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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

John Harvard's Journal: Kennedy School Centers

John Harvard's Journal: Kennedy School Centers

June 17, 2016

Harvard Magazine | Notes that David T. Ellwood, Scott M. Black professor of political economy and HKS Dean from 2004 to 2015, has been appointed director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. "He also chairs the U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, an academic-practitioner collaboration aiming to create expanded paths for economic and social advancement. Allison professor of economics Lawrence Katz and Beren professor of economics N. Gregory Mankiw are among the 24 members of the partnership."

Black Caucus urges Airbnb to take reports of racism seriously

Black Caucus urges Airbnb to take reports of racism seriously

June 16, 2016

TechCrunch | The Congressional Black Caucus has called on AirbnB take further action in addressing the issues of racism and discrimination on its platform, including measures like those suggested by HBS Assistant Professor Michael Luca in a recent Washington Post article. Luca and HBS colleagues Benjamin Edelman and Dan Svirsky are the authors of a much-cited study, "Racial Discrimination in the Sharing Economy: Evidence from an Experiment."
View the research

After mass shootings, Republicans make it easier to buy guns

After mass shootings, Republicans make it easier to buy guns

June 14, 2016

Washington Post | Discusses recent study by faculty affiliate Michael Luca, Deepak Malhotra, and Christopher Poliquin, all of Harvard Business School. Luca and colleagues find a 15% increase in the introduction of gun-related bills in state legislatures following a mass shooting, but no statistically significant increase in gun laws enacted in either Democrat-led or divided state legislatures. In contrast, in states with Republican-controlled legislatures, they find a 75% increase in laws passed to loosen gun restrictions. 
View the research

After Mass Shootings, It's Often Easier to Buy a Gun

After Mass Shootings, It's Often Easier to Buy a Gun

June 14, 2016

The New York Times | Discusses recent study by faculty affiliate Michael Luca, Deepak Malhotra, and Christopher Poliquin, all of Harvard Business School. Luca and colleagues find a 15% increase in the introduction of gun-related bills in state legislatures following a mass shooting, but no statistically significant increase in gun laws enacted in either Democrat-led or divided state legislatures. In contrast, in states with Republican-controlled legislatures, they find a 75% increase in laws passed to loosen gun restrictions. 
View the research

When passengers air their fury

When passengers air their fury

June 13, 2016

Harvard Gazette | What might situational microcosms of inequality—like that experienced by air passengers—reveal about how societal income and wealth inequality play out in everyday life? New study by social psychologist Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School and Katherine A. DeCelles of University of Toronto examines episodes of "air rage" to shed light on the social behavioral consequences of inequality.
View the research in PNAS

Teaching the Teachers

Teaching the Teachers

June 11, 2016

The Economist | Cites and quotes Thomas Kane, Walter S. Gale Professor of Education: "Thomas Kane of Harvard University estimates that if African-American children were all taught by the top 25% of teachers, the gap between blacks and whites would close within eight years. He adds that if the average American teacher were as good as those at the top quartile the gap in test scores between America and Asian countries would be closed within four years."

Also highlights work of Roland Fryer, Henry Lee Professor of Economics: "In a vast study published in March, Roland Fryer of Harvard University found that “managed professional development”, where teachers receive precise instruction together with specific, regular feedback under the mentorship of a lead teacher, had large positive effects."

In Pursuit of Political Equality

In Pursuit of Political Equality

June 10, 2016

Wall Street Journal | Profile of political theorist Danielle Allen and a discussion of her new book, Equality and Education, which is being released this month by University of Chicago Press. Allen is Professor of Government and of Education and director of the Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard.

High Earners Are Going to Hate These Retirement Proposals

High Earners Are Going to Hate These Retirement Proposals

June 9, 2016

Bloomberg | A 146-page report on how to fix Social Security and more. Results and policy proposals from the two-year Bipartisan Policy Center Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings. Brigitte Madrian, Aetna Professor of Public Policy and Corporate Management at the Harvard Kennedy School, served on the commission.
View the report

Mehta Named Radcliffe Institute Fellow

Mehta Named Radcliffe Institute Fellow

June 9, 2016

Harvard Graduate School of Education | What Associate Professor Jal Mehta (Ph.D. '06) will be working on as a Radcliffe Institute fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year.

How Location Affects Economic and Educational Prospects

How Location Affects Economic and Educational Prospects

June 7, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School | Analyzing data on more than 100,000 Japanese- Americans interned during World War II, HKS Assistant Professor Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11) and co-author Nicholas Carollo (UCLA) provide new evidence on the causal effect of place. They find that camp assignment had large and lasting effects on long-term locations, on individual economic outcomes, and on economic outcomes in subsequent generations.
View the research

New book: Education and Equality, by Danielle Allen

New book: Education and Equality, by Danielle Allen

June 7, 2016

This month marks the launch of Danielle Allen's new book, Education and Equality, published by the University of Chicago Press. The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard, Harvard Book Store, and Boston Review will host a book discussion with Allen, Professor of Government and Education, as part of the Safra Center's new "Ethics in Your World" speaker series—Jun 7, 7:00-8:00 pm, Harvard Book Store (See event details).

The Disconnected

The Disconnected

June 3, 2016

Slate | Two decades after “welfare to work,” some women are navigating life without either welfare or work. Article accompanying a new Marketplace podcast, "The Uncertain Hour," which looks back at welfare reform 20 years later. Quotes David Ellwood, Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy.

How Kids Learn Resilience

How Kids Learn Resilience

June 3, 2016

The Atlantic | Notes and discusses economist Roland Fryer's research on incentive schemes in public school systems with high poverty rates: "As a body of work, Fryer’s incentive studies have marked one of the biggest and most thorough educational experiments in American history." Fryer, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, generally found no effect on student achievement.

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

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

Harvard Business School Research Brief

Consumers Punish Firms that Cut Employee Pay in Response to COVID-19

August 30, 2020

Harvard Busines School | By Bhavya Mohan, Serena Hagerty, and Michael Norton. Serena Hagerty is a Stone PhD Research Fellow and a PhD candidate at Harvard Business School. Michael Norton is the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School,

Our Common Purpose

Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century

June 11, 2020

American Academy of Arts and Sciences | Final report of the bipartisan Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, co-chaired by Danielle Allen of Harvard University, Stephen B. Heintz, and Eric Liu. The report includes 31 recommendations to strengthen America’s institutions and civic culture to help a nation in crisis emerge with a more resilient democracy.

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Economics After Neoliberalism: Introducing the EfIP Project

Economics After Neoliberalism: Introducing the EfIP Project

January 23, 2020

American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings | By Suresh Naidu, Dani Rodrik, and Gabriel Zucman.  A revised and updated version of their introduction to the Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP) policy briefs, published originally in the Boston Review (Feb 2019).

Alix S. Winter

Is Lead Exposure a Form of Housing Inequality?

January 2, 2020

Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies | By Alix Winter (PhD 2019) and Robert J. Sampson. Alix Winter received her PhD in Sociology and Social Policy from Harvard in 2019 and is now a Postdoctoral Research Scholar with the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE) at Columbia University. Robert Sampson is the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

Michael Luca

2019 in Research Highlights

December 27, 2019

American Economics Association | Among the top 10 research highlights of 2019, "Tech: Economists Wanted." An interview with Susan Athey and Michael Luca about the mutual influence between economics and the tech sector. Michael Luca is the Lee J. Styslinger III Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

Benjamin Schneer

Family past as political prologue

December 13, 2019

Harvard Kennedy School | Assistant Professor Benjamin Schneer's research shows a complex correlation between how members of Congress vote on immigration bills and their family history. Joint work with economist James Feigenbaum PhD 2016 and political scientist Maxwell Palmer, both of Boston University.

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DACA report

The Long-Term Impact of DACA; Forging Futures Despite DACA's Uncertainty

November 7, 2019

Immigration Initiative at Harvard
Findings from the National UnDACAmented Research Project (NURP). By Roberto G. Gonzales, Sayil Camacho, Kristina Brant, and Carlos Aguilar. Roberto G. Gonzales is Professor of Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Kristina Brant is a PhD candidate in Sociology and an Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellow.

The Inflation Gap

The Inflation Gap

November 5, 2019

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

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

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

Michael Hankinson

Research brief: Concentrated Burdens: How Self-Interest and Partisanship Shape Opinion on Opioid Treatment Policy

October 18, 2019

LSE American Politics and Policy | A look at Michael Hankinson's American Political Science Review article, co-authored with Justin de Benedictis-Kessner (Boston University), on self-interest, NIMBYism, and the opioids crisis. Michael Hankinson received his PhD in Government & Social Policy in 2017. Their research appears in the Nov 2019 issue of APSR.

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Allison Daminger

How Couples Share “Cognitive Labor” and Why it Matters

September 19, 2019

Behavioral Scientist | By Allison Daminger, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy. "Cognitive work is gendered, but not uniformly so," Allison Daminger finds. "And if we want to understand how divisions of cognitive labor impact women, families, and society as a whole, this is a crucial insight." Based on her research, "The Cognitive Dimensions of Household Labor," recently published in the American Sociological Review.

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Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP) logo

The Economics of Free College

June 1, 2019

Economics for Inclusive Prosperity | By David J. Deming, Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.

Stefanie Stantcheva VOX CEPR video

Where does innovation come from?

March 28, 2019

Vox EU | Stefanie Stantcheva, Professor of Economics, discusses her research (joint with Ufuk Akcigit, Santiago Caicedo Soler, Ernest Miguelez, and Valerio Sterzi), "Dancing with the Stars: Innovation Through Interactions," which shows that inventors learn by interacting with other inventors and produce better innovations [Video].

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