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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

The Story Borrower

The Story Borrower

March 3, 2016

Harvard Graduate School of Education | Profile of Anthony Abraham Jack (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology), whose whose research looks at the stories of low-income, first-generation undergraduates at elite universities. “They are letting me borrow their stories and it motivates me like crazy,” he says.

Jack will join the HGSE faculty as an assistant professor in July 2019, following a prestigious fellowship at the Harvard Society of Fellows. He will also hold the Shutzer Assistant Professorship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Is This the End of Big-Money Politics?

Is This the End of Big-Money Politics?

March 3, 2016

The New Yorker | Draws from study on "The Koch Effect"  by Theda Skocpol, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology, and Alex Hertel-Fernandez, Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy. "In essence, the Harvard study concludes, the Kochs and their allied donors have financial influence over American politics that extends far beyond the Presidential race."... Read more about Is This the End of Big-Money Politics?

The costs of inequality: A goal of justice, a reality of unfairness

The costs of inequality: A goal of justice, a reality of unfairness

February 29, 2016

Harvard Gazette | Spotlights research in criminal justice by Bruce Western (Professor of Sociology, the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice Policy, and Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy), Devah Pager (Professor of Sociology and Public Policy), Phillip Atiba Goff (Visiting scholar in the Malcolm Wiener Center and Co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity), and Vinny Schiraldi (Senior research fellow at the HKS Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management and former commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation).  Fifth in a series on what Harvard scholars are doing to understand and find solutions to problems of inequality. This article also appeared at US News and World Report.

Variations on racial tension

Variations on racial tension

February 26, 2016

Harvard Gazette | Michèle Lamont, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and director of the Weatherhead Center, led a panel that traced evolving attitudes toward race and discrimination in Latin America, Europe, and the United States. With Patrick Simon, director of research at the National Institute of Demographic Studies in France, and Alejandro de la Fuente, Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin-American History at Harvard and director of the University’s soon-to-launch Afro-Latin American Research Institute.

America has locked up so many black people, it has warped our sense of reality

America has locked up so many black people, it has warped our sense of reality

February 26, 2016

Washington Post | Draws on work by Bruce Western, who argues that statistics on employment and economic activity that fail to take into account high rates of incarceration among black men in high-risk groups miss how deeply mass incarceration is connected to American poverty and economic inequality. Western is a Professor of Sociology, the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice Policy, and director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

The Great Expectations of Matthew Desmond

The Great Expectations of Matthew Desmond

February 24, 2016

The Chronicle Review—Chronicle of Higher Education | Matthew Desmond hopes to bring a fresh approach to the study of poverty by focusing on the trauma of eviction. "Before this work I didn’t know how bad it was," he says. "I don’t think a lot of us know the state of poverty today."

The scariest thing about the gig economy is how little we actually know about it

The scariest thing about the gig economy is how little we actually know about it

February 23, 2016

Quartz | “Individual workers who really value flexibility may be much better off” in the gig economy, says Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard who is studying gig work. But it could also be eroding standards for other workers. What if much bigger employers like Walmart pivoted to the Uber work model? There are always “effects on the equilibrium of the labor market,” Katz says.

The costs of inequality: Money = quality health care = longer life

The costs of inequality: Money = quality health care = longer life

February 22, 2016

Harvard Gazette | Features Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy. Also David R. Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health at the Harvard Chan School and professor of African and African-American Studies, who gave an Inequality & Social Policy Seminar on "Race, Racism, and Racial Inequalities in Health", Feb 8, 2016. Fourth in a series on what Harvard scholars are doing to understand and find solutions to problems of inequality. This article also appeared at US News and World Report.

In 'Evicted', Home is an Elusive Goal for America's Poor

In 'Evicted', Home is an Elusive Goal for America's Poor

February 21, 2016

The New York Times | Review of Matthew Desmond's, Evicted.  NYT book critic Jennifer Senior calls it "an exhaustively researched, vividly realized and, above all, unignorable book — after “Evicted,” it will no longer be possible to have a serious discussion about poverty without having a serious discussion about housing."

No Exceptions

No Exceptions

February 20, 2016

Harvard Ed Magazine | A look at the life and work of one of the Ed School's newest faculty members, Roland Fryer.

Kicked Out in America!

Kicked Out in America!

February 19, 2016

The New York Review of Books | Matthew Desmond's Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.  Reviewed by Jason DeParle of The New York Times.

Can the Welfare State Survive the Refugee Crisis?

Can the Welfare State Survive the Refugee Crisis?

February 18, 2016

The Atlantic | Quotes George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy. Borjas is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Panel on the Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration, whose report will be published later this year.

Latest awards

Laura Tach named a 2015 William T. Grant Scholar

Laura Tach named a 2015 William T. Grant Scholar

April 8, 2015

Awardee | Laura Tach (Ph.D. '10). The William T. Grant Scholars program selects 4-6 promising early-career researchers each year in the social, behavioral, and health sciences and supports their professional development with five-year research awards.

New RSF grant: How Rigid is the Wealth Structure and Why?

New RSF grant: How Rigid is the Wealth Structure and Why?

March 12, 2015

Awardees | Alexandra Killewald and Fabian Pfeffer (University of Michigan) are the recipients of a Russell Sage Foundation grant, jointly funded with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, to assess the strength and pattern of multigenerational wealth associations, and explore the role of intergenerational transfers, home ownership and marriage in wealth mobility across generations.

Latest commentary and analysis

A Guide to Solving Social Problems with Machine Learning

A Guide to Solving Social Problems with Machine Learning

December 8, 2016

Harvard Business Review | By Jon Kleinberg (Cornell), Jens Ludwig (University of Chicago), and Sendhil Mullainathan (Robert C. Waggoner Professor of Economics, Harvard University). "[As] with all new 'products', there is potential for misuse. How can we maximize the benefits while minimizing the harm?"

"In applying these tools the last few years, we have focused on exactly this question. We have learned that some of the most important challenges fall within the cracks between the discipline that builds algorithms (computer science) and the disciplines that typically work on solving policy problems (such as economics and statistics). As a result, few of these key challenges are even on anyone’s radar screen. The good news is that many of these challenges, once recognized, are fairly straightforward to solve."

A Simple Way to Measure Health Care Outcomes

A Simple Way to Measure Health Care Outcomes

December 8, 2016

Harvard Business Review | By John Schupbach (HBS), Amitabh Chandra (HKS), and Robert S. Huckman (HBS). Chandra is Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Who Read What in 2016

Who Read What in 2016

December 7, 2016

Wall Street Journal | What Matthew Desmond and 49 others named as their favorite book this year. Desmond is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences and the author of Evicted.

Robots aren't coming for your job. They're already here

Robots aren't coming for your job. They're already here

December 7, 2016

Bloomberg Game Plan Podcast | This week, Sam and Rebecca of Bloomberg talk about how robots are changing the workplace and what it means for the future of the job market. Will jobs even exist in the future? Well, yes -- they'll just be different. Prof. David Deming (Ph.D. '10), a researcher at Harvard, joins them to talk about what kinds of skills and labor the robots can't take. Hint: Be human.

Predictive Analytics: Better than human intuition?

Predictive Analytics: Better than human intuition?

December 7, 2016

GovEx | GovEx, the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, speaks with Dr. Elizabeth Linos (Ph.D. '16), Vice President and Head of Research and Evaluation at Behavioral Insights Team North America, to explore the future of algorithms and their use in cities.

Congressional Forum: Future of the Electoral College

Congressional Forum: Future of the Electoral College

December 6, 2016

C-SPAN | Alexander Keyssar, the Matthew W. Stirling Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy, testified at a forum hosted by House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), which explored possibilities for replacing the Electoral College in favor of the popular vote.

PEOTUS! HUD! DGA! MDC!

PEOTUS! HUD! DGA! MDC!

December 6, 2016

WNPR—The Wheelhouse | Prof. Leah Wright Rigueur of the Harvard Kennedy School guests.

Trump Transition Continues

Trump Transition Continues

November 30, 2016

WBUR Greater Boston | Prof. Leah Wright Rigueur of the Harvard Kennedy School guests.

Harvard EdCast: The Diversity Bargain

Harvard EdCast: The Diversity Bargain

November 30, 2016

Harvard EdCast | For her new book, The Diversity Bargain and Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities, Associate Professor Natasha Warikoo (Ph.D. '05), interviewed first-year students at Brown, Harvard, and Oxford. What she found was a disconnect between students' ideas of what a diverse campus would be and the reality. Often, says Warikoo, white students who were in favor of affirmative action during the admissions process were so because they saw a diverse campus as a benefit to their own growth and learning; they didn't consider what the experience would be for those of different backgrounds.

"The problem is that when that is the only way students make sense of affirmative action and diversity," says Warikoo, "it leads to some perverse outcomes," including reverse racial discrimination and anxiety about how others are affecting their success.

In this edition of the Harvard EdCast, Warikoo discusses the study that led to her new book, and reflects on the notions of race, merit, and privilege at elite universities.

Trump’s attempt to ‘drain the swamp’ will make matters worse in Washington

Trump’s attempt to ‘drain the swamp’ will make matters worse in Washington

November 27, 2016

Los Angeles Times | By Lee Drutman (Senior Fellow, New America) and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. '16, Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs, Colubmia University). "If government doesn’t have resources of its own to develop policies, private groups with narrow interests — businesses above all — will happily do it themselves," the authors argue. "The evidence is increasingly clear: Disproportionate special interest and lobbyist influence comes from the simple fact that on many issues, these lobbyists are the only ones investing in crucial policy resources.

Two Immigrants Debate Immigration

Two Immigrants Debate Immigration

November 26, 2016

Reason | A spirited exchange between George J. Borjas and Shikha Dalmia on the empirical claims and proposed policy prescriptions in Borjas's new book, We Wanted Workers. Borjas is the Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Dalmia is a Reason Foundation analyst.

Behind "Make America Great," the Koch Agenda Returns with a Vengeance

Behind "Make America Great," the Koch Agenda Returns with a Vengeance

November 21, 2016

Talking Points Memo | By Theda Skocpol, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, and Caroline Tervo. "At first glance, the victory of Donald Trump suggests that big political money has less clout than imagined in U.S. democracy." Not so, say the authors, whose research has tracked the long-term rise and recent impact of the Koch network. Here they offer their perspective on how the Koch network helped to elect Trump and will now set the policy agenda. "Most media outlets have not noticed that the Koch network is now fusing with the emerging Trump presidency—a situation that leaves citizens in the dark about huge pending policy upheavals in federal programs most American families have long taken for granted." 

Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard. Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. '16) is now Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Caroline Tervo is a junior at Harvard College.

Lawmakers must ask tough questions about the 21st Century Cures Act

Lawmakers must ask tough questions about the 21st Century Cures Act

November 21, 2016

The Hill | By Gregg Gonsalves, Daniel Carpenter, and Joseph Ross: "To those of us who have watched and studied the FDA for years, this legislation is the culmination of years of quiet, subtle deregulation—death to the FDA by a thousand cuts – as this new law includes worrying provisions that deftly and severely weaken the evidentiary requirements for the approval of new drugs and medical devices."

Daniel Carpenter is the Allie S. Freed Professor of Government at Harvard. Gregg Gonsalves and Joseph Ross are both from Yale University.

Why Surging Stocks May Not Mean the Economy Trusts Trump

Why Surging Stocks May Not Mean the Economy Trusts Trump

November 18, 2016

The New York Times | By Sendhil Mullainathan, Robert C. Waggoner Professor of Economics."The early stock market reaction to Donald J. Trump’s election victory was overwhelmingly positive. But that doesn’t mean a Trump presidency will be good for the economy," writes Mullainathan.

Episode 12: Breaking Down a Changing America with Maria Hinojosa and Dan Hopkins

Episode 12: Breaking Down a Changing America with Maria Hinojosa and Dan Hopkins

November 16, 2016

Grapple  | Dan Hopkins (Ph.D. '07), Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, talks about  what contributes to the rise of anti-immigration politics and how it played out in the 2016 presidential election. [Audio + Interview highlights (text)]

Grapple is a new audio podcast, produced by Kouvenda Media and Keystone Crossroads, that "gives voice to people living and working in distressed communities." Keystone Crossroads is a collaborative reporting project of partner public media stations: WHYY, WITF, WESA and WPSU.
View first season ▶ 

Choose your own election post-mortem: Part 2

Choose your own election post-mortem: Part 2

November 16, 2016

Brookings Institution | By Vanessa Williamson (Ph.D. '15) and Carly Knight, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology. Williamson is now a fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings.

Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Michael Luca

Lessons from Yelp's Empirical Approach to Diversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the government can help simplify personal financial decision-making

August 29, 2017

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

Carola Frydman

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

August 3, 2017

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

View the research ►
Education Next

2017 EdNext Poll on School Reform released

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

Natural Disasters by Location: Rich Leave and Poor Get Poorer

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

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

June 17, 2017

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

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

Microeconomic insights

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

June 8, 2017

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

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
How tax rates influence the migration of superstar inventors

How tax rates influence the migration of superstar inventors

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

Does union activism increase workers’ wages?

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

Wealth Inequality and Accumulation

May 12, 2017

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