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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

PBS NewsHour Making Sen$e

Anger or fear: which is worse?

May 24, 2017
PBS NewHour | Economics correspondent Paul Solman explores the biology of leadership in this week's Making Sen$e broadcast. Here he delves more deeply into psychologist Jennifer Lerner's research on fear and anger in a print interview. Jennifer Lerner is Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and Co-Founder of the Harvard Decision Sciences Laboratory.
Young men falling to the bottom of the income ladder

Young men falling to the bottom of the income ladder

May 22, 2017
Boston Globe | Quotes Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics: "People from elite colleges moving to Wall Street and top law firms and to tech companies are doing perfectly fine. In fact, they're doing much better than comparable people in their parents' generation," Katz said. "But for the typical young man, they're donig substantially worse economically than their father."
Tony Jack - Harvard Ed Magazine

Poor, but Privileged

May 20, 2017
Harvard Ed Magazine | New faculty member Tony Jack knows first hand what his research revealed: some low-income kids come to college more prepared than others. Anthony A. Jack (PhD '16) is is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and Assistant Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He also holds the Shutzer Assistant Professorship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
Nudge comes to shove: Policymakers around the world are embracing behavioural science

Nudge comes to shove: Policymakers around the world are embracing behavioural science

May 18, 2017

The Economist | Cites Todd Rogers, Associate Professor at Harvard Kennedy School. Also features work in which Elizabeth Linos (PhD '16) of  Behavioural Insights Team North America participated, a collaboration with the Chattanooga Police Department to attract more minority applicants to the force. (Read a detailed account of the Chattanooga experiment, including an interview with Linos, which appeared earlier this year in Quartz).

Price's Remarks On Opioid Treatment Were Unscientific And Damaging, Experts Say

Price's Remarks On Opioid Treatment Were Unscientific And Damaging, Experts Say

May 16, 2017
NPR | Quoted: Brendan Saloner (PhD '12), an addiction researcher and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "I couldn't believe we were having to reopen this conversation. It totally flies in the face of all the evidence," Saloner says. "These drugs are highly effective in restoring a sense of normalcy in people's lives."
Jessica Simes

Mapping Inequality: How Massachusetts is Failing Its Smaller Cities and Towns

May 14, 2017
Boston University | A detailed look at Jessica Simes's (PhD '16) research on the Massachusetts communities that are disproportionately affected by incarceration. Simes is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Boston University and holds a University Provost Career Development Professorship awarded in 2016.
Modern motherhood

Modern Motherhood Has Economists Worried

May 12, 2017
Bloomberg | Cites Harvard economist Claudia Goldin and Joshua Mitchell (PhD '11), a senior economist at the U.S. Census: "A new life cycle of women's labor force participation has emerged," Goldin and Mitchell found in a recent study published in the Winter 2017 issue of Journal of Economic Perspectives. "Women in the U.S. participate in the workforce at high rates in their 20s—but fewer of them are working in their 30s and early 40s, a time Goldin and Mitchell call 'the sagging middle.'"
View the research
'After Piketty' released today

'After Piketty' released today

May 8, 2017

Harvard University Press | Ellora Derenoncourt, Ph.D. candidate in Economics, has authored a chapter in After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality, released today by Harvard University Press. Derenoncourt's contribution "addresses the deep historical and institutional origins of [global] wealth inequality, which she argues may be driven by what Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson identify as 'extractive' versus 'inclusive' institutions."

The 688-page volume, edited by Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong, and Marshall Steinbaum, brings together published reviews by Nobel laureates Paul Krugman and Robert Solow and newly-commissioned essays by Suresh Naidu, Laura Tyson, Michael Spence, Heather Boushey, Branko Milanovic, and many others. Emmanuel Saez lays out an agenda for future research on inequality, while a variety of essays examine the book's implications for the social sciences more broadly. Harvard Inequality & Social Policy alumna Elisabeth Jacobs (PhD '08), now senior director of research and a senior fellow at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, probes the political dimension in her contribution, "Everywhere and Nowhere: Politics in Capital in the Twenty-First Century." Piketty replies in a substantial concluding chapter.

Child at play

Flipping the Switch

May 5, 2017

Huffington Post | Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund, urges Congress to heed the evidence and invest in early childhood brain development, citing Ron Ferguson's work with the Boston Basics initiative and findings from Harvard's Center on the Developing Child. Ferguson is faculty director of Harvard's Achievement Gap Initiative and a fellow in the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

The New Study That Shows Trumpcare’s Damage

The New Study That Shows Trumpcare’s Damage

May 3, 2017

The New York Times | A new study by Amy Finkelstein (MIT), Nathaniel Hendren (Harvard Economics), and Matthew Shepard (Harvard Kennedy School) exploits a natural experiment from Massachusetts health insurance subsidies and finds that "as subsidies fall, insurance take-up falls rapidly" among low-income individuals.
View the research

Black People Are Not All 'Living in Hell'

Black People Are Not All 'Living in Hell'

April 27, 2017

The New York Times | Thomas B. Edsall column discusses a growing body of scholarly work showing that upper-middle class and affluent African-Americans have experienced substantial income gains within the past 15 years. Cites William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard, who has drawn attention to growing economic inequality and the increased heterogeneity of experience within the black community. Wilson is writing a book on upward social mobility among African-Americans.

Orlando Patterson

Harvard professor recognized with a portrait

April 27, 2017
Harvard Gazette | A portrait of Orlando Patterson, the John Cowles Professor of Sociology at Harvard, is now among the University-wide collection. To date, 17 portraits (including Patterson’s) have been commissioned and hung throughout the Harvard as part of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations’ Portraiture Project, which ensures recognition of the diversity of individuals who serve the University with distinction. Patterson has been a Harvard Professor for 47 years.
Money magazine

How a Harvard Economist Would Make Free Tuition Even Better

April 26, 2017

Money | Discusses new Hamilton Project policy proposal by David J. Deming (PhD '10), Professor of Education and Economics at HGSE and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.

The rising cost of a college degree is only one-half of the problem. The other? Far too few students who start college actually go on to earn a degree. And free tuition models could exacerbate that problem by increasing enrollment at already under-resourced state colleges without improving colleges’ ability to handle an influx of students.

The solution, according to a paper released today by Harvard economist David Deming, is to provide states with a financial incentive to focus on improving outcomes while also reducing costs to families. Deming is suggesting Congress establish a matching grant program, to be paid by the federal government to states with free tuition programs.
Get the full paper

Latest awards

Stefanie Stantcheva

Stefanie Stantcheva named a 2018 Sloan Research Fellow

February 15, 2018
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Stefanie Stantcheva, Associate Professor of Economics, is one of 126 early-career scholars selected for the 2018 Sloan Research Fellowship. The Sloan Research Fellows, drawn from eight scientific fields, "represent the most promising scientific researchers working today." Since 1955, Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win 45 Nobel Prizes, 16 Fields Medals, 69 National Medals of Science, 17 John Bates Clark Medals, and numerous other distinguished awards.

Learn more about Stefanie Stantcheva's work
scholar.harvard.edu/stantcheva
American Academy of Political and Social Science Elects Five Scholars as 2018 Fellows

American Academy of Political and Social Science Elects Five Scholars as 2018 Fellows

January 16, 2018
Edward L. Glaeser is one of five scholars elected to the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences as a 2018 Fellow.  Each year the AAPSS elects scholars who have contributed to the advancement of the social sciences and whose research has informed the public good. Glaeser, the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard University, will be officially inducted into the Academy as the 2018 Herbert Simon Fellow on May 17, 2018, in Washington, DC.
TIAA Samuelson Award 2017

David Laibson, Brigitte Madrian: TIAA Institute Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security

January 5, 2018
Awardees | Professors David Laibson (Harvard Economics) and  Brigitte C. Madrian (Harvard Kennedy School), together with  colleagues John Beshears (Harvard Business School) and James J. Choi (Yale SOM), are the winners of the TIAA Institute's 2017 Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security. They received the award at the 2018 Allied Social Science Associations Annual Meeting (ASSA) for their article, "Does Aggregated Returns Disclosure Increase Portfolio Risk Taking?," published in The Review of Financial Studies (June 2017).
View the research
Bernard Fraga: MPSA Latino/a Caucus Early Career Award

Bernard Fraga: MPSA Latino/a Caucus Early Career Award

December 20, 2017
Awardee | Bernard L. Fraga (PhD '13) is the 2018 recipient of the Midwest Political Science Association Latino/a Caucus Early Career Award. An Assistant Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Fraga's  research examines American electoral politics, racial and ethnic politics, and political behavior.
New RSF grant: Inequality, Institutions, and the Making of Financial Policy

New RSF grant: Inequality, Institutions, and the Making of Financial Policy

December 1, 2017
Russell Sage Foundation | Daniel Carpenter, Allie S. Freed Professor of Government and Director of Social Sciences at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, in collaboration with Susan Yackee of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has been awarded a Russell Sage Foundation grant to examine the ways that special interests use their considerable resources to influence administrative and executive decisionmaking, focusing on financial industry influence on rulemaking in the aftermath of Dodd-Frank.
Michele Lamont

Michèle Lamont awarded Erasmus Prize: Honored for contributions to social science

November 28, 2017
Harvard Gazette | Michèle Lamont, Harvard’s Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, professor of sociology, professor of African and African-American studies, and director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, has been awarded the prestigious 2017 Erasmus Prize.

See also
Laudatio and Acceptance speech

Erasmus Prize Winner 2017 Michèle Lamont - Film portrait (video) by Shanti van Dam of Praemium Erasmianum Foundation
Washington Center for Equitable Growth

Jason Furman, Former Council of Economic Advisers Chairman, Joins Equitable Growth Steering Committee

November 17, 2017
Washington Center for Equitable Growth | Equitable Growth announced today that Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, has joined the organization's steering committee.

“Equitable Growth is a leader in advancing academic and policy-relevant research into whether and how inequality affects growth,” said Furman. “I am thrilled to be joining an organization that is driving the conversation on issues that are central to today’s economic policy debate.”
Mario Luis Small

Mario Luis Small Joins RSF Board of Trustees

November 10, 2017
Russell Sage Foundation | The Russell Sage Foundation announced the appointment of sociologist Mario Luis Small to its board of trustees. Mario Luis Small (PhD '01) is Grafstein Family Professor at Harvard University. 
Orlando Patterson honored by historians

Orlando Patterson honored by historians

September 12, 2017
Harvard Sociology | Wiley Blackwell has recently published a book, On Human Bondage: After Slavery and Social Death, edited by two of the nation’s most eminent historians of antiquity, that assesses the impact of Orlando Patterson's  work, Slavery and Social Death, on ancient, and comparative cultural and historical studies.  

This is the first time that a living sociologist’s work has been so honored by historians of classical antiquity and comparative historical studies. Read more
Amelia Peterson: Emerging Education Policy Scholars program

Amelia Peterson: Emerging Education Policy Scholars program

September 1, 2017

Thomas B. Fordham Institute | Amelia Peterson a PhD candidate in Education, has been selected for the 2017-2018 cohort of Emerging Education Policy Scholars, a program of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and American Enterprise Insitute that brings together newly-minted PhD scholars and PhD candidates to the nation's capital to meet with education-policy experts and to share and brainstorm new directions for K–12 education research. 

Alex Hertel-Fernandez awarded APSA McGillivray Best Paper Award

Alex Hertel-Fernandez awarded APSA McGillivray Best Paper Award

September 1, 2017
Awardee | Alex Hertel-Fernandez (PhD '16) has been awarded the 2017 Fiona McGillivray Prize for the best paper in political economy presented at the previous year’s American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. The paper, "American Employers as Political Machines," has been published in the Journal of Politics 79,1 (2017). Hertel-Fernandez is now Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
Peter Hall one of 66 newly-elected Fellows of the British Academy

Peter Hall one of 66 newly-elected Fellows of the British Academy

July 21, 2017
The British Academy announced the election of its 2017 Fellows, a group representing "the very best of humanities an social science research, in the UK and globally." Harvard's Peter A. Hall, Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies, is one of 20 overseas scholars, known as Corresponding Fellows, selected from outside the U.K.
Devah Pager

RSF Recent Awards for the Future of Work: Devah Pager

July 20, 2017
Russell Sage Foundation | Devah Pager, Director of the Inequality & Social Policy program and a Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, has been awarded a research grant (joint with David Pedulla of Stanford University) to investigate "The Organizational Bases of Discrimination."
Helen B. Marrow

RSF Announces New Visiting Researchers: Helen Marrow

June 20, 2017

Russell Sage Foundation | Helen Marrow (PhD '07), Associate Professor of Sociology at Tufts University, has been selected to be a Visiting Researcher at the Russell Sage Foundation in 2017-2018. While in residence, she will work on her next book on Immigrant-Native Relations in 21st Century America. The book is a collaborative project with scholars Dina Okamato of Indiana University, Linda Tropp of University of Massachsuetts-Amherst, and Michael Jones-Correa of University of Pennsylvania. Read more about Helen Marrow's work:
helenmarrow.com

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).

Latest commentary and analysis

Jason Furman

The real cost of the Republican tax cuts

November 1, 2017
Vox | By Jason Furman and Greg Leiserson. They’ll require spending cuts, or tax increases in other areas. Either could hurt many American families.
PBS NewsHour Making Sen$e

Achieving the American Dream may depend on where you live

October 26, 2017
PBS NewsHour Making Sen$e | The economists Nathaniel Hendren and Raj Chetty have co-authored studies on social mobility and income inequality. Hendren, who teaches at Harvard University, and Chetty, who teaches at Stanford University, recently spoke with PBS NewsHour’s Paul Solman for Thursday’s Making $ense segment. Here is an excerpt of their conversation, which was edited for length and clarity.
Mario Luis Small

How do we decide whom to rely on? A Q&A with Mario L. Small

October 23, 2017
OUPblogIn theory, the answer seems obvious: if the matter is personal, they will turn to a spouse, a family member, or someone close. In practice, what people actually do often belies these expectations. 

We sat down with Mario L. Small, author of Someone To Talk To, to answer some key questions into how we decide whom to rely on and understanding social networks. Small (PhD '01) is Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology at Harvard.
The Big Picture: Violence and Criminal Justice

The Big Picture: Violence and Criminal Justice

October 23, 2017
Public Books | By Patrick Sharkey (PhD '07'), Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at NYU. This is the 11th installment of The Big Picture, a public symposium on what’s at stake in Trump’s America, co-organized by Public Books and NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge. 
William Julius Wilson

The Big Picture: Multiracial Cooperation

October 9, 2017
Public Books | By William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University. This is the first installment of The Big Picture, a public symposium on what’s at stake in Trump’s America, co-organized by Public Books and NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge.
National Academies logo

National Academies Committee Meeting on the Impacts of Sexual Harassment in Academia

October 4, 2017
The National Academies  | The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is undertaking a study on the impact of sexual harassment in academia on the career advancement of women in the scientific, technical, and medical workforce. To advance this discussion, the Committee on the Impacts of Sexual Harassment in Academia held a half-day meeting in Boston. Harvard's Frank Dobbin, a Professor of Sociology whose research has examined discrimination in the workplace and diversity management, spoke in the opening session. View the conference materials and presentation videos online.
Larry Katz

Interview with Lawrence Katz

September 25, 2017
The Region—Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis | Harvard's Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics, on the gender pay gap, fissuring workplaces, decling labor share and superstar firms, and the importance of moving to a good neighborhood early in a child's life. 

By Douglas Clement—Lawrence Katz is an institution in labor economics—indeed, in economics as a whole. As editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics since 1991, principal investigator of the decades-long Moving to Opportunity Program, co-founder and co-scientific director of J-PAL North America and collaborator with Claudia Goldin in pathbreaking research on the causes and consequences of rising education levels, he has been a singular force in shaping the field. Continue reading ▶️ 
How Could Donald Trump and Brexit Happen?

How Could Donald Trump and Brexit Happen?

September 20, 2017
Social Europe | In this spotlight video, Social Europe Editor-in-Chief Henning Meyer discusses the roots of populism with Peter Hall, Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies in the Department of Government and at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies of Harvard University. This conversation is also available as an audio podcast.
Danielle Allen

15 Professors of the Year: Danielle S. Allen

September 14, 2017
Fifteen Minutes Magazine - The Harvard Crimson |Danielle Allen, one of the 15 Professors of 2017, has been trying to shift the conversation from inequality to equality. An interview.
Archon Fung

It's the Gap, Stupid

September 1, 2017

Boston Review | By Archon Fung, Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship. In this essay, Fung explores three new books on inequality which "draw an important and disturbing picture of America as a system of compounding inequality driven by a hereditary meritocracy of professional elites." One of Boston Review's Top Ten Reads in Inequality in 2017.

The fall 2017 Harvard Inequality Seminar featured the authors of two of these books: Thomas Shapiro, author of Toxic Inequality, on November 13, and Richard V. Reeves, author of Dream Hoarders, on November 27, 2017. Joan C. Williams, author of White Working Class, spoke at Harvard's Inequality in America Symposium, organized by the FAS Division of Social Science on October 13, 2017.

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

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