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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

How America Lost its Mojo

How America Lost its Mojo

May 27, 2016

The AtlanticAmericans are less likely to switch jobs, move to another state, or create new companies than they were 30 years ago (or 100 years ago). What’s going on? Cites research by Raven Molloy (Ph.D. '06, now a senior economist with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System) and colleagues (See their BPEA paper). Also cites research by Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11, now Assistant Professor, HKS) linking rising housing prices in wealthy areas to declining income convergence (See their paper).

Chicago's Murder Problem

Chicago's Murder Problem

May 27, 2016

The New York Times | Why homicide rates in Chicago outpace those in New York, with insights from Robert Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences.

Prosperity and Equality

Prosperity and Equality

May 27, 2016

Harvard Magazine | Dean  Douglas Elmendorf of  the Harvard Kennedy School and Claudia Goldin, Harvard's Henry Lee Professor of Economics, were among the participants in "Building an Economy for Prosperity and Equality," the opening symposium of Radcliffe Day, which honored  Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair, with this year's Radcliffe Medal. Harvard Magazine writes that the panel, which also included economists David Autor of MIT, Louise Sheiner of the Brookings Institution, and Celia Rouse of Princeton University as moderator, "featured some of the most interesting researchers addressing these problems...in a searching, intelligent exchange of the sort that rarely occurred in the debates televised during the primary season."
View the discussion [85 minutes] ▶

Janet Yellen Talks Policy and Inequality at Radcliffe Day Celebration

Janet Yellen Talks Policy and Inequality at Radcliffe Day Celebration

May 27, 2016

Harvard Magazine | Harvard's Commencement week concluded with a a program "honoring Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, the recipient of this year’s Radcliffe Medal and one of today’s most publicly vocal advocates of shared prosperity." Harvard Magazine notes that "Yellen has been unapologetic in her view that promoting broadly shared prosperity is inherent in the Fed’s mandate, a role which has cemented her leadership in the public conversation on inequality."
View event video ▶

Janet Yellen to receive Radcliffe Medal

Janet Yellen to receive Radcliffe Medal

May 26, 2016

Harvard Gazette | Dean Douglas Elmendorf of  Harvard Kennedy School and Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard, are among the participants in a Radcliffe Day event on May 27 honoring Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair and this year's Radcliffe Medalist. The day will open with the panel "Building an Economy for Prosperity and Equality," featuring Elmendorf and Goldin. Other Radcliffe Day participants include former Fed Chair Ben S. Bernanke; economics professor Gregory Mankiw of Harvard; Cecilia Rouse, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs at Princeton University; economics professor David Autor of MIT, and Louise Sheiner of the Brookings Institution. The day's events will be webcast live beginning at 10:30 am.

Inside the Eviction Epidemic

Inside the Eviction Epidemic

May 26, 2016

WNET Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America | Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, provides a firsthand look at the harsh realities of living in a trailer park [video segment: 8:27 minutes]. See the full documentary, The Last Trailer Park, which includes Desmond's interview [26:47 minutes].

Bringing Back Labor, Without the Unions

Bringing Back Labor, Without the Unions

May 24, 2016

Bloomberg View | Cites study by Bruce Western (Professor of Sociology and Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice) and Jake Rosenfeld (Washington University in St. Louis), which found that the decline of organized labor between 1973 and 2007 explains one-third of the rise in wage inequality among men during this time (See their ASR article), and by Richard Freeman (Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics) and colleagues, which finds a "strong, though not necessarily causal link between unions, the middle class, and intergenerational mobility." (See Freeman et. al. study)

Neighborhoods Can Shape Success—Down to the Level of a City Block

Neighborhoods Can Shape Success—Down to the Level of a City Block

May 23, 2016

The Atlantic | A small but intriguing study done in West Philadelphia points to the importance of what researchers call microenvironments.  Features Laura Tach (Ph. '10) of Cornell University, lead author of the study. Also cites work of  Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren and Lawrence Katz.

Not Leaving, Just Changing Jobs

Not Leaving, Just Changing Jobs

May 23, 2016

Education Next | By Paul E. Peterson, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government. With this issue, Peterson passes leadership of the journal Education Next to Martin West (Ph.D. 06), Associate Professor of Education, who will now serve as editor-in-chief. Peterson will continue to serve as senior editor for the publication, which he and collaborators launched 17-years ago.

Researchers Find Surprising Results After Testing A New Way To Measure Poverty

Researchers Find Surprising Results After Testing A New Way To Measure Poverty

May 19, 2016

NPR Morning Edition | Christopher Wimer (Ph.D. '07), Co-Director of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, is working with colleagues on a better way to measure poverty in New York City. Visit the interactive website to learn more about the Robin Hood Poverty Tracker. Scott Winship (Ph.D. '09), Walter B. Wriston Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, agrees that the research reveals some useful findings but expresses reservations about the measures, arguing that they may misdirect attention and public resources from those who really are struggling.

The Complex Relationship between Data and Cities

The Complex Relationship between Data and Cities

May 18, 2016

The Atlantic CityLab |Checking in on the latest advancements, and the challenges that remain. Highlights work by faculty affiliate Robert Sampson and Jackelyn Hwang (Ph.D. '15, now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Princeton University), and a recent NBER paper by faculty affiliates Edward L. Glaeser and Michael Luca (with colleagues Scott Duke Kominers and Nikhil Naik), which uses computer visioning to better understand geographic differences in income and housing prices.

The Destructive Legacy of Housing Segregation

The Destructive Legacy of Housing Segregation

May 17, 2016

The Atlantic | By Patrick Sharkey (Ph.D. '07), New York University. Less visible than the rise of economic inequality is the way it has altered America's urban neighborhoods. Two books—Evicted by Harvard's Matthew Desmond and Ghetto by Mitchell Duneier (Princeton)—should help change that, writes Sharkey.

Latest commentary and analysis

Jeremy Levine

In many poor urban neighborhoods, nonprofits are superseding elected politicians as neighborhood representatives

November 7, 2016

LSE US Centre | By Jeremy R. Levine (Ph.D. '16), Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies at the University of Michigan. The past five decades have seen community based nonprofit organizations become an integral component of urban policy, a trend which has been accelerated by the growth of public-private partnerships. In new research using fieldwork in Boston, Massachusetts, Jeremy Levine finds that in some poor urban communities, nonprofits are actually taking the place of elected officials as legitimate community representatives. While this move towards private political representation means that urban policymakers need to reconsider how neighborhoods are represented and gain access to resources, they also raise questions of accountability.
View the research (American Sociological Review).

U.S. Election Coverage: Leah Wright Rigueur

U.S. Election Coverage: Leah Wright Rigueur

November 6, 2016

Al Jazeera TV | Tune in November 6-9 as Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor at Harvard Kennedy School, joins Al Jazeera TV's U.S. elections coverage team as they broadcast live from AJTV studios.

Sentencing Reform in an Era of Racialized Mass Incarceration

Sentencing Reform in an Era of Racialized Mass Incarceration

November 3, 2016

Doctoral fellow Alix Winter, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, and Matthew Clair, a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, respond to the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission's invitation to comment on issues relating to sentencing policies and practices for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Winter and Clair provide "a brief overview of sociological research on mass incarceration, sentencing practices, and racial/ethnic minorities’ disproportionate contact with criminal justice institutions," drawing the Commission's attention to "empirical research pertaining to potential sentencing practices, policies, and principles that may assist the Commonwealth in reducing racial/ethnic sentencing disparities". They then draw on this research to make specific recommendations.

Clair and Winter co-authored a related academic article, “How Judges Think about Racial Disparities: Situational Decision-Making in the Criminal Justice System," published in Criminology earlier this year. Learn more about their work at their homepages:
scholar.harvard.edu/alixwinter
scholar.harvard.edu/matthewclair

An Interview with Matthew Desmond: The Author of 'Evicted' reveals why the housing crisis is one of the most pressing problems facing our nation.

An Interview with Matthew Desmond: The Author of 'Evicted' reveals why the housing crisis is one of the most pressing problems facing our nation.

November 2, 2016

Read it Forward | Interview with Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted and the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences: "It's heartbreaking. I mean, when you watch a mother decide between buying food for her family or paying the rent, or, after a loved one dies, debating between paying for the funeral or paying the rent, you’re seeing people confront really terrible choices. Poverty is not pretty. Poverty is a very ugly thing."

"We're at a point right now where half of poor renters below the poverty line are spending over 50% of their income on housing and at least one in four is spending 70% of their income on housing. We can’t do anything about inequality if we don’t address that problem....A lot of times when we hear policy and prescriptions about how to ameliorate poverty in the U.S., they are talking about jobs. Good jobs, better jobs, great. But it’s half the solution. We have to address this other thing too."

Can US Elections Be Rigged?

Can US Elections Be Rigged?

November 2, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast | Alex Keyssar, Matthew W. Stirling Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy, offers an historical perspective to modern worries about rigged elections and weighs the prevention of voter fraud against the risk of voter suppression.

Michele Lamont

Interview with Michèle Lamont: Video

November 2, 2016

COES—Centro de Estudios de Conflicto y Cohesión Social | Interview with Michèle Lamont, a keynote speaker at the 2016 COES-LSE annual Inequalities conference, held at the Universidad de Chile in Santiago, November 2-4, 2016. Lamont is Harvard's Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, Professor of Sociology and African American Studies, and Director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. (Interview is in English with Spanish subtitles).

Episode 10: Breaking Down Gentrification with Jackelyn Hwang

Episode 10: Breaking Down Gentrification with Jackelyn Hwang

November 2, 2016

Grapple  | Jackelyn Hwang (Ph.D. '15) joins to discuss the causes of gentrification, the way in which race factors into the way that gentrification happens, and what happens to renters and homeowners in gentrifying neighborhoods. Hwang is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton University, and will join Stanford University's faculty as Assistant Professor of Sociology in fall 2017. [Audio + Interview highlights (text)]

Voter Discrimination Starts Well Before Election Day

Voter Discrimination Starts Well Before Election Day

November 1, 2016

Boston Review | By Ariel R. White (Ph.D. '16), Assistant Professor of Political Science, MIT. "Even if voter ID laws don’t dramatically affect minority turnout, we should be concerned about them. They levy a sort of tax on minority voters, who have to work harder to get information from local officials, jump through bureaucratic hoops to get ID they may not otherwise have, and face disproportionate scrutiny from pollworkers," writes White.

Solutions to Income Volatility: A Discussion with Elisabeth Jacobs

Solutions to Income Volatility: A Discussion with Elisabeth Jacobs

November 1, 2016

The Aspen Institute | Discussion with Elisabeth Jacobs (Ph.D. '08), Senior Director for Policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Her research focuses on economic inequality and mobility, family economic security, poverty, social insurance, and the politics of inequality. Here, she shares insights on how best to help families struggling with income volatility. 

Why the establishment was blindsided by Donald Trump

Why the establishment was blindsided by Donald Trump

October 28, 2016

Washington Post | By Danielle Allen, Professor of Government and Education. He has revealed the U.S. to be one nation living in two very different worlds, argues Allen, a political theorist and contributing columnist for the Post.

Paying for Outcomes: Beyond the Social Impact Bond Buzz

Paying for Outcomes: Beyond the Social Impact Bond Buzz

October 28, 2016

Inside Story (Australia) | By Matt Tyler (MPP '17) and Ben Stephens (MPP '17). Social impact bonds’ most valuable contribution could be to support the expansion of pay-for-success contracting to dramatically improve the lives of vulnerable Australians, write Tyler and Stephens.

Voting rights, unsettled

Voting rights, unsettled

October 25, 2016

Harvard Gazette  | Interview with Alex Keyssar, Matthew W. Stirling Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School."Let me also make a distinction between disenfranchisement and voter suppression. ... What’s going on now is mostly a matter of suppression — and for a lot of people, it’s making it close to impossible to vote," said Harvard Kennedy School Professor Alex Keyssar.

Room for Debate: Silicon Valley Pushes for Immigration Reform for Its Own Purposes

Room for Debate: Silicon Valley Pushes for Immigration Reform for Its Own Purposes

October 24, 2016

The New York Times | George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, weighs in: Is an H-1B visa program that brings in high-skilled immigrant workers is benefiting the American people? Part of a Room for Debate forum that asks what is lost and what is gained as Silicon Valley firms build influence in Washington. Borjas is the author most recently of We Wanted Workers: Unravellng the Immigration Narrative (W.W. Norton & Co., 2016).