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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

JPAL North America

Government leaders gather at J-PAL North America to advance evidence-based policymaking

February 9, 2017

MIT News | Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard and co-scientific director of JPAL-North America, spoke on leveraging housing vouchers as a ladder to economic mobility for low-income families. 

The conference, held at MIT, brought together state and local policymakers with leading researchers to discuss "how governments and researchers have partnered to use evidence from randomized evaluations to reduce crime and violence, improve maternal and child health, and promote housing mobility."

Dani Rodrik

Balance of Trade

February 9, 2017

Harvard Kennedy School Magazine
By Robert Kuttner
There are economists who teach the well-known postulate that free trade improves global well-being. There are other social scientists and popular critics who contend that laissez-faire trade can be bad for equality, for social stability, and even for economic efficiency, just as pure laissez-faire is not optimal at home.

And then there is Dani Rodrik.

Rodrik, the Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at the Kennedy School, is close to a unique specimen in the field of economics. He is a respectful critic of some of the most cherished suppositions of his profession, notably in his books and articles expressing qualms about globalization. But Rodrik does it as a superb technical economist, with humility, precision, wit, intellectual curiosity, and an astonishing range of reading across disciplines. Continue reading»

kids

The most important skill for the workplace isn’t being taught in American schools

February 9, 2017

Quartz | Discusses research by David Deming (Ph.D. '10), a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education, who finds that the labor market  in recent decades "increasingly rewards social skills", with "employment and wage growth particularly strong for jobs requiring high levels of both cognitive skill and social skill." Also cites a recent brief from The Hamilton Project, "Seven Facts on Noncognitive Skills from Education to the Labor Market," which draws on Deming's work.
View the research

School integration

Integration Works: Can It Survive the Trump Era?

February 9, 2017

The New York Times | Thomas B. Edsall reviews an extensive body of social science evidence, including the work of Raj Chetty of Stanford University and Harvard's Nathaniel Hendren, Assistant Professor of Economics.

Skyscrapers

HKS Footprint: Cities

February 9, 2017

Harvard Kennedy School Magazine | At Harvard Kennedy School, cities are a focus for research and an opportunity to experiment with new and better ways of governing. Features the work of Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy and director of the Government Peformance Lab, and of Quinton Mayne, Associate Professor of Public Policy, whose research "has found that where local governments can shape welfare policies, such as in education or social services, citizens are much less likely to be politically disaffected."

Radcliffe Day 2017

Judy Woodruff and the late Gwen Ifill named Radcliffe medalists

February 7, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Radcliffe Day 2017, on May 26, will honor PBS journalists Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff. Harvard's Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor, will participate in the morning panel, "(Un)truths and Their Consequences," joined by A’Lelia Bundles '74, E. J. Dionne ’73, and Peggy Noonan. For more information about the day's events, which will be webcast live, see Radcliffe Day 2017.

Tea Party

The Tea Party's Revival as the Party of Trump

February 7, 2017

OZY | Quoted: Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology. 

“[The Tea Party] was never about small government; it was about small government for the elites who latched on,” says Theda Skocpol, a Harvard professor and co-author of The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism. “For the grassroots back then, it was about making sure the government didn’t spend on the wrong people. Rarely did anyone criticize Social Security, Medicare, veterans’ benefits — the big-ticket items.” The biggest common theme, she says: “cracking down on immigration.”

women's march

A Harvard study identified the precise reason protests are an effective way to cause political change

February 3, 2017

Quartz | Political protests in the first days of the Trump administration generate new interest in a study by Daniel Shoag (Ph.D.'11), Associate Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, and colleagues Andreas Madestam (Stockholm University), Stan Veuger (American Enterprise Institute), and David Yanagizawa-Drott (University of Zurich). The study, published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in November 2013, seeks to determine whether protests actually cause political change, or whether they are "merely symptoms of underlying shifts in policy preferences."
View the research

Also cited: Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson's book, The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism (Oxford University Press, 2012). Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Governmant and Sociology at Harvard. Vanessa S. Williamson (Ph.D. '15) is  a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution.

Workers' Declining Share: Are 'Superstar' Firms Partially Responsible?

Workers' Declining Share: Are 'Superstar' Firms Partially Responsible?

February 3, 2017

Bloomberg | Discusses new study by David Autor (MIT), David Dorn (University of Zurich), Lawrence Katz (Harvard), Christina Patterson (MIT), and John Van Reenen (MIT), which examines the relationship between market concentration and labor's falling share in GDP. This work is forthcoming in American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings.
View the research

Ivy League gender pay-gap

The Ivy League's Gender Pay-Gap Problem

February 2, 2017

The Atlantic | Features insights of Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee  Professor of Economics. Cites her research, joint with Marianne Bertrand (University of Chicago) and Lawerence Katz (Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics), published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics (2010), which examined the dynamics of the gender gap for young professionals in the financial and corporate sectors. Also cites Goldin and Katz study, "The Cost of Workplace Flexibility for High-Powered Professionals," published in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (2011).

Immigrant Shock: Can California Predict the Nation’s Future?

Immigrant Shock: Can California Predict the Nation’s Future?

February 1, 2017

The New York Times | Cites research from a coming book by Ryan Enos, Associate Professor of Government at Harvard. Also cites Daniel Hopkins (Ph.D. '07), Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, and Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard. 

Enos provides the details of his analysis in a short research note, "Changes in Hispanic Population and Voting in the 2016 Presidential Election."
View research note

factory

Declining Labor Share: The 'Superstar' Firm Explanation

February 1, 2017

The Atlantic | Discusses new study by David Autor (MIT), David Dorn (University of Zurich), Lawrence Katz (Harvard), Christina Patterson (MIT), and John Van Reenen (MIT), which examines the relationship between market concentration and labor's falling share in GDP. This work is forthcoming in American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings.
View the research

crime scene

Testing strategies for preventing violence and crime

January 31, 2017

MIT News | J-PAL North America, a research center at MIT, has announced that it has awarded grants to fund randomized evaluations focused on employing behavioral science insights to prevent crime and violence. One of the two grants, awarded to Anuj Shah, Associate Professor of Behavioral Science at Chicago Booth, and Aurélie Ouss (Ph.D. '13), a postdoctoral fellow with the University of Chicago Crime Lab, "will evaluate whether an app designed to lead at-risk youth to participate in safe activities can help them avoid dangerous default situations and behaviors."

Boston Trump protest

Trials for a global university

January 30, 2017

Harvard Gazette | With travel to U.S. banned from some nations, Harvard moves to support members of its international community. President Drew Faust's letter to the Harvard community and responses from across the University, including that of Dean Douglas Elmendorf of the Harvard Kennedy School.

Sorry, Working From Home Isn't the Future of Job Flexibility

Sorry, Working From Home Isn't the Future of Job Flexibility

January 30, 2017

Bloomberg | Highlights new study by Harvard economist Amanda Pallais and Alexandre Mas of Princeton, "Valuing Alternative Work Arrangements." Also discusses work of Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, on jobs that may allow greater flexibility in hours without sacrificing pay.

The academy and the marketplace: The effects of foreign competition on professors of mathematics

The academy and the marketplace: The effects of foreign competition on professors of mathematics

January 28, 2017

The Economist | Delves into new study by George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and coauthors Kirk Doran and Ying Shen of the University of Notre Dame, which examines the productivity of American mathemeticians following the influx of Chinese graduate students from China's liberalization in 1978. The study is forthcoming in the Journal of Human Resources.
​​​​​​​View the research

Blame Monopolies for Short-Changing U.S. Workers

Blame Monopolies for Short-Changing U.S. Workers

January 26, 2017

Bloomberg View | Highlights new work by David Autor (MIT), David Dorn (University of Zurich), Lawrence Katz (Harvard), Christina Patterson (MIT), and John Van Reenen (MIT) exploring the relationship between market concentration and labor's falling share of GDP. The paper is forthcoming in American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings.
View the research

Latest awards

The 10 Best Books of 2016

The 10 Best Books of 2016

December 1, 2016

The New York Times Book Review | Matthew Desmond's Evicted is among this year's 10 Best Books, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. Desmond is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

Lawrence Bobo Elected Fellow of American Academy of Political and Social Science

Lawrence Bobo Elected Fellow of American Academy of Political and Social Science

November 29, 2016

AAPSS | Lawrence D. Bobo, the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences, is one of five newly-elected Fellows to join the American Academy of Political and Social Science in 2017. The AAPSS, one of the nation's oldest learned societies, recognized Bobo's research contributions as having "quantified, qualified, and illuminated understandings about social inequality, politics, racism and attitudes about race in America."

The 2017 Fellows also include Martha Minow (Dean of Harvard Law School), Margaret Levi (Stanford University), Timothy Smeeding (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Claude Steele (University of California-Berkeley).

The 10 Best Books of 2016

The 10 Best Books of 2016

November 17, 2016

Washington Post | Matthew Desmond's Evicted is selected as one of the 10 Best Books of 2016: "In spare and beautiful prose, Desmond chronicles the economic and psychological devastation of substandard housing in America and the cascading misfortunes that come with losing one’s home...In this extraordinary feat of reporting and ethnography, Desmond has made it impossible ever again to consider poverty in the United States without tackling the central role of housing."

Desmond is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

Danielle Allen named University Professor

Danielle Allen named University Professor

November 14, 2016

Harvard Gazette | Renowned political philosopher Danielle Allen, director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, professor of government in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), and professor of education at the Graduate School of Education, has been named a University Professor, Harvard’s highest faculty honor.

Journal of Politics Best Paper Award: The Political Legacy of American Slavery

Journal of Politics Best Paper Award: The Political Legacy of American Slavery

November 10, 2016

Awardee | Maya Sen, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, and co-authors Avidit Acharya (Stanford) and Matthew Blackwell (Harvard Government Department), have been awarded the Joseph Bernd Award for the best article published in Journal of Politics in 2016. Their article, "The Political Legacy of American Slavery," is available open access.
View article (PDF)

'Evicted' selected for 2017 Shortlist: Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence

'Evicted' selected for 2017 Shortlist: Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence

October 26, 2016

Matthew Desmond's Evicted is one of six books (3 fiction, 3 nonfiction) named to the Shortlist for the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. The citation reads, "This is essential reading for anyone interested in social justice, poverty, and feminist issues, but its narrative nonfiction style will also draw general readers—and will hopefully spark national discussion."  The two medal winners will be announced January 22, 2017. Desmond is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Social Sciences at Harvard.

Leah Wright Rigueur book honored by New England Historical Society

Leah Wright Rigueur book honored by New England Historical Society

October 7, 2016

The Boston Globe | Leah Wright Rigueur's book, The Loneliness of the Black Republican (Princeton University Press, 2014), will be honored by the New England Historical Association at its annual conference on October 22. Rigueur, an Assistant Professor af the Harvard Kennedy School, will receive the James P. Hanlan book award, which recognizes the work of an historian, focusing on any area of historical scholarship, who lives and works in New England.

Congratulations, teaching fellows

Congratulations, teaching fellows

September 27, 2016

Awardees | Harvard's Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning announced the recipients of its Certificates of Distinction in teaching for spring 2016, which included Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellows Aaron Benavidez (Sociology), Jack Cao (Psychology), Oren Danieli (Business Economics), Kelley Fong (Sociology & Social Policy), Margot Moinester (Sociology), and Alix Winter (Sociology & Social Policy). The recipients will be honored at a reception on Wed, Oct 19th from 4-5:30 pm in CGIS-South.

Jessica Simes awarded first Boston University Provost Career Development Professorship

Jessica Simes awarded first Boston University Provost Career Development Professorship

September 16, 2016

Awardee | Jessica Simes (Ph.D. in Sociology '16), now an assistant professor at Boston University, has been awarded the first of two newly-endowed University Provost Career Development Professorships at that institution.  The three-year University Provost’s Career Development Professorships will support two junior faculty working in academic areas with “the greatest potential for impacting the quality and stature of the University, as determined by the provost." Simes, whose Harvard doctoral dissertation focused on racial inequality and the mass incarceration of African Americans, was recognized for her work in data science—"specifically the mapping of communities to reflect the percentage of incarcerated people—[which] has been the backbone of Simes’s research on race, poverty, and mass incarceration." Learn more about her research at her homepage.

Inaugural CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars: Natalie Bau

Inaugural CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars: Natalie Bau

September 7, 2016

CIFAR | Natalie Bau (Ph.D. in Public Policy, '15) is one of 18 exceptional early-career researchers from diverse science and social science fields selected to the inaugural cohort of the new CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars Program, sponsored by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars receive two-year appointments with one of 14 research programs—in Bau's case, Institutions, Organizations, and Growth.

An Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Toronto, Bau studies development and education economics, with an emphasis on the industrial organization of education markets. 

Natalie Bau homepage

Charles Tilly Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Book Award: Daniel Schlozman

Charles Tilly Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Book Award: Daniel Schlozman

September 1, 2016

Awardee | Daniel Schlozman (Ph.D. '11), Assistant Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, is the winner of the 2016 Charles Tilly Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Book Award for first book, When Movements Anchor Parties: Electoral Alignments in American History (Princeton University Press, 2015). The award is conferred by the Collective Behavior and Social Movements Section of the American Sociological Association.

Equitable Growth announces 2016 class of grantees: Ellora Derenoncourt

Equitable Growth announces 2016 class of grantees: Ellora Derenoncourt

July 20, 2016

Awardee: Ellora Derenoncourt, Ph.D. candidate in Economics, is one of 19 new grantees in the Washington Center for Equitable Growth's 2016 class. Derenoncourt's research, "Social preferences at work: Evidence from online lab experiments and job-to-job mobility in the LEHD dataset," will will use online lab experiments and employee-employer matched data to look at labor market decisions, testing for individual social preferences over payoff distributions.

The award citation highlights that "this project is offers a novel twist on intra-firm mobility and job-to-job transitions by using preferences to look at labor market decisions and not simply tax preferences." Equitable Growth has worked with Derenoncourt before—she is a contributor to its forthcoming edited volume on Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century, "and this project is an example of her ability to engage with traditional economic literature and push it in interesting and useful new directions."

Equitable Growth Announces 2016 Class of Grantees: Christopher Jencks and Beth Truesdale

Equitable Growth Announces 2016 Class of Grantees: Christopher Jencks and Beth Truesdale

July 20, 2016

Awardees | Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, and Beth Truesdale, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, are among the 19 new grantees in the Washington Center for Equitable Growth's 2016 class.  Jencks and Truesdale will investigate "The effects of income inequality on health disparities in the United States." Jencks and Truesdale hypothesize that some of the correlation between income inequality and health outcomes is causal, running from inequality to health, and will seek to identify the causal mechanisms.

"Uncovering the causal channels between inequality and health would be an important contribution," the award citation notes, "particularly in light of recent research examining the relationship between income and life expectancy." This research is co-funded by the Russell Sage Foundation.

Equitable Growth Announces 2016 Class of Grantees: Blythe George

Equitable Growth Announces 2016 Class of Grantees: Blythe George

July 20, 2016

Awardee | Blythe George, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, is one of 19 new grantees in the Washington Center for Equitable Growth's 2016 class. George's research, "Those jobs ain’t coming back: The consequences of an industry collapse on two tribal reservations," will use qualitative data to explore the mechanisms that link the decline of employment options and life outcomes for males on two Native American tribal reservations, The Yurok and Hoopa Valley Reservations, located in California’s northwest.

"A member of the Yurok tribe herself, the researcher’s data provide a unique contribution ... [with] useful insights on the consequences of declining male labor force participation, particularly in non-urban settings." The award citation highlights that "From a policy engagement perspective, the rich[ness of] this qualitative work will help provide the narrative and texture that is necessary for capturing policy attention."

Robert Sampson elected to the British Academy

Robert Sampson elected to the British Academy

July 15, 2016

Awardee | Robert J. Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, has been elected a Fellow of the British Academy. The Academy elected 42 distinguished UK academics and 20 scholars from overseas institutions in recognition of their outstanding contributions to research. It also elected four Honorary Fellows, including U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Learn more about Robert Sampson's work at his homepage.

Latest commentary and analysis

Project Syndicate

Robert Barro's Tax-Reform Advocacy: A Response

December 15, 2017
Project Syndicate | By Jason Furman and Lawrence H. Summers. Jason Furman is Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Lawrence Summers is Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University.
Adam Looney

How the new tax bill encourages tax avoidance

December 14, 2017
Brookings Institution | By Adam Looney (PhD '04), Senior Fellow in Economic Studies, Brookings Institution. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Analysis in the U.S. Treasury from 2013 to 2017.
LSE Brexit

Brexit appealed to white working-class men who feel society no longer values them

December 14, 2017
LSE Brexit | By Noam Gidron and Peter A. Hall. Why is there such strong support for right-populist causes and candidates among the white working class? The authors' summarize their recent article published in the British Journal of Sociology.
View the research

Noam Gidron (PhD '16) is a fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University. Beginning in 2018, he will join the faculty of the Department of Political Science and the Joint Program in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Peter A Hall is Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies in the Department of Government, Harvard University, and at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies.
Daniel Schlozman

The Plutocratic Id

December 4, 2017
n + 1 | By Daniel Schlozman (PhD '11), Assistant Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University. 

"The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a horrifying but aso politically curious document," Schlozman observes. He examines "why a bill so manifestly written to please such a narrow stratum of plutocrats, with so few evident political benefits to a party hoping to retain power, now heads into the home stretch...That this is 'what Republicans do' hardly seems sufficient to make sense of how we got there."
Jack Cao

Ideas42: A Talk with Jack Cao

November 20, 2017

Ideas42 | With the ideas42 Seminar Series, we invite leading scholars to share their insights and what inspires their exploration into human behavior. Our New York office was pleased to host Jack Cao, a 5th year PhD candidate in social psychology at Harvard University. Jack’s research examines the divide between the conscious values we try to uphold and the implicit biases that reside within the mind...After giving a talk to the ideas42 team, Jack was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on behavioral science.

Cuz

‘One of so many millions gone’: how my cousin’s life was taken from him

November 17, 2017
The Guardian | By Danielle Allen. At the age of just 15, Michael was sent to prison for 11 years. On his release, I tried to help him start again. Why did his story end in tragedy? Allen is a political theorist and the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard. This is an edited extract from Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.
Michèle Lamont

The Big Picture: Social Solidarity

November 13, 2017
Public Books | By Michèle Lamont, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and Professor of Sociology and of African American Studies. This is the 26th installment of The Big Picture, a public symposium on what’s at stake in Trump’s America, co-organized by Public Books and NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge.

Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

Sosnaud, Benjamin, David Brady, and Steven M Frenk. 2013. “Class in Name Only: Subjective Class Identity, Objective Class Position, and Vote Choice in American Presidential Elections.” Social Problems 60. University of California Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of Social Problems: pp. 81-99. Publisher's Version Abstract
Partly because of the widespread tendency for Americans to think of themselves as “middle class,” subjective class identity often does not correspond to objective class position. This study evaluates the extent to which American voters' subjective class identities differ from their objective class positions. We then evaluate the implications of such differences for voting behavior using American National Election Studies data from eight recent presidential elections. Coding respondents according to whether subjective class identity is higher or lower than objective class position, we construct a novel schema of inflated, deflated, and concordant class perceptions. We find that there are substantial differences between Americans' subjective and objective social class: over two-thirds of the upper-middle class have a deflated perception of their class position, only half of the middle class have concordant perceptions, and more than a third of the working class have inflated perceptions. We also find that this divergence varies depending on sociodemographic factors, and especially race and education. The analyses initially show a pattern that those with inflated class perceptions are more likely to vote Republican. However, this relationship is not significant once we control for race and income.
Beckfield, Jason, Sigrun Olafsdottir, and Benjamin Sosnaud. 2013. “Healthcare Systems in Comparative Perspective: Classification, Convergence, Institutions, Inequalities, and Five Missed Turns.” Annual Review of Sociology 39: 127-146. Publisher's Version Abstract
This article reviews and evaluates recent comparative social science scholarship on healthcare systems. We focus on four of the strongest themes in current research: (a) the development of typologies of healthcare systems, (b) assessment of convergence among healthcare systems, (c) problematization of the shifting boundaries of healthcare systems, and (d) the relationship between healthcare systems and social inequalities. Our discussion seeks to highlight the central debates that animate current scholarship and identify unresolved questions and new opportunities for research. We also identify five currents in contemporary sociology that have not been incorporated as deeply as they might into research on healthcare systems. These five missed turns include emphases on social relations, culture, postnational theory, institutions, and causal mechanisms. We conclude by highlighting some key challenges for comparative research on healthcare systems.

Scholars have long noted how migration streams, once initiated, obtain a self-feeding character. Studies have attributed this phenomenon – the cumulative causation of migration – to expanding social networks that connect migrants in destination to individuals in origin. Studies however, often disagree on how social networks influence migration decisions. While many establish a positive association between individuals’ ties to prior migrants and their migration propensities, only few acknowledge that multiple social mechanisms might account for these interdependencies. To address this issue, we adopt a typology developed by DiMaggio and Garip (2012) and consider three mechanisms by which social ties may influence individuals’ migration choices. We study the prevalence of these mechanisms in the Mexico-US migration context using a mixed methods approach. First, analyzing data from more than 90,000 individuals surveyed by the Mexican Migration Project (MMP) we establish the presence of network effects in migration and test how prior migrants in the family or community increase individuals’ migration propensities, and whether prior migrants reduce the effect of economic or political indicators on migration propensities. Second, we analyze qualitative data from 120 in-depth interviews to determine the different mechanisms that lead to interdependencies in individuals’ migration choices. We thus provide a deeper understanding of migration as a social process, which we contend is crucial for anticipating future flows and policy responses.

Linos, Elizabeth. 2013. “Do Conditional Cash Transfers Shift Votes? Evidence from the Honduran PRAF.” Electoral Studies 32: 864-874. Abstract
How do national social programs influence local voting? This study utilizes the experimental set up of a conditional cash transfer program to show that small, targeted cash transfers can have large electoral effects. The Honduran PRAF program allocated an average of $18 per capita per year to poor households within municipalities that were randomly assigned to receive the program. Although the program was administered at the national level, the program increased an incumbent mayor’s re-election probabilities by 39%, without significantly influencing voting behavior in presidential elections. Moreover, the evidence suggests that transferring cash to poor households were more effective at increasing political support than interventions providing public goods for poor villages.
Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander. 2013. “Dismantling Policy through Fiscal Constriction: Examining the Erosion in State Unemployment Insurance Finances.” Social Service Review 87. The University of Chicago Press: pp. 438-476. Publisher's Version Abstract
Abstract A common proposition in welfare state research is that programs financed through dedicated payroll taxes tend to be more durable. This article examines American unemployment insurance (UI) as an exception to this proposition. UI is a self-financed social insurance program whose benefits have been dismantled over time because of an inability to maintain a constant revenue base. The study first examines the long-run decline in UI finances and concludes that changes in UI taxes are associated with the largest declines in state finances. It then examines why more states have not pursued reforms to strengthen UI finances and finds that opponents of more generous UI benefits have generally succeeded in preventing such measures, thus constricting UI finances and gradually retrenching benefits. These findings have implications for those seeking to improve UI solvency, as well as for the study of welfare state retrenchment more generally.
Huang, Wei, and Yi Zhou. 2013. “Effects of Education on Cognition at Older Ages: Evidence from China’s Great Famine.” Social Science & Medicine 98: 54-62. Publisher's Version Abstract

This paper explores whether educational attainment has a cognitive reserve capacity in elder life. Using pilot data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS), we examined the impact of education on cognitive abilities at old ages. OLS results showed that respondents who completed primary school obtained 18.2 percent higher scores on cognitive tests than those who did not. We then constructed an instrumental variable (IV) by leveraging China’s Great Famine of 1959e1961 as a natural experiment to estimate the causal effect of education on cognition. Two-stage least squares (2SLS) results provided sound evidence that completing primary school significantly increases cognition scores, especially in episode memory, by almost 20 percent on average. Moreover, Regression Discontinuity (RD) analysis provides further evidence for the causal interpretation, and shows that the effects are different for the different measures of cognition we explored. Our results also show that the Great Famine can result in long-term health consequences through the pathway of losing educational opportunities other than through the pathway of nutrition deprivation.

Huang, Wei, Xiaoyan Lei, John Strauss, Geert Ridder, and Yaohui Zhao. 2013. “Health, Height, Height Shrinkage, and SES at Older Ages: Evidence from China.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 5: 86-121. Publisher's Version Abstract

In this paper, we build on the literature that examines associations between height and health outcomes of the elderly. We investigate the associations of height shrinkage at older ages with socioeconomic status, finding that height shrinkage for both men and women is negatively associated with better schooling, current urban residence, and household per capita expenditures. We then investigate the relationships between pre-shrinkage height, height shrinkage, and a rich set of health outcomes of older respondents, finding that height shrinkage is positively associated with poor health outcomes across a variety of outcomes, being especially strong for cognition outcomes.

Feigenbaum, James J, and Cameron A Shelton. 2013. “The Vicious Cycle: Fundraising and Perceived Viability in US Presidential Primaries.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 8 (1): 1-40. Publisher's Version Abstract
Scholars of presidential primaries have long posited a dynamic positive feedback loop between fundraising and electoral success. Yet existing work on both directions of this feedback remains inconclusive and is often explicitly cross-sectional, ignoring the dynamic aspect of the hypothesis. Pairing high-frequency FEC data on contributions and expenditures with Iowa Electronic Markets data on perceived probability of victory, we examine the bidirectional feedback between contributions and viability. We find robust, significant positive feedback in both directions. This might suggest multiple equilibria: a candidate initially anointed as the front-runner able to sustain such status solely by the fundraising advantage conferred despite possessing no advantage in quality. However, simulations suggest the feedback loop cannot, by itself, sustain advantage. Given the observed durability of front-runners, it would thus seem there is either some other feedback at work and/or the process by which the initial front-runner is identified is informative of candidate quality.
Papachristos, Andrew V, David M Hureau, and Anthony A Braga. 2013. “The Corner and the Crew: The Influence of Geography and Social Networks on Gang Violence.” American Sociological Review 78 (3): 417-447. Abstract

Nearly a century of empirical research examines how neighborhood properties influence a host of phenomena such as crime, poverty, health, civic engagement, immigration, and economic inequality. Theoretically bundled within these neighborhood effects are institutions’ and actors’ social networks that are the foundation of other neighborhood-level processes such as social control, mobilization, and cultural assimilation. Yet, despite such long-standing theoretical links between neighborhoods and social networks, empirical research rarely considers or measures dimensions of geography and social network mechanisms simultaneously. The present study seeks to fill this gap by analyzing how both geography and social networks influence an important social problem in urban America: gang violence. Using detailed data on fatal and non-fatal shootings, we examine effects of geographic proximity, organizational memory, and additional group processes (e.g., reciprocity, transitivity, and status seeking) on gang violence in Chicago and Boston. Results show adjacency of gang turf and prior conflict between gangs are strong predictors of subsequent gang violence. Furthermore, important network processes, including reciprocity and status seeking, also contribute to observed patterns of gang violence. In fact, we find that these spatial and network processes mediate racial effects, suggesting the primacy of place and the group in generating gang violence.

Eldik, Yaseen, and Monica C Bell. 2012. “The Establishment Clause and Public Education in an Islamophobic Era.” Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 8: 245-258. Abstract
The public education system has often been considered a critically important site for inter-ethnic dialogue designed to root out the prejudice that leads to discrimination against ethnic minorities. However, the prohibition of certain religious practices in schools has placed the "celebration" of religious diversity in a more precarious position than the promotion of racial diversity in ways that have deleterious effects for Muslim Americans. This Essay argues that Supreme Court jurisprudence on religious establishment in public schools has contributed to public education’s inefficacy as a tool to dismantle fear and prejudice against Muslims. We explore judicial, political, and practical approaches to bringing constitutionally permissible religious education and interfaith dialogue into public schools.
Western, Bruce, Deirdre Bloome, Benjamin Sosnaud, and Laura Tach. 2012. “Economic Insecurity and Social Stratification.” Annual Review of Sociology 38: 341-359. Publisher's Version Abstract
Economic insecurity describes the risk of economic loss faced by workers and households as they encounter the unpredictable events of social life. Our review suggests a four-part framework for studying the distribution and trends in these economic risks. First, a focus on households rather than workers captures the microlevel risk pooling that can smooth income flows and stabilize economic well-being. Second, insecurity is related to income volatility and the risk of downward mobility into poverty. Third, adverse events such as unemployment, family dissolution, or poor health commonly trigger income losses. Fourth, the effects of adverse events are mitigated by insurance relationships provided by government programs, employer benefits, and the informal support of families. Empirical research in these areas reveals high levels of economic insecurity among low-income households and suggests an increase in economic insecurity with the growth in economic inequality in the United States.
Hirsch, Nicole Arlette, and Anthony Abraham Jack. 2012. “What We Face: Framing Problems in the Black Community.” Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race 9: 133-148. Abstract
While many sociological studies analyze the causes, conditions, and mechanisms perpetuating American racial inequality, the literature on how African Americans understand and explain these inequalities is less developed. Drawing on 150 interviews with middle-class and working-class African American men and women, this paper analyzes inductively how respondents define and conceptualize the most pressing obstacles facing their group when probed on this question. We find that middle- and working-class respondents alike identify the problem of racism as the most salient obstacle facing African Americans. Class differences appear with respect to what other obstacles are singled out as salient: while middle-class respondents focus on lack of racial solidarity among Blacks and economic problems (in this order), working-class respondents are more concerned with the fragility of the Black family followed by the lack of racial solidarity. This analysis discusses the relevance of considering how groups make sense of obstacles, and of racism and discrimination in particular, for the study of destigmatization and antiracist strategies of stigmatized minorities.
Papachristos, Andrew, Anthony Braga, and David Hureau. 2012. “Social Networks and the Risk of Gunshot Injury.” Journal of Urban Health 89 (6). Boston: 992-1003. Abstract

Direct and indirect exposure to gun violence have considerable consequences on individual health and well-being. However, no study has considered the effects of one’s social network on gunshot injury. This study investigates the relationship between an individual’s position in a high-risk social network and the probability of being a victim of a fatal or non-fatal gunshot wound by combining observational data from the police with records of fatal and non-fatal gunshot injuries among 763 individuals in Boston’s Cape Verdean community. A logistic regression approach is used to analyze the probability of being the victim of a fatal or non-fatal gunshot wound and whether such injury is related to age, gender, race, prior criminal activity, exposure to street gangs and other gunshot victims, density of one’s peer network, and the social distance to other gunshot victims. The findings demonstrate that 85 % all of the gunshot injuries in the sample occur within a single social network. Probability of gunshot victimization is related to one’s network distance to other gunshot victims: each network association removed from another gunshot victim reduces the odds of gunshot victimization by 25 % (odds ratio = 0.75

Braga, Anthony A, David M Hureau, and Andrew V Papachristos. 2011. “An Ex Post Facto Evaluation Framework for Place-Based Police Interventions.” Evaluation Review 35 (6): 592-626. Abstract

Background: A small but growing body of research evidence suggests that place-based police interventions generate significant crime control gains. While place-based policing strategies have been adopted by a majority of U.S. police departments, very few agencies make a priori commitments to rigorous evaluations. Objective: Recent methodological developments were applied to conduct a rigorous ex post facto evaluation of the Boston Police Department’s Safe Street Team (SST) hot spots policing program. Research Design: A nonrandomized quasi-experimental design was used to evaluate the violent crime control benefits of the SST program at treated street segments and intersections relative to untreated street segments and intersections. Propensity score matching techniques were used to identify comparison places in Boston. Growth curve regression models were used to analyze violent crime trends at treatment places relative to control places. Units of Analysis: Using computerized mapping and database software, a micro-level place database of violent index crimes at all street segments and intersections in Boston was created. Measures: Yearly counts of violent index crimes between 2000 and 2009 at the treatment and comparison street segments and intersections served as the key outcome measure. Results: The SST program was associated with a statistically significant reduction in violent index crimes at the treatment places relative to the comparison places without displacing crime into proximate areas. Conclusions: To overcome the challenges of evaluation in real-world settings, evaluators need to continuously develop innovative approaches that take advantage of new theoretical and methodological approaches.

Robbery, and the fear it inspires, has a profound effect on the quality of life in certain urban neighborhoods. Recent advances in criminological research suggest that there is significant clustering of crime in micro places, or "hot spots," that generate a disproportionate amount of criminal events in a city. In this article, the authors use growth curve regression models to uncover distinctive developmental trends in robbery incidents at street segments and intersections in Boston over a 29-year period. The authors find that robberies are highly concentrated at a small number of street segments and intersections rather than spread evenly across the urban landscape over the study time period. Roughly 1 percent and 8 percent of street segments and intersections in Boston are responsible for nearly 50 percent of all commercial robberies and 66 percent of all street robberies, respectively, between 1980 and 2008. Our findings suggest that citywide robbery trends may be best understood by examining micro-level trends at a relatively small number of places in urban environments.

Braga, Anthony A, Anne M Piehl, and David Hureau. 2009. “Controlling Violent Offenders Released to the Community: An Evaluation of the Boston Reentry Initiative.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 46 (4): 411-436. Abstract

Despite the high level of funding and policy interest in prisoner reentry, there is still little rigorous scientific evidence to guide jurisdictions in developing reentry programs to enhance public safety, particularly for managing those who pose the greatest safety risks. The Boston Reentry Initiative (BRI) is an interagency initiative to help transition violent adult offenders released from the local jail back to their Boston neighborhoods through mentoring, social service assistance, and vocational development.This study uses a quasi-experimental design and survival analyses to evaluate the effects of the BRI on the subsequent recidivism of program participants relative to an equivalent control group. The authors find that the BRI was associated with significant reductions—on the order of 30 percent—in the overall and violent arrest failure rates.

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Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Immigration's Long-Term Impacts on Overall Wages and Employment of Native-Born U.S. Workers Very Small, Although Low-Skilled Workers May Be Affected, New Report Finds

Immigration's Long-Term Impacts on Overall Wages and Employment of Native-Born U.S. Workers Very Small, Although Low-Skilled Workers May Be Affected, New Report Finds

September 21, 2016

National Academy of Sciences | The National Academy of Sciences today released a new report, The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration, authored by a panel of 14 experts, including George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. The 508-page report provides "a comprehensive assessment of economic and demographic trends of U.S. immigration over the past 20 years, its impact on the labor market and wages of native-born workers, and its fiscal impact at the national, state, and local levels."
View the report

Hutchins Roundup: Income mobility, labor protection regulations, and more

Hutchins Roundup: Income mobility, labor protection regulations, and more

September 7, 2016

Brookings Institution | The Hutchins Roundup spotlights new study by Alicia Sasser Modestino (Ph.D. '01) of Northeastern University, Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11) of the Harvard Kennedy School, and Joshua Ballance of the Boston Fed showing that employer skill requirements have fallen recently recently, reversing the trend observed during the Great Recession.
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Read more about Hutchins Roundup: Income mobility, labor protection regulations, and more
New Study: Market Forces Do Affect Health Care Sector

New Study: Market Forces Do Affect Health Care Sector

September 7, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School | Coverage of new research by Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, in the American Economic Review, "Health Care Exceptionalism? Performance and Allocation in the US Health Care Sector." The article is co-authored by Amy Finkelstein, MIT; Adam Sacarny, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health; and Chad Syverson, Chicago Booth.
View the research

Understanding employers' responses to for-profit colleges

Understanding employers' responses to for-profit colleges

August 25, 2016

Work in Progress | By Nicole Deterding (Ph.D. '15) and David Pedulla (Stanford University). Deterding is a National Poverty Fellow in the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE), U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, and Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Work in Progress is the American Sociological Association's blog for 'short-form sociology' on the economy, work, and inequality.

Poverty After Welfare Reform

Poverty After Welfare Reform

August 22, 2016

Manhattan Institute | By Scott Winship (Ph.D. '09), Walter B. Wriston Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Why has regional income convergence declined?

Why has regional income convergence declined?

August 4, 2016

The Brookings Institution | By Peter Ganong, Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11), Associate Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.

For one hundred years, per capita incomes in poorer U.S. states have grown more rapidly than incomes in richer states, narrowing the gap between them.  Over the past three decades, though, the rate of convergence has slowed sharply. It has become more difficult for poorer states to catch up with richer states. In a paper presented at the Municipal Finance Conference, Ganong and Shoag attribute this slowdown in convergence to increasingly tight land use regulations in wealthy areas.

The Science of Justice: Race, Arrests, and Police Use of Force

The Science of Justice: Race, Arrests, and Police Use of Force

July 8, 2016

Center for Policing Equity | On July 7-8, 2016, police chiefs, elected officials, researchers, and oversight practitioners met at the Department of Justice in Washington DC for a conversation about race and policing in the United States. As part of this convening, researchers presented a report of preliminary findings comparing patterns of stops and the use of force across twelve departments participating in CPE’s National Justice Database project. 

Phillip Atiba Goff, president and co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity led the study. Co-authored by Tracey (Shollenberger) Lloyd (Ph.D. '15) of the the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, Amanda Geller of NYU, and Steven Raphael and Jack Glaser of UC Berkeley. Goff, a visiting scholar at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy from 2014-2016, is the Franklin A. Thomas Professor in Policing Equity at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

View the study
Read the full press release

Study Supports Suspicion That Police Are More Likely to Use Force on Blacks

Study Supports Suspicion That Police Are More Likely to Use Force on Blacks

July 7, 2016

The New York Times | Quotes Phillip Atiba Goff on the findings of "The Science of Justice: Race, Arrests, and the Use of Force," a new study significant for its assembly and empirical analysis of detailed use-of-force data in the nation's first national database on police behavior. Goff, a visiting scholar at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy from 2014-2016, is co-founder and president of the Center for Policing Equity, which released the report, and the Franklin A. Thomas Professor in Policing Equity at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Tracey (Shollenberger) Lloyd (Ph.D. '15), a research associate in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, is a co-author of the study.
View the study

How judges understand, try to address racial disparities in the criminal court process

How judges understand, try to address racial disparities in the criminal court process

May 23, 2016

Journalist's Resource | Write-up of key findings from recently-published article in Criminology by Matthew Clair (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology) and Alix Winter (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy), "How Judges Think About Racial Disparities: Situational Decision-Making in the Criminal Justice System" (view it here).  Also cites related research by Maya Sen, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, "Is Justice Really Blind? Race and Reversal in U.S. Courts,” Journal of Legal Studies, 2015 (view it here).

ESSA Implementation: Perspectives from Education Stakeholders

ESSA Implementation: Perspectives from Education Stakeholders

May 18, 2016

Congressional Testimony | Testimony of Nora Gordon (Ph.D. '02), Associate Professor at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

See Gordon's written testimony, which explains "how the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) changes the definition of supplement not supplant, how the Department of Education proposes to regulate it, and the potential for that regulation to cause serious adverse consequences" that could make poor students worse off.

Aiming Higher Together: Strategizing Better Educational Outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color

Aiming Higher Together: Strategizing Better Educational Outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color

May 10, 2016

Urban Institute | By Ronald F. Ferguson, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. Boys and young men of color remain overrepresented among those who do not excel academically and face home, school, peer-group, and societal disadvantages relative to their white peers. This report proposes strategies to achieve a person-environment fit that can change dynamics and lead to better educational outcomes for these students.

Economic Perspectives on Incarceration and the Criminal Justice System

Economic Perspectives on Incarceration and the Criminal Justice System

April 25, 2016

Council of Economic Advisers | The Council of Economic Advisers makes the economic case for criminal justice reform. The report draws on and cites academic research by Inequality & Social Policy affiliates Bruce Western, Amitabh Chandra, David Deming, Roland Fryer, David Hureau (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy), Devah Pager, and Robert J. Sampson.