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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Michèle Lamont

Women in Research: Interview with Michèle Lamont

March 8, 2020
Wiley | In recognition of International Women's Day, Wiley is celebrating the resounding impact women in research have had on the advancement of their disciplines. It sat down with Harvard's Michèle Lamont, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and Sociology and African American Studies, to learn more about her story. Her top-cited article: "From ‘having’ to ‘being’: self‐worth and the current crisis of American society," published in the British Journal of Sociology (June 2019).
Read the research ►
Illustration by Adam Niklewicz for "Could College Be Free?"

Could College Be Free?

February 1, 2020

Harvard Magazine | In 2016, the United States spent $91 billion subsidizing access to higher education. According to David Deming, that spending isn’t as progressive or effective as it could be. Deming's proposal: redirect current spending to make public colleges tuition-free, instead of subsidizing higher education in other, roundabout ways. Deming, Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, is a professor at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Stefanie Stantcheva

Can populist economics coexist with pro-immigrant policies?

January 15, 2020
Vox | A new study by professors Alberto Alesina and Stefanie Stantcheva of Harvard Economics finds that misperceptions about immigration are widespread, and mostly serve to reduce support for redistributive programs. The paper is part of a broader project in which Alesina and Stantcheva use large-scale online surveys to measure how voters’ support for redistributive policies are shaped by perceptions around immigration, social mobility, and other factors.
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Diversity, Immigration and Redistibution ►
Immigration and Redistribution ►

Also cited: A recent paper by Inequality & Social Policy PhD alumni Charlotte Cavaillé and John Marshall in the American Political Science Review, who found that the introduction of mandatory schooling laws in Europe causally reduced opposition to immigration. Cavaillé (PhD in Government and Social Policy, 2014) is a visiting fellow at Princeton University's Center for the Study of Democratic Politics (2019-2020) and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy. Marshall (PhD in Government, 2016) is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University.
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Zoe B. Cullen

Here’s exactly how much extra money the ‘old boys’ club’ gives men over their career

December 11, 2019

Market Watch | A new study by Zoe Cullen, Assistant Professor at Harvard Business School, and Ricardo Perez-Truglia of UCLA on schmoozing and the gender gap finds that when male employees are assigned male managers they are promoted faster in the following years than if assigned female managers, whereas female employees have the same career progression regardless of the manager's gender. This male-to-male advantage can explain a third of the gender gap in promotions in their study.

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Van C. Tran

For Professor Van C. Tran, Former Refugee Who Went from Hostos to Harvard, Joining the Graduate Center is about Values

December 10, 2019

The Graduate Center, CUNY | In-depth profile of Van C. Tran's research, his story, and his life. Van C. Tran received his PhD in Sociology and Social Policy from Harvard in 2011. He is now Associate Professor of Sociology and Deputy Director for the Center for Urban Research at The Graduate Center, CUNY.

Listen to Van C. Tran interview on The Thought Project ►

Boston Review

Our Top Essays of 2019

December 7, 2019

Boston Review | Among its top 10 of 2019:  "Economics After Neoliberalism," a forum with Suresh Naidu (Columbia University), Dani Rodrik (Harvard Kennedy School), and Gabriel Zucman (UC Berkeley).

“Neoliberalism—or market fundamentalism, market fetishism, etc.—is not the consistent application of modern economics, but its primitive, simplistic perversion. And contemporary economics is rife with new ideas for creating a more inclusive society.”

Blythe George

Blythe George to be published in Vision 2020, a book of 21 innovative and evidence-based ideas to shape the 2020 policy debate

December 3, 2019

Washington Center for Equitable Growth | Blythe George, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, is a contributor to the forthcoming book, Vision 2020: Evidence for a Stronger Economy, to be released in mid-to-late January by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. The book, announced at Equitable Growth's Vision 2020 conference last month, is "a compilation of 21 innovative, evidence-based, and concrete ideas to shape the 2020 policy debate." A member of the Yurok tribe, Blythe focuses on reentry back into tribal life after incarceration.

Robert Manduca

Watch Four Decades of Inequality Drive American Cities Apart

December 2, 2019

The New York Times | Research by Robert Manduca, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, is featured in The Upshot. The articles cited have been published in Social Forces and ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, respectively.

“'We’ve had this pulling apart of the overall income distribution,” said Robert Manduca, a Ph.D. student in sociology and social policy at Harvard who has found that about half of the economic divergence between different parts of the country is explained by trends in national inequality. “That overall pulling apart has had very different effects in different places, based on which kinds of people were already living in those places.'

"Mr. Manduca says national policies like reinvigorating antitrust laws would be most effective at reducing inequality (the consolidation of many industries has meant, among other things, that smaller cities that once had company headquarters have lost those jobs, sometimes to big cities)."

robertmanduca.com ►

Tomiko Brown=Nagin

Brown-Nagin on her own path and Radcliffe's

November 13, 2019

Harvard Gazette | Radcliffe Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin discusses her priorities for Harvard's institute devoted to interdisciplinary study and research. Outlining a new initiative called Radcliffe Engaged—one of two focus areas of which will be law, education, and justice—Brown-Nagin identifies the work of Devah Pager as a model for the engaged scholarship the initiative aims to cultivate:

"I’m thinking, for example, of Devah Pager, our late colleague and a consummate, engaged intellectual who conducted sophisticated research that had an impact on national policy conversations at the intersection of race, employment, and incarceration. Devah’s work serves as a model for the kind of engaged scholarship that we want people to know the Radcliffe Institute supports. We hope to make it clear to interested scholars and students that we’re putting a stake in the ground in the law, education, and justice space."

PBS NewsHour Making Sen$e

What ending DACA could cost the U.S. economy

November 12, 2019

PBS Newshour | The fact that DACA recipients have been able to study and work under this program has also increased their spending power over time, said Roberto G. Gonzales, Professor of Education and director of Harvard University’s Immigration Initiative. A national study on the long-term impact of DACA released by the Immigration Initiative this week found that the program had enabled many beneficiaries to obtain a job and increase their earnings, and generally contributed to upward social mobility.

Roberto G. Gonzales

Rise in social mobility of DACA recipients

November 12, 2019

Harvard Gazette | Harvard Professor Roberto Gonzales is the co-author (with Sayil Camacho, Kristina Brant, and Carlos Aguilar) of a new study that surveyed nearly 2,700 young people eligible for the DACA program in 2013. Roberto Gonzales is Professor of Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Kristina Brant is a PhD candidate in Sociology and an Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellow.

The value of freeing ideas, not just locking them up

The value of freeing ideas, not just locking them up

November 8, 2019

The Economist | We can have both innovation and equality, say Joshua Gans and Andrew Leigh in their new book, Innovation and Equality (MIT Press, 2019). Andrew Leigh PhD 2004 is a Member of the Australian House of Representatives and a former Professor of Economics at Australian National University.  Joshua Gans holds the Jeffrey S. Skoll Chair of Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management.

The Inflation Gap

The Inflation Gap

November 5, 2019

Atlantic | A new analysis by Christopher Wimer PhD 2007, Sophie Collyer, and Xavier Jaravel suggests not only  that rising prices have been quietly taxing low-income families more heavily than rich ones, but also that, after accounting for that trend, the American poverty rate is significantly higher than the official measures suggest.

Wimer received his PhD in Sociology & Social Policy from Harvard in 2007 and is now Co-Director of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy (CPSP) at Columbia University. Xavier Jaravel received his PhD in Business Economics from Harvard in 2016 and is now Assistant Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics. Jaravel's research on inflation inequality—showing that prices have risen more quickly for people at the bottom of the income distribution than for those at the top—which informs their analysis of the poverty rate, appears in the Quarterly Journal of Economics (May 2019).

View the brief: The Costs of Being Poor ►
View the research: Quarterly Journal of Economics  ►

Immigrants waiting to be transferred, Ellis Island, Oct. 30, 1912.Credit...Library of Congress

Children of Poor Immigrants Rise, Regardless of Where They Come From

October 28, 2019

The New York Times | New research linking millions of fathers and sons dating to the 1880s shows that children of poor immigrants in America have had greater success climbing the economic ladder than children of similarly poor fathers born in the United States. That pattern has been remarkably stable for more than a century. The findings, published in a working paper by a team of economic historians including Leah Platt Boustan PhD 2006, challenge several arguments central to the debate over immigration in America today.  Boustan is now Professor of Economics at Princeton University.

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How to boost voter registration at tax time

How to boost voter registration at tax time

October 15, 2019
Brookings Institution | Vanessa Williamson PhD 2015, a senior fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings, says that “ensuring that every citizen is able to vote is one of the most important tasks facing American democracy.” But more than one in five eligible voters is not registered to vote, and many states are imposing new voting and registration restrictions. What if at the same time Americans file their federal income taxes—one of the only times each year that most Americans interact directly with the federal government—they were also given the opportunity to register to... Read more about How to boost voter registration at tax time
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Latest awards

Christopher Muller and Ann Owens, Co-Winners of the 2022 William Julius Wilson Early Career Award

June 3, 2022

The American Sociological Association's Section on Inequality, Poverty and Mobility has awarded the 2022 William Julius Wilson Early Career Award to former fellows Christopher Muller and Ann Owens. Christopher Muller is Assistant Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley. Ann Owens is Associate Professor of Sociology, Publicy Policy and Spatial Sciences at USC. The ASA Section on Inequality, Poverty and Mobility's William Julius Wilson Early Career Award is awarded annually to recognize scholars who have made major contributions early in their...

Read more about Christopher Muller and Ann Owens, Co-Winners of the 2022 William Julius Wilson Early Career Award
The Voucher Promise

Eva Rosen Awarded ASA Inequality, Poverty and Mobility 2022 Outstanding Book Award

June 3, 2022
The Voucher Promise: "Section 8" and the Fate of an American Neighborhood by former fellow Eva Rosen (Associate Professor at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy) has won the 2022 Outstanding Book Award of the American Sociological Association's section on Inequality, Poverty and Mobility. The Voucher Promise, published by Princeton University Press in 2020, examines how America's largest rental assistance program shapes the lives of residents in one low-income Baltimore neighborhood.
Harvard Honors William Julius Wilson with Honorary Degree

Harvard Honors William Julius Wilson with Honorary Degree

May 26, 2022
At its Commencement ceremony on May 26, 2022, Harvard University honored William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor Emeritus, with an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree. Wilson co-founded Harvard's Inequality & Social Policy program in 1998 and is best known for his books The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions (1978), The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy (1987), and When Work Disappears: The World of The New Urban Poor (... Read more about Harvard Honors William Julius Wilson with Honorary Degree
Leah E. Gose

2022-2023 Radcliffe Institute Graduate Student Fellow Leah Gose

May 18, 2022
Congratulations to Leah Gose, who will join the 2022-2023 cohort of Radcliffe Fellows as a Radcliffe Institute Graduate Student Fellow. Leah E. Gose is a doctoral candidate in sociology and a Malcolm Hewitt Wiener PhD Scholar in Poverty and Justice. Her dissertation uses 160+ interviews and site visits with 95 organizations to study how community organizations provide basic aid, primarily food,... Read more about 2022-2023 Radcliffe Institute Graduate Student Fellow Leah Gose
Deming

David Deming awarded Sherwin Rosen Prize for Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Labor Economics

May 11, 2022

David Deming, the Isabelle and Scott Black Professor of Political Economy, has been awarded the Sherwin Rosen Prize for Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Labor Economics by the Society of Labor Economists. The biennial award recognizes scholars whose early work has made an impact in the field. Past recipients have included MIT’s Daron Acemoglu, the University of Chicago’s Marianne Bertrand, Harvard University’s Raj Chetty, and David Autor, visiting professor of public policy at HKS. For more information,...

Read more about David Deming awarded Sherwin Rosen Prize for Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Labor Economics
Daniel Schneider

Daniel Schneider receives Early Achievement Award from Population Association of America

April 12, 2022

Harvard Kennedy School Professor Daniel Schneider has received the Early Achievement Award from the Population Association of America (PAA). The award is given biennially to a scholar who has made distinguished contributions to population research during the first ten years after receipt of their PhD. The Population Association of America held the award ceremony in Atlanta on...

Read more about Daniel Schneider receives Early Achievement Award from Population Association of America
Stefanie Stantcheva

Stefanie Stantcheva Wins Calvó-Armengol Prize

December 3, 2021
The Barcelona School of Economics has announced that Professor of Economics Stefanie Stantcheva will receive the seventh Calvó-Armengol International Prize in Economics. The prize announcement praises Professor Stantcheva's "creative empirical work on the mobility response to taxation and the study of attitudes regarding income mobility and redistribution." For more information, see the prize announcement here. Read more about Stefanie Stantcheva Wins Calvó-Armengol Prize

Celeste Watkins-Hayes: ASA Distinguished Scholarly Book Award

June 18, 2021
Celeste Watkins-Hayes

Awardee | Cleleste Watkins-Hayes PhD 2003 is the recipient the 2021 Distinguished Scholarly Book Award from the American Sociological Association for her book, Remaking a Life: How Women Living with HIV/AIDS Confront Inequality (University of California Press, 2019). The award is given to the single best sociology book published in the three preceding calendar years.  Celeste Watkins-Hayes is the Jean E. Fairfax Collegiate Professor of Public Policy and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School for Public Policy. Watkins-Hayes is also Professor of Sociology and holds a University Diversity and Social Transformation Professorship at the University of Michigan.
Xiang Zhou

James Coleman Award for Best Article in the Sociology of Education

June 23, 2020

Awardees | Deirdre Bloome (PhD 2014), Shauna Dyer, and Harvard faculty member Xiang Zhou are the recipients of the James Coleman Award from the American Sociological Association's Section on Education for their article, "Educational Inequality, Educational Expansion, and Intergenerational Income Persistence in the United States," published in the American Sociolgical Review. Deirdre Bloome (PhD 2014) is now an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan. Xiang Zhou is Associate Professor of Sociology at Harvard University.

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Christina Cross

Christina J. Cross awarded University of Michigan ProQuest Dissertation Award

February 27, 2020

Awardee | Christina J. Cross, Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard and Assistant Professor of Sociology (beginning 2021),  has been awarded a 2019 ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award by the University of Michigan for her doctoral dissertation, The Color, Class, and Context of Family Structure and Its Association with Children’s Educational Performance. The award is "given in recognition of the most exceptional scholarly work produced by doctoral students at the University of Michigan."

Asad L. Asad

Asad L. Asad awarded RSF Presidential Authority grant

February 18, 2020

Russell Sage Foundation | Asad L. Asad PhD 2017 has been awarded a Russell Sage Foundation Presidential Authority grant for a study titled, "Precarious Citizenship: Judicial Decisions in U.S. Denaturalization Cases." Asad is now Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stanford University.

Lawrence Katz

The 2020 IZA Prize in Labor Economics goes to Lawrence Katz

January 16, 2020

IZA - Institute of Labor Economics | Lawrence F. Katz, the Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard, will receive the 2020 IZA Prize in Labor Economics for his 35 years of research documenting changes in earnings inequality and showing the role of the expansion of educational opportunity in increasing living standards. The IZA Prize is regarded as the most prestigious science award in the field. 

“Lawrence Katz is universally recognized in the world of economics as a remarkably imaginative and productive scholar, who combines profound economic research with an interest in current basic and specific issues of public policy. Most important, the same recognition is given to his decency in dealing with other economists, especially junior researchers," read the award statement.

Lawrence Katz has advised more than 200 Harvard PhD students to date—among them, over 40 faculty and alumni of the Inequality & Social Policy program.

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Marcella Alsan and Marianne Wanamaker

Marcella Alsan receives Arrow Award for "Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men"

January 3, 2020

Awardee | Harvard Kennedy School Professor Marcella Alsan and co-author Marianne Wanamaker of the University of Tennesee accepted the 27th Kenneth J. Arrow Award for best paper in health economics at this week's Allied Social Sciences Association meetings in San Diego. The award, given by International Health Economics Association, recognized their paper, "Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men," published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 2018.

"The Arrow Award Committee is proud to acknowledge the authors of this innovative and informative paper, which examines the extent to which the infamous Tuskegee Study of untreated syphilis in black males reduced trust in the medical system and ultimately impeded the progress in reducing mortality for this group...The results provide robust evidence that disclosure of the Tuskegee Study undermined trust in the medical system with the strongest effects for those black males for whom the study was most salient. This led to reductions in the use of medical care and increases in mortality for the most affected group. Specifically, the estimates imply that life expectancy for 45-year old black men fell by up to 1.5 years, an amount sufficient to explain approximately one-third of the racial gap in life expectancy in 1980. We congratulate the authors on the publication of this important paper."

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Latest commentary and analysis

Anthony Abraham Jack

I Was a Low-Income College Student. Classes Weren't the Hard Part.

September 10, 2019

The New York Times Magazine
By Anthony Abraham Jack PhD 2016. Schools must learn that when you come from poverty, you need more than  financial aid to succeed.

Anthony Abraham Jack is an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the author of The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students (Harvard University Press, 2019). He received his PhD in Sociology from Harvard in 2016.

Project Syndicate

Whither Central Banking?

August 23, 2019

Project Syndicate | By Lawrence H. Summers and Anna Stanwbury. Anna Stansbury is a PhD candidate in Economics and a Stone PhD Scholar in Inequality and Wealth Concentration.

Khalil Gibran Muhammad

The Barbaric History of Sugar in America

August 14, 2019

The New York Times | By Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. This essay is part of the 1619 Project examining the legacy of slavery in America.

trumpmonkeycage

Is President Trump’s rhetoric racist? It depends on whom you ask.

August 12, 2019

Washington Post | By Meredith Dost, Ryan D. Enos, and Jennifer L. Hochschild. The authors' research suggests a deep moral and perceptual divide among Americans on what is and isn't racism. Stone research scholar Meredith Dost is a PhD candidate in Government & Social Policy and a Stone PhD Research Fellow. Ryan Enos and Jennifer Hochschild are professors in the Harvard Government Department.

Lawrence Katz

Lawrence Katz on researching housing and economic mobility to create moves to opportunity

August 7, 2019

JPAL | A new paper summarizing preliminary findings from the Creating Moves to Opportunity (CMTO) study was just released. Results demonstrate that helping low-income families overcome barriers to moving to higher-opportunity areas may be a promising strategy for reducing residential segregation and promoting economic mobility. We sat down with Lawrence Katz—Co-Scientific Director of J-PAL North America and one of the authors on the CMTO study—to collect his reflections on the preliminary results, how this study builds upon his previous research, and how these and future results may inform housing policy moving forward. 

Scientific American

Do Prisons Make Us Safer?

June 21, 2019

Scientific American | By David J. Harding (PhD 2005). How much safety does the high rate of U.S. imprisonment buy us? Very little, according to a recent by the author published in Nature. Harding received his PhD in Sociology and Social Policy from Harvard and is now Prodessor of Sociology and Director of the Social Science D-Lab at the University of California, Berkeley.

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The dilemmas for Democrats in three past visions for the party

The dilemmas for Democrats in three past visions for the party

June 13, 2019

Vox | By Sam Rosenfeld and Daniel Schlozman PhD 2011. Daniel Schlozman received his PhD in Government and Social Policy from Harvard and is now the Joseph and Bertha Bernstein Associate Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of When Movements Anchor Parties: Electoral Alignments in American History (Princeton University Press, 2015).

Brookings panel on the racial wealth gap

Racial wealth inequality: Social problems and solutions

June 3, 2019

Brookings Institution
Harvard's Alexandra Killewald, Professor of Sociology, joined an expert panel with Rashawn Ray, Thomas Shapiro, Tonia Wellons, and moderator Camille Busette on the racial wealth gap. Co-sponsored by Contexts Magaine. [Video + transcript]

Christopher Wimer

What States Can Do to Drastically Reduce Child Poverty

May 6, 2019

Governing | By Meg Wiehe and Christopher Wimer PhD 2007. Building on the federal Child Tax Credit would yield dramatic results, Wiehe and Wimer argue. Christopher Wimer received his PhD in Sociology and Social Policy from Harvard and is now Co-Director of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University.

Anthony Abraham Jack at TEDxCambridge

Anthony Abraham Jack delivers TEDxCambridge talk

May 3, 2019

TedxCambridge | Anthony Abraham Jack, PhD '16, delivered a TEDxCambridge talk at the Boston Opera House [video available soon]. Jack is a Junior Fellow with the Harvard Society of Fellows and Assistant Professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education. He also holds the Shutzer Assistant Professorship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. He is the author of The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students (Harvard University Press, 2019).

Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence

Beginning in the mid-1990s, American cities experienced an astonishing drop in violent crime. By 2014, the United States was safer than it had been in sixty years. Sociologist Patrick Sharkey gathered data from across the country to understand why this happened, and how it changed the nature of urban inequality. He shows that the decline of violence is one of the most important public health breakthroughs of the past several decades, that it has made schools safer places to learn and increased the chances of poor children rising into the middle class. Yet there have been costs, in the abuses and high incarceration rates generated by aggressive policing.

Sharkey puts forth an entirely new approach to confronting violence and urban poverty. At a time when inequality, complacency, and conflict all threaten a new rise in violent crime, and the old methods of policing are unacceptable, the ideas in this book are indispensable.

The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life
Jiménez, Tomás R. 2017. The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 296. Abstract

The immigration patterns of the last three decades have profoundly changed nearly every aspect of life in the United States. What do those changes mean for the most established Americans—those whose families have been in the country for multiple generations?
 
The Other Side of Assimilation shows that assimilation is not a one-way street. Jiménez explains how established Americans undergo their own assimilation in response to profound immigration-driven ethnic, racial, political, economic, and cultural shifts. Drawing on interviews with a race and class spectrum of established Americans in three different Silicon Valley cities, The Other Side of Assimilation illuminates how established Americans make sense of their experiences in immigrant-rich environments, in work, school, public interactions, romantic life, and leisure activities. With lucid prose, Jiménez reveals how immigration not only changes the American cityscape but also reshapes the United States by altering the outlooks and identities of its most established citizens. 

 

(Re)Generating Inclusive Cities: Poverty and Planning in Urban North America
Zuberi, Dan, and Ariel Judith Taylor. 2017. (Re)Generating Inclusive Cities: Poverty and Planning in Urban North America. Routledge, 144. Abstract

As suburban expansion declines, cities have become essential economic, cultural and social hubs of global connectivity. This book is about urban revitalization across North America, in cities including San Francisco, Toronto, Boston, Vancouver, New York and Seattle. Infrastructure projects including the High Line and Big Dig are explored alongside urban neighborhood creation and regeneration projects such as Hunters Point in San Francisco and Regent Park in Toronto. Today, these urban regeneration projects have evolved in the context of unprecedented neoliberal public policy and soaring real estate prices. Consequently, they make a complex contribution to urban inequality and poverty trends in many of these cities, including the suburbanization of immigrant settlement and rising inequality. 

(Re)Generating Inclusive Cities wrestles with challenging but important questions of urban planning, including who benefits and who loses with these urban regeneration schemes, and what policy tools can be used to mitigate harm? We propose a new way forward for understanding and promoting better urban design practices in order to build more socially just and inclusive cities and to ultimately improve the quality of urban life for all.

Someone To Talk To
Small, Mario Luis. 2017. Someone To Talk To. Oxford University Press, 288. Abstract

When people are facing difficulties, they often feel the need for a confidant-a person to vent to or a sympathetic ear with whom to talk things through. How do they decide on whom to rely? In 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. 

In Someone To Talk To, Mario L. Small follows a group of graduate students as they cope with stress, overwork, self-doubt, failure, relationships, children, health care, and poverty. He unravels how they decide whom to turn to for support. And he then confirms his findings based on representative national data on adult Americans. 

Small shows that rather than consistently rely on their "strong ties," Americans often take pains to avoid close friends and family, as these relationships are both complex and fraught with expectations. In contrast, they often confide in "weak ties," as the need for understanding or empathy trumps their fear of misplaced trust. In fact, people may find themselves confiding in acquaintances and even strangers unexpectedly, without having reflected on the consequences. 

Someone To Talk To reveals the often counter-intuitive nature of social support, helping us understand questions as varied as why a doctor may hide her depression from friends, how a teacher may come out of the closet unintentionally, why people may willingly share with others their struggle to pay the rent, and why even competitors can be among a person's best confidants.

Amid a growing wave of big data and large-scale network analysis, Small returns to the basic questions of who we connect with, how, and why, upending decades of conventional wisdom on how we should think about and analyze social networks.

Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes
Williamson, Vanessa S. 2017. Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 304. Abstract

Conventional wisdom holds that Americans hate taxes. But the conventional wisdom is wrong. Bringing together national survey data with in-depth interviews, Read My Lips presents a surprising picture of tax attitudes in the United States. Vanessa Williamson demonstrates that Americans view taxpaying as a civic responsibility and a moral obligation. But they worry that others are shirking their duties, in part because the experience of taxpaying misleads Americans about who pays taxes and how much. Perceived "loopholes" convince many income tax filers that a flat tax might actually raise taxes on the rich, and the relative invisibility of the sales and payroll taxes encourages many to underestimate the sizable tax contributions made by poor and working people.

Americans see being a taxpayer as a role worthy of pride and respect, a sign that one is a contributing member of the community and the nation. For this reason, the belief that many Americans are not paying their share is deeply corrosive to the social fabric. The widespread misperception that immigrants, the poor, and working-class families pay little or no taxes substantially reduces public support for progressive spending programs and undercuts the political standing of low-income people. At the same time, the belief that the wealthy pay less than their share diminishes confidence that the political process represents most people.

Upending the idea of Americans as knee-jerk opponents of taxes, Read My Lips examines American taxpaying as an act of political faith. Ironically, the depth of the American civic commitment to taxpaying makes the failures of the tax system, perceived and real, especially potent frustrations.

 

Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

The Future of Felon Disenfranchisement Reform: Evidence from the Campaign to Restore Voting Rights in Florida
This Article offers an empirical account of felon disenfranchisement and legal financial obligations in the era of mass incarceration. It focuses on a 2018 ballot initiative, known as Amendment 4, which sought to end lifetime disenfranchisement in Florida. At the time, the Republican-controlled state accounted for more than a quarter of the six million citizens disenfranchised across the United States. Marshaling hundreds of public information requests, the Article analyzes the petitions collected to qualify the initiative for the ballot, the ballots cast for its remarkable bipartisan victory, the voter registration records of people whose voting rights were restored, and the outstanding fines and fees that still prevent most people with felony convictions from voting. Part I offers a history of the campaign and the tradeoffs it made to win Republican support, including its decisions to deemphasize race and limit the scope of reform. Part II validates the campaign’s effort to depoliticize disenfranchisement by demonstrating the limited partisan consequences of restoring the right to vote to people with felony convictions. Finally, Part III shows how unpaid fines and fees undermined the campaign’s attempt to dismantle disenfranchisement. Despite Amendment 4, Florida continues to disenfranchise more citizens than any other state. 
Using Interviews to Understand Why: Challenges and Strategies in the Study of Motivated Action
Small, Mario L., and Jenna M. Cook. Forthcoming. “Using Interviews to Understand Why: Challenges and Strategies in the Study of Motivated Action.” Sociological Methods & Research. Abstract

This article examines an important and thorny problem in interview research: How to assess whether what people say motivated their actions actually did so? We ask three questions: What specific challenges are at play? How have researchers addressed them? And how should those strategies be evaluated? We argue that such research faces at least five challenges—deceptionrecall errorreasonableness biasintentionality bias, and single-motive bias—that more than a dozen strategies have been deployed to address them; that the strategies have been externalinternal, or interactional in nature; and that each class of strategies demands distinct evaluation criteria. Researchers will likely fail to uncover motivation if they ignore the possibility of each challenge, conflate one challenge with another, or deploy strategies unmatched to the challenge at hand. Our work helps systematize the evaluation of interview-based studies of motivated action and strengthen the scientific foundations of in-depth interview research.

 

Public Money Talks Too: How Public Campaign Financing Degrades Representation
Kilborn, Mitchell, and Arjun Vishwanath. Forthcoming. “Public Money Talks Too: How Public Campaign Financing Degrades Representation.” American Journal of Political Science. Abstract
Does public campaign financing improve representation by reducing politicians’ re-liance on wealthy donors as advocates claim, or does it worsen representation by ex-panding the candidate marketplace to give extreme and non-representative candidatesan electoral boost? We conduct a novel analysis of public financing programs in Ari-zona, Connecticut, and Maine to causally identify the effect of a legislator’s fundingstatus on how closely she represents constituent preferences. Using multiple identifica-tion strategies, we show that candidates who exclusively use public campaign financingare more extreme and less representative of their districts than non-publicly financedcandidates. Our findings add new evidence to the electoral reform debate by demon-strating how replacing private campaign donations with public financing can actuallydamage substantive representation. We also advance the scholarship on how institu-tions affect substantive representation and candidate positioning as they respond tonew campaign financing structures.
The Liquidity Sensitivity of Healthcare Consumption: Evidence from Social Security Payments
Gross, Tal, Timothy J. Layton, and Daniel Prinz. Forthcoming. “The Liquidity Sensitivity of Healthcare Consumption: Evidence from Social Security Payments.” American Economic Review: Insights. Abstract
Insurance is typically viewed as a mechanism for transferring resources from good to bad states. Insurance, however, may also transfer resources from high-liquidity periods to low-liquidity periods. We test for this type of transfer from health insurance by studying the distribution of Social Security checks among Medicare recipients. When Social Security checks are distributed, prescription fills increase by 6–12 percent among recipients who pay small copayments. We find no such pattern among recipients who face no copayments. The results demonstrate that more-complete insurance allows recipients to consume healthcare when they need it rather than only when they have cash.
Life expectancy inequalities in Hungary over 25 years: The role of avoidable deaths
Bíró, Anikó, Tamás Hajdu, Gábor Kertesi, and Dániel Prinz. Forthcoming. “Life expectancy inequalities in Hungary over 25 years: The role of avoidable deaths.” Population Studies. Abstract
Using mortality registers and administrative data on income and population, we develop new evidence on the magnitude of life expectancy inequality in Hungary and the scope for health policy in mitigating this. We document considerable inequalities in life expectancy at age 45 across settlement-level income groups, and show that these inequalities have increased between 1991–96 and 2011–16 for both men and women. We show that avoidable deaths play a large role in life expectancy inequality. Income-related inequalities in health behaviours, access to care, and healthcare use are all closely linked to the inequality in life expectancy.
Hoping for the Worst? A Paradoxical Preference for Bad News
Barasz, Kate, and Serena F. Hagerty. Forthcoming. “Hoping for the Worst? A Paradoxical Preference for Bad News.” Journal of Consumer Research. Abstract
Nine studies investigate when and why people may paradoxically prefer bad news—for example, hoping for an objectively worse injury or a higher-risk diagnosis over explicitly better alternatives. Using a combination of field surveys and randomized experiments, the research demonstrates that people may hope for relatively worse (vs. better) news in an effort to preemptively avoid subjectively difficult decisions (studies 1 and 2). This is because when worse news avoids a choice (study 3A)—for example, by “forcing one’s hand” or creating one dominant option that circumvents a fraught decision (study 3B)—it can relieve the decision-maker’s experience of personal responsibility (study 3C). However, because not all decisions warrant avoidance, not all decisions will elicit a preference for worse news; fewer people hope for worse news when facing subjectively easier (vs. harder) choices (studies 4A and B). Finally, this preference for worse news is not without consequence and may create perverse incentives for decision-makers, such as the tendency to forgo opportunities for improvement (studies 5A and B). The work contributes to the literature on decision avoidance and elucidates another strategy people use to circumvent difficult decisions: a propensity to hope for the worst.
Redistribution under general decision rules
Parameswaran, Girl, and Hunter Rendleman. Forthcoming. “Redistribution under general decision rules.” Journal of Public Economic Theory. Abstract

We study the political economy of redistribution over a broad class of decision rules. Since the core is generically non-unique, we suggest a simple and elegant procedure to select a robust equilibrium. Our selected policy depends on the full income profile, and in particular, on the preferences of two decisive voters. The effect of increasing inequality on redistribution depends on the decision rule and the shape of the income distribution; redistribution will increase if both decisive voters are 'relatively poor', and decrease if at least one is sufficiently 'rich'. Additionally, redistribution decreases as the polity adopts increasingly stringent super-majority rules.

Immigration Policies and Access to the Justice System: The Effect of Enforcement Escalations on Undocumented Immigrants and Their Communities

Does intensifying immigrationenforcement lead to under-reporting of crime among undocumented immigrants and their communities? We empirically test the claims of activists and legal advocates that the escalation of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities in 2017 negatively impacted the willingness of undocumented immigrants and Hispanic communities to report crime. We hypothesize that ICE cooperation with local law enforcement, in particular, discourages undocumented immigrants and their Hispanic community members from reporting crime. Using a difference-in-difference approach and FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data at the county level, we find that total reported crime fell from 2016 to 2017 in counties with higher shares of Hispanic individuals and in counties where local law enforcement had more cooperation with ICE. Using the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), we show that these declines in the measured crime rate are driven by decreased crime reporting by Hispanic communities rather than by decreased crime commission or victimization. Finally, we replicate these results in a second case study by leveraging the staggered roll-out of the 2008–2014 Secure Communities program across US counties. Taken together, our findings add to a growing body of literature demonstrating how immigration enforcement reduces vulnerable populations’ access to state services, including the criminal justice system.

Childhood exposure to polluted neighborhood environments and intergenerational income mobility, teenage birth, and incarceration in the USA

This paper joins a growing body of research linking measures of the physical environment to population well-being, with a focus on neighborhood toxins. Extending a national database on the social mobility of American children growing up in over 70,000 Census tracts, we explore the association between childhood exposure to two forms of pollutants and three socioeconomic outcomes for African Americans, whites, and Latinos. We find that children who grew up in Census tracts with higher levels of traffic-related air pollution and housing-derived lead risk experienced lower adult incomes on average relative to their parents and higher likelihoods of being incarcerated as an adult or having children as teenagers, after controlling for standard socio-demographic characteristics and metropolitan-level effects. The spatial distribution of these two pollutants is surprisingly different, however, with air pollution varying mostly between regions of the country while lead risk varies dramatically between neighborhoods within the same city. Yet, each pollutant predicts the three aspects of social mobility similarly, and we show important disparities in exposure by race. Differential exposure to environmental toxins in childhood may be a contributor to racial inequality in socioeconomic outcomes among adults.

 

The racial burden of voter list maintenance errors: Evidence from Wisconsin’s supplemental movers poll books
Huber, Gregory A., Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, and Katie Steele. 2021. “The racial burden of voter list maintenance errors: Evidence from Wisconsin’s supplemental movers poll books.” Science Advances 7 (7). Abstract
Administrative records are increasingly used to identify registered voters who may have moved, with potential movers then sent postcards asking them to confirm their address of registration. It is important to understand how often these registrants did not move, and how often such an error is not corrected by the postcard confirmation process, because uncorrected errors make it more difficult for a registrant to subsequently vote. While federal privacy protections generally prevent researchers from observing the data necessary to estimate these quantities, we are able to study this process in Wisconsin because special poll books, available via public records requests, listed those registrants who were identified as potential movers and did not respond to a subsequent postcard. At least 4% of these registrants cast a ballot at their address of registration, with minority registrants twice as likely as white registrants to do so.
Who Votes Without Identification? Using Individual-Level Administrative Data to Measure the Burden of Strict Voter Identification Laws
Henninger, Phoebe, Marc Meredith, and Michael Morse. 2021. “Who Votes Without Identification? Using Individual-Level Administrative Data to Measure the Burden of Strict Voter Identification Laws.” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 18: 256-286. Abstract
Legal disputes over laws that require certain forms of identification (ID) to vote mostly focus on the burden placed on people who do not possess ID. We contend that this singular focus ignores the burden imposed on people who do possess ID, but nonetheless cannot access it when voting. To measure this alternative conception of burden, we focus on Michigan, which allows anyone who lacks access to ID to vote after signing an affidavit. A sample of affidavits filed in the 2016 presidential election from a random set of precincts reveals that about 0.45 percent of voters lacked access to ID. Consistent with our broader conception of the burden of voter ID laws, nearly all voters who filed an affidavit were previously issued a still-active state ID. Importantly, we show minority voters were about five times more likely to lack access to ID than white voters. We also present survey evidence suggesting that people who live in states where voters are asked to show ID, as in Michigan, are more likely to incorrectly believe that access to ID is required to vote than are people who live in states that do not ask voters to show ID.
The spatial structure of US metropolitan employment: New insights from administrative data
Manduca, Robert. 2021. “The spatial structure of US metropolitan employment: New insights from administrative data.” Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science 48 (5): 1357-1372. Abstract

Urban researchers have long debated the extent to which metropolitan employment is monocentric, polycentric, or diffuse. In this paper I use high-resolution data based on unemployment insurance records to show that employment in US metropolitan areas is not centralized but is spatially concentrated. Unlike residents, who form a continuous surface covering most parts of each metropolitan area, jobs have a bimodal spatial distribution, with most blocks containing no jobs whatsoever and a small number having extremely high employment densities. Across the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas, about 75% of jobs are located on the 6.5% of built land in Census blocks with at least twice as many jobs as people. These relative proportions are extremely consistent across cities, even though they vary greatly in the physical density at which they are constructed. Motivated by these empirical regularities, I introduce an algorithm to identify contiguous business districts and classify them into four major types. Based solely on the relative densities of employment and population, this algorithm is both simpler to implement and more flexible than current approaches, requiring no metro-specific tuning parameters and no assumptions about urban spatial layout.

Which Data Fairly Differentiate? American Views on the Use of Personal Data in Two Market Settings
Corporations increasingly use personal data to offer individuals different products and prices. I present first-of-its-kind evidence about how U.S. consumers assess the fairness of companies using personal information in this way. Drawing on a nationally representative survey that asks respondents to rate how fair or unfair it is for car insurers and lenders to use various sorts of information—from credit scores to web browser history to residential moves—I find that everyday Americans make strong moral distinctions among types of data, even when they are told data predict consumer behavior (insurance claims and loan defaults, respectively). Open-ended responses show that people adjudicate fairness by drawing on shared understandings of whether data are logically related to the predicted outcome and whether the categories companies use conflate morally distinct individuals. These findings demonstrate how dynamics long studied by economic sociologists manifest in legitimating a new and important mode of market allocation.
Physical Health Symptoms and Hurricane Katrina: Individual Trajectories of Development and Recovery More Than a Decade After the Storm
Zacher, Meghan, Ethan J. Raker, Mariana C. Arcaya, Sarah R. Lowe, Jean Rhodes, and Mary C. Waters. 2021. “Physical Health Symptoms and Hurricane Katrina: Individual Trajectories of Development and Recovery More Than a Decade After the Storm.” American Journal of Public Health 111: 127–135. Abstract

Objectives. To examine how physical health symptoms developed and resolved in response to Hurricane Katrina.

Methods. We used data from a 2003 to 2018 study of young, low-income mothers who were living in New Orleans, Louisiana, when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 (n = 276). We fit logistic regressions to model the odds of first reporting or “developing” headaches or migraines, back problems, and digestive problems, and of experiencing remission or “recovery” from previously reported symptoms, across surveys.

Results. The prevalence of each symptom increased after Hurricane Katrina, but the odds of developing symptoms shortly before versus after the storm were comparable. The number of traumatic experiences endured during Hurricane Katrina increased the odds of developing back and digestive problems just after the hurricane. Headaches or migraines and back problems that developed shortly after Hurricane Katrina were more likely to resolve than those that developed just before the storm.

Conclusions. While traumatic experiences endured in disasters such as Hurricane Katrina appear to prompt the development of new physical symptoms, disaster-induced symptoms may be less likely to persist or become chronic than those emerging for other reasons.

 

Loyalists and Switchers: Characterizing Voters’ Responses to Donald Trump’s Campaign and Presidency
Dost, Meredith, Ryan Enos, and Jennifer Hochschild. 2021. “Loyalists and Switchers: Characterizing Voters’ Responses to Donald Trump’s Campaign and Presidency.” Political Science Quarterly 136 (1): 81-103. Abstract

Meredith Dost, Ryan Enos, and Jennifer Hochschild look at the crucial segment of American voters who have changed their views about Donald Trump since the 2016 presidential election. Using two original surveys, they find that attitudes on race and immigration, populism and authoritarianism, and the nation’s and their own economic well-being are all associated with loyalty to and switching from this divisive president.

 

Locked Out of College: When Admissions Bureaucrats Do and Do Not Discriminate
Brown, Jacob R., and Hanno Hilbig. 2021. “Locked Out of College: When Admissions Bureaucrats Do and Do Not Discriminate.” British Journal of Political Science, 1-11. Abstract

How does an individual's criminal record shape interactions with the state and society? This article presents evidence from a nationwide field experiment in the United States, which shows that prospective applicants with criminal records are about 5 percentage points less likely to receive information from college admission offices. However, this bias does not extend to race: there is no difference in response rates to Black and White applicants. The authors further show that bias is all but absent in public bureaucracies, as discrimination against formerly incarcerated applicants is driven by private schools. Examining why bias is stronger for private colleges, the study demonstrates that the private–public difference persists even after accounting for college selectivity, socio-economic composition and school finances. Moving beyond the measurement of bias, an intervention designed to reduce discrimination is evaluated: whether an email from an advocate mitigates bias associated with a criminal record. No evidence is found that advocate endorsements decrease bureaucratic bias.

 

The measurement of partisan sorting for 180 million voters
Brown, Jacob R., and Ryan D. Enos. 2021. “The measurement of partisan sorting for 180 million voters.” Nature Human Behavior. Abstract

Segregation across social groups is an enduring feature of nearly all human societies and is associated with numerous social maladies. In many countries, reports of growing geographic political polarization raise concerns about the stability of democratic governance. Here, using advances in spatial data computation, we measure individual partisan segregation by calculating the local residential segregation of every registered voter in the United States, creating a spatially weighted measure for more than 180 million individuals. With these data, we present evidence of extensive partisan segregation in the country. A large proportion of voters live with virtually no exposure to voters from the other party in their residential environment. Such high levels of partisan isolation can be found across a range of places and densities and are distinct from racial and ethnic segregation. Moreover, Democrats and Republicans living in the same city, or even the same neighbourhood, are segregated by party.

 

Childhood cross-ethnic exposure predicts political behavior seven decades later: Evidence from linked administrative data
Brown, Jacob R., Ryan D. Enos, James Feigenbaum, and Soumyajit Mazumder. 2021. “Childhood cross-ethnic exposure predicts political behavior seven decades later: Evidence from linked administrative data.” Science Advances 7 (24). Abstract
Does contact across social groups influence sociopolitical behavior? This question is among the most studied in the social sciences with deep implications for the harmony of diverse societies. Yet, despite a voluminous body of scholarship, evidence around this question is limited to cross-sectional surveys that only measure short-term consequences of contact or to panel surveys with small samples covering short time periods. Using advances in machine learning that enable large-scale linkages across datasets, we examine the long-term determinants of sociopolitical behavior through an unprecedented individual-level analysis linking contemporary political records to the 1940 U.S. Census. These linked data allow us to measure the exact residential context of nearly every person in the United States in 1940 and, for men, connect this with the political behavior of those still alive over 70 years later. We find that, among white Americans, early-life exposure to black neighbors predicts Democratic partisanship over 70 years later.
Getting Eyes in the Home: Child Protective Services Investigations and State Surveillance of Family Life

Each year, U.S. child protection authorities investigate millions of families, disproportionately poor families and families of color. These investigations involve multiple home visits to collect information across numerous personal domains. How does the state gain such widespread entrée into the intimate, domestic lives of marginalized families? Predominant theories of surveillance offer little insight into this process and its implications. Analyzing observations of child maltreatment investigations in Connecticut and interviews with professionals reporting maltreatment, state investigators, and investigated mothers, this article argues that coupling assistance with coercive authority—a hallmark of contemporary poverty governance—generates an expansive surveillance of U.S. families by attracting referrals from adjacent systems. Educational, medical, and other professionals invite investigations of families far beyond those ultimately deemed maltreating, with the hope that child protection authorities’ dual therapeutic and coercive capacities can rehabilitate families, especially marginalized families. Yet even when investigations close, this arrangement, in which service systems channel families to an entity with coercive power, fosters apprehension among families and thwarts their institutional engagement. These findings demonstrate how, in an era of welfare retrenchment, rehabilitative poverty governance renders marginalized populations hyper-visible to the state in ways that may reinforce inequality and marginality.

 

Picking Prosecutors
Hessick, Carissa Byrne, and Michael Morse. 2020. “Picking Prosecutors.” Iowa Law Review 105 (4): 1537-1590. Abstract
The conventional academic wisdom is that elections for local prosecutor are little more than empty exercises. Using the results of a new, national survey of local prosecutor elections––the first of its kind––this Article offers a more complete account of the legal and empirical landscape. It confirms that incumbent prosecutors rarely face challengers and almost always win. But it moves beyond extant work to consider the nature of local political conflict, including how often local prosecutors face a contested election or any degree of competition. It also demonstrates a significant difference in the degree of incumbent entrenchment based on time in office. Most importantly, it reveals a stark divide between rural and urban prosecution. Urban areas are more likely to hold a contested election than rural areas. Rural areas, in which very few lawyers live, rarely hold contested elections and sometimes are not able to field even a single candidate for a prosecutor election. The results suggest that the nascent movement to use prosecutor elections as a source of criminal justice reform may have success, at least in the short term. But elections are, as of now, not a likely source of reform in rural areas—the very areas where incarceration rates continue to rise.
One Person, One Vote: Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections
Goel, Sharad, Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, David Rothschild, and Houshmand Shirani-Mehr. 2020. “One Person, One Vote: Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections.” American Political Science Review 114 (2): 456–469. Abstract
Beliefs about the incidence of voter fraud inform how people view the trade-off between electoral integrity and voter accessibility. To better inform such beliefs about the rate of double voting, we develop and apply a method to estimate how many people voted twice in the 2012 presidential election. We estimate that about one in 4,000 voters cast two ballots, although an audit suggests that the true rate may be lower due to small errors in electronic vote records. We corroborate our estimates and extend our analysis using data from a subset of states that share social security numbers, making it easier to quantify who may have voted twice. For this subset of states, we find that one suggested strategy to reduce double voting—removing the registration with an earlier registration date when two share the same name and birthdate—could impede approximately 300 legitimate votes for each double vote prevented.
How Do Low-Income People Form Survival Networks? Routine Organizations as Brokers
Small, Mario L., and Leah E. Gose. 2020. “How Do Low-Income People Form Survival Networks? Routine Organizations as Brokers.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 689 (1): 89-109. Abstract
While supportive social ties help to buffer against the consequences of poverty, few researchers have examined how people form such ties. New ties are often formed in routine organizations such as businesses, churches, and childcare centers, which, beyond being places to work, shop, or receive services, are institutionally governed spaces of social interaction. Based on the notion of organizational brokerage, we introduce a perspective that specifies when routine organizations contribute to tie formation and use it to reexamine data from existing qualitative studies of such organizations among the poor. We argue that successful brokerage will depend on the degree to which an organization’s institutional norms render interaction among participants frequent, long-lasting, focused on others, and centered on joint tasks; and that the ensuing networks may differ from other supportive ties in the sense of belonging they may cultivate, the form of generalized exchange they may engender, and the organizational connections they may create.
Mitigating Health Disparities After Natural Disasters: Lessons From The RISK Project
Raker, Ethan J., Mariana C. Arcaya, Sarah R. Lowe, Meghan Zacher, Jean Rhodes, and Mary C. Waters. 2020. “Mitigating Health Disparities After Natural Disasters: Lessons From The RISK Project.” Health Affairs 39 (12): 2128-2135 . Abstract

Climate change exacerbates the severity of natural disasters, which disproportionately affect vulnerable populations. Mitigating disasters’ health consequences is critical to promoting health equity, but few studies have isolated the short- and long-term effects of disasters on vulnerable groups. We filled this gap by conducting a fifteen-year (2003–2018) prospective study of low-income, predominantly Black parents who experienced Hurricane Katrina: the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina (RISK) Project. Here we describe this project and synthesize lessons from work that has resulted from it. Our findings can guide policy makers, service providers, and health officials in disaster planning and response. We synthesize them into an organizational schema of five priorities: Primary efforts should be aimed at preventing exposure to trauma through investments in climate resilience and by eliminating impediments to evacuation, health care policies should promote uninterrupted and expanded access to care, social services should integrate and strive to reduce the administrative burden on survivors, programs should aid survivors in forging or strengthening connections to their communities, and policy makers should fund targeted long-term services for highly affected survivors.

 

A Life-Course Model of Trauma Exposure and Mental Health Among Low-Income Survivors of Hurricane Katrina
Lowe, Sarah R., Ethan J. Raker, Mariana C. Arcaya, Meghan L. Zacher, Mary C. Waters, and Jean E. Rhodes. 2020. “A Life-Course Model of Trauma Exposure and Mental Health Among Low-Income Survivors of Hurricane Katrina.” Journal of Traumatic Stress 33: 950-961. Abstract
Prior research has provided robust evidence that exposure to potentially traumatic events (PTEs) during a disaster is predictive of adverse postdisaster mental health outcomes, including posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and nonspecific psychological distress (PD). However, few studies have explored the role of exposure to other PTEs over the life-course in shaping postdisaster mental health. Based on the broader literature on trauma exposure and mental health, we hypothesized a path analytic model linking predisaster PTEs to long-term postdisaster PTSS and PD via predisaster PD, short-term postdisaster symptoms, and disaster-related and postdisaster PTEs. We tested this model using data from the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina study, a longitudinal study of low-income, primarily non-Hispanic Black mothers exposed to Hurricane Katrina and assessed before the disaster and at time points 1, 4, and 12 years thereafter. The models evidenced a good fit with the data, RMSEA < .01–.04, CFIs > .99. In addition, 44.1%–67.4% of the effect of predisaster PTEs on long-term postdisaster symptoms was indirect. Descriptive differences were observed across models that included PTSS versus PD, as well as models that included all pre- and postdisaster PTEs versus only those that involved assaultive violence. The results suggest the importance of incorporating disaster preparedness in clinical work with trauma survivors and the value in attending to other lifetime PTEs when working in postdisaster contexts.
Lessons from Hurricane Katrina for predicting the indirect health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic
Raker, Ethan J., Meghan Zacher, and Sarah R. Lowe. 2020. “Lessons from Hurricane Katrina for predicting the indirect health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117 (23): 12595-12597. Abstract

Beyond their immediate effects on mortality, disasters have widespread, indirect impacts on mental and physical well-being by exposing survivors to stress and potential trauma. Identifying the disaster-related stressors that predict health adversity will help officials prepare for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Using data from a prospective study of young, low-income mothers who survived Hurricane Katrina, we find that bereavement, fearing for loved ones’ well-being, and lacking access to medical care and medications predict adverse mental and physical health 1 y postdisaster, and some effects persist 12 y later. Adjusting for preexisting health and socioeconomic conditions attenuates, but does not eliminate, these associations. The findings, while drawn from a demographically unique sample, suggest that, to mitigate the indirect effects of COVID-19, lapses in medical care and medication use must be minimized, and public health resources should be directed to those with preexisting medical conditions, their social networks, and the bereaved.

 

De-gendered Processes, Gendered Outcomes: How Egalitarian Couples Make Sense of Non-egalitarian Household Practices
Despite widespread support for gender-egalitarianism, men’s and women’s household labor contributions remain strikingly unequal. This article extends prior research on barriers to equality by closely examining how couples negotiate contradictions between their egalitarian ideals and admittedly non-egalitarian practices. Data from 64 in-depth interviews with members of 32 different-sex, college-educated couples show that respondents distinguish between labor allocation processes and outcomes. When they understand the processes as gender-neutral, they can write off gendered outcomes as the incidental result of necessary compromises made among competing values. Respondents “de-gender” their allocation process, or decouple it from gender ideology and gendered social forces, by narrowing their temporal horizon to the present moment and deploying an adaptable understanding of constraint that obscures alternative paths. This de-gendering helps prevent spousal conflict, but it may also facilitate behavioral stasis by directing attention away from the inequalities that continue to shape domestic life.
The Declining Worker Power Hypothesis
Stansbury, Anna, and Lawrence H. Summers. 2020. “The Declining Worker Power Hypothesis.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity. Abstract

Rising profitability and market valuations of U.S. businesses, sluggish wage growth and a declining labor share of income, and reduced unemployment and inflation have defined the macroeconomic environment of the last generation. This paper offers a unified explanation for these phenomena based on reduced worker power. Using individual, industry, and state-level data, we demonstrate that measures of reduced worker power are associated with lower wage levels, higher profit shares, and reductions in measures of the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment (NAIRU). We argue that the declining worker power hypothesis is more compelling as an explanation for observed changes than increases in firms’ market power, both because it can simultaneously explain a falling labor share and a reduced NAIRU and because it is more directly supported by the data. 

 

Disentangling policy effects using proxy data: Which shutdown policies affected unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We use high-frequency Google search data, combined with data on the announcement dates of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) during the COVID-19 pandemic in U.S. states, to disentangle the short-run direct impacts of multiple different state-level NPIs in an event study framework. Exploiting differential timing in the announcements of restaurant and bar limitations, non-essential business closures, stay-at-home orders, large-gatherings bans, school closures, and emergency declarations, we leverage the high-frequency search data to separately identify the effects of multiple NPIs that were introduced around the same time. We then describe a set of assumptions under which proxy outcomes can be used to estimate a causal parameter of interest when data on the outcome of interest are limited. Using this method, we quantify the share of overall growth in unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic that was directly due to each of these state-level NPIs. We find that between March 14 and 28, restaurant and bar limitations and non-essential business closures can explain 6.0% and 6.4% of UI claims respectively, while the other NPIs did not directly increase own-state UI claims. This suggests that most of the short-run increase in UI claims during the pandemic was likely due to other factors, including declines in consumer demand, local policies, and policies implemented by private firms and institutions.
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Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Pretrial detention

Proposals for improving the U.S. Pretrial System

March 15, 2019

The Hamilton Project | By Will Dobbie (PhD 2013) and Crystal S. Yang (PhD 2013). Will Dobbie is now Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Crystal S. Yang is Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Economics for Inclusive Prosperity

Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP) Launches

February 15, 2019

Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School, announced the launch of a new initiative - Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP) - a network of academic economists dedicated to producing creative policy ideas for an inclusive society and economy. Co-directing the initiative are Dani Rodrik, Suresh Naidu of Columbia University, and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California, Berkeley. Download the (free) EfIP eBook: Economics for Inclusive Prosperity: An Introduction and policy briefs.

View the EfIP eBook (pdf) ▶ 
View all policy briefs ▶

BPEA heartland

Saving the heartland: Place-based policies in 21st century America

March 8, 2018
Brookings Papers on Economic Activity | By Benjamin Austin, Edward Glaeser, and Lawrence Summers. Austin is a PhD candidate in Economics at Harvard. Glaeser is the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard. Lawrence Summers is the Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus at Harvard University.
Tax reform

Macroeconomic effects of the 2017 tax reform

March 8, 2018
Brookings Papers on Economic Activity | By Robert J. Barro and Jason Furman. Barro is Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics at Harvard. Furman is Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. 
Lawrence F. Katz

Imagining a Future of Work That Fosters Mobility for All

February 1, 2018
U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty | Idea paper by Lawrence Katz, Ai-Jen Poo, and Elaine Waxman. Lawrence Katz is Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard and a member of U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty.
Restoring the American Dream: What Would It Take to Dramatically Increase Mobility from Poverty?

Restoring the American Dream: What Would It Take to Dramatically Increase Mobility from Poverty?

January 23, 2018

US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty | The US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty is a collaboration of 24 leading scholars, policy experts, and practitioners tasked with answering one big, bold, and exciting question: What would it take to dramatically increase mobility from poverty? This two-year project was funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Co-authored by David T. Ellwood, Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and Nisha G. Patel, Executive Director of the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, Urban Institute

David J. Deming

The Value of Soft Skills in the Labor Market

January 17, 2018
NBER Reporter | By David J. Deming (PhD '10), Professor at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education. Deming provides an overview of the current state of research on soft skills in the labor market. His own work in this area, "The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market," appears in the November 2017 issue of Quarterly Journal of Economics.
View the research
Can the Financial Benefit of Lobbying be Quantified?

Can the Financial Benefit of Lobbying be Quantified?

January 16, 2018
Washington Center for Equitable Growth | A look at a new paper by Inequality doctoral fellow Brian Libgober, PhD candidate in Government, and Daniel Carpenter, Allie S. Freed Professor of Government, "Lobbying with Lawyers: Financial Market Evidence for Banks' Influence on Rulemaking."
View the research
Does a Criminal Past Predict Worker Performance? Evidence from One of America’s Largest Employers

Does a Criminal Past Predict Worker Performance? Evidence from One of America’s Largest Employers

January 12, 2018
Social Forces | New research by Harvard's Devah Pager and collaborators  Jennifer Hickes Lundquist and Eiko Strader provides one of the first systematic assessments of workplace performance by those with criminal records. Examining military employment records, they find that, overall, the military's screening process can result in successful employment outcomes for those with felony convictions. An important question, they write, is whether the military's 'whole person' review can apply succssfully to the civilian sector. Pager is Professor of Sociology and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard.
An inside view of credit checks in hiring

An inside view of credit checks in hiring

October 14, 2017
Work in Progress | By Barbara Kiviat, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy. Barbara Kiviat summarizes findings from her research, "The Art of Deciding with Data," recently published in Socio-Economic Review.  Work in Progress is the American Sociological Assocation's blog for short-form sociology on the economy, work, and inequality.
Jason Furman - PIIE Macroeconomic Policy Conference

Should Policymakers Care Whether Inequality is Helpful or Harmful for Growth?

October 13, 2017
Peterson Institute for International Economics | Presentation by Jason Furman (Harvard Kennedy School) at PIIE's "Rethinking Macroeconomic Policy Conference," with discussion by Dani Rodrik (Harvard Kennedy School), Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and Justin Wolfers (PhD '01). View the paper, slides, and conference videos at the conference webpage.