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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Finding Common Political Ground on Poverty

Finding Common Political Ground on Poverty

February 2, 2016

The New York Times | Economic Scene column by Eduardo Porter examines the AEI-Brookings plan for reducing poverty and enhancing mobility, which David T. Ellwood, the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy and a participant of the working group that crafted the plan, presented at a Washington Press Club event in December. The plan is a coherent approach, writes Porter, that "raises a tantalizing prospect. Is it possible that combating America’s entrenched poverty — the deepest among advanced industrialized nations— may have finally become salient enough for the left and right to break through the ideological gridlock?"

Black America and the Class Divide

Black America and the Class Divide

February 1, 2016

The New York Times | Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. draws on William Julius Wilson's observations on the significance of income inequality within the black community, noting the growing share of black Americans reaching upper-middle income prosperity in recent decades on one hand, and the relatively enduring share of black Americans living on incomes of less than $15,000 on the other. 

The costs of inequality: When a Fair Shake Isn't Enough

The costs of inequality: When a Fair Shake Isn't Enough

February 1, 2016

Harvard Gazette | First in a series on what Harvard scholars are doing to deepen our understanding of inequality—its causes, consequences, and policies to address one of America’s most vexing problems. Features Inequality & Social Policy faculty participants Jennifer Hochschild, Archon Fung, Lawrence Katz, and Bruce Western, along with Michael Norton of HBS, who is scheduled to speak in the Inequality & Social Policy Seminar Series on March 28.  This article also appeared online at U.S. News and World Report.... Read more about The costs of inequality: When a Fair Shake Isn't Enough

Work-life balance in Japan leans in one direction

Work-life balance in Japan leans in one direction

January 30, 2016

The Japan Times | Opinion essay draws on findings of Mary Brinton, Reischauer Institute Professor of Sociology and Department Chair, and Eunmi Mun (Amherst College) in their article, "Between state and family: managersimplementation and evaluation of parental leave policies in Japan."
Read the research

Why ‘Nudges’ to Help Students Succeed Are Catching On

Why ‘Nudges’ to Help Students Succeed Are Catching On

January 29, 2016

The Chronicle of Higher Education | Highlights research by Judith Scott-Clayton (Ph.D. '09, now Columbia University Teachers College) illustrating how insights from behavioral economics are influencing education research and policy: "Higher education presents a 'perfect storm for the frailties of human reasoning,' Andrew P. Kelly says. 'The system often seems set up to frustrate people.' That’s especially true for the least-advantaged students, as Judith Scott-Clayton showed in 'The Shapeless River,' a paper describing the unstructured environment that community-college students must navigate."

Takeover to Turnaround: What States and Schools Can Learn from the Massachusetts Takeover of Lawrence Public Schools

Takeover to Turnaround: What States and Schools Can Learn from the Massachusetts Takeover of Lawrence Public Schools

January 28, 2016

HGSE Usable Knowledge | Spotlights new research by Inequality Fellow Beth Shueler (Ed.D. candidate), Joshua Goodman (Associate Professor, Harvard Kennedy School), and David Deming (Ph.D. '10 and Associate Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education), which found achievement gains from state takeover and district-level turnaround of Lawrence public schools  in a new working paper that may serve as a blueprint for other districts and states.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen to Receive Radcliffe Medal

Fed Chair Janet Yellen to Receive Radcliffe Medal

January 27, 2016

Harvard Magazine | Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School,  and Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, are among the participants in a Radcliffe Day event on May 27 honoring Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair and this year's Radcliffe Medalist. The day will open with the panel "Building an Economy for Prosperity and Equality," featuring Elmendorf and Goldin. As the article notes,"Yellen has been outspoken on the subject of inequality, and last year defended the Fed’s interest in reducing the nation’s wealth gap." Other Radcliffe Day participants include former Fed Chair Ben S. Bernanke; economics professor Gregory Mankiw of Harvard; Cecilia Rouse, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs at Princeton University; economics professor David Autor of MIT, and Louise Sheiner of the Brookings Institution. The day's events will be webcast live.
For more information: Radcliffe Day 2016 ►

District in Turnaround: Ed.D. candidate's study on Massachusetts' Lawrence Public Schools shows improvements for turnaround district.

District in Turnaround: Ed.D. candidate's study on Massachusetts' Lawrence Public Schools shows improvements for turnaround district.

January 26, 2016

Harvard Graduate School of EducationNew research by Inequality Fellow Beth Schueler (Ed.D. candidate), co-authored by Joshua Goodman (Associate Professor, Harvard Kennedy School) and David Deming (Ph.D. '10 and Associate Professor, HGSE), demonstrates the direct impact of state takeover of the Lawrence Public School district on student performance and outcomes.

“While researchers can point to several successful efforts to improve individual schools serving primarily low-income students, examples of district-wide turnaround have been frustratingly few and far between,” said Schueler. “Lawrence is an exciting case because it provides an encouraging proof point that accountability-driven improvement of a chronically low-performing school district is indeed possible.”... Read more about District in Turnaround: Ed.D. candidate's study on Massachusetts' Lawrence Public Schools shows improvements for turnaround district.

New Koch: Rebranding the Koch Brothers

New Koch: Rebranding the Koch Brothers

January 25, 2016

The New Yorker | Highlights new, data-rich study by Theda Skocpol (Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology) and Alex Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy) on grassroots mobilizations by the Koch Network. Read their paper, “The Koch Effect: The Impact of a Cadre-Led Network on American Politics and Policy," which includes early results from a collaborative study of “The Shifting U.S. Political Terrain” under way at Harvard University.

The Great Immigration-Data Debate

The Great Immigration-Data Debate

January 19, 2016

The Atlantic | Discusses latest analysis by George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, in an ongoing debate among economists on the wage impact of the Mariel boatlift on Miami workers. Read Borjas's NBER paper, "The Wage Impact of the Marielitos: Additional Evidence" (January 2016). Links to Borjas's earlier papers and further discussion of these issues in his recently revived blog may be found at his faculty website.

Lunch with the FT: Roland Fryer

Lunch with the FT: Roland Fryer

January 15, 2016

Financial Times | Roland Fryer, Henry Lee Professor of Economics. Over steak and fries, the US economist says that the best way to combat police violence and poor schools is through data, not personal experience.

The Republican Party's 50-State Solution

The Republican Party's 50-State Solution

January 13, 2016

The New York Times | Drawing on research by Inequality & Social Policy faculty member Theda Skocpol and doctoral fellow Alex Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy), Thomas Edsall column analyzes how "sustained determination on the part of the conservative movement has paid off in an unprecedented realignment of power in state governments," which have proved to be more receptive to efforts by the Koch Brothers and conservative allies to protect business interests.

Inequality is a problem schools alone can't fix

Inequality is a problem schools alone can't fix

January 12, 2016

The Guardian | Op-ed urging that British politicians and government minsters step up in addressing inequality by taking seriously the arguments of Our Kids, by Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy: "For what Our Kids shows is the desperate need to move discussion of disadvantage and social mobility beyond the school gate into the much more vexed territory of family, parenting, community and economic injustice."

Lowering healthcare spending by tackling non-medical issues

Lowering healthcare spending by tackling non-medical issues

January 8, 2016

Marketplace | Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, comments on a federal experiment to improve care and lower healthcare spending by focusing on social problems like homelessness and domestic violence. Chandra suggests that money could be better spent by increasing funding for community health centers and hospitals that serve low-income communities—interventions, he says, that we know improve health and are cost-effective.

When Teamwork Doesn't Work for Women

When Teamwork Doesn't Work for Women

January 8, 2016

The New York Times | Spotlights research by Heather Sarsons, Ph.D. candidate in Economics, showing that when female economists co-author with men, they incur a substantial penalty in their tenure prospects that their male colleagues do not.

"The numbers tell a compelling story of men getting the credit whenever there is any ambiguity about who deserves credit for work performed in teams. And this is a very big deal: The bias that Ms. Sarsons documents is so large that it may account on its own for another statistic: [That while women in the field publish as much as men], female economists are twice as likely to be denied tenure as their male colleagues." 

"The numbers," writes Justin Wolfers (Ph.D. '01, now University of Michigan) in his review of Sarsons's research, "tell a compelling story of men getting the credit whenever there is any ambiguity about who deserves credit for work performed in teams.

"And this is a very big deal: The bias that Ms. Sarsons documents is so large that it may 
account on its own for another statistic: [That while women in the field publish as much as men], female economists are twice as likely to be denied tenure as their male colleagues." 

Beyond the field of economics, the pattern that Sarsons pinpoints, suggests Wolfers, "may explain why women struggle to get ahead in other professions involving teamwork."

In contrast, in settings where attribution is more explicit, reducing the need to draw inferences (where biases can enter), Sarsons hypothesizes that we should see men and women benefiting in more equal measure from collaborative work. Her initial results from sociology, where authors are often listed in order of contribution, lend support to this idea: There she found no penalty to female coauthors.
Go to the NYTimes article ►
View the original research ►

Latest commentary and analysis

Christmas in April

Christmas in April

December 8, 2015

No Jargon [Podcast—Ep. 11] | Laura M. Tach (Ph.D. '10, now Cornell University) discusses the Earned Income Tax Credit and explains why it is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in America. This Scholars Strategy Network podcast presents interviews with top university scholars on the politics, policy problems, and social issues facing the nation. Subscribe  in iTunes, or listen to individual episodes at the SSN website.

What's Replacing No Child Left Behind?

What's Replacing No Child Left Behind?

December 7, 2015

Harvard EdCast | Martin West (Ph.D. '06, now faculty) discusses the big changes in federal legislation replacing No Child Left Behind, and what it may mean.

Event video: Coping with Extreme Poverty on $2.00 a Day

Event video: Coping with Extreme Poverty on $2.00 a Day

November 27, 2015

Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy | $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, the focus of the Malcolm Wiener Center book event with authors Kathryn Edin (Johns Hopkins University) and H. Luke Shaefer (University of Michigan), has been selected as one of 100 Notable Books of 2015 by The New York Times Book Review.

Edin and Shaefer were joined for a discussion with David T. Ellwood and William Julius Wilson, November 10, 2015, at the Harvard Kennedy School. 
View the event video ▶

Suffrage in America

Suffrage in America

November 20, 2015

James Madison's Montpelier | Alex Keyssar interviewed in a series of videos for the "Suffrage in America" online course by the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier. Read more about the course ▶

The Future of the Welfare State

The Future of the Welfare State

November 17, 2015

Policy Network | Peter A. Hall examines the difficulties facing the modern welfare state, the role of predistribution, and the politics of social investment. An excerpt from the Policy Network's new book,  The Predistribution Agenda.

Race and Justice in America: An Atlantic Summit

Race and Justice in America: An Atlantic Summit

November 12, 2015

The Atlantic | Devah Pager participated in a one-day summit on Race and Justice in America, organized by The Atlantic  in Washington, D.C.  View the full program, speakers, and event video online. Pager appears in session 3: "Why We Incarcerate."

Business at the Ballot Box

Business at the Ballot Box

November 4, 2015

No Jargon [Podcast—Ep. 5] | Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy, discusses his research in this new Scholars Strategy Network podcast. No Jargon presents interviews with top university scholars on the politics, policy problems, and social issues facing the nation. Subscribe  in iTunes, or listen to individual episodes at the SSN website.

What is the Biggest Misconception About Racism?

What is the Biggest Misconception About Racism?

October 28, 2015

The Atlantic [video, 3 minutes] | Bruce Western is among those interviewed in this video segment filmed earlier this year at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Also featured: Author Ta-Nehisi Coates, student activist Clifton Kinnie of Howard University, Former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, and Tracey Meares of Yale Law School.

The Kochs, Americans for Prosperity, and the Right

The Kochs, Americans for Prosperity, and the Right

October 28, 2015

No Jargon [Podcast—Ep. 1]| Theda Skocpol kicks off  a new weekly podcast series from the Scholars Strategy Network with a discussion of the Shifting Terrain project. No Jargon presents interviews with top university scholars on the politics, policy problems, and social issues facing the nation. "Powerful research, intriguing perspectives—and no jargon." Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, or listen to individual episodes at the SSN website.

Causal Analysis of Non-Experimental Data

Causal Analysis of Non-Experimental Data

October 26, 2015

Serious Science | Sociologist Christopher Winship discusses how experimental thinking  can be applied in contexts where experiments are not possible. Part of Serious Science's online project to spread scientific ideas via conversations with scientists.