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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Robert J. Sampson

Harvard study shows the predictive power of punishing and toxic environments on children's outcomes

May 17, 2019

Harvard Gazette
Coverage of new study by Robert Manduca, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, and Robert J. Sampson, the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, now out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They find that neighborhood measures of lead exposure, violence, and incarceration have strong independent predictive power, on top of standard variables, for children's life outcomes.

Robert Manduca

Study finds gap between rich and poor growing regionally, too

May 2, 2019

Harvard Gazette | A new paper by Robert Manduca, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, now out in Social Forces.

“In 1980, only about 12 percent of the population lived in places that were especially rich or especially poor,” Manduca said. “By 2013, it was over 30 percent. So what we’re seeing is a polarization, where people are increasingly living in places that are either much richer or much poorer than the country overall.”

While part of that shift is due to sorting — the notion that high-earning people and high-paying jobs have become more geographically concentrated — Manduca shows that the rise in national income inequality can account for more than half of the economic divergence across regions that we observe.

... View the research ▶

David J. Deming

Deming named director of Wiener Center for Social Policy

April 26, 2019

Harvard Gazette | Harvard Kennedy School has named David Deming as the faculty director of the School’s Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. Deming serves as a professor of public policy at the Kennedy School and a professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. 

The Tobin Project 2019 conference

Tobin Convenes Scholars for Conference on Inequality and Decision Making

April 26, 2019

The Tobin Project | On April 26th and 27th, the Tobin Project hosted a Conference on Inequality and Decision Making, convening forty-seven scholars of psychology, sociology, economics, and other fields to investigate the impacts of high and/or rising economic inequality on individuals’ behavior.

Harvard faculty members Ryan D. Enos (Government), Christopher Jencks (Harvard Kennedy School), Mario Luis Small (Sociology), and Michael Norton (Harvard Business School) opened the conference with a panel on how people become aware of high and rising economic inequality. Other panels featured Zoe B. Cullen (Harvard Business School) and Beth Truesdale, PhD'17, now a Sloan Postdoctoral Fellow with the Center for Population and Development Studies at Harvard. Jason Furman (Harvard Kennedy School and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, 2013-2017) gave the keynote address. 

PhD Scholars Kiera Hudson, Shom Mazumder, Preeya Mbekeani, and Nozomi Nakajima were selected to join the conference as well. 

David A. Moss (Harvard Business School and Founder of The Tobin Project) and Michael Norton served on the conference advisory board that developed and planned the event.

The Chronicle Review

Being a Black Academic in America

April 18, 2019

Chronicle of Higher Education | In the wake of the Operation Varsity Blue bribery scandal, The Chronicle Review asked graduate students, junior professors, and senior scholars what it’s like to be an African-American academic today. Includes responses by Michael Javen Fortner PhD 2010, Matthew Clair PhD 2018, and Nadirah Farah Foley, a fourth-year Ph.D. student at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is helping fight West Virginia’s opioid epidemic

Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is helping fight West Virginia’s opioid epidemic

April 3, 2019

Vox | A new study by Brendan Saloner PhD 2012 (with Rachel Landis, Bradley Stein, and Colleen Barry) suggests that expanding Medicaid helped get more West Virginians into addiction treatment. Saloner is now Associate Professor Professor of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

How the 1 Percent Is Pulling America’s Cities and Regions Apart

How the 1 Percent Is Pulling America’s Cities and Regions Apart

April 3, 2019
CityLab | By Richard Florida.

The two gravest challenges facing America today, economic inequality and geographic divides, are increasingly intertwined. Economic inequality has surged with nearly all the growth being captured by the 1 percent, and the economic fortunes of coastal superstar cities and the rest of the nation have dramatically diverged.

These two trends are fundamental to a new study by Robert Manduca, a PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Policy at Harvard University. The study uses census microdata culled from 1980 to 2013, and finds that America’s growing regional divide is largely a product of national economic inequality, in particular the outsized economic gains that have been captured by the 1 percent.

... Read more ▶

Crystal S. Yang

Making the Case for Criminal Justice Reform: Crystal Yang

January 29, 2019

Harvard Law Bulletin | Profile of Crystal Yang PhD 2013, a professor at Harvard Law School who brings an empirical focus to the study of criminal law. She has now turned her attention to the extensive use of cash bail and pretrial detention in the U.S., in order to understand their short- and long-term consequences.

How Pollution Can Hurt the Health of the Economy

How Pollution Can Hurt the Health of the Economy

November 27, 2018

The New York Times | Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of pollution. Daniel Prinz, a Harvard PhD candidate in Health Policy and Stone PhD Scholar, is the author of a recent paper on the subject. “The evidence is overwhelming that pollutants encountered in utero can cause long-term harm,” Mr. Prinz said.

View the research ►
Harvard Gazette

The Ongoing Tragedy of Lead in Our Lives

November 20, 2018

Harvard Gazette | Lead Summit at Harvard: Revolutionary Discoveries in Lead Pollution and Health Impacts. Speakers included Jessica Wolpaw Reyes PhD'02, Professor of Economics at Amherst College and chair of the Massachusetts Governor's Advisory Commitee for the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

Robert Manduca

Racial and economic disparities intertwined, study shows

October 25, 2018
Harvard Gazette | By many measures, the U.S. has made important strides when it comes to Civil Rights: The racial gaps in educational achievement, life expectancy, and wages, though still considerable, have all narrowed measurably in the past 50 years. Yet in one marker of fundamental importance — family income — disparities between black and white have remained virtually unchanged since 1968.


In a study published in Sociological Science, Robert Manduca, PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Policy, argues that a major reason that economic disparities between the races remain so large is rising income inequality nationwide.

... Read more about Racial and economic disparities intertwined, study shows
Detroit

Harvard, U. of Michigan partner to boost economic opportunity in Detroit

September 12, 2018

Harvard Gazette | Harvard and the University of Michigan have formed two partnerships designed to encourage economic opportunity in Detroit and to fight the national scourge of opioid addiction. 

The Detroit-focused partnership pairs the Equality of Opportunity Project — led by Harvard’s William A. Ackman Professor of Public Economics Raj Chetty, Harvard economics Professor Nathaniel Hendren, and Brown University Associate Professor John Friedman — with the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions initiative, the city of Detroit, and community partners. It seeks to create interventions that can improve the livelihoods of low-income Detroit residents.

Latest awards

Celeste Watkins-Hayes: ASA Distinguished Scholarly Book Award

June 18, 2021
Celeste Watkins-Hayes

Awardee | Cleleste Watkins-Hayes PhD 2003 is the recipient the 2021 Distinguished Scholarly Book Award from the American Sociological Association for her book, Remaking a Life: How Women Living with HIV/AIDS Confront Inequality (University of California Press, 2019). The award is given to the single best sociology book published in the three preceding calendar years.  Celeste Watkins-Hayes is the Jean E. Fairfax Collegiate Professor of Public Policy and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School for Public Policy. Watkins-Hayes is also Professor of Sociology and holds a University Diversity and Social Transformation Professorship at the University of Michigan.
Xiang Zhou

James Coleman Award for Best Article in the Sociology of Education

June 23, 2020

Awardees | Deirdre Bloome (PhD 2014), Shauna Dyer, and Harvard faculty member Xiang Zhou are the recipients of the James Coleman Award from the American Sociological Association's Section on Education for their article, "Educational Inequality, Educational Expansion, and Intergenerational Income Persistence in the United States," published in the American Sociolgical Review. Deirdre Bloome (PhD 2014) is now an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan. Xiang Zhou is Associate Professor of Sociology at Harvard University.

View the research ►

Christina Cross

Christina J. Cross awarded University of Michigan ProQuest Dissertation Award

February 27, 2020

Awardee | Christina J. Cross, Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard and Assistant Professor of Sociology (beginning 2021),  has been awarded a 2019 ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award by the University of Michigan for her doctoral dissertation, The Color, Class, and Context of Family Structure and Its Association with Children’s Educational Performance. The award is "given in recognition of the most exceptional scholarly work produced by doctoral students at the University of Michigan."

Asad L. Asad

Asad L. Asad awarded RSF Presidential Authority grant

February 18, 2020

Russell Sage Foundation | Asad L. Asad PhD 2017 has been awarded a Russell Sage Foundation Presidential Authority grant for a study titled, "Precarious Citizenship: Judicial Decisions in U.S. Denaturalization Cases." Asad is now Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stanford University.

Lawrence Katz

The 2020 IZA Prize in Labor Economics goes to Lawrence Katz

January 16, 2020

IZA - Institute of Labor Economics | Lawrence F. Katz, the Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard, will receive the 2020 IZA Prize in Labor Economics for his 35 years of research documenting changes in earnings inequality and showing the role of the expansion of educational opportunity in increasing living standards. The IZA Prize is regarded as the most prestigious science award in the field. 

“Lawrence Katz is universally recognized in the world of economics as a remarkably imaginative and productive scholar, who combines profound economic research with an interest in current basic and specific issues of public policy. Most important, the same recognition is given to his decency in dealing with other economists, especially junior researchers," read the award statement.

Lawrence Katz has advised more than 200 Harvard PhD students to date—among them, over 40 faculty and alumni of the Inequality & Social Policy program.

View the list ►

Marcella Alsan and Marianne Wanamaker

Marcella Alsan receives Arrow Award for "Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men"

January 3, 2020

Awardee | Harvard Kennedy School Professor Marcella Alsan and co-author Marianne Wanamaker of the University of Tennesee accepted the 27th Kenneth J. Arrow Award for best paper in health economics at this week's Allied Social Sciences Association meetings in San Diego. The award, given by International Health Economics Association, recognized their paper, "Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men," published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 2018.

"The Arrow Award Committee is proud to acknowledge the authors of this innovative and informative paper, which examines the extent to which the infamous Tuskegee Study of untreated syphilis in black males reduced trust in the medical system and ultimately impeded the progress in reducing mortality for this group...The results provide robust evidence that disclosure of the Tuskegee Study undermined trust in the medical system with the strongest effects for those black males for whom the study was most salient. This led to reductions in the use of medical care and increases in mortality for the most affected group. Specifically, the estimates imply that life expectancy for 45-year old black men fell by up to 1.5 years, an amount sufficient to explain approximately one-third of the racial gap in life expectancy in 1980. We congratulate the authors on the publication of this important paper."

View the research ► 

Jal Mehta

Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine win Grawemeyer Education Award

December 5, 2019

Awardee | Harvard Professor of Education Jal Mehta PhD 2006 and collaborator Sarah Fine EdD 2017  have won the 2020 Grawemeyer Award in Education for ideas set forth in their book, In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School (Harvard University Press, 2019). 

The Grawemeyer Awards, based at the University of Louisville, pay tribute to the power of creative ideas, emphasizing the impact that a single idea can have on the world. Five awards are given annually to reward outstanding ideas in music composition, world order, psychology, education, and religion, each carrying a prize of $100,000. The 2020 winners will visit Louisville in April to accept their awards and give free talks on their winning ideas.

Sarah James

Sarah James receives Inaugural Sidney Verba Award for Teaching Excellence and Inaugural Peer Mentoring Award

December 2, 2019

Awardee | Sarah E. James, PhD candidate in Government & Social Policy, has been recognized by the Harvard Government Department with two teaching awards: Sarah is one of four recipients of the inaugural Sidney Verba Award for Teaching Excellence and the inaugural recipient of the department's Peer Mentoring Award. Learn more about Sarah James's work:

sarahejames.com ►
Cierra Robson

Cierra Robson: 2020 Assembly Student Fellow

November 30, 2019

Berkman Klein Center | Cierra Robson, a PhD student in Sociology and Social Policy, has been selected as a 2020 Assembly Student Fellow by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. The Assembly Student Fellowship program brings together a cohort of Harvard students from a range of disciplines and schools to participate in problem-oriented seminars led by Harvard faculty and collaborate on student-led projects aimed at tackling real-world problems. This year, Assembly is taking up disinformation in the digital public sphere from a cybersecurity perspective.

Broadly, Cierra is interested in how technological advancements both reinforce and revolutionize the American racial order, as well as how public-private collaborations both solidify and make profitable existing power hierarchies. She aims to use her research to conceptualize what meaningful regulation of Big Tech looks like.

Stefanie Stantcheva

Les 50 Français les plus influents du monde en 2019

November 20, 2019

Vanity Fair | Stefanie Stantcheva, Professor of Economics at Harvard, is featured as one of this year's 50 most influential French people in the world. Also selected: MIT economist and 2019 Nobel Prize winner Esther Duflo.

Alumni awarded RSF Presidential Authority grants

Alumni awarded RSF Presidential Authority grants

November 14, 2019

Russell Sage Foundation | Alumni Michael Hankinson (PhD in Government & Social Policy, 2017), Sarah Halpern-Meekin (PhD in Sociology & Social Policy, 2019), and Nathan Wilmers (PhD in Sociology, 2018) are among the fall 2019 recipients of RSF Presidential Authority grants in the area of Social, Political, and Economic Inequality.

Andrew Keefe

Winners of the 2018-2019 ABLConnect Teaching Innovator Prize Announced

November 6, 2019

Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning | Andrew Keefe, JD/PhD student in  Sociology and Social Policy, is a recipient—together with Harvard College Lecturer Shai M. Dromi and Sociology PhD student Kwan Woo Kim—of a 2018-19 ABLConnect Teaching Innovator Prize for their work in Dr. Dromi's course, "Visualizing Humanitarian Crises and Interventions." 

ABLConnect is an online database of active learning exercises developed by Harvard instructors and used in Harvard classrooms. The competitive Teaching Innovator Prize recognizes instructors from across Harvard institutions for their use of active learning.

Ron Ferguson

Celebrating Dr. Ron Ferguson with the 2019 Social Justice Award

October 29, 2019

Awardee | Ronald Ferguson, Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and faculty director of the university-wide Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI), was honored for his work in founding Boston Basics by Join Us for Good, Eastern Bank's charitable foundation. The Boston Basics Campaign was inspired by the fact that 80% of brain growth happens in the first three years of life and is now spreading to other cities in a Basics National Network.

Boston Basics ▶
Martin West

Martin West Named Bloomberg Chair

October 7, 2019

Harvard Graduate School of Education | Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Martin West PhD 2006 has been named the William Henry Bloomberg Professor at Harvard.  The professorship supports a rotating series of scholars and practitioners who teach and conduct research in the fields of philanthropic policy and practice, public service and volunteerism, and the effective leadership and management of nonprofit and public institutions.

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Latest commentary and analysis

Republicans Want You (Not the Rich) to Pay for Infrastructure

June 23, 2021
Brian Higsmith

The New York Times | By Brian Highsmith, PhD student in Government and Social Policy. Highsmith is also a senior researcher at Yale Law School’s Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law. He was a tax policy adviser on President Barack Obama’s National Economic Council.

Do You Live in a Political Bubble?

May 3, 2021

Ryan Enos and Jacob Brown
The New York Times | By Guz Wezerek, Ryan D. Enos, and Jacob Brown. Jacob R. Brown is a PhD candidate in Government and Social Policy and a Stone PhD Research Fellow. Ryan D. Enos is Professor of Government, at Harvard University. Based on their research in Nature Human Behavior.
View the research ►

Felix Owusu

Dissecting racial disparities in the Massachusetts criminal justice system

September 10, 2020

Harvard Gazette | Interview with Stone PhD Scholar Felix Owusu, a PhD candidate in Public Policy and author of a new report by the Criminal Justice Policy Program (CJPP) at Harvard Law School. The report shows that Black and Latinx people are overrepresented in Massachusetts’ criminal justice system and receive longer sentences than their white counterparts when convicted.

View the report ►
Danielle Allen

Why Coronavirus Is an ‘Existential Crisis’ for American Democracy

July 1, 2020

Politico | Q & A with Danielle Allen,  James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University. This moment is nothing less than an “existential crisis” that will reshape American society, says Danielle Allen, head of Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics and co-author of the university’s Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience. “It is a moment where societies are forced to answer the question of who they are. And I think [the U.S.] didn’t answer that question terribly well.”

Our Common Purpose

Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century

June 11, 2020

American Academy of Arts and Sciences | Final report of the bipartisan Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, co-chaired by Danielle Allen of Harvard University, Stephen B. Heintz, and Eric Liu. The report includes 31 recommendations to strengthen America’s institutions and civic culture to help a nation in crisis emerge with a more resilient democracy.

View the report ►
View launch event and discussion ►

Anthony Abraham Jack

Advice to students: Don’t be afraid to ask for help

March 6, 2020

Harvard Gazette | "At 11:43 a.m. on Aug. 10, 2015, I sent an email. And it changed my life." Anthony Abraham Jack argues we need to recast what it means to ask for help--not a sign of weakness, but a skill to be honed. Jack is Assistant Professor of Education and a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows.

Dani Rodrik

Technology for All

March 6, 2020

Project Syndicate | By Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard Kennedy School. "Technological change does not follow its own direction, but rather is shaped by moral frames, incentives, and power. If we think more about how innovation can be directed to serve society, we can afford to worry less about how we should adjust to it," Rodrik writes.

Jason Furman

Opinion: The Case for a Big Coronavirus Stimulus

March 5, 2020

Wall Street Journal | By Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. Given the mounting economic risks posed by the spread of the novel coronavirus, Congress should act swiftly to pass a fiscal stimulus that is accelerated, big, comprehensive, and dynamic, Furman argues.

Anthony Abraham Jack

‘I Want to See You Here’: How to Make College a Better Bet for More People

February 27, 2020

The Chronicle of Higher Education
Anthony Abraham Jack (PhD 2016), Assistant Professor of Education at Harvard and the author of The Privileged Poor, joins a discussion with a campus leader, a public official, and a college counselor to explore how to lift more people's prospects. Read and watch excerpts from their conversation. Part of The Chronicle series, Broken Ladder, examining the role of education in social mobility.

Nancy Pelosi

Up from Polarization

February 26, 2020

Dissent | By Daniel Schlozman PhD 2011,  Joseph and Bertha Bernstein Associate Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University and the author of When Movements Anchor Parties: Electoral Alignments in American History (Princeton University Press, 2015).

Reviewing Ezra Klein's Why We're Polarized, Schlozman writes that it " ultimately fails to account for our deepest divides...As he shifts focus to the dynamics of disagreement, he largely ignores the central conflict in contemporary politics: a particular form of racialized political economy, whose motor is the poisonous entente between racism and the one percent. Start there, and one gets a different picture of the problem, and of potential solutions."

Leah E. Gose

From the Tea Party to the Resistance

February 20, 2020

No Jargon | Leah E. Gose, a PhD candidate in Sociology and a Malcolm Hewitt Wiener PhD Scholar in Poverty and Justice, explains how The Resistance compares with the Tea Party and what we can learn by looking at them together. A podcast of the Scholars Strategy Network.

New Firms for a New Era

New Firms for a New Era

February 12, 2020

Project Syndicate | By Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard Kennedy School. "In recent years, large corporations have become increasingly aware that they must be sensitive not only to the financial bottom line, but also to the social and environmental effects of their activities...But societies should not allow firms' owners and their agents to drive the discussion about reforming corporate governance," Rodrik writes.

Jason Furman

The Disappearing Corporate Income Tax

February 11, 2020

Congressional testimony | Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on "The Disappearing Corporate Income Tax." Read his prepared testimony (via PIIE).

NPR The Indicator

Even the Facts are Polarized

February 3, 2020
The Indicator | Professor of Economics Stefanie Stantcheva joins The Indicator from Planet Money to talk about her research on the "Polarization of Reality." [audio + transcript]
View the research ►

Crystal S. Yang

Faculty Voices: Crystal Yang on fear and the safety net

January 31, 2020

Harvard Law Today | Professor Crystal Yang JD/PhD 2013 discusses her paper (joint with Marcella Alsan), “Fear and the Safety Net: Evidence from Secure Communities,” which examines the link between tougher immigration enforcement in the United States and the lack of participation in government safety-net programs by Hispanic citizens.

Crystal Yang is Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Marcella Alsan is Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.

View the research ►
David J. Deming

The Robots are Coming. Prepare for Trouble.

January 30, 2020

The New York Times | By David Deming, Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Artificial intelligence won’t eliminate every retail job, but the future could be grim unless we start planning now.

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Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

The Border Within: The Economics of Immigration in an Age of Fear
Watson, Tara, and Kalee Thompson. Forthcoming. The Border Within: The Economics of Immigration in an Age of Fear . University of Chicago Press, 304. Abstract
An eye-opening analysis of the costs and effects of immigration and immigration policy, both on American life and on new Americans.

For decades, immigration has been one of the most divisive, contentious topics in American politics. And for decades, urgent calls for its policy reform have gone mostly unanswered. As the discord surrounding the modern immigration debate has intensified, border enforcement has tightened. Crossing harsher, less porous borders makes unauthorized entry to the United States a permanent, costly undertaking. And the challenges don’t end on the other side.

At once enlightening and devastating, The Border Within examines the costs and ends of America’s interior enforcement—the policies and agencies, including ICE, aimed at removing immigrants already living in the country. Economist Tara Watson and journalist Kalee Thompson pair rigorous analysis with deeply personal stories from immigrants and their families to assess immigration’s effects on every aspect of American life, from the labor force to social welfare programs to tax revenue. What emerges is a critical, utterly complete examination of what non-native Americans bring to the country, including immigration’s tendency to elevate the wages and skills of those who are native-born.

News coverage has prompted many to question the humanity of American immigration policies; The Border Within opens a conversation of whether it is effective. The United States spends billions each year on detention and deportation, all without economic gain and at a great human cost. With depth and discipline, the authors dissect the shock-and-awe policies that make up a broken, often cruel system, while illuminating the lives caught in the chaos. It is an essential work with far-reaching implications for immigrants and non-immigrants alike.
What's the Worst That Could Happen? Existential Risk and Extreme Politics

Why catastrophic risks are more dangerous than you think, and how populism makes them worse.

Did you know that you're more likely to die from a catastrophe than in a car crash? The odds that a typical US resident will die from a catastrophic event—for example, nuclear war, bioterrorism, or out-of-control artificial intelligence—have been estimated at 1 in 6. That's fifteen times more likely than a fatal car crash and thirty-one times more likely than being murdered. In What's the Worst That Could Happen?, Andrew Leigh looks at catastrophic risks and how to mitigate them, arguing provocatively that the rise of populist politics makes catastrophe more likely. 

Leigh explains that pervasive short-term thinking leaves us unprepared for long-term risks. Politicians sweat the small stuff—granular policy details of legislation and regulation—but rarely devote much attention to reducing long-term risks. Populist movements thrive on short termism because they focus on their followers' immediate grievances. Leigh argues that we should be long-termers: lengthen our thinking and give big threats the attention and resources they need. 

Leigh outlines the biggest existential risks facing humanity and suggests remedies for them. He discusses pandemics, considering the possibility that the next virus will be more deadly than COVID-19; warns that unchecked climate change could render large swaths of the earth inhabitable; describes the metamorphosis of the arms race from a fight into a chaotic brawl; and examines the dangers of runaway superintelligence. Moreover, Leigh points out, populism (and its crony, totalitarianism) not only exacerbates other dangers, but is also a risk factor in itself, undermining the institutions of democracy as we watch.

Punishing Places: The Geography of Mass Imprisonment
Simes, Jessica T. Forthcoming. Punishing Places: The Geography of Mass Imprisonment. University of California Press, 242. Abstract
Punishing Places applies a unique spatial analysis to mass incarceration in the United States. It demonstrates that our highest imprisonment rates are now in small cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Jessica Simes argues that mass incarceration should be conceptualized as one of the legacies of U.S. racial residential segregation, but that a focus on large cities has diverted vital scholarly and policy attention away from communities affected most by mass incarceration today. This book presents novel measures for estimating the community-level effects of incarceration using spatial, quantitative, and qualitative methods. This analysis has broad and urgent implications for policy reforms aimed at ameliorating the community effects of mass incarceration and promoting alternatives to the carceral system.
The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power
Hacker, Jacob S., Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Paul Pierson, and Kathleen Thelen, ed. Forthcoming. The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power. Abstract

This volume brings together leading political scientists to explore the distinctive features of the American political economy. The introductory chapter provides a comparatively informed framework for analyzing the interplay of markets and politics in the United States, focusing on three key factors: uniquely fragmented and decentralized political institutions; an interest group landscape characterized by weak labor organizations and powerful, parochial business groups; and an entrenched legacy of ethno-racial divisions embedded in both government and markets. Subsequent chapters look at the fundamental dynamics that result, including the place of the courts in multi-venue politics, the political economy of labor, sectional conflict within and across cities and regions, the consolidation of financial markets and corporate monopoly and monopsony power, and the ongoing rise of the knowledge economy. Together, the chapters provide a revealing new map of the politics of democratic capitalism in the United States.

  • Provides a comprehensive analysis of the American political economy in comparative perspective
  • Develops a theoretical framework that emphasizes how distinctive features of the US political economy have interacted with one another over time to produce unique patterns of inequality, power, and precarity
  • Sheds new light on under-examined institutions, actors, and arenas of conflict, generating insights for the study of both American politics and comparative politics
Constructing Community: Urban Governance, Development, and Inequality in Boston
Levine, Jeremy R. 2021. Constructing Community: Urban Governance, Development, and Inequality in Boston . Princeton University Press, 280. Abstract

Who makes decisions that shape the housing, policies, and social programs in urban neighborhoods? Who, in other words, governs? Constructing Community offers a rich ethnographic portrait of the individuals who implement community development projects in the Fairmount Corridor, one of Boston’s poorest areas. Jeremy Levine uncovers a network of nonprofits and philanthropic foundations making governance decisions alongside public officials—a public-private structure that has implications for democratic representation and neighborhood inequality.

Levine spent four years following key players in Boston’s community development field. While state senators and city councilors are often the public face of new projects, and residents seem empowered through opportunities to participate in public meetings, Levine found a shadow government of nonprofit leaders and philanthropic funders, nonelected neighborhood representatives with their own particular objectives, working behind the scenes. Tying this system together were political performances of “community”—government and nonprofit leaders, all claiming to value the community. Levine provocatively argues that there is no such thing as a singular community voice, meaning any claim of community representation is, by definition, illusory. He shows how community development is as much about constructing the idea of community as it is about the construction of physical buildings in poor neighborhoods.

Constructing Community demonstrates how the nonprofit sector has become integral to urban policymaking, and the tensions and trade-offs that emerge when private nonprofits take on the work of public service provision.

Breaking the Social Media Prism: How to Make Our Platforms Less Polarizing

In an era of increasing social isolation, platforms like Facebook and Twitter are among the most important tools we have to understand each other. We use social media as a mirror to decipher our place in society but, as Chris Bail explains, it functions more like a prism that distorts our identities, empowers status-seeking extremists, and renders moderates all but invisible. Breaking the Social Media Prism challenges common myths about echo chambers, foreign misinformation campaigns, and radicalizing algorithms, revealing that the solution to political tribalism lies deep inside ourselves.

Drawing on innovative online experiments and in-depth interviews with social media users from across the political spectrum, this book explains why stepping outside of our echo chambers can make us more polarized, not less. Bail takes you inside the minds of online extremists through vivid narratives that trace their lives on the platforms and off—detailing how they dominate public discourse at the expense of the moderate majority. Wherever you stand on the spectrum of user behavior and political opinion, he offers fresh solutions to counter political tribalism from the bottom up and the top down. He introduces new apps and bots to help readers avoid misperceptions and engage in better conversations with the other side. Finally, he explores what the virtual public square might look like if we could hit “reset” and redesign social media from scratch through a first-of-its-kind experiment on a new social media platform built for scientific research.

Providing data-driven recommendations for strengthening our social media connections, Breaking the Social Media Prism shows how to combat online polarization without deleting our accounts.

Organizational Imaginaries
Chen, Victor Tan. 2021. Organizational Imaginaries. Edited by Katherine K. Chen. Emerald Publishing Limited. Abstract

Our everyday lives are structured by the rhythms, values, and practices of various organizations, including schools, workplaces, and government agencies. These experiences shape common-sense understandings of how “best” to organize and connect with others. Today, for-profit managerial firms dominate society, even though their practices often curtail information-sharing and experimentation, engender exploitation, and exclude the interests of stakeholders, particularly workers and the general public.

This Research in the Sociology of Organizations volume explores an expansive array of organizational imaginaries, or conceptions of organizational possibilities, with a focus on collectivist-democratic organizations that operate in capitalist markets but place more authority and ownership in the hands of stakeholders other than shareholders. These include worker and consumer cooperatives and other enterprises that, to varying degrees:

  • Emphasize social values over profit
  • Are owned not by shareholders but by workers, consumers, or other stakeholders
  • Employ democratic forms of managing their operations
  • Have social ties to the organization based on moral and emotional commitments

Organizational Imaginaries explores how these enterprises generate solidarity among members, network with other organizations and communities, contend with market pressures, and enhance their larger organizational ecosystems. By ensuring that organizations ultimately support and serve broader communities, collectivist-democratic organizing can move societies closer to hopeful “what if” and “if only” futures.

This volume is essential for researchers and students seeking innovative and egalitarian approaches to business and management.

Thrive: The Purpose of Schools in a Changing World
Hannon, Valerie, and Amelia Peterson. 2021. Thrive: The Purpose of Schools in a Changing World. Cambridge University Press. Abstract
Every generation faces challenges, but never before have young people been so aware of theirs. Whether due to school strikes for climate change, civil war, or pandemic lockdowns, almost every child in the world has experienced the interruption of their schooling by outside forces. When the world we have taken for granted proves so unstable, it gives rise to the question: what is schooling for? Thrive advocates a new purpose for education, in a rapidly changing world, and analyses the reasons why change is urgently needed in our education systems. The book identifies four levels of thriving: global – our place in the planet; societal – localities, communities, economies; interpersonal – our relationships; intrapersonal – the self. Chapters provide research-based theoretical evidence for each area, followed by practical international case studies showing how individual schools are addressing these considerable challenges. Humanity's challenges are shifting fast: schools need to be a part of the response.
American Affective Polarization in Comparative Perspective
Gidron, Noam, James Adams, and Will Horne. 2020. American Affective Polarization in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge University Press. Abstract
American political observers express increasing concern about affective polarization, i.e., partisans' resentment toward political opponents. We advance debates about America's partisan divisions by comparing affective polarization in the US over the past 25 years with affective polarization in 19 other western publics. We conclude that American affective polarization is not extreme in comparative perspective, although Americans' dislike of partisan opponents has increased more rapidly since the mid-1990s than in most other Western publics. We then show that affective polarization is more intense when unemployment and inequality are high; when political elites clash over cultural issues such as immigration and national identity; and in countries with majoritarian electoral institutions. Our findings situate American partisan resentment and hostility in comparative perspective, and illuminate correlates of affective polarization that are difficult to detect when examining the American case in isolation.
Reconnected: A Community Builder's Handbook
Leigh, Andrew, and Nick Terrell. 2020. Reconnected: A Community Builder's Handbook. La Trobe University Press, 288. Abstract

We're all in this together.

Strong social connections make communities more resilient. But today Australians have fewer close friends and local connections than in the past, and more of us say we have no-one to turn to in tough times. How can we turn this trend around?

In Reconnected, Andrew Leigh and Nick Terrell look at some of the most successful community organisations and initiatives – from conversation groups to community gardens, from parkrun to Pub Choir – to discover what really works. They explore ways to encourage philanthropy and volunteering, describe how technology can be used effectively, and introduce us to remarkable and inspirational leaders.

Reconnected is an essential guide for anyone interested in strengthening social ties.

After PrisonNavigating Adulthood in the Shadow of the Justice System
Harding, David J., and Heather M. Harris. 2020. After PrisonNavigating Adulthood in the Shadow of the Justice System. Russell Sage Foundation, 304. Abstract

The incarceration rate in the United States is the highest of any developed nation, with a prison population of approximately 2.3 million in 2016. Over 700,000 prisoners are released each year, and most face significant educational, economic, and social disadvantages. In After Prison, sociologist David Harding and criminologist Heather Harris provide a comprehensive account of young men’s experiences of reentry and reintegration in the era of mass incarceration. They focus on the unique challenges faced by 1,300 black and white youth aged 18 to 25 who were released from Michigan prisons in 2003, investigating the lives of those who achieved some measure of success after leaving prison as well as those who struggled with the challenges of creating new lives for themselves.

The transition to young adulthood typically includes school completion, full-time employment, leaving the childhood home, marriage, and childbearing, events that are disrupted by incarceration. While one quarter of the young men who participated in the study successfully transitioned into adulthood—achieving employment and residential independence and avoiding arrest and incarceration—the same number of young men remained deeply involved with the criminal justice system, spending on average four out of the seven years after their initial release re-incarcerated. Not surprisingly, whites are more likely to experience success after prison. The authors attribute this racial disparity to the increased stigma of criminal records for blacks, racial discrimination, and differing levels of social network support that connect whites to higher quality jobs. Black men earn less than white men, are more concentrated in industries characterized by low wages and job insecurity, and are less likely to remain employed once they have a job.

The authors demonstrate that families, social networks, neighborhoods, and labor market, educational, and criminal justice institutions can have a profound impact on young people’s lives. Their research indicates that residential stability is key to the transition to adulthood. Harding and Harris make the case for helping families, municipalities, and non-profit organizations provide formerly incarcerated young people access to long-term supportive housing and public housing. A remarkably large number of men in this study eventually enrolled in college, reflecting the growing recognition of college as a gateway to living wage work. But the young men in the study spent only brief spells in college, and the majority failed to earn degrees. They were most likely to enroll in community colleges, trade schools, and for-profit institutions, suggesting that interventions focused on these kinds of schools are more likely to be effective. The authors suggest that, in addition to helping students find employment, educational institutions can aid reentry efforts for the formerly incarcerated by providing supports like childcare and paid apprenticeships.

After Prison offers a set of targeted policy interventions to improve these young people’s chances: lifting restrictions on federal financial aid for education, encouraging criminal record sealing and expungement, and reducing the use of incarceration in response to technical parole violations. This book will be an important contribution to the fields of scholarly work on the criminal justice system and disconnected youth.

Measuring Culture
Mohr, John W., Christopher A. Bail, Margaret Frye, Jennifer C. Lena, Omar Lizardo, Terence E. McDonnell, Ann Mische, Iddo Tavory, and Frederick F. Wherry. 2020. Measuring Culture . Columbia University Press, 256. Abstract
Social scientists seek to develop systematic ways to understand how people make meaning and how the meanings they make shape them and the world in which they live. But how do we measure such processes? Measuring Culture is an essential point of entry for both those new to the field and those who are deeply immersed in the measurement of meaning. Written collectively by a team of leading qualitative and quantitative sociologists of culture, the book considers three common subjects of measurement—people, objects, and relationships—and then discusses how to pivot effectively between subjects and methods. Measuring Culturetakes the reader on a tour of the state of the art in measuring meaning, from discussions of neuroscience to computational social science. It provides both the definitive introduction to the sociological literature on culture as well as a critical set of case studies for methods courses across the social sciences.
Common-Sense Evidence: The Education Leader’s Guide to Using Data and Research
Gordon, Nora, and Carrie Conaway. 2020. Common-Sense Evidence: The Education Leader’s Guide to Using Data and Research. Harvard Education Publishing Group, 240. Abstract

Written by two leading experts in education research and policy, Common-Sense Evidence is a concise, accessible guide that helps education leaders find and interpret data and research, and then put that knowledge into action. 

In the book, Nora Gordon and Carrie Conaway empower educators to address the federal Every Student Succeeds Act mandate that schools use evidence-based improvement strategies.

The authors walk readers through the processes for determining whether research is relevant and convincing; explain useful statistical concepts; and show how to quickly search for and scan research studies for the necessary information.

The book directs readers through case studies of typical scenarios including a superintendent trying to reduce chronic absenteeism; a middle school math department chair trying to improve student performance on exams; and a chief state school officer attempting to recruit teachers for rural schools.

Common-Sense Evidence helps education leaders build capacity for evidence-based practice in their schools and

Confronting inequality: How policies and practices shape children's opportunities
Tach, Laura, Rachel Dunifon, and Douglas L. Miller, ed. 2020. Confronting inequality: How policies and practices shape children's opportunities. American Psychological Association. Abstract

All children deserve the best possible future. But in this era of increasing economic and social inequality, more and more children are being denied their fair chance at life.

This book examines the impact of inequality on children’s health and education, and offers a blueprint for addressing the impact of inequality among children in economic, sociological, and psychological domains.

Chapters examine a wide range of studies including exposure to stress and its biological consequences; the impact of federal programs offering access to nutrition for mothers and children; the impact of parental decision-making and child support systems; the effects of poverty on child care and quality of education, parental engagement with schools, parent-child interactions, friendship networks, and more.

The book concludes with commentaries from leading scholars about the state of the field, and efforts to help mitigate the effects of inequality for children in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

The Future of Felon Disenfranchisement Reform: Evidence from the Campaign to Restore Voting Rights in Florida
This Article offers an empirical account of felon disenfranchisement and legal financial obligations in the era of mass incarceration. It focuses on a 2018 ballot initiative, known as Amendment 4, which sought to end lifetime disenfranchisement in Florida. At the time, the Republican-controlled state accounted for more than a quarter of the six million citizens disenfranchised across the United States. Marshaling hundreds of public information requests, the Article analyzes the petitions collected to qualify the initiative for the ballot, the ballots cast for its remarkable bipartisan victory, the voter registration records of people whose voting rights were restored, and the outstanding fines and fees that still prevent most people with felony convictions from voting. Part I offers a history of the campaign and the tradeoffs it made to win Republican support, including its decisions to deemphasize race and limit the scope of reform. Part II validates the campaign’s effort to depoliticize disenfranchisement by demonstrating the limited partisan consequences of restoring the right to vote to people with felony convictions. Finally, Part III shows how unpaid fines and fees undermined the campaign’s attempt to dismantle disenfranchisement. Despite Amendment 4, Florida continues to disenfranchise more citizens than any other state. 
Using Interviews to Understand Why: Challenges and Strategies in the Study of Motivated Action
Small, Mario L., and Jenna M. Cook. Forthcoming. “Using Interviews to Understand Why: Challenges and Strategies in the Study of Motivated Action.” Sociological Methods & Research. Abstract

This article examines an important and thorny problem in interview research: How to assess whether what people say motivated their actions actually did so? We ask three questions: What specific challenges are at play? How have researchers addressed them? And how should those strategies be evaluated? We argue that such research faces at least five challenges—deceptionrecall errorreasonableness biasintentionality bias, and single-motive bias—that more than a dozen strategies have been deployed to address them; that the strategies have been externalinternal, or interactional in nature; and that each class of strategies demands distinct evaluation criteria. Researchers will likely fail to uncover motivation if they ignore the possibility of each challenge, conflate one challenge with another, or deploy strategies unmatched to the challenge at hand. Our work helps systematize the evaluation of interview-based studies of motivated action and strengthen the scientific foundations of in-depth interview research.

 

Public Money Talks Too: How Public Campaign Financing Degrades Representation
Kilborn, Mitchell, and Arjun Vishwanath. Forthcoming. “Public Money Talks Too: How Public Campaign Financing Degrades Representation.” American Journal of Political Science. Abstract
Does public campaign financing improve representation by reducing politicians’ re-liance on wealthy donors as advocates claim, or does it worsen representation by ex-panding the candidate marketplace to give extreme and non-representative candidatesan electoral boost? We conduct a novel analysis of public financing programs in Ari-zona, Connecticut, and Maine to causally identify the effect of a legislator’s fundingstatus on how closely she represents constituent preferences. Using multiple identifica-tion strategies, we show that candidates who exclusively use public campaign financingare more extreme and less representative of their districts than non-publicly financedcandidates. Our findings add new evidence to the electoral reform debate by demon-strating how replacing private campaign donations with public financing can actuallydamage substantive representation. We also advance the scholarship on how institu-tions affect substantive representation and candidate positioning as they respond tonew campaign financing structures.
The Liquidity Sensitivity of Healthcare Consumption: Evidence from Social Security Payments
Gross, Tal, Timothy J. Layton, and Daniel Prinz. Forthcoming. “The Liquidity Sensitivity of Healthcare Consumption: Evidence from Social Security Payments.” American Economic Review: Insights. Abstract
Insurance is typically viewed as a mechanism for transferring resources from good to bad states. Insurance, however, may also transfer resources from high-liquidity periods to low-liquidity periods. We test for this type of transfer from health insurance by studying the distribution of Social Security checks among Medicare recipients. When Social Security checks are distributed, prescription fills increase by 6–12 percent among recipients who pay small copayments. We find no such pattern among recipients who face no copayments. The results demonstrate that more-complete insurance allows recipients to consume healthcare when they need it rather than only when they have cash.
Life expectancy inequalities in Hungary over 25 years: The role of avoidable deaths
Bíró, Anikó, Tamás Hajdu, Gábor Kertesi, and Dániel Prinz. Forthcoming. “Life expectancy inequalities in Hungary over 25 years: The role of avoidable deaths.” Population Studies. Abstract
Using mortality registers and administrative data on income and population, we develop new evidence on the magnitude of life expectancy inequality in Hungary and the scope for health policy in mitigating this. We document considerable inequalities in life expectancy at age 45 across settlement-level income groups, and show that these inequalities have increased between 1991–96 and 2011–16 for both men and women. We show that avoidable deaths play a large role in life expectancy inequality. Income-related inequalities in health behaviours, access to care, and healthcare use are all closely linked to the inequality in life expectancy.
Hoping for the Worst? A Paradoxical Preference for Bad News
Barasz, Kate, and Serena F. Hagerty. Forthcoming. “Hoping for the Worst? A Paradoxical Preference for Bad News.” Journal of Consumer Research. Abstract
Nine studies investigate when and why people may paradoxically prefer bad news—for example, hoping for an objectively worse injury or a higher-risk diagnosis over explicitly better alternatives. Using a combination of field surveys and randomized experiments, the research demonstrates that people may hope for relatively worse (vs. better) news in an effort to preemptively avoid subjectively difficult decisions (studies 1 and 2). This is because when worse news avoids a choice (study 3A)—for example, by “forcing one’s hand” or creating one dominant option that circumvents a fraught decision (study 3B)—it can relieve the decision-maker’s experience of personal responsibility (study 3C). However, because not all decisions warrant avoidance, not all decisions will elicit a preference for worse news; fewer people hope for worse news when facing subjectively easier (vs. harder) choices (studies 4A and B). Finally, this preference for worse news is not without consequence and may create perverse incentives for decision-makers, such as the tendency to forgo opportunities for improvement (studies 5A and B). The work contributes to the literature on decision avoidance and elucidates another strategy people use to circumvent difficult decisions: a propensity to hope for the worst.
Locked Out of College: When Admissions Bureaucrats Do and Do Not Discriminate
Brown, Jacob R., and Hanno Hilbig. Forthcoming. “Locked Out of College: When Admissions Bureaucrats Do and Do Not Discriminate.” British Journal of Political Science, 1-11. Abstract

How does an individual's criminal record shape interactions with the state and society? This article presents evidence from a nationwide field experiment in the United States, which shows that prospective applicants with criminal records are about 5 percentage points less likely to receive information from college admission offices. However, this bias does not extend to race: there is no difference in response rates to Black and White applicants. The authors further show that bias is all but absent in public bureaucracies, as discrimination against formerly incarcerated applicants is driven by private schools. Examining why bias is stronger for private colleges, the study demonstrates that the private–public difference persists even after accounting for college selectivity, socio-economic composition and school finances. Moving beyond the measurement of bias, an intervention designed to reduce discrimination is evaluated: whether an email from an advocate mitigates bias associated with a criminal record. No evidence is found that advocate endorsements decrease bureaucratic bias.

 

Redistribution under general decision rules
Parameswaran, Girl, and Hunter Rendleman. Forthcoming. “Redistribution under general decision rules.” Journal of Public Economic Theory. Abstract

We study the political economy of redistribution over a broad class of decision rules. Since the core is generically non-unique, we suggest a simple and elegant procedure to select a robust equilibrium. Our selected policy depends on the full income profile, and in particular, on the preferences of two decisive voters. The effect of increasing inequality on redistribution depends on the decision rule and the shape of the income distribution; redistribution will increase if both decisive voters are 'relatively poor', and decrease if at least one is sufficiently 'rich'. Additionally, redistribution decreases as the polity adopts increasingly stringent super-majority rules.

Immigration Policies and Access to the Justice System: The Effect of Enforcement Escalations on Undocumented Immigrants and Their Communities

Does intensifying immigrationenforcement lead to under-reporting of crime among undocumented immigrants and their communities? We empirically test the claims of activists and legal advocates that the escalation of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities in 2017 negatively impacted the willingness of undocumented immigrants and Hispanic communities to report crime. We hypothesize that ICE cooperation with local law enforcement, in particular, discourages undocumented immigrants and their Hispanic community members from reporting crime. Using a difference-in-difference approach and FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data at the county level, we find that total reported crime fell from 2016 to 2017 in counties with higher shares of Hispanic individuals and in counties where local law enforcement had more cooperation with ICE. Using the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), we show that these declines in the measured crime rate are driven by decreased crime reporting by Hispanic communities rather than by decreased crime commission or victimization. Finally, we replicate these results in a second case study by leveraging the staggered roll-out of the 2008–2014 Secure Communities program across US counties. Taken together, our findings add to a growing body of literature demonstrating how immigration enforcement reduces vulnerable populations’ access to state services, including the criminal justice system.

Childhood exposure to polluted neighborhood environments and intergenerational income mobility, teenage birth, and incarceration in the USA

This paper joins a growing body of research linking measures of the physical environment to population well-being, with a focus on neighborhood toxins. Extending a national database on the social mobility of American children growing up in over 70,000 Census tracts, we explore the association between childhood exposure to two forms of pollutants and three socioeconomic outcomes for African Americans, whites, and Latinos. We find that children who grew up in Census tracts with higher levels of traffic-related air pollution and housing-derived lead risk experienced lower adult incomes on average relative to their parents and higher likelihoods of being incarcerated as an adult or having children as teenagers, after controlling for standard socio-demographic characteristics and metropolitan-level effects. The spatial distribution of these two pollutants is surprisingly different, however, with air pollution varying mostly between regions of the country while lead risk varies dramatically between neighborhoods within the same city. Yet, each pollutant predicts the three aspects of social mobility similarly, and we show important disparities in exposure by race. Differential exposure to environmental toxins in childhood may be a contributor to racial inequality in socioeconomic outcomes among adults.

 

The racial burden of voter list maintenance errors: Evidence from Wisconsin’s supplemental movers poll books
Huber, Gregory A., Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, and Katie Steele. 2021. “The racial burden of voter list maintenance errors: Evidence from Wisconsin’s supplemental movers poll books.” Science Advances 7 (7). Abstract
Administrative records are increasingly used to identify registered voters who may have moved, with potential movers then sent postcards asking them to confirm their address of registration. It is important to understand how often these registrants did not move, and how often such an error is not corrected by the postcard confirmation process, because uncorrected errors make it more difficult for a registrant to subsequently vote. While federal privacy protections generally prevent researchers from observing the data necessary to estimate these quantities, we are able to study this process in Wisconsin because special poll books, available via public records requests, listed those registrants who were identified as potential movers and did not respond to a subsequent postcard. At least 4% of these registrants cast a ballot at their address of registration, with minority registrants twice as likely as white registrants to do so.
Who Votes Without Identification? Using Individual-Level Administrative Data to Measure the Burden of Strict Voter Identification Laws
Henninger, Phoebe, Marc Meredith, and Michael Morse. 2021. “Who Votes Without Identification? Using Individual-Level Administrative Data to Measure the Burden of Strict Voter Identification Laws.” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 18: 256-286. Abstract
Legal disputes over laws that require certain forms of identification (ID) to vote mostly focus on the burden placed on people who do not possess ID. We contend that this singular focus ignores the burden imposed on people who do possess ID, but nonetheless cannot access it when voting. To measure this alternative conception of burden, we focus on Michigan, which allows anyone who lacks access to ID to vote after signing an affidavit. A sample of affidavits filed in the 2016 presidential election from a random set of precincts reveals that about 0.45 percent of voters lacked access to ID. Consistent with our broader conception of the burden of voter ID laws, nearly all voters who filed an affidavit were previously issued a still-active state ID. Importantly, we show minority voters were about five times more likely to lack access to ID than white voters. We also present survey evidence suggesting that people who live in states where voters are asked to show ID, as in Michigan, are more likely to incorrectly believe that access to ID is required to vote than are people who live in states that do not ask voters to show ID.
The spatial structure of US metropolitan employment: New insights from administrative data
Manduca, Robert. 2021. “The spatial structure of US metropolitan employment: New insights from administrative data.” Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science 48 (5): 1357-1372. Abstract

Urban researchers have long debated the extent to which metropolitan employment is monocentric, polycentric, or diffuse. In this paper I use high-resolution data based on unemployment insurance records to show that employment in US metropolitan areas is not centralized but is spatially concentrated. Unlike residents, who form a continuous surface covering most parts of each metropolitan area, jobs have a bimodal spatial distribution, with most blocks containing no jobs whatsoever and a small number having extremely high employment densities. Across the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas, about 75% of jobs are located on the 6.5% of built land in Census blocks with at least twice as many jobs as people. These relative proportions are extremely consistent across cities, even though they vary greatly in the physical density at which they are constructed. Motivated by these empirical regularities, I introduce an algorithm to identify contiguous business districts and classify them into four major types. Based solely on the relative densities of employment and population, this algorithm is both simpler to implement and more flexible than current approaches, requiring no metro-specific tuning parameters and no assumptions about urban spatial layout.

Which Data Fairly Differentiate? American Views on the Use of Personal Data in Two Market Settings
Corporations increasingly use personal data to offer individuals different products and prices. I present first-of-its-kind evidence about how U.S. consumers assess the fairness of companies using personal information in this way. Drawing on a nationally representative survey that asks respondents to rate how fair or unfair it is for car insurers and lenders to use various sorts of information—from credit scores to web browser history to residential moves—I find that everyday Americans make strong moral distinctions among types of data, even when they are told data predict consumer behavior (insurance claims and loan defaults, respectively). Open-ended responses show that people adjudicate fairness by drawing on shared understandings of whether data are logically related to the predicted outcome and whether the categories companies use conflate morally distinct individuals. These findings demonstrate how dynamics long studied by economic sociologists manifest in legitimating a new and important mode of market allocation.
Physical Health Symptoms and Hurricane Katrina: Individual Trajectories of Development and Recovery More Than a Decade After the Storm
Zacher, Meghan, Ethan J. Raker, Mariana C. Arcaya, Sarah R. Lowe, Jean Rhodes, and Mary C. Waters. 2021. “Physical Health Symptoms and Hurricane Katrina: Individual Trajectories of Development and Recovery More Than a Decade After the Storm.” American Journal of Public Health 111: 127–135. Abstract

Objectives. To examine how physical health symptoms developed and resolved in response to Hurricane Katrina.

Methods. We used data from a 2003 to 2018 study of young, low-income mothers who were living in New Orleans, Louisiana, when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 (n = 276). We fit logistic regressions to model the odds of first reporting or “developing” headaches or migraines, back problems, and digestive problems, and of experiencing remission or “recovery” from previously reported symptoms, across surveys.

Results. The prevalence of each symptom increased after Hurricane Katrina, but the odds of developing symptoms shortly before versus after the storm were comparable. The number of traumatic experiences endured during Hurricane Katrina increased the odds of developing back and digestive problems just after the hurricane. Headaches or migraines and back problems that developed shortly after Hurricane Katrina were more likely to resolve than those that developed just before the storm.

Conclusions. While traumatic experiences endured in disasters such as Hurricane Katrina appear to prompt the development of new physical symptoms, disaster-induced symptoms may be less likely to persist or become chronic than those emerging for other reasons.

 

Loyalists and Switchers: Characterizing Voters’ Responses to Donald Trump’s Campaign and Presidency
Dost, Meredith, Ryan Enos, and Jennifer Hochschild. 2021. “Loyalists and Switchers: Characterizing Voters’ Responses to Donald Trump’s Campaign and Presidency.” Political Science Quarterly 136 (1): 81-103. Abstract

Meredith Dost, Ryan Enos, and Jennifer Hochschild look at the crucial segment of American voters who have changed their views about Donald Trump since the 2016 presidential election. Using two original surveys, they find that attitudes on race and immigration, populism and authoritarianism, and the nation’s and their own economic well-being are all associated with loyalty to and switching from this divisive president.

 

The measurement of partisan sorting for 180 million voters
Brown, Jacob R., and Ryan D. Enos. 2021. “The measurement of partisan sorting for 180 million voters.” Nature Human Behavior. Abstract

Segregation across social groups is an enduring feature of nearly all human societies and is associated with numerous social maladies. In many countries, reports of growing geographic political polarization raise concerns about the stability of democratic governance. Here, using advances in spatial data computation, we measure individual partisan segregation by calculating the local residential segregation of every registered voter in the United States, creating a spatially weighted measure for more than 180 million individuals. With these data, we present evidence of extensive partisan segregation in the country. A large proportion of voters live with virtually no exposure to voters from the other party in their residential environment. Such high levels of partisan isolation can be found across a range of places and densities and are distinct from racial and ethnic segregation. Moreover, Democrats and Republicans living in the same city, or even the same neighbourhood, are segregated by party.

 

Childhood cross-ethnic exposure predicts political behavior seven decades later: Evidence from linked administrative data
Brown, Jacob R., Ryan D. Enos, James Feigenbaum, and Soumyajit Mazumder. 2021. “Childhood cross-ethnic exposure predicts political behavior seven decades later: Evidence from linked administrative data.” Science Advances 7 (24). Abstract
Does contact across social groups influence sociopolitical behavior? This question is among the most studied in the social sciences with deep implications for the harmony of diverse societies. Yet, despite a voluminous body of scholarship, evidence around this question is limited to cross-sectional surveys that only measure short-term consequences of contact or to panel surveys with small samples covering short time periods. Using advances in machine learning that enable large-scale linkages across datasets, we examine the long-term determinants of sociopolitical behavior through an unprecedented individual-level analysis linking contemporary political records to the 1940 U.S. Census. These linked data allow us to measure the exact residential context of nearly every person in the United States in 1940 and, for men, connect this with the political behavior of those still alive over 70 years later. We find that, among white Americans, early-life exposure to black neighbors predicts Democratic partisanship over 70 years later.
Getting Eyes in the Home: Child Protective Services Investigations and State Surveillance of Family Life

Each year, U.S. child protection authorities investigate millions of families, disproportionately poor families and families of color. These investigations involve multiple home visits to collect information across numerous personal domains. How does the state gain such widespread entrée into the intimate, domestic lives of marginalized families? Predominant theories of surveillance offer little insight into this process and its implications. Analyzing observations of child maltreatment investigations in Connecticut and interviews with professionals reporting maltreatment, state investigators, and investigated mothers, this article argues that coupling assistance with coercive authority—a hallmark of contemporary poverty governance—generates an expansive surveillance of U.S. families by attracting referrals from adjacent systems. Educational, medical, and other professionals invite investigations of families far beyond those ultimately deemed maltreating, with the hope that child protection authorities’ dual therapeutic and coercive capacities can rehabilitate families, especially marginalized families. Yet even when investigations close, this arrangement, in which service systems channel families to an entity with coercive power, fosters apprehension among families and thwarts their institutional engagement. These findings demonstrate how, in an era of welfare retrenchment, rehabilitative poverty governance renders marginalized populations hyper-visible to the state in ways that may reinforce inequality and marginality.

 

Picking Prosecutors
Hessick, Carissa Byrne, and Michael Morse. 2020. “Picking Prosecutors.” Iowa Law Review 105 (4): 1537-1590. Abstract
The conventional academic wisdom is that elections for local prosecutor are little more than empty exercises. Using the results of a new, national survey of local prosecutor elections––the first of its kind––this Article offers a more complete account of the legal and empirical landscape. It confirms that incumbent prosecutors rarely face challengers and almost always win. But it moves beyond extant work to consider the nature of local political conflict, including how often local prosecutors face a contested election or any degree of competition. It also demonstrates a significant difference in the degree of incumbent entrenchment based on time in office. Most importantly, it reveals a stark divide between rural and urban prosecution. Urban areas are more likely to hold a contested election than rural areas. Rural areas, in which very few lawyers live, rarely hold contested elections and sometimes are not able to field even a single candidate for a prosecutor election. The results suggest that the nascent movement to use prosecutor elections as a source of criminal justice reform may have success, at least in the short term. But elections are, as of now, not a likely source of reform in rural areas—the very areas where incarceration rates continue to rise.
One Person, One Vote: Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections
Goel, Sharad, Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, David Rothschild, and Houshmand Shirani-Mehr. 2020. “One Person, One Vote: Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections.” American Political Science Review 114 (2): 456–469. Abstract
Beliefs about the incidence of voter fraud inform how people view the trade-off between electoral integrity and voter accessibility. To better inform such beliefs about the rate of double voting, we develop and apply a method to estimate how many people voted twice in the 2012 presidential election. We estimate that about one in 4,000 voters cast two ballots, although an audit suggests that the true rate may be lower due to small errors in electronic vote records. We corroborate our estimates and extend our analysis using data from a subset of states that share social security numbers, making it easier to quantify who may have voted twice. For this subset of states, we find that one suggested strategy to reduce double voting—removing the registration with an earlier registration date when two share the same name and birthdate—could impede approximately 300 legitimate votes for each double vote prevented.
How Do Low-Income People Form Survival Networks? Routine Organizations as Brokers
Small, Mario L., and Leah E. Gose. 2020. “How Do Low-Income People Form Survival Networks? Routine Organizations as Brokers.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 689 (1): 89-109. Abstract
While supportive social ties help to buffer against the consequences of poverty, few researchers have examined how people form such ties. New ties are often formed in routine organizations such as businesses, churches, and childcare centers, which, beyond being places to work, shop, or receive services, are institutionally governed spaces of social interaction. Based on the notion of organizational brokerage, we introduce a perspective that specifies when routine organizations contribute to tie formation and use it to reexamine data from existing qualitative studies of such organizations among the poor. We argue that successful brokerage will depend on the degree to which an organization’s institutional norms render interaction among participants frequent, long-lasting, focused on others, and centered on joint tasks; and that the ensuing networks may differ from other supportive ties in the sense of belonging they may cultivate, the form of generalized exchange they may engender, and the organizational connections they may create.
Mitigating Health Disparities After Natural Disasters: Lessons From The RISK Project
Raker, Ethan J., Mariana C. Arcaya, Sarah R. Lowe, Meghan Zacher, Jean Rhodes, and Mary C. Waters. 2020. “Mitigating Health Disparities After Natural Disasters: Lessons From The RISK Project.” Health Affairs 39 (12): 2128-2135 . Abstract

Climate change exacerbates the severity of natural disasters, which disproportionately affect vulnerable populations. Mitigating disasters’ health consequences is critical to promoting health equity, but few studies have isolated the short- and long-term effects of disasters on vulnerable groups. We filled this gap by conducting a fifteen-year (2003–2018) prospective study of low-income, predominantly Black parents who experienced Hurricane Katrina: the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina (RISK) Project. Here we describe this project and synthesize lessons from work that has resulted from it. Our findings can guide policy makers, service providers, and health officials in disaster planning and response. We synthesize them into an organizational schema of five priorities: Primary efforts should be aimed at preventing exposure to trauma through investments in climate resilience and by eliminating impediments to evacuation, health care policies should promote uninterrupted and expanded access to care, social services should integrate and strive to reduce the administrative burden on survivors, programs should aid survivors in forging or strengthening connections to their communities, and policy makers should fund targeted long-term services for highly affected survivors.

 

A Life-Course Model of Trauma Exposure and Mental Health Among Low-Income Survivors of Hurricane Katrina
Lowe, Sarah R., Ethan J. Raker, Mariana C. Arcaya, Meghan L. Zacher, Mary C. Waters, and Jean E. Rhodes. 2020. “A Life-Course Model of Trauma Exposure and Mental Health Among Low-Income Survivors of Hurricane Katrina.” Journal of Traumatic Stress 33: 950-961. Abstract
Prior research has provided robust evidence that exposure to potentially traumatic events (PTEs) during a disaster is predictive of adverse postdisaster mental health outcomes, including posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and nonspecific psychological distress (PD). However, few studies have explored the role of exposure to other PTEs over the life-course in shaping postdisaster mental health. Based on the broader literature on trauma exposure and mental health, we hypothesized a path analytic model linking predisaster PTEs to long-term postdisaster PTSS and PD via predisaster PD, short-term postdisaster symptoms, and disaster-related and postdisaster PTEs. We tested this model using data from the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina study, a longitudinal study of low-income, primarily non-Hispanic Black mothers exposed to Hurricane Katrina and assessed before the disaster and at time points 1, 4, and 12 years thereafter. The models evidenced a good fit with the data, RMSEA < .01–.04, CFIs > .99. In addition, 44.1%–67.4% of the effect of predisaster PTEs on long-term postdisaster symptoms was indirect. Descriptive differences were observed across models that included PTSS versus PD, as well as models that included all pre- and postdisaster PTEs versus only those that involved assaultive violence. The results suggest the importance of incorporating disaster preparedness in clinical work with trauma survivors and the value in attending to other lifetime PTEs when working in postdisaster contexts.
Lessons from Hurricane Katrina for predicting the indirect health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic
Raker, Ethan J., Meghan Zacher, and Sarah R. Lowe. 2020. “Lessons from Hurricane Katrina for predicting the indirect health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117 (23): 12595-12597. Abstract

Beyond their immediate effects on mortality, disasters have widespread, indirect impacts on mental and physical well-being by exposing survivors to stress and potential trauma. Identifying the disaster-related stressors that predict health adversity will help officials prepare for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Using data from a prospective study of young, low-income mothers who survived Hurricane Katrina, we find that bereavement, fearing for loved ones’ well-being, and lacking access to medical care and medications predict adverse mental and physical health 1 y postdisaster, and some effects persist 12 y later. Adjusting for preexisting health and socioeconomic conditions attenuates, but does not eliminate, these associations. The findings, while drawn from a demographically unique sample, suggest that, to mitigate the indirect effects of COVID-19, lapses in medical care and medication use must be minimized, and public health resources should be directed to those with preexisting medical conditions, their social networks, and the bereaved.

 

De-gendered Processes, Gendered Outcomes: How Egalitarian Couples Make Sense of Non-egalitarian Household Practices
Despite widespread support for gender-egalitarianism, men’s and women’s household labor contributions remain strikingly unequal. This article extends prior research on barriers to equality by closely examining how couples negotiate contradictions between their egalitarian ideals and admittedly non-egalitarian practices. Data from 64 in-depth interviews with members of 32 different-sex, college-educated couples show that respondents distinguish between labor allocation processes and outcomes. When they understand the processes as gender-neutral, they can write off gendered outcomes as the incidental result of necessary compromises made among competing values. Respondents “de-gender” their allocation process, or decouple it from gender ideology and gendered social forces, by narrowing their temporal horizon to the present moment and deploying an adaptable understanding of constraint that obscures alternative paths. This de-gendering helps prevent spousal conflict, but it may also facilitate behavioral stasis by directing attention away from the inequalities that continue to shape domestic life.
The Declining Worker Power Hypothesis
Stansbury, Anna, and Lawrence H. Summers. 2020. “The Declining Worker Power Hypothesis.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity. Abstract

Rising profitability and market valuations of U.S. businesses, sluggish wage growth and a declining labor share of income, and reduced unemployment and inflation have defined the macroeconomic environment of the last generation. This paper offers a unified explanation for these phenomena based on reduced worker power. Using individual, industry, and state-level data, we demonstrate that measures of reduced worker power are associated with lower wage levels, higher profit shares, and reductions in measures of the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment (NAIRU). We argue that the declining worker power hypothesis is more compelling as an explanation for observed changes than increases in firms’ market power, both because it can simultaneously explain a falling labor share and a reduced NAIRU and because it is more directly supported by the data. 

 

Disentangling policy effects using proxy data: Which shutdown policies affected unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We use high-frequency Google search data, combined with data on the announcement dates of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) during the COVID-19 pandemic in U.S. states, to disentangle the short-run direct impacts of multiple different state-level NPIs in an event study framework. Exploiting differential timing in the announcements of restaurant and bar limitations, non-essential business closures, stay-at-home orders, large-gatherings bans, school closures, and emergency declarations, we leverage the high-frequency search data to separately identify the effects of multiple NPIs that were introduced around the same time. We then describe a set of assumptions under which proxy outcomes can be used to estimate a causal parameter of interest when data on the outcome of interest are limited. Using this method, we quantify the share of overall growth in unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic that was directly due to each of these state-level NPIs. We find that between March 14 and 28, restaurant and bar limitations and non-essential business closures can explain 6.0% and 6.4% of UI claims respectively, while the other NPIs did not directly increase own-state UI claims. This suggests that most of the short-run increase in UI claims during the pandemic was likely due to other factors, including declines in consumer demand, local policies, and policies implemented by private firms and institutions.
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Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Harvard Business School Research Brief

Consumers Punish Firms that Cut Employee Pay in Response to COVID-19

August 30, 2020

Harvard Busines School | By Bhavya Mohan, Serena Hagerty, and Michael Norton. Serena Hagerty is a Stone PhD Research Fellow and a PhD candidate at Harvard Business School. Michael Norton is the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School,

Our Common Purpose

Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century

June 11, 2020

American Academy of Arts and Sciences | Final report of the bipartisan Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, co-chaired by Danielle Allen of Harvard University, Stephen B. Heintz, and Eric Liu. The report includes 31 recommendations to strengthen America’s institutions and civic culture to help a nation in crisis emerge with a more resilient democracy.

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View launch event and discussion ►

Economics After Neoliberalism: Introducing the EfIP Project

Economics After Neoliberalism: Introducing the EfIP Project

January 23, 2020

American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings | By Suresh Naidu, Dani Rodrik, and Gabriel Zucman.  A revised and updated version of their introduction to the Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP) policy briefs, published originally in the Boston Review (Feb 2019).

Alix S. Winter

Is Lead Exposure a Form of Housing Inequality?

January 2, 2020

Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies | By Alix Winter (PhD 2019) and Robert J. Sampson. Alix Winter received her PhD in Sociology and Social Policy from Harvard in 2019 and is now a Postdoctoral Research Scholar with the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE) at Columbia University. Robert Sampson is the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

Michael Luca

2019 in Research Highlights

December 27, 2019

American Economics Association | Among the top 10 research highlights of 2019, "Tech: Economists Wanted." An interview with Susan Athey and Michael Luca about the mutual influence between economics and the tech sector. Michael Luca is the Lee J. Styslinger III Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

Benjamin Schneer

Family past as political prologue

December 13, 2019

Harvard Kennedy School | Assistant Professor Benjamin Schneer's research shows a complex correlation between how members of Congress vote on immigration bills and their family history. Joint work with economist James Feigenbaum PhD 2016 and political scientist Maxwell Palmer, both of Boston University.

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DACA report

The Long-Term Impact of DACA; Forging Futures Despite DACA's Uncertainty

November 7, 2019

Immigration Initiative at Harvard
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The Inflation Gap

The Inflation Gap

November 5, 2019

Atlantic | A new analysis by Christopher Wimer PhD 2007, Sophie Collyer, and Xavier Jaravel suggests not only  that rising prices have been quietly taxing low-income families more heavily than rich ones, but also that, after accounting for that trend, the American poverty rate is significantly higher than the official measures suggest.

Wimer received his PhD in Sociology & Social Policy from Harvard in 2007 and is now Co-Director of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy (CPSP) at Columbia University. Xavier Jaravel received his PhD in Business Economics from Harvard in 2016 and is now Assistant Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics. Jaravel's research on inflation inequality—showing that prices have risen more quickly for people at the bottom of the income distribution than for those at the top—which informs their analysis of the poverty rate, appears in the Quarterly Journal of Economics (May 2019).

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Michael Hankinson

Research brief: Concentrated Burdens: How Self-Interest and Partisanship Shape Opinion on Opioid Treatment Policy

October 18, 2019

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Allison Daminger

How Couples Share “Cognitive Labor” and Why it Matters

September 19, 2019

Behavioral Scientist | By Allison Daminger, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy. "Cognitive work is gendered, but not uniformly so," Allison Daminger finds. "And if we want to understand how divisions of cognitive labor impact women, families, and society as a whole, this is a crucial insight." Based on her research, "The Cognitive Dimensions of Household Labor," recently published in the American Sociological Review.

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Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP) logo

The Economics of Free College

June 1, 2019

Economics for Inclusive Prosperity | By David J. Deming, Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.

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