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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Women in Elite Jobs Face Stubborn Pay Gap

Women in Elite Jobs Face Stubborn Pay Gap

May 17, 2016

Wall Street Journal | With insights from Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics. Article includes interactive data visualization showing pay gaps by occupation.

The one thing rich parents do for their kids that makes all the difference

The one thing rich parents do for their kids that makes all the difference

May 10, 2016

Washington Post | Delves into research by Ann Owens (Ph.D. '12) of University of Southern California showing that growing income segregation since 1990 has been driven almost entirely by what's happening among families with children. Given considerable research showing the advantage of neighborhood context on children's outcomes, this has implications for widening gaps in future outcomes. View the study in the American Sociological Review.

Deeper learning: More crucial than ever, and yet too rare

Deeper learning: More crucial than ever, and yet too rare

May 10, 2016

Seattle Times | Article featuring Jal Mehta (Ph.D. '06), Associate Professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, who explains what it means to be in search of deeper learning and why it has become more urgent in today's economy.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

May 9, 2016

Commonweal | Frank Pasquale reviews Matthew Desmond's Evicted: "One cannot read Evicted and conclude that a few technocratic tweaks, embedded in some meliorist plan for improving the housing market, will suitably address the growing crisis of unstable and inadequate housing."

David Ellwood Named Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy

David Ellwood Named Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy

May 9, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School | David T. Ellwood, Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy, has been named director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, Dean Douglas Elmendorf announced today. Ellwood begins his appointment on July 1. Ellwood, who first joined the Harvard faculty in 1980, served as the eighth dean of Harvard Kennedy School from July 2004 through June 2015.

Black Americans See Gains in Life Expectancy

Black Americans See Gains in Life Expectancy

May 8, 2016

The New York Times | Quotes Robert J. Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences. Also David R. Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health, who spoke about health disparities by race in the Inequality & Social Seminar Series, February 8, 2016.

Interview with Jennifer Hochschild

Interview with Jennifer Hochschild

May 6, 2016

E-International Relations | Jennifer Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and Professor of African and African American Studies, sits down for a discussion of what she sees as the most exciting research and debates she sees happening in her field, and what has prompted the most significant shifts in her thinking.

More Evidence for Lead Poisoning as a Key Crime Driver

More Evidence for Lead Poisoning as a Key Crime Driver

May 3, 2016

Talking Points Memo | Features research by James Feigenbaum (Ph.D. candidate in Economics) and Christopher Muller (Ph.D. '14, now an assistant professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley) linking lead exposure and violent crime in the early 20th century. Feigenbaum and Muller presented this work, which is forthcoming in Explorations in Economic History, in the Inequality Seminar on April 18. Read the Feigenbaum and Muller paper.

The Republican-big business alliance is fraying. Now what?

The Republican-big business alliance is fraying. Now what?

May 2, 2016

Vox | Features research by Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy, and Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government & Social Policy, from their paper "Billionaires against Big Business: Growing Tensions in the Republican Party Coalition." 

Also cites Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson (Ph.D. '15, now a fellow at the Brookings Institution), The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism.

Does First-Class Inequality Lead to Air Rage?

Does First-Class Inequality Lead to Air Rage?

May 2, 2016

New York Magazine: Science of Us | Explores new study, published today in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, by Katherine DeCelles (University of Toronto) and Michael I. Norton (Harvard Business School). Norton, a social psychologist, is the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration and a member of Harvard’s Behavioral Insights Group.
View the research 

Is There a Better Way to Pay for America's Schools?

Is There a Better Way to Pay for America's Schools?

May 1, 2016

NPR Weekend Edition | Nora Gordon (Ph.D. '02), Associate Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University, explains how Title I, an anti-poverty program, privileges wealthy, high-spending states. The article notes that Gordon "has spent her career studying Title I and its effects on schools and has just released a few big ideas to improve it."

Latest awards

'Our Kids' selected for Books of the Year 2015

'Our Kids' selected for Books of the Year 2015

December 3, 2015

The Economist | Robert Putnam's, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, described as "thoughtful and persuasive", has been selected by The Economist as one of the best books of 2015.  Also making the list, Inequality: What Can Be Done?, by Anthony Atkinson (University of Oxford).

ISA Medal of Science

ISA Medal of Science

October 6, 2015

Awardee | Robert D. Putnam to receive the Institute for Advanced Studies' (University of Bologna) highest honor for scientific excellence and international acclaim.

Dan Zuberi named to the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists

Dan Zuberi named to the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists

September 25, 2015

Awardee | Dan Zuberi (Ph.D. '04) has been named to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) College, which represents "the emerging generation of scholarly, scientific and artistic leadership in Canada." Zuberi, now RBC chair and Associate Professor of Social Policy at the University of Toronto's School of Public Policy and Governance, was recognized for his "innovative social policy research" on vulnerable and disadvantaged populations in Canada and the U.S.  (Read the full citation)

Viridiana Rios will be a visiting fellow at Wilson Center

Viridiana Rios will be a visiting fellow at Wilson Center

September 18, 2015

Awardee | Viridiana Rios (Ph.D. '13) will be a visiting fellow this fall at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, where she will be working on a project titled, "Economic Policy for Crime Deterrence in Mexico."

Robert Putnam named to The Politico 50

Robert Putnam named to The Politico 50

September 10, 2015

Politico Magazine | Robert Putnam recognized as one of fifty "thinkers, doers, and visionaries transforming American politics in 2015."

Latest commentary and analysis

The Rights and Wrongs of Economics

The Rights and Wrongs of Economics

June 7, 2017
Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast | Twenty years ago, Dani Rodrik predicted that too much globalization could lead to social disintegration and weakened democracies. Dani Rodrik is the Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School.
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.
View the research
Ronald Ferguson interview - HarvardX

Can 'The Boston Basics' Help Close the Achievement Gap?

June 5, 2017
WBUR Radio Boston | WBUR talks with Ron Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University and creator of The Boston Basics. The Boston Basics Campaign is partnering with hospitals, community health centers, childcare providers, libraries, and early learning centers across Boston to close skill gaps that emerge in early childhood, in the critical first years of brain development.
Ethnic and Racial Studies

Race, class, politics, and the disappearance of work: a rejoinder

June 5, 2017
Ethnic and Racial Studies | By William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard. For its 40th anniversary special issue, Ethnic and Racial Studies is revisiting classic articles in context, including William Julius Wilson's "When Work Disappears" (1999). Here he responds to Harvard political scientist Jennifer Hochsdhild's review essay.
Ethnic and Racial Studies

Race, class, politics, and the disappearance of work

June 5, 2017
Ethnic and Racial Studies | By Jennifer L. Hochschlld. For its 40th anniversary special issue, Ethnic and Racial Studies reexamines classic articles in context. Here Harvard political scientist Jennifer Hochschild revisits "When Work Disappears" by William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor.
Neoliberal Social Justice: From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama

Neoliberal Social Justice: From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama

May 30, 2017
SSRC items | Leah Wright Rigueur, as part of the Social Science Research Council's “Reading Racial Conflict” series, critically engages with the career and the writings of Edward Brooke in a reflection on the arguments for and limits of capitalism to uplift African Americans out of poverty. She also deploys Brooke, the first popularly elected black senator in US history who served in the 1960s and 1970s, as a window onto how Barack Obama connects racial inequalities to access to the market.
Douglas W. Elmendorf

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

May 24, 2017

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

Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Insitute

Opportunity & Inclusive Growth Institute Conference

May 22, 2017

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis | Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, joined the inaugural conference of the Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute, where he spoke in the opening panel on segregation and inequality. Putnam and Harvard economist Lawrence Katz both serve on the Institute's Board of Advisors.

Why Opportunity and Inclusion Matter to America's Economic Strength
Lael Brainard of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors delivered the keynote address, highlighting issues of employment, household financial health, the geography of opportunity, and affordable housing. She also drew attention to insights generated by the Boston Fed's Workng Cities Challenge.
View text of remarks
 

Earlier this spring Governor Brainard delivered the 2017 Malcolm Wiener Lecture in International Political Economy in the JFK Jr. Forum at Harvard Kennedy School.

Investigating the Causes and Consequences of Inequality

Investigating the Causes and Consequences of Inequality

May 18, 2017

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

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

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

May 17, 2017

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

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

U.S. Congress

The State of Social Capital in America

May 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

May 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Immigration's Long-Term Impacts on Overall Wages and Employment of Native-Born U.S. Workers Very Small, Although Low-Skilled Workers May Be Affected, New Report Finds

Immigration's Long-Term Impacts on Overall Wages and Employment of Native-Born U.S. Workers Very Small, Although Low-Skilled Workers May Be Affected, New Report Finds

September 21, 2016

National Academy of Sciences | The National Academy of Sciences today released a new report, The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration, authored by a panel of 14 experts, including George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. The 508-page report provides "a comprehensive assessment of economic and demographic trends of U.S. immigration over the past 20 years, its impact on the labor market and wages of native-born workers, and its fiscal impact at the national, state, and local levels."
View the report

Hutchins Roundup: Income mobility, labor protection regulations, and more

Hutchins Roundup: Income mobility, labor protection regulations, and more

September 7, 2016

Brookings Institution | The Hutchins Roundup spotlights new study by Alicia Sasser Modestino (Ph.D. '01) of Northeastern University, Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11) of the Harvard Kennedy School, and Joshua Ballance of the Boston Fed showing that employer skill requirements have fallen recently recently, reversing the trend observed during the Great Recession.
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Read more about Hutchins Roundup: Income mobility, labor protection regulations, and more
New Study: Market Forces Do Affect Health Care Sector

New Study: Market Forces Do Affect Health Care Sector

September 7, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School | Coverage of new research by Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, in the American Economic Review, "Health Care Exceptionalism? Performance and Allocation in the US Health Care Sector." The article is co-authored by Amy Finkelstein, MIT; Adam Sacarny, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health; and Chad Syverson, Chicago Booth.
View the research

Understanding employers' responses to for-profit colleges

Understanding employers' responses to for-profit colleges

August 25, 2016

Work in Progress | By Nicole Deterding (Ph.D. '15) and David Pedulla (Stanford University). Deterding is a National Poverty Fellow in the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE), U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, and Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Work in Progress is the American Sociological Association's blog for 'short-form sociology' on the economy, work, and inequality.

Poverty After Welfare Reform

Poverty After Welfare Reform

August 22, 2016

Manhattan Institute | By Scott Winship (Ph.D. '09), Walter B. Wriston Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Why has regional income convergence declined?

Why has regional income convergence declined?

August 4, 2016

The Brookings Institution | By Peter Ganong, Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11), Associate Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.

For one hundred years, per capita incomes in poorer U.S. states have grown more rapidly than incomes in richer states, narrowing the gap between them.  Over the past three decades, though, the rate of convergence has slowed sharply. It has become more difficult for poorer states to catch up with richer states. In a paper presented at the Municipal Finance Conference, Ganong and Shoag attribute this slowdown in convergence to increasingly tight land use regulations in wealthy areas.

The Science of Justice: Race, Arrests, and Police Use of Force

The Science of Justice: Race, Arrests, and Police Use of Force

July 8, 2016

Center for Policing Equity | On July 7-8, 2016, police chiefs, elected officials, researchers, and oversight practitioners met at the Department of Justice in Washington DC for a conversation about race and policing in the United States. As part of this convening, researchers presented a report of preliminary findings comparing patterns of stops and the use of force across twelve departments participating in CPE’s National Justice Database project. 

Phillip Atiba Goff, president and co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity led the study. Co-authored by Tracey (Shollenberger) Lloyd (Ph.D. '15) of the the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, Amanda Geller of NYU, and Steven Raphael and Jack Glaser of UC Berkeley. Goff, a visiting scholar at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy from 2014-2016, is the Franklin A. Thomas Professor in Policing Equity at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

View the study
Read the full press release

Study Supports Suspicion That Police Are More Likely to Use Force on Blacks

Study Supports Suspicion That Police Are More Likely to Use Force on Blacks

July 7, 2016

The New York Times | Quotes Phillip Atiba Goff on the findings of "The Science of Justice: Race, Arrests, and the Use of Force," a new study significant for its assembly and empirical analysis of detailed use-of-force data in the nation's first national database on police behavior. Goff, a visiting scholar at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy from 2014-2016, is co-founder and president of the Center for Policing Equity, which released the report, and the Franklin A. Thomas Professor in Policing Equity at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Tracey (Shollenberger) Lloyd (Ph.D. '15), a research associate in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, is a co-author of the study.
View the study

How judges understand, try to address racial disparities in the criminal court process

How judges understand, try to address racial disparities in the criminal court process

May 23, 2016

Journalist's Resource | Write-up of key findings from recently-published article in Criminology by Matthew Clair (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology) and Alix Winter (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy), "How Judges Think About Racial Disparities: Situational Decision-Making in the Criminal Justice System" (view it here).  Also cites related research by Maya Sen, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, "Is Justice Really Blind? Race and Reversal in U.S. Courts,” Journal of Legal Studies, 2015 (view it here).

ESSA Implementation: Perspectives from Education Stakeholders

ESSA Implementation: Perspectives from Education Stakeholders

May 18, 2016

Congressional Testimony | Testimony of Nora Gordon (Ph.D. '02), Associate Professor at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

See Gordon's written testimony, which explains "how the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) changes the definition of supplement not supplant, how the Department of Education proposes to regulate it, and the potential for that regulation to cause serious adverse consequences" that could make poor students worse off.

Aiming Higher Together: Strategizing Better Educational Outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color

Aiming Higher Together: Strategizing Better Educational Outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color

May 10, 2016

Urban Institute | By Ronald F. Ferguson, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. Boys and young men of color remain overrepresented among those who do not excel academically and face home, school, peer-group, and societal disadvantages relative to their white peers. This report proposes strategies to achieve a person-environment fit that can change dynamics and lead to better educational outcomes for these students.

Economic Perspectives on Incarceration and the Criminal Justice System

Economic Perspectives on Incarceration and the Criminal Justice System

April 25, 2016

Council of Economic Advisers | The Council of Economic Advisers makes the economic case for criminal justice reform. The report draws on and cites academic research by Inequality & Social Policy affiliates Bruce Western, Amitabh Chandra, David Deming, Roland Fryer, David Hureau (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy), Devah Pager, and Robert J. Sampson.