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities

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

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

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

The Luck of Politics: True Tales of Disaster and Outrageous Fortune

A delightful look at chance and outrageous fortune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schooling the Next Generation: Creating Success in Urban Elementary Schools

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

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

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

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

Law and Neuroscience
Jones, Owen D., Jeffrey D. Schall, and Francis X. Shen. 2014. Law and Neuroscience. Aspen Publishers.
The Economics of Just About Everything : The hidden reasons for our curious choices and surprising successes

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

Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Michael Luca

Lessons from Yelp's Empirical Approach to Diversity

September 20, 2017
Harvard Business Review | By Rachel Williams, Gauri Subramani, Michael Luca, and Geoff Donaker. Michael Luca is the Lee J. Styslinger III Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.
The Gains of Greater Granularity: The Presence and Persistence of Problem Properties in Urban Neighborhoods

The Gains of Greater Granularity: The Presence and Persistence of Problem Properties in Urban Neighborhoods

September 5, 2017
Boston Area Research Initiative | In a recent paper, BARI Co-Directors Dan O’Brien and Chris Winship demonstrated the presence and persistence of ‘‘problem properties’’ with elevated levels of crime and disorder in Boston. Importantly, they find that this additional geographic detail offers a wealth of information beyond the traditional focus on at-risk neighborhoods, and even the more recent attention to hotspot street segments. (Continue reading)

Chris Winship is the Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology at Harvard University and a member of the faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School. The paper was published in a special issue of the Journal of Quantitative Criminology on the Law of Concentration of Crime. 
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Jeff Liebman

Using Data to Make More Rapid Progress in Addressing U.S. Social Problems

August 30, 2017
By Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy.

From the Government Performance Lab at Harvard Kennedy School:  In a new piece forthcoming in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (Jan 2018), Professor Jeffrey Liebman describes how high frequency use of data can move agencies from static evaluation of programs to real-time improvement in outcomes and to solutions to challenging social problems.... Read more about Using Data to Make More Rapid Progress in Addressing U.S. Social Problems
How the government can help simplify personal financial decision-making

How the government can help simplify personal financial decision-making

August 29, 2017

Harvard Kennedy School | "Low incomes, limited financial literacy, fraud, and deception are just a few of the many intractable economic and social factors that contribute to the financial difficulties that households face today...But poor financial outcomes also result from systematic psychological tendencies," some of which may be countered with government interventions that are both low-cost and scalable," Harvard Kennedy School Professor Brigitte Madrian and co-authors write in the latest issue of Behavioral Science & Policy. Their article outlines a set of interventions that the federal government "could feasibly test or implement to improve household nancial outcomes in a variety of domains: retirement, short-term savings, debt management, the take-up of government benefits, and tax optimization." 
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Carola Frydman

Why Has CEO Pay Grown So Much Faster Than the Average Worker’s?

August 3, 2017

Kellogg Insight | Based on the research of Carola Frydman (PhD 2006) and Dimitris Papanikolaou. Carola Frydman is Associate Professor of Finance in the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. View the research: “In Search of Ideas: Technological Innovation and Executive Pay Inequality.” Journal of Financial Economics (Oct 2018).

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Education Next

2017 EdNext Poll on School Reform released

August 1, 2017
Education Next | By Martin R. West, Michael B. Henderson, Paul E. Peterson, and Samuel Barrows. This article appears in print in the Winter 2018 issue of Education Next.
Scientific American

Natural Disasters by Location: Rich Leave and Poor Get Poorer

July 2, 2017
Scientific American | Each big catastrophe like a hurricane increases a U.S. county's poverty by 1 percent,  90 years of data show. By Leah Platt Boustan (PhD '06), Maria Lucia Yanguas, Matthew Kahn, and Paul W. Rhode, based on the authors' research. Leah Platt Boustan is a Professor of Economics at Princeton University.
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).

Microeconomic insights

A most egalitarian profession: pharmacy and the evolution of a family-friendly occupation

June 8, 2017

Microeconomic Insights | By Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz. "How much of the earnings gap between men and women is because the latter choose jobs and occupations that enable flexibility in their work, predictability in their hours and bounds on their work schedule?," ask Harvard economics professors Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz. Here they summarize their recent article by the same title, pubilshed in 2016 in the Journal of Labor Economics.
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How “the community” undermines the goals of participatory democracy

How “the community” undermines the goals of participatory democracy

June 5, 2017
Work in Progress | By Jeremy R. Levine (PhD '16), Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies, University of Michigan. Discusses the findings of his academic research, "The Paradox of Community Power: Cultural Processes and Elite Authority in Participatory Governance, published earlier this spring in Social Forces. 'Work in Progress' is a public blog of the American Sociological Association (ASA) for 'short-form sociology' on the economy, work, and inequality.
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How tax rates influence the migration of superstar inventors

How tax rates influence the migration of superstar inventors

May 24, 2017
Microeconomic Insights | By Ufak Akcigit (University of Chicago), Salome Baslandze (Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance), and Stefanie Stantcheva (Harvard University). The authors summarize the findings from their recent American Economic Review article, "Taxation and the International Mobility of Inventors." Stantcheva is Associate Professor of Economics (effective 7/1) at Harvard.
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International Ladies Garment Workers Union

Does union activism increase workers’ wages?

May 22, 2017
Work in Progress | By Nathan Wilmers, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology. Research findings from his recently-published article in Social Forces. Work in Progress is the American Sociological Association's blog for 'short-form sociology' on the economy, work, and inequality. 
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Annual Review of Sociology

Wealth Inequality and Accumulation

May 12, 2017

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