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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Inspiring Memoirs Tell Journey From Child Farm Worker to Academic

Inspiring Memoirs Tell Journey From Child Farm Worker to Academic

December 7, 2015

NBC News | Tomás Jiménez (Ph.D. '05, now Stanford University),  talks about his father's influence on his childhood and his own scholarly work in this feature profile of his father, Professor Francisco Jiménez of Santa Clara University. Francisco Jiménez has recently published a fourth volume in an award-winning series of memoirs for young readers.

Can America Learn from Australia's Gun Laws?

Can America Learn from Australia's Gun Laws?

December 5, 2015

BBC World Service [transcript] | Andrew Leigh (Ph.D. '04) guests. Leigh analyzed the effects of Australia's gun laws in a 2010 paper, written when he was a professor of economics at Australian National University. He's now a member of the Australian Parliament.

The window tax—an open and shut case

The window tax—an open and shut case

December 4, 2015

Financial Times | Andrew Leigh (Ph.D. '04) research on Australia's "baby bonus" noted in an article about the ways in which people adjust behavior to avoid taxes.

How a Conservative-Led Australia Ended Mass Killings

How a Conservative-Led Australia Ended Mass Killings

December 4, 2015

The New York Times | Delves into 2010 study by Andrew Leigh (Ph.D. '04), which estimated that gun suicides per 100,000 people fell 65 percent, and the rate of gun homicides 59 percent, in the decade following Australia's adoption of a national gun control agreement. At the time of the study, Leigh was a professor of economics at Australian National University. He is now a Labor MP in Australia's Parliament.

Opportunity, responsibility, and security: A consensus plan for reducing poverty and restoring the American Dream

Opportunity, responsibility, and security: A consensus plan for reducing poverty and restoring the American Dream

December 3, 2015

A joint AEI-Brookings event | David T. Ellwood, a member of the working group that developed the plan, outlined three fundamental ideas that drove their work at a launch event held at the National Press Club. The proposal grew out a shared belief that poverty and economic mobility are urgent issues for the nation's future, and that if the U.S. is to move forward in reducing poverty and increasing opportunity, those on the political left and right must find a way to overcome the political polarization that threatens prospects for progress.

AEI and Brookings, with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Ford Foundation, convened a group of 15 poverty experts, reflecting diverse ideological and intellectual perspectives, who worked over 14 months to identify core areas of agreement and to craft a comprehensive plan based on strong empirical evidence.
View the plan (PDF)
View event video ▶

Standardized testing works, depending on where you went to school

Standardized testing works, depending on where you went to school

December 2, 2015

Boston Globe | David Deming (Ph.D. '10, now faculty) discusses results from a new study, , which presents the first evidence of the influence of test-based accountability measures on long-term student outcomes. Co-authored with Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15, now Columbia TC), Jennifer Jennings (NYU), and Christopher Jencks, the study appears in the winter 2016 issue of Education Next.

The steep cost of incarceration on women of color

The steep cost of incarceration on women of color

November 29, 2015

CNN Money | Bruce Western draws attention to "how profoundly gendered the whole incarceration story is," the ways in which the financial and caretaking burdens of incarceration fall heavily on females when loved ones are incarcerated.

Why the Economic Fates of America's Cities Diverged

Why the Economic Fates of America's Cities Diverged

November 28, 2015

The Atlantic | Highlights research by Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11, now Harvard Kennedy School faculty) and Peter Ganong (Harvard Ph.D. candidate in Economics) on the importance of regional income convergence in reducing U.S. wage inequality between 1940-1980 and explanations for declining convergence in recent decades.

Why White House Economists Worry About Land-Use Regulations

Why White House Economists Worry About Land-Use Regulations

November 20, 2015

Wall Street Journal | Delves into papers by Raven Molloy (Ph.D. '05, now Federal Reserve Board of Governors) and by Peter Ganong (a Harvard Ph.D. candidate in Economics) and Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11, now HKS faculty), which CEA Chair Jason Furman highlighted in a recent address on the links between land-use regulations, wages, inequality, and intergenerational mobility.

Electing to Ignore the Poorest of the Poor

Electing to Ignore the Poorest of the Poor

November 17, 2015

The New York Times | Quotes William Julius Wilson, Matthew Desmond, Robert Sampson, and Kristin Perkins (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy). 

Also highlights the launch of a new peer-reviewed, open-access journal, The Russell Sage Foundation Journal in the Social Sciences, which leads with a two-volume issue, 'Severe Deprivation in America', edited by Matthew Desmond and featuring articles by Inequality & Social Policy affiliates Christopher Wimer (Ph.D. '07), Kristin L. Perkins and Robert J. Sampson, Bruce Western, and David J. Harding (Ph.D. '05).
Severe Deprivation in America: Issue 1 ▶
Severe Deprivation in America: Issue 2 ▶

What's past is prologue

What's past is prologue

November 13, 2015

Harvard Gazette | MacArthur Fellow and best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates (center) joined a conversation with Bruce Western, Kathryn Edin (Johns Hopkins), and William Julius Wilson at the JFK Jr. Forum. 
See the video here ▶

Latest commentary and analysis

Mario Luis Small: Spencer Lecture 2019

How can social science improve the public discourse in a polarized society?

April 6, 2019

2019 Spencer Lecture | Widespread deficits in qualitative literacy--the ability to use and interpret data collected from interviews, observations, and similar methods--has contributed to a polarized public discourse, argued Mario Small, Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, in his 2019 Spencer Lecture at the AERA Annual Meeting in Toronto.

While there have been considerable gains in quantitative literacy in recent years, Small argued, there has been no commensurate improvement in the public's qualitative literacy. As a result, both producers and consumers of news struggle to identify or produce empirically sound  journalism and commentary. "This paucity is part of the reason that the election of Trump caught many unaware, that the rise of white supremacist movements seemed to many to come out of nowhere, and that our debates about everything from conditions in poor neighborhoods to the motivations of working class people have been stagnant," Small asserted. 

Small maintained that the “habits of thought” practiced by skilled qualitative researchers can provide a path forward, and he outlined three indicators that researchers, journalists, pundits, and all those who strive to inform and influence the public should meet.

View video, slides, written remarks ▶

... Read more about How can social science improve the public discourse in a polarized society?

Jal Mehta

High School Doesn't Have to Be Boring

March 30, 2019

The New York Times | By Jal Mehta PhD 2006 and Sarah Fine. Debate, drama and other extracurriculars provide the excitement many classrooms lack. And they can help overhaul the system, Mehta and Fine argue. The authors spent six years traveling the country studying high schools for their book, In Search of Deeper Learning, just published by Harvard University Press. Mehta is Associate Professor of Education at Harvard. Fine runs a teacher preparation program at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education in San Diego.

A letter to the class of 2023

A letter to the class of 2023

March 29, 2019

New York Daily News | By Natasha Warikoo PhD 2005. Warikoo is Associate Professor of Education at Harvard and the author of The Diversity Bargain.

Robert Manduca

To Fix Regional Inequality, Target the One Percent

March 25, 2019

Washington Monthly | By Robert Manduca, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy. Because some places are doing well while others are not, we tend to assume that disparities are largely a local problem, writes Robert Manduca. But if national income inequality in the US is largely responsible for the growing economic dispartity between its regions, as Manduca's research suggests, fixing struggling regions will require a different set of policies.

... View the research ▶

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Boston Review

Economics After Neoliberalism

February 15, 2019

Boston Review | By Suresh Naidu (Columbia University), Dani Rodrik (Harvard Kennedy School), and Gabriel Zucman (University of California Berkeley). Contemporary economics is finally breaking free from its market fetishism, offering plenty of tools we can use to make society more inclusive, the authors argue.

The Philanthropy Con

The Philanthropy Con

January 10, 2019

Dissent | By Vanessa Williamson PhD 2015, Senior Fellow in Governance Studies, Brookings Institution. In a democracy, taxes are better than charity, argues Williamson.

Why elite colleges should use a lottery to admit students

Why elite colleges should use a lottery to admit students

January 8, 2019

The Conversation | By Natasha Warikoo PhD 2005, Associate Professor of Education, Harvard University. Reprinted in Times Higher Education, Quartz, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. Selected for Five Best Ideas of the Day by The Aspen Institute.

Time Traveler: Claudia Goldin

Time Traveler: Claudia Goldin

December 14, 2018
IMF Finance and Development | People in Economics interview with Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard. By Peter J. Walker.
I voted sticker

Why letting ex-felons vote probably won’t swing Florida

November 2, 2018

Vox | By Marc Meredith and Michael Morse. We analyzed ex-felons with voting rights. Their party affiliation is more mixed than you might think. Michael Morse is a JD candidate at Yale Law School and a PhD candidate in Government at Harvard. Marc Meredith is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Andrew Leigh

The End of the Australian Miracle?

October 9, 2018

The New York Times | By Andrew Leigh (PhD 2004). The country needs to find ways to share prosperity with workers, writes Andrew Leigh, a Labor Party member of the Australian Parliament.

Protesters march in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014 after the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

What happens to police departments that collect more fines? They solve fewer crimes.

September 24, 2018

Washington Post | By Rebecca Goldstein, Michael Sances, and Hye Young You PhD 2014. Based on the authors' research, "Exploitative Revenues, Law Enforcement, and the Quality of Government Service," forthcoming in Urban Affairs Review.

Rebecca Goldstein is a PhD candidate in Government and a Malcolm Hewitt Wiener PhD Scholar in Poverty and Justice. Hye Young You received her PhD in Political Economy and Government from Harvard and is now Assistant Professor in the Wilf Family Department of Politics at New York University.

...
Read more about What happens to police departments that collect more fines? They solve fewer crimes.
JAMA Pediatrics

A Social Justice Framework for Lead Policy

August 27, 2018

JAMA Pediatrics | By Jessica Wolpaw Reyes PhD '02, Professor of Economics, Amherst College. How, given scarce resources, should society best address the threats that lead poses?

Anthony Abraham Jack

It's Hard to Be Hungry on Spring Break

March 17, 2018

The New York Times | By Anthony Abraham Jack, PhD '16. It is one thing to extend coveted invitations to poor students in recruiting them, writes Jack. it's another to really prepare for their arrival. Jack is a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Putting a Face to Anti-Trump Voters

Putting a Face to Anti-Trump Voters

March 10, 2018
NPR Weekend Edition | Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol discusses what she has found in talking to members of the resistance movemet in eight counties in North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A delightful look at chance and outrageous fortune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schooling the Next Generation: Creating Success in Urban Elementary Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

Sosnaud, Benjamin, David Brady, and Steven M Frenk. 2013. “Class in Name Only: Subjective Class Identity, Objective Class Position, and Vote Choice in American Presidential Elections.” Social Problems 60. University of California Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of Social Problems: pp. 81-99. Publisher's Version Abstract
Partly because of the widespread tendency for Americans to think of themselves as “middle class,” subjective class identity often does not correspond to objective class position. This study evaluates the extent to which American voters' subjective class identities differ from their objective class positions. We then evaluate the implications of such differences for voting behavior using American National Election Studies data from eight recent presidential elections. Coding respondents according to whether subjective class identity is higher or lower than objective class position, we construct a novel schema of inflated, deflated, and concordant class perceptions. We find that there are substantial differences between Americans' subjective and objective social class: over two-thirds of the upper-middle class have a deflated perception of their class position, only half of the middle class have concordant perceptions, and more than a third of the working class have inflated perceptions. We also find that this divergence varies depending on sociodemographic factors, and especially race and education. The analyses initially show a pattern that those with inflated class perceptions are more likely to vote Republican. However, this relationship is not significant once we control for race and income.
Beckfield, Jason, Sigrun Olafsdottir, and Benjamin Sosnaud. 2013. “Healthcare Systems in Comparative Perspective: Classification, Convergence, Institutions, Inequalities, and Five Missed Turns.” Annual Review of Sociology 39: 127-146. Publisher's Version Abstract
This article reviews and evaluates recent comparative social science scholarship on healthcare systems. We focus on four of the strongest themes in current research: (a) the development of typologies of healthcare systems, (b) assessment of convergence among healthcare systems, (c) problematization of the shifting boundaries of healthcare systems, and (d) the relationship between healthcare systems and social inequalities. Our discussion seeks to highlight the central debates that animate current scholarship and identify unresolved questions and new opportunities for research. We also identify five currents in contemporary sociology that have not been incorporated as deeply as they might into research on healthcare systems. These five missed turns include emphases on social relations, culture, postnational theory, institutions, and causal mechanisms. We conclude by highlighting some key challenges for comparative research on healthcare systems.

Scholars have long noted how migration streams, once initiated, obtain a self-feeding character. Studies have attributed this phenomenon – the cumulative causation of migration – to expanding social networks that connect migrants in destination to individuals in origin. Studies however, often disagree on how social networks influence migration decisions. While many establish a positive association between individuals’ ties to prior migrants and their migration propensities, only few acknowledge that multiple social mechanisms might account for these interdependencies. To address this issue, we adopt a typology developed by DiMaggio and Garip (2012) and consider three mechanisms by which social ties may influence individuals’ migration choices. We study the prevalence of these mechanisms in the Mexico-US migration context using a mixed methods approach. First, analyzing data from more than 90,000 individuals surveyed by the Mexican Migration Project (MMP) we establish the presence of network effects in migration and test how prior migrants in the family or community increase individuals’ migration propensities, and whether prior migrants reduce the effect of economic or political indicators on migration propensities. Second, we analyze qualitative data from 120 in-depth interviews to determine the different mechanisms that lead to interdependencies in individuals’ migration choices. We thus provide a deeper understanding of migration as a social process, which we contend is crucial for anticipating future flows and policy responses.

Linos, Elizabeth. 2013. “Do Conditional Cash Transfers Shift Votes? Evidence from the Honduran PRAF.” Electoral Studies 32: 864-874. Abstract
How do national social programs influence local voting? This study utilizes the experimental set up of a conditional cash transfer program to show that small, targeted cash transfers can have large electoral effects. The Honduran PRAF program allocated an average of $18 per capita per year to poor households within municipalities that were randomly assigned to receive the program. Although the program was administered at the national level, the program increased an incumbent mayor’s re-election probabilities by 39%, without significantly influencing voting behavior in presidential elections. Moreover, the evidence suggests that transferring cash to poor households were more effective at increasing political support than interventions providing public goods for poor villages.
Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander. 2013. “Dismantling Policy through Fiscal Constriction: Examining the Erosion in State Unemployment Insurance Finances.” Social Service Review 87. The University of Chicago Press: pp. 438-476. Publisher's Version Abstract
Abstract A common proposition in welfare state research is that programs financed through dedicated payroll taxes tend to be more durable. This article examines American unemployment insurance (UI) as an exception to this proposition. UI is a self-financed social insurance program whose benefits have been dismantled over time because of an inability to maintain a constant revenue base. The study first examines the long-run decline in UI finances and concludes that changes in UI taxes are associated with the largest declines in state finances. It then examines why more states have not pursued reforms to strengthen UI finances and finds that opponents of more generous UI benefits have generally succeeded in preventing such measures, thus constricting UI finances and gradually retrenching benefits. These findings have implications for those seeking to improve UI solvency, as well as for the study of welfare state retrenchment more generally.
Huang, Wei, and Yi Zhou. 2013. “Effects of Education on Cognition at Older Ages: Evidence from China’s Great Famine.” Social Science & Medicine 98: 54-62. Publisher's Version Abstract

This paper explores whether educational attainment has a cognitive reserve capacity in elder life. Using pilot data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS), we examined the impact of education on cognitive abilities at old ages. OLS results showed that respondents who completed primary school obtained 18.2 percent higher scores on cognitive tests than those who did not. We then constructed an instrumental variable (IV) by leveraging China’s Great Famine of 1959e1961 as a natural experiment to estimate the causal effect of education on cognition. Two-stage least squares (2SLS) results provided sound evidence that completing primary school significantly increases cognition scores, especially in episode memory, by almost 20 percent on average. Moreover, Regression Discontinuity (RD) analysis provides further evidence for the causal interpretation, and shows that the effects are different for the different measures of cognition we explored. Our results also show that the Great Famine can result in long-term health consequences through the pathway of losing educational opportunities other than through the pathway of nutrition deprivation.

Huang, Wei, Xiaoyan Lei, John Strauss, Geert Ridder, and Yaohui Zhao. 2013. “Health, Height, Height Shrinkage, and SES at Older Ages: Evidence from China.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 5: 86-121. Publisher's Version Abstract

In this paper, we build on the literature that examines associations between height and health outcomes of the elderly. We investigate the associations of height shrinkage at older ages with socioeconomic status, finding that height shrinkage for both men and women is negatively associated with better schooling, current urban residence, and household per capita expenditures. We then investigate the relationships between pre-shrinkage height, height shrinkage, and a rich set of health outcomes of older respondents, finding that height shrinkage is positively associated with poor health outcomes across a variety of outcomes, being especially strong for cognition outcomes.

Feigenbaum, James J, and Cameron A Shelton. 2013. “The Vicious Cycle: Fundraising and Perceived Viability in US Presidential Primaries.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 8 (1): 1-40. Publisher's Version Abstract
Scholars of presidential primaries have long posited a dynamic positive feedback loop between fundraising and electoral success. Yet existing work on both directions of this feedback remains inconclusive and is often explicitly cross-sectional, ignoring the dynamic aspect of the hypothesis. Pairing high-frequency FEC data on contributions and expenditures with Iowa Electronic Markets data on perceived probability of victory, we examine the bidirectional feedback between contributions and viability. We find robust, significant positive feedback in both directions. This might suggest multiple equilibria: a candidate initially anointed as the front-runner able to sustain such status solely by the fundraising advantage conferred despite possessing no advantage in quality. However, simulations suggest the feedback loop cannot, by itself, sustain advantage. Given the observed durability of front-runners, it would thus seem there is either some other feedback at work and/or the process by which the initial front-runner is identified is informative of candidate quality.
Papachristos, Andrew V, David M Hureau, and Anthony A Braga. 2013. “The Corner and the Crew: The Influence of Geography and Social Networks on Gang Violence.” American Sociological Review 78 (3): 417-447. Abstract

Nearly a century of empirical research examines how neighborhood properties influence a host of phenomena such as crime, poverty, health, civic engagement, immigration, and economic inequality. Theoretically bundled within these neighborhood effects are institutions’ and actors’ social networks that are the foundation of other neighborhood-level processes such as social control, mobilization, and cultural assimilation. Yet, despite such long-standing theoretical links between neighborhoods and social networks, empirical research rarely considers or measures dimensions of geography and social network mechanisms simultaneously. The present study seeks to fill this gap by analyzing how both geography and social networks influence an important social problem in urban America: gang violence. Using detailed data on fatal and non-fatal shootings, we examine effects of geographic proximity, organizational memory, and additional group processes (e.g., reciprocity, transitivity, and status seeking) on gang violence in Chicago and Boston. Results show adjacency of gang turf and prior conflict between gangs are strong predictors of subsequent gang violence. Furthermore, important network processes, including reciprocity and status seeking, also contribute to observed patterns of gang violence. In fact, we find that these spatial and network processes mediate racial effects, suggesting the primacy of place and the group in generating gang violence.

Eldik, Yaseen, and Monica C Bell. 2012. “The Establishment Clause and Public Education in an Islamophobic Era.” Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 8: 245-258. Abstract
The public education system has often been considered a critically important site for inter-ethnic dialogue designed to root out the prejudice that leads to discrimination against ethnic minorities. However, the prohibition of certain religious practices in schools has placed the "celebration" of religious diversity in a more precarious position than the promotion of racial diversity in ways that have deleterious effects for Muslim Americans. This Essay argues that Supreme Court jurisprudence on religious establishment in public schools has contributed to public education’s inefficacy as a tool to dismantle fear and prejudice against Muslims. We explore judicial, political, and practical approaches to bringing constitutionally permissible religious education and interfaith dialogue into public schools.
Western, Bruce, Deirdre Bloome, Benjamin Sosnaud, and Laura Tach. 2012. “Economic Insecurity and Social Stratification.” Annual Review of Sociology 38: 341-359. Publisher's Version Abstract
Economic insecurity describes the risk of economic loss faced by workers and households as they encounter the unpredictable events of social life. Our review suggests a four-part framework for studying the distribution and trends in these economic risks. First, a focus on households rather than workers captures the microlevel risk pooling that can smooth income flows and stabilize economic well-being. Second, insecurity is related to income volatility and the risk of downward mobility into poverty. Third, adverse events such as unemployment, family dissolution, or poor health commonly trigger income losses. Fourth, the effects of adverse events are mitigated by insurance relationships provided by government programs, employer benefits, and the informal support of families. Empirical research in these areas reveals high levels of economic insecurity among low-income households and suggests an increase in economic insecurity with the growth in economic inequality in the United States.
Hirsch, Nicole Arlette, and Anthony Abraham Jack. 2012. “What We Face: Framing Problems in the Black Community.” Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race 9: 133-148. Abstract
While many sociological studies analyze the causes, conditions, and mechanisms perpetuating American racial inequality, the literature on how African Americans understand and explain these inequalities is less developed. Drawing on 150 interviews with middle-class and working-class African American men and women, this paper analyzes inductively how respondents define and conceptualize the most pressing obstacles facing their group when probed on this question. We find that middle- and working-class respondents alike identify the problem of racism as the most salient obstacle facing African Americans. Class differences appear with respect to what other obstacles are singled out as salient: while middle-class respondents focus on lack of racial solidarity among Blacks and economic problems (in this order), working-class respondents are more concerned with the fragility of the Black family followed by the lack of racial solidarity. This analysis discusses the relevance of considering how groups make sense of obstacles, and of racism and discrimination in particular, for the study of destigmatization and antiracist strategies of stigmatized minorities.
Papachristos, Andrew, Anthony Braga, and David Hureau. 2012. “Social Networks and the Risk of Gunshot Injury.” Journal of Urban Health 89 (6). Boston: 992-1003. Abstract

Direct and indirect exposure to gun violence have considerable consequences on individual health and well-being. However, no study has considered the effects of one’s social network on gunshot injury. This study investigates the relationship between an individual’s position in a high-risk social network and the probability of being a victim of a fatal or non-fatal gunshot wound by combining observational data from the police with records of fatal and non-fatal gunshot injuries among 763 individuals in Boston’s Cape Verdean community. A logistic regression approach is used to analyze the probability of being the victim of a fatal or non-fatal gunshot wound and whether such injury is related to age, gender, race, prior criminal activity, exposure to street gangs and other gunshot victims, density of one’s peer network, and the social distance to other gunshot victims. The findings demonstrate that 85 % all of the gunshot injuries in the sample occur within a single social network. Probability of gunshot victimization is related to one’s network distance to other gunshot victims: each network association removed from another gunshot victim reduces the odds of gunshot victimization by 25 % (odds ratio = 0.75

Braga, Anthony A, David M Hureau, and Andrew V Papachristos. 2011. “An Ex Post Facto Evaluation Framework for Place-Based Police Interventions.” Evaluation Review 35 (6): 592-626. Abstract

Background: A small but growing body of research evidence suggests that place-based police interventions generate significant crime control gains. While place-based policing strategies have been adopted by a majority of U.S. police departments, very few agencies make a priori commitments to rigorous evaluations. Objective: Recent methodological developments were applied to conduct a rigorous ex post facto evaluation of the Boston Police Department’s Safe Street Team (SST) hot spots policing program. Research Design: A nonrandomized quasi-experimental design was used to evaluate the violent crime control benefits of the SST program at treated street segments and intersections relative to untreated street segments and intersections. Propensity score matching techniques were used to identify comparison places in Boston. Growth curve regression models were used to analyze violent crime trends at treatment places relative to control places. Units of Analysis: Using computerized mapping and database software, a micro-level place database of violent index crimes at all street segments and intersections in Boston was created. Measures: Yearly counts of violent index crimes between 2000 and 2009 at the treatment and comparison street segments and intersections served as the key outcome measure. Results: The SST program was associated with a statistically significant reduction in violent index crimes at the treatment places relative to the comparison places without displacing crime into proximate areas. Conclusions: To overcome the challenges of evaluation in real-world settings, evaluators need to continuously develop innovative approaches that take advantage of new theoretical and methodological approaches.

Robbery, and the fear it inspires, has a profound effect on the quality of life in certain urban neighborhoods. Recent advances in criminological research suggest that there is significant clustering of crime in micro places, or "hot spots," that generate a disproportionate amount of criminal events in a city. In this article, the authors use growth curve regression models to uncover distinctive developmental trends in robbery incidents at street segments and intersections in Boston over a 29-year period. The authors find that robberies are highly concentrated at a small number of street segments and intersections rather than spread evenly across the urban landscape over the study time period. Roughly 1 percent and 8 percent of street segments and intersections in Boston are responsible for nearly 50 percent of all commercial robberies and 66 percent of all street robberies, respectively, between 1980 and 2008. Our findings suggest that citywide robbery trends may be best understood by examining micro-level trends at a relatively small number of places in urban environments.

Braga, Anthony A, Anne M Piehl, and David Hureau. 2009. “Controlling Violent Offenders Released to the Community: An Evaluation of the Boston Reentry Initiative.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 46 (4): 411-436. Abstract

Despite the high level of funding and policy interest in prisoner reentry, there is still little rigorous scientific evidence to guide jurisdictions in developing reentry programs to enhance public safety, particularly for managing those who pose the greatest safety risks. The Boston Reentry Initiative (BRI) is an interagency initiative to help transition violent adult offenders released from the local jail back to their Boston neighborhoods through mentoring, social service assistance, and vocational development.This study uses a quasi-experimental design and survival analyses to evaluate the effects of the BRI on the subsequent recidivism of program participants relative to an equivalent control group. The authors find that the BRI was associated with significant reductions—on the order of 30 percent—in the overall and violent arrest failure rates.

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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.