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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Biggest Week Yet for Pay for Success in the United States

Biggest Week Yet for Pay for Success in the United States

February 17, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School | Highlights work of Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab. This week's announcement of three new projects brings the total number of US Pay for Success projects to 11, seven of which have relied on GPL technical assistance. The new projects aim to reduce homelessness in Denver, provide healthier starts for low-income babies and their families in South Carolina, and to promote family stability and reduce parental substance use for families involved in Connecticut's child welfare system.

What do trends in economic inequality imply for innovation and entrepreneurship? A framework for future research and policy

What do trends in economic inequality imply for innovation and entrepreneurship? A framework for future research and policy

February 16, 2016

Washington Center for Equitable Growth | By Elisabeth Jacobs (Ph.D. '08), now Senior Director for Policy and Academic Programs at Equitable Growth. Also cites work by Inequality doctoral fellow Alex Bell (Ph.D. candidate in Economics) et. al., which finds that children of parents in the top 1% of the income distribution are ten times more likely to become inventors than those in the bottom 50%.

How Segregated Schools Drive Criminal Behaviors

How Segregated Schools Drive Criminal Behaviors

February 16, 2016

Pacific Standard | Delves into new research by David J. Deming (Ph.D. '10 and Associate Professor, HGSE), co-authored with Stephen Billings (UNC Charlotte) and Stephen L. Ross (University of Connecticut), which suggests that re-segregation of American schools has consequences beyond the classroom in increasing criminal behavior. Read the NBER Working Paper.

Also highlights earlier research by Billings, Deming, and Jonah Rockoff (Ph.D. '04, now Columbia Business School), which found "the end of race-based busing widened racial inequality [in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools], despite efforts by CMS to mitigate the impact of segregation through compensatory resource allocation."

Women, overshadowed

Women, overshadowed

February 16, 2016

Harvard Gazette | Interview with Heather Sarsons, Ph.D. candidate in Economics on implications of, and the reactions to, her research—first featured in The New York Times—finding that female economists received less credit for co-authored work than their male counterparts.

One Simple Trick that Boosts Kids' College Graduation Rates

One Simple Trick that Boosts Kids' College Graduation Rates

February 15, 2016

Pacific Standard | Examines new study co-authored by doctoral fellow Preeya Mbekeani (Ed.D. candidate), which found that providing four additional SAT score reports for free to low-income students increased college access and completion rates.

How segregated schools turn kids into criminals

How segregated schools turn kids into criminals

February 12, 2016

Washington Post | Explores new study co-authored by Stephen Billings (UNC Charlotte), David J. Deming (Ph.D. '10 and Associate Professor, HGSE), and Stephen L. Ross (University of Connecticut), who show that concentrating disadvantaged youth together in the same schools and neighborhoods increases total crime. Read the NBER Working Paper.
Also notes earlier research by Billings, Deming, and Jonah Rockoff (Ph.D. '04, now Columbia Business School), which found that attempts to mitigate the effects of segregation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools by providing extra resources did help improve academic outcomes in segregated schools, but not crime.

How Highlighting the Best and Brightest Can Backfire

How Highlighting the Best and Brightest Can Backfire

February 9, 2016

Pacific Standard | Research by Todd Rogers (Associate Professor of Public Policy, HKS) and Avi Feller (UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy) finds that exposing students in a massive open online course to the best of their peers' work lowers their grades and increases dropout rates.

Immigrants Push Down Wages for Workers, But How Much?

Immigrants Push Down Wages for Workers, But How Much?

February 9, 2016

Wall Street Journal | Differing assessments among economists, including George Borjas (Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy, HKS) and Lawrence Katz (Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics).

Giving Voice

Giving Voice

February 8, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School Magazine | Feature profile of Bruce Western, Professor of Sociology, the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice, and Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

"The kind of work, or research, that we want to promote I think has a central role for the human voices and stories of the people who are experiencing criminal justice involvement, eviction and housing insecurity, and deep material deprivation,” Western says. “We thought this could come to define a style of work in the poverty field, and part of our hope for it is we could use work like this to engage a public conversation.”

Money Interests are Blocking US Action on Climate Change

Money Interests are Blocking US Action on Climate Change

February 8, 2016

Aljazeera America | Opinion piece by Sean McElwee of Demos draws on data from recent work  by Theda Skocpol (Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government & Sociology) and Alex Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy).  Skocpol and Hertel-Fernandez are presenting the latest version of their paper,"The Koch Effect: The Impact of a Cadre-Led Network on American Politics," at the Harvard Center for American Political Studies, Feb 12, 2016.

What the Science Says About Long-Term Damage from Lead

What the Science Says About Long-Term Damage from Lead

February 8, 2016

The New York Times | Highlights research by Jessica Wolpaw Reyes (Ph.D. '01, now Professor of Economics, Amherst College) on the effects of  childhood lead exposure on educational test scores and on behavioral outcomes in later childhood and young adulthood. View Reyes's research at her homepage.

Christopher Muller (Ph.D. '14, now a Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholar) will be presenting related research, "Lead Exposure and Violent Crime in the Early Twentieth Century," co-authored by James Feigenbaum (Ph.D. candidate in Economics), in the Inequality & Social Policy Seminar Series on Apr 18, 2016.

Getting to Win-Win

Getting to Win-Win

February 8, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School Magazine | Jane Mansbridge on the vanishing art and science of political compromise. Mansbridge and Cathie Jo Martin (Boston University) are the editors of Political Negotiation, published by Brookings Institution Press in December 2015.  Doctoral fellow Chase Foster (Ph.D. candidate in Government), Mansbridge, and Martin co-authored chapter 4 in the book, "Negotiation Myopia."

"The stakes are now higher than ever, Mansbridge argues...'
The idea is that when we design institutions we should be thinking consciously of how to design them to be partial cures for the mistakes our brains habitually make,' says Mansbridge. 'That’s how you get the rules of political engagement.'"

One-Party System

One-Party System

February 8, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School Magazine | Delves into Leah Wright Rigueur's new book, The Loneliness of the Black Republican, Princeton University Press. Rigueur is an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.

David Ellwood to Chair New U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty

February 5, 2016


Urban Institute
The Urban Institute and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the establishment of the U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, aimed at discovering permanent ladders of mobility out of poverty in the U.S.

David Ellwood, the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School, will chair the national group of 24 leading  voices on these issues, which also includes Lawrence F. Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard University; Kathryn Edin, former director of the Inequality & Social Policy program, now Johns Hopkins University; and Raj Chetty of Stanford University. "We hope that as a result, we can reset our country's approach to social mobility," Ellwood said.

The Inequality Problem

The Inequality Problem

February 4, 2016

London Review of Books | Essay by Ed Miliband, MP and former leader of the Labour Party, draws from Robert Putnam's Our Kids to argue that inequality is a defining issue for progressives in the UK, that Labour's renewal must be built on ideas and a determination to tackle inequality.

Latest commentary and analysis

Leah Wright Rigueur on ABC Nightline

How Donald Trump Has Used Twitter as Bully Pulpit

January 18, 2017

ABC News Nightline | Features Leah Wright Rigueur of the Harvard Kennedy School: "If we have a president who's blocking all access and trying to discredit the press, we don't have people who are holding the President's feet to the fire."

Brookings forum on public investment

Larry Summers v. Edward Glaeser: Two Harvard economists debate increased infrastructure investments

January 18, 2017

Brookings Institution | As politicians debate the merits of increased federal spending on infrastructure, the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy asked two prominent economists—Harvard University’s Lawrence Summers and Edward Glaeser—about the economic case for stepped-up infrastructure spending and their thoughts on how to spend any additional money most wisely. Here are the highlights of the conversation. (Read more)

What Does Free College Mean?

What Does Free College Mean?

January 17, 2017

Harvard Graduate School of Education | A Q&A with David Deming (Ph.D. '10), a professor at the HGSE and Harvard Kennedy School.

Among the research highlighted in this interview, a study of the Adams scholarship in Massachusetts, by Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15) and Joshua Goodman, Associate Professor of Public Policy, published in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics (Oct 2014); and a new paper by Deming and Christopher Walters of UC Berkeley, "The Impacts of Price and Spending Subsidies on U.S. Postsecondary Attainment."

Dept of Education

Federal Education Policy: What to Expect

January 13, 2017

Usable Knowledge (HGSE) | A primer on presidential transitions, Betsy DeVos, and how federal policy trickles down. Interview with Martin West (Ph.D. '06), Associate Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Lawrence Katz, J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative

Webcast: J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative Convening

January 12, 2017

J-PAL North America | Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allen Professor of Economics, and Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, were among the speakers and panelists for the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative Year 1 Convening. Katz serves as Scientific Director for J-PAL North America, along with MIT economist Amy Finkelstein.
View agenda

Preparing for a Next Generation Economy

Preparing for a Next Generation Economy

January 11, 2017

HKS PolicyCast | Policy roundtable with Douglas Elmendorf, Brigitte Madrian, and David Ellwood. Second in a three-part series with Harvard Kennedy School experts on the challenges facing President-elect Trump. Look for an edited version of their discussion to appear in the winter issue of the Harvard Kennedy School Magazine.

Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, led the Congressional Budget Office for six years before becoming Dean in 2016. Brigitte Madrian is a behavioral economist whose work focuses on household savings and investment behavior. David Ellwood is a leading expert on poverty and welfare in the United States. He served as Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School from 2004-2015, and is now focused on issues of inequality and mobility as Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

Brookings forum on public investment

From bridges to education: Best bets for public investment

January 9, 2017

Brookings Institution | A forum examining questions of public investment—in both physical infrastructure and human capital—opened with keynote remarks by Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus of Harvard University, and discussion from Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics. (Summers provides a summary of his key points from the presentation and discussion on his blog).

Subsequent speakers turned to human capital investment, including Richard Murnane, Juliana W. and William Foss Thompson Research Professor of Education and Society at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Video, transcripts, and presentation materials from the day's events are available on the Brookings website.

Does It Matter Where You Get Your Two-Year Degree?

Does It Matter Where You Get Your Two-Year Degree?

January 6, 2017

IRP Poverty Research & Policy Podcast | IRP National Poverty Fellow Nicole Deterding (Ph.D. '15) talks about research she and colleague David Pedulla of Stanford University conducted that examined employers' responses to degrees from for-profit versus non-profit two-year colleges in the early phases of the hiring process [audio + transcript].

The National Poverty Fellows program is an academic/government partnership between the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) at the US Department of Health and Human Services. Learn more about Nicole Deterding's work:
nicoledeterding.com

The First Hundred Days: Priorities for a New US President

The First Hundred Days: Priorities for a New US President

January 5, 2017

C-SPAN | Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy the Harvard Kennedy School, was among the speakers for this plenary session of the 131st annual meeting of the American Historical Association, held January 5-8 in Denver. The panel also featured Nathan Citino (Rice University), Margaret O'Mara (University of Washington), Kenneth Pomeranz (University of Chicago), and Sean Wilentz (Princeton University). 

What We Can Make of the Election of 2016: An Interview with Khalil Gibran Muhammad

What We Can Make of the Election of 2016: An Interview with Khalil Gibran Muhammad

January 5, 2017

History News Network | Video interview with Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, conducted at the 2017 convention of the American Historical Association. Muhammad spoke earlier in the evening at a plenary session on "The First Hundred Days: Priorities for a New US President." The session, recorded by C-SPAN, will be available within a few weeks.

Manufacturing In America: Fact And Fiction

Manufacturing In America: Fact And Fiction

January 5, 2017

NPR On Point with Tom Ashbrook | With Alicia Sasser Modestino (Ph.D. '01), Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Economics, Northeastern University, and Associate Director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.

A guide to rebuilding the Democratic Party, from the ground up

A guide to rebuilding the Democratic Party, from the ground up

January 5, 2017

Vox | By Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology. The key priority for progressives should be strengthening the Democratic Party at state and local levels, argues political scientist Theda Skocpol.

"Anti-institutional tendencies in today’s culture make the idea of dismantling the existing order attractive to many people. But social science research has long shown that majorities need strong organizations to prevail against wealthy conservative interests in democracies. The real problem in US politics today is hardly too much unified organizational heft on the center left; it is too little. Unless the Democratic Party becomes stronger and more effective, a radicalized Republican-conservative juggernaut is likely to take over for decades."

A Tribute to Sir Tony Atkinson

January 3, 2017

Canberra Times | By Andrew Leigh (Ph.D. '04). If you've ever referred to "the 1 per cent", you're using the work of Tony Atkinson. Tony, who died on January 1, aged 72, contributed as much as any modern economist to the study of poverty and inequality...(more)

Andrew Leigh met Tony Atkinson as an Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellow in 2002, when Atkinson was invited to Harvard to present his work in the Inequality Seminar Series. As part of his visit, Atkinson also joined our proseminar workshop for doctoral fellows, where he served as a discussant for Andrew's research paper. Atkinson and Leigh subsequently went on to co-author a set of papers together examining inequality trends in Australia and New Zealand.

Andrew Leigh is now shadow assistant treasurer (Australia), and a former professor of economics at the Australian National University.

Inequality: What Can Be Done?, by Anthony B. Atkinson

Tony Atkinson was an extraordinary human being. He was an economist by trade, who did more than anyone else to keep the study of income inequality alive from the 1960s to the mid-1990s, when most of his colleagues were either ignoring the subject or denying its importance.

He seemed to treat everyone he encountered, from the grandees of his profession to young graduate students, with decency and respect, and devoted thousands of hours to advancing other people's projects.

But he also cared deeply about persuading us all that rich countries could achieve low levels of economic inequality without suffering large reductions in economic efficiency or growth. Anyone who who has not read his last book, (Inequality: What Can Be Done?) should do so. 

Christopher Jencks Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, Emeritus


Inequality: What Can Be Done?
By Anthony B. Atkinson, Harvard University Press, 2015.

Tony Atkinson: Articles
Read more of Tony Atkinson's work at his personal website, where he selected what he thought were his most important articles in 15 topical areas.

Anthony B. Atkinson, Economist Who Pioneered Study of Inequality, Dies at 72
The New York Times

Passing of Anthony B. Atkinson
Le Monde (blog) | By Thomas Piketty. "Together with Simon Kuznets, Atkinson single-handedly originated a new discipline within the social sciences and political economy: the study of historical trends in the distribution of income and wealth."

Anthony Atkinson, a British economist and expert on inequality
The Economist

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.