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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Finding Common Political Ground on Poverty

Finding Common Political Ground on Poverty

February 2, 2016

The New York Times | Economic Scene column by Eduardo Porter examines the AEI-Brookings plan for reducing poverty and enhancing mobility, which David T. Ellwood, the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy and a participant of the working group that crafted the plan, presented at a Washington Press Club event in December. The plan is a coherent approach, writes Porter, that "raises a tantalizing prospect. Is it possible that combating America’s entrenched poverty — the deepest among advanced industrialized nations— may have finally become salient enough for the left and right to break through the ideological gridlock?"

Black America and the Class Divide

Black America and the Class Divide

February 1, 2016

The New York Times | Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. draws on William Julius Wilson's observations on the significance of income inequality within the black community, noting the growing share of black Americans reaching upper-middle income prosperity in recent decades on one hand, and the relatively enduring share of black Americans living on incomes of less than $15,000 on the other. 

The costs of inequality: When a Fair Shake Isn't Enough

The costs of inequality: When a Fair Shake Isn't Enough

February 1, 2016

Harvard Gazette | First in a series on what Harvard scholars are doing to deepen our understanding of inequality—its causes, consequences, and policies to address one of America’s most vexing problems. Features Inequality & Social Policy faculty participants Jennifer Hochschild, Archon Fung, Lawrence Katz, and Bruce Western, along with Michael Norton of HBS, who is scheduled to speak in the Inequality & Social Policy Seminar Series on March 28.  This article also appeared online at U.S. News and World Report.... Read more about The costs of inequality: When a Fair Shake Isn't Enough

Work-life balance in Japan leans in one direction

Work-life balance in Japan leans in one direction

January 30, 2016

The Japan Times | Opinion essay draws on findings of Mary Brinton, Reischauer Institute Professor of Sociology and Department Chair, and Eunmi Mun (Amherst College) in their article, "Between state and family: managersimplementation and evaluation of parental leave policies in Japan."
Read the research

Why ‘Nudges’ to Help Students Succeed Are Catching On

Why ‘Nudges’ to Help Students Succeed Are Catching On

January 29, 2016

The Chronicle of Higher Education | Highlights research by Judith Scott-Clayton (Ph.D. '09, now Columbia University Teachers College) illustrating how insights from behavioral economics are influencing education research and policy: "Higher education presents a 'perfect storm for the frailties of human reasoning,' Andrew P. Kelly says. 'The system often seems set up to frustrate people.' That’s especially true for the least-advantaged students, as Judith Scott-Clayton showed in 'The Shapeless River,' a paper describing the unstructured environment that community-college students must navigate."

Takeover to Turnaround: What States and Schools Can Learn from the Massachusetts Takeover of Lawrence Public Schools

Takeover to Turnaround: What States and Schools Can Learn from the Massachusetts Takeover of Lawrence Public Schools

January 28, 2016

HGSE Usable Knowledge | Spotlights new research by Inequality Fellow Beth Shueler (Ed.D. candidate), Joshua Goodman (Associate Professor, Harvard Kennedy School), and David Deming (Ph.D. '10 and Associate Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education), which found achievement gains from state takeover and district-level turnaround of Lawrence public schools  in a new working paper that may serve as a blueprint for other districts and states.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen to Receive Radcliffe Medal

Fed Chair Janet Yellen to Receive Radcliffe Medal

January 27, 2016

Harvard Magazine | Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School,  and Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, are among the participants in a Radcliffe Day event on May 27 honoring Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair and this year's Radcliffe Medalist. The day will open with the panel "Building an Economy for Prosperity and Equality," featuring Elmendorf and Goldin. As the article notes,"Yellen has been outspoken on the subject of inequality, and last year defended the Fed’s interest in reducing the nation’s wealth gap." Other Radcliffe Day participants include former Fed Chair Ben S. Bernanke; economics professor Gregory Mankiw of Harvard; Cecilia Rouse, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs at Princeton University; economics professor David Autor of MIT, and Louise Sheiner of the Brookings Institution. The day's events will be webcast live.
For more information: Radcliffe Day 2016 ►

District in Turnaround: Ed.D. candidate's study on Massachusetts' Lawrence Public Schools shows improvements for turnaround district.

District in Turnaround: Ed.D. candidate's study on Massachusetts' Lawrence Public Schools shows improvements for turnaround district.

January 26, 2016

Harvard Graduate School of EducationNew research by Inequality Fellow Beth Schueler (Ed.D. candidate), co-authored by Joshua Goodman (Associate Professor, Harvard Kennedy School) and David Deming (Ph.D. '10 and Associate Professor, HGSE), demonstrates the direct impact of state takeover of the Lawrence Public School district on student performance and outcomes.

“While researchers can point to several successful efforts to improve individual schools serving primarily low-income students, examples of district-wide turnaround have been frustratingly few and far between,” said Schueler. “Lawrence is an exciting case because it provides an encouraging proof point that accountability-driven improvement of a chronically low-performing school district is indeed possible.”... Read more about District in Turnaround: Ed.D. candidate's study on Massachusetts' Lawrence Public Schools shows improvements for turnaround district.

New Koch: Rebranding the Koch Brothers

New Koch: Rebranding the Koch Brothers

January 25, 2016

The New Yorker | Highlights new, data-rich study by Theda Skocpol (Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology) and Alex Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy) on grassroots mobilizations by the Koch Network. Read their paper, “The Koch Effect: The Impact of a Cadre-Led Network on American Politics and Policy," which includes early results from a collaborative study of “The Shifting U.S. Political Terrain” under way at Harvard University.

The Great Immigration-Data Debate

The Great Immigration-Data Debate

January 19, 2016

The Atlantic | Discusses latest analysis by George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, in an ongoing debate among economists on the wage impact of the Mariel boatlift on Miami workers. Read Borjas's NBER paper, "The Wage Impact of the Marielitos: Additional Evidence" (January 2016). Links to Borjas's earlier papers and further discussion of these issues in his recently revived blog may be found at his faculty website.

Lunch with the FT: Roland Fryer

Lunch with the FT: Roland Fryer

January 15, 2016

Financial Times | Roland Fryer, Henry Lee Professor of Economics. Over steak and fries, the US economist says that the best way to combat police violence and poor schools is through data, not personal experience.

The Republican Party's 50-State Solution

The Republican Party's 50-State Solution

January 13, 2016

The New York Times | Drawing on research by Inequality & Social Policy faculty member Theda Skocpol and doctoral fellow Alex Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy), Thomas Edsall column analyzes how "sustained determination on the part of the conservative movement has paid off in an unprecedented realignment of power in state governments," which have proved to be more receptive to efforts by the Koch Brothers and conservative allies to protect business interests.

Inequality is a problem schools alone can't fix

Inequality is a problem schools alone can't fix

January 12, 2016

The Guardian | Op-ed urging that British politicians and government minsters step up in addressing inequality by taking seriously the arguments of Our Kids, by Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy: "For what Our Kids shows is the desperate need to move discussion of disadvantage and social mobility beyond the school gate into the much more vexed territory of family, parenting, community and economic injustice."

Lowering healthcare spending by tackling non-medical issues

Lowering healthcare spending by tackling non-medical issues

January 8, 2016

Marketplace | Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, comments on a federal experiment to improve care and lower healthcare spending by focusing on social problems like homelessness and domestic violence. Chandra suggests that money could be better spent by increasing funding for community health centers and hospitals that serve low-income communities—interventions, he says, that we know improve health and are cost-effective.

When Teamwork Doesn't Work for Women

When Teamwork Doesn't Work for Women

January 8, 2016

The New York Times | Spotlights research by Heather Sarsons, Ph.D. candidate in Economics, showing that when female economists co-author with men, they incur a substantial penalty in their tenure prospects that their male colleagues do not.

"The numbers tell a compelling story of men getting the credit whenever there is any ambiguity about who deserves credit for work performed in teams. And this is a very big deal: The bias that Ms. Sarsons documents is so large that it may account on its own for another statistic: [That while women in the field publish as much as men], female economists are twice as likely to be denied tenure as their male colleagues." 

"The numbers," writes Justin Wolfers (Ph.D. '01, now University of Michigan) in his review of Sarsons's research, "tell a compelling story of men getting the credit whenever there is any ambiguity about who deserves credit for work performed in teams.

"And this is a very big deal: The bias that Ms. Sarsons documents is so large that it may 
account on its own for another statistic: [That while women in the field publish as much as men], female economists are twice as likely to be denied tenure as their male colleagues." 

Beyond the field of economics, the pattern that Sarsons pinpoints, suggests Wolfers, "may explain why women struggle to get ahead in other professions involving teamwork."

In contrast, in settings where attribution is more explicit, reducing the need to draw inferences (where biases can enter), Sarsons hypothesizes that we should see men and women benefiting in more equal measure from collaborative work. Her initial results from sociology, where authors are often listed in order of contribution, lend support to this idea: There she found no penalty to female coauthors.
Go to the NYTimes article ►
View the original research ►

Latest awards

'Our Kids' selected for Books of the Year 2015

'Our Kids' selected for Books of the Year 2015

December 3, 2015

The Economist | Robert Putnam's, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, described as "thoughtful and persuasive", has been selected by The Economist as one of the best books of 2015.  Also making the list, Inequality: What Can Be Done?, by Anthony Atkinson (University of Oxford).

ISA Medal of Science

ISA Medal of Science

October 6, 2015

Awardee | Robert D. Putnam to receive the Institute for Advanced Studies' (University of Bologna) highest honor for scientific excellence and international acclaim.

Dan Zuberi named to the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists

Dan Zuberi named to the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists

September 25, 2015

Awardee | Dan Zuberi (Ph.D. '04) has been named to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) College, which represents "the emerging generation of scholarly, scientific and artistic leadership in Canada." Zuberi, now RBC chair and Associate Professor of Social Policy at the University of Toronto's School of Public Policy and Governance, was recognized for his "innovative social policy research" on vulnerable and disadvantaged populations in Canada and the U.S.  (Read the full citation)

Viridiana Rios will be a visiting fellow at Wilson Center

Viridiana Rios will be a visiting fellow at Wilson Center

September 18, 2015

Awardee | Viridiana Rios (Ph.D. '13) will be a visiting fellow this fall at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, where she will be working on a project titled, "Economic Policy for Crime Deterrence in Mexico."

Robert Putnam named to The Politico 50

Robert Putnam named to The Politico 50

September 10, 2015

Politico Magazine | Robert Putnam recognized as one of fifty "thinkers, doers, and visionaries transforming American politics in 2015."

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