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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Election 2016: How Did We Get Here and What Does it Mean?

Election 2016: How Did We Get Here and What Does it Mean?

March 2, 2017

American Historical Association—AHA Today | Recap of the American Historical Association's plenary session, "Election 2016: How Did We Get Here and What Does it Mean?," featuring Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Outsourcing at home

Shaky Jobs, Sluggish Wages: Reasons Are at Home

February 28, 2017

The New York Times | "This reorganization of employment is playing a big role in keeping a lid on wages — and in driving income inequality — across a much broader swath of the economy than globalization can account for," writes Economic Scene columnist Eduardo Porter.

Cites recent study by Lawrence Katz of Harvard and Alan Krueger of Princeton, which concluded that temp agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, and freelancers accounted for 94% of U.S. employment growth from 2005 to 2015. View this research»

Also cites Katz on the pay gaps between firms as an important source of inequality: "Overall, Professor Katz estimates, the sorting of workers into high- and low-end employers accounts for a quarter to a third of the increase of wage inequality in the United States since 1980."

Just How Abnormal Is the Trump Presidency? Rating 20 Events

Just How Abnormal Is the Trump Presidency? Rating 20 Events

February 27, 2017

The New York Times | The New York Times consulted a panel of experts, among them Jennifer Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard, and Vesla Weaver (Ph.D. '07), Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of ISPS Center for the Study of Inequality at Yale University.

Do we need a new kind of economics?

Do we need a new kind of economics?

February 24, 2017

Financial Times | FT Books Essay by Martin Sandu recalls an instructive insight from an international trade theory course at Harvard with Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy.

Related
Comments on Economic Models, Economics, and Economists: Remarks on Economics Rules by Dani Rodrik
Journal of Economic Literature | By Ariel Rubinstein. "This essay reviews Dani Rodrik’s superb book Economics Rules and argues that it can serve as an ideal platform for discussing what economists can and should accomplish."

Betsy DeVos

Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins

February 23, 2017

The New York Times | Martin West, Associate Professor of Education, comments on a recent research finding unusually large negative effects of vouchers on children's test scores in Louisiana.

The article also cites research by Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Jonah Rockoff (PhD '04, now Columbia Business School) linking teachers' impacts on test scores (teacher value-added) to improved adult outcomes on a variety of measures.

And it notes that "the new voucher studies stand in marked contrast to research findings that well-regulated charter schools in Massachusetts and elsewhere have a strong, positive impact on test scores," citing research by Sarah Cohodes (PhD '15, now Columbia Teachers College) and collaborators. Cohodes and Susan Dynarski summarize the evidence in a 2016 Brookings Institution report, "Massachusetts charter cap holds back disadvantaged students."

Retraining Paradox

The Retraining Paradox

February 23, 2017

The New York Times Magazine | Many Americans need jobs, or want better jobs, while employers have good jobs they can’t fill. Matching them up is the tricky part. Quoted: Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics.

Amanda Pallais

When Bias Hurts Profits

February 22, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Details new study by economics professor Amanda Pallais and colleagues, which found that when minority employees in a French grocery chain worked for biased managers their job performance dropped from 79th to 53rd percentile on average. Pallais is the Paul Sack Associate Professor of Political Economy and Social Studies. The study is forthcoming in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.
View the research

Robert Sampson

To advance sustainability, fight inequality, researcher says

February 17, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Unless social and economic inequalities are addressed, sustainability efforts in urban centers will likely stall or never take hold, according to a new Harvard study by Robert J. Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences. 

San Francisco Chronicle

Trump’s storm keeps Democrats busy on many fronts

February 17, 2017

San Francisco Chronicle | Quoted: Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology.

Midterm elections such as 2018 favor opposition parties, which makes House Democrats “well positioned” as a fulcrum of the Trump resistance, said Theda Skocpol, a Harvard University sociologist. “That’s the place where Democrats will be able to make gains, if they can pick up support from a broader array of people,” Skocpol said. “That and the governors races are the really critical turning points.”

Monopoly

Monopolies Are Worse Than We Thought

February 15, 2017

Bloomberg View | New research suggests that growing market concentration may partly explain labor's declining share of national income, but what accounts for this growing market concentration? A new paper by  David Autor (MIT), David Dorn (University of Zurich), Lawrence Katz (Harvard), Christina Patterson (MIT), and John Van Reenen (MIT) suggests a technological explanation driving the rise of "superstar firms" in "winner take most' markets. This paper is forthcoming in American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings.
View the research

ACA alternatives in the JFK Jr Forum

The confused future of health care

February 14, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Coverage of the JFK Jr. Forum event, "Alternatives to the Affordable Care Act," with panelists Katherine Baicker, C. Boyden Gray Professor of Health Economics at Harvard; Jonathan Gruber, Ford Professor of Economics at MIT; Avik Roy, co-founder and president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity; and Gail R. Wilensky, senior fellow at Project HOPE and former director of Medicare and Medicaid. Moderated by Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy. Co-sponsored by the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.
View event video

Chicago Tribune building

Welcome to the 'Great Divergence'

February 14, 2017

The Atlantic—CityLab | "Before 1980, places in America with lower average incomes grew faster than their richer counterparts, so that incomes converged. Today, that’s no longer the case." Richard Florida delves into a recent study by economists Peter Ganong, Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago Harris School, and Daniel Shoag (Ph.'11), Associate Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.
...

Read more about Welcome to the 'Great Divergence'
Automation

The Relentless Pace of Automation

February 13, 2017

MIT Technology Review | Quotes Lawrence Katz, Elisabath Allison Professor of Economics:“I’m very worried that the next wave [of AI and automation] will hit and we won’t have the supports in place,” says Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard. Katz has published research showing that large investments in secondary education in the early 1900s helped the nation make the shift from an agriculture-based economy to a manufacturing one. And now, he says, we could use our education system much more effectively. For example, some areas of the United States have successfully connected training programs at community colleges to local companies and their needs, he says, but other regions have not, and the federal government has done little in this realm. As a result, he says, “large areas have been left behind.”

Also quotes MIT economist Daron Acemoglu, who presented his latest work in this area, "Machine vs. Man: The Labor Market in the Age of Robots," in the Harvard Inequality Seminar, Feb 6, 2017 (view seminar abstract).

Americans just can't leave retirement savings alone

Americans just can't leave retirement savings alone

February 13, 2017

Marketplace | “For every dollar people are contributing to the retirement savings system, about 40 cents of that money is coming out before people reach their late 50s,” said Brigitte Madrian, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. “That’s a quite striking amount of leakage, especially when many people are not saving enough in the first place.”

Illiquid savings

People Trying to Save Prefer Accounts That Are Hard to Tap

February 12, 2017

Wall Street Journal | Research suggests policy makers could make retirement accounts even more restrictive without reducing their appeal. Discusses findings of an experimental study by John Beshears (Harvard Business School), James J. Choi (Yale), Christopher Harris (University of Cambridge), David Laibson (Harvard Economics), Brigitte C. Madrian (Harvard Kennedy School), and Jung Sakong (University of Chicago).
View the research

More Women in their 60's and 70's are Working

More Women in their 60's and 70's are Working

February 11, 2017

The New York Times | The Upshot talks with Harvard economist Claudia Goldin on her recent study with Lawrence Katz, "Women Working Longer: Facts and Some Explanations." Also highlights Goldin's work with Joshua Mitchell (Ph.D. '11), a senior economist at the U.S. Census Bureau, which appears in the current issue of Journal of Economics Perspectives.

"Nearly 30 percent of women 65 to 69 are working, up from 15 percent in the late 1980s, one of the analyses, by the Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, found. Eighteen percent of women 70 to 74 work, up from 8 percent.

"This rejection of retirement is more common among women with higher education and savings, though not confined to them. Those who are not working are more likely to have poor health and low savings, and to be dependent on Social Security and sometimes disability benefits, Ms. Goldin said.

Of those still working, Ms. Goldin said, 'They’re in occupations in which they really have an identity.' She added, 'Women have more education, they’re in jobs that are more fulfilling, and they stay with them.'” 
View the research (by Goldin and Katz)
View JEP article (by Goldin and Mitchell)

Latest awards

Raj Chetty

Raj Chetty named a 2019 Carnegie Fellow

April 23, 2019

Harvard Gazette | Raj Chetty, the William A. Ackman Professor of Public Economics and director of Opportunity Insights, is among the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Fellows announced today by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. His project: "Restoring the American Dream: Leveraging Big Data to Support Local Policy Change."

“I’m delighted and honored to have been chosen as a recipient of the Carnegie fellowship,” Chetty wrote in an email. “I intend to use the fellowship to dedicate more time to our team’s work on restoring the American dream at Opportunity Insights, focusing specifically on how we can improve children’s opportunities in communities that currently offer limited prospects for upward income mobility.”

View the 2019 Carnegie Fellows ▶

Margot Moinester

Margot Moinester: Dorothy S. Thomas Award for Best Graduate Student Paper

April 23, 2019

Population Association of America | Margot Moinester, PhD candidate in Sociology, was presented with the Population Association of America (PAA) Dorothy S. Thomas Award for best graduate student paper for her paper, "Rethinking the U.S. Deportation Boom." Margot currently holds an NSF-Law & Inequalty Doctoral Fellowship with the American Bar Foundation.

Michele Lamont

Michèle Lamont named a 2019 Carnegie Fellow

April 23, 2019

Harvard Gazette | Michèle Lamont, Professor of Sociology and African and African American Studies and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, is among the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Fellows announced today by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Her project: "New Narratives of Hope: Self-Worth and the Current Crisis of American Society." 

Lamont will spend the year at the Russell Sage Foundation writing a book “trying to make sense of the current moment through the framework through which people understand their value and that of others.” The American dream is no longer working for any group, she said, from the working poor to the upper-middle class, and “we’re now facing a crisis in the way people imagine hope.”

View the 2019 Carnegie Fellows  ▶

Peter A. Hall

Peter A. Hall elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

April 17, 2019

American Academy of Arts and Sciences | Peter A. Hall, Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies at Harvard, has been elected to the 2019 class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Founded in 1780 "by John Adams, John Hancock, and others who believed the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good," the Academy recgonizes outstanding achievements in academia, the arts, business, government, and public affairs.

Claudia Goldin

Claudia Goldin recognized with BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award

March 26, 2019
Fundación BBVA| Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard, has been awarded the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the category of Economics, Finance, and Management for "her groundbreaking contributions to the historical analysis of the role of women in the economy and for her analysis of the reasons behind gender inequality.” Now in its eleventh edition, the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Awards recognize fundamental contributions in eight disciplines and domains of scientific knowledge, technology, humanities, and artistic creation.
Shom Mazumder

Shom Mazumder: Finalist for Frank Prize for Research in Public Interest Communications

February 25, 2019

Awardee | Stone PhD Scholar Shom Mazumder, a PhD candidate in Government, has been selected as a finalist for the 2019 Frank Prize for his paper, "The Persistent Effect of US Civil Rights Protests on Political Attitudes," forthcoming in the Oct 2019 issue of American Journal of Political Science. The Frank Prize, awarded by the University of Florida Center for Public Interest Communications, recognizes peer-reviewed academic research that informs public interest communications. As a finalist, Shom presented his research at frank, a gathering of 300 social change communication practitionerm, scholars, and students.

View Shom Mazumder's presentation ►
View interview with Shom Mazumder ►
View the research in AJPS ►
National Academy of Social Insurance

Forty-Five Experts Elected to the National Academy of Social Insurance

February 14, 2019

National Academy of Social Insurance | Inequality & Social Policy faculty members Amitabh Chandra (Harvard Kennedy School) and  David Laibson (Economics) and alumna Elisabeth Jacobs PhD 2008 (Senior Director for Family Economic Security, Washington Center for Equitable Growth) are among the 45 newly-elected members of the National Academy of Social Insurance. The Academy solutions to challenges facing the nation by increasing public understanding of how social insurance contributes to economic security. 

Vesla M. Weaver

Vesla Weaver named Gilman Scholar

December 19, 2018

Awardee | Vesla M. Weaver,  PhD in Government and Social Policy 2007, is one of five Johns Hopkins University faculty members recently named Gilman Scholars, a distinction that honors and celebrates select Johns Hopkins faculty who embody the highest standards of scholarship and research across the university. A leading scholar on racial politics and criminal justice issues, Weaver has devoted her research to investigating the causes and effects of inequality and mass incarceration in America. Weaver joined Johns Hopkins as a Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor in fall 2017, bridging the sociology and political science departments, after holding faculty poitions at Yale and the University of Virginia.  

Oren Danieli: Martin Award for Excellence in Business Economics

Oren Danieli: Martin Award for Excellence in Business Economics

December 5, 2018

Awardee | Oren Danieli, PhD candidate in Business Economics, is the 2019 recipient of the Harvard Business School Martin Award for Excellence, based on excellence in innovative dissertation research. From the award announcement: "Danieli develops novel approaches to study of income inequality. He has developed a big-data method to optimize social experiments aimed at increasing income mobility, used machine-learning tools to improve hiring of teachers and policemen, and created a new method to study wage polarization." Learn more about Oren Danieli's research:

orendanieli.com »

Jason Furman

Jason Furman Joins RSF Board of Trustees

November 16, 2018

Russell Sage Foundation | The Russell Sage Foundation announced the appointment of Jason Furman to its board of trustees. Furman is Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and a nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He is a former economic adviser to President Obama and served as the 28th Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Blythe George

Blythe George awarded Mellon Mays Travel and Research Grant

October 18, 2018

Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation | Blythe George, PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Policy, has been awarded a Mellon Mays travel and research grant to support her doctoral dissertation research. Blythe participated in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College (BA 2012).

Olivia Chi

Olivia Chi: Emerging Education Policy Scholars program

September 4, 2018

Thomas B. Fordham Institute | Olivia Chi, a PhD candidate in Education, has been selected for the 2018-2019 cohort of Emerging Education Policy Scholars, a program of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and American Enterprise Insitute that brings together newly-minted PhD scholars and PhD candidates to the nation's capital to meet with education-policy experts and to share and brainstorm new directions for K–12 education research. Olivia's own research interests include the economics of education, teacher labor markets, and policies that reduce educational inequality.

Amelia Peterson awarded APSA best comparative public policy paper prize

Amelia Peterson awarded APSA best comparative public policy paper prize

September 1, 2018

Awardee | Amelia Peterson, PhD candidate in Education, has been awarded the Best Comparative Policy Paper Award by the American Political Science Association's Public Policy section. The award recognizes an article of particular distinction published in the area of comparative public policy. Amelia's research examines who drives education reforms and the relationship to inequality.

Latest commentary and analysis

Anthony Abraham Jack

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

September 10, 2019

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

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

Project Syndicate

Whither Central Banking?

August 23, 2019

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

Khalil Gibran Muhammad

The Barbaric History of Sugar in America

August 14, 2019

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

trumpmonkeycage

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

August 12, 2019

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

Lawrence Katz

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

August 7, 2019

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

Scientific American

Do Prisons Make Us Safer?

June 21, 2019

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

View the research ►

The dilemmas for Democrats in three past visions for the party

The dilemmas for Democrats in three past visions for the party

June 13, 2019

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

Brookings panel on the racial wealth gap

Racial wealth inequality: Social problems and solutions

June 3, 2019

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

Christopher Wimer

What States Can Do to Drastically Reduce Child Poverty

May 6, 2019

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

Anthony Abraham Jack at TEDxCambridge

Anthony Abraham Jack delivers TEDxCambridge talk

May 3, 2019

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

Latest 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."
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.