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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

New Progress on Using Behavioral Sciences Insights

New Progress on Using Behavioral Sciences Insights

September 15, 2016

The White House | One year ago President Obama issued an executive order directing Federal Government agencies to apply behavioral science insights to their programs to better serve the American people. To mark the past year of progress, today the White House is hosting a Summit on Behavioral Science Insights and releasing the SBST Second Annual Report. The report draws extensively from research by Inequality & Social Policy faculty affiliates Sendhil Mullainathan (Economics), Brigitte Madrian (HKS), David Laibson (Economics), Jeffrey Liebman (HKS), Todd Rogers (HKS), and Michael Norton (HBS). It also cites work by Inequality & Social Policy alumni Judith Scott-Clayton (Ph.D. '09), Associate Professor of Economics and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University; W. Adam Looney (Ph.D. '04), Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Analysis, U.S. Treasury; and David Hureau (Ph.D. '16), Assistant Professor, School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany, SUNY.

How We Undercounted Evictions by Asking the Wrong Questions

How We Undercounted Evictions by Asking the Wrong Questions

September 15, 2016

FiveThirtyEight | The Milwaukee Area Renter's Study (MARS), the brainchild of Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, "may be the first rigorous, detailed look at eviction in a major city...Now the survey is going national: The Census Bureau recently agreed to add some of the MARS questions to its massive, biennial housing survey."

Introducing the Evidence-Based Policymaking Collaborative

Introducing the Evidence-Based Policymaking Collaborative

September 13, 2016

Andrew Feldman (Ph.D. '07), Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution Center on Children and Families, has been appointed to the newly-launched Evidence-Based Policymaking Collaborative. Funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the collaborative brings together researchers from the Urban Institute, the Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative to create tools to inform evidence-based policymaking at all levels of government. 

The Politico 50: Matthew Desmond

The Politico 50: Matthew Desmond

September 12, 2016

Politico | Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Social Science at Harvard—"for turning to a powerful source in explaining poverty: poor people themselves,"—has been named to The Politico 50, Politico's annual list of "thinkers transforming politics." From the citation: "In 2008, when Matthew Desmond moved into a poor Milwaukee neighborhood to begin what would become his groundbreaking study of eviction and its role in exacerbating poverty, the notion that a presidential race would be defined by progressive ideas about the evils of income inequality would have seemed almost inconceivable. But this year, the book that Desmond produced from that research—Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City—landed in the middle of a campaign in which outsider candidates from both parties pushed populist messages aimed at the working poor."

"Desmond, a Harvard sociologist, challenged stale notions about how poverty works through intimate portraits of eight families. One of his most notable discoveries was that evictions often were not the result of losing a job but rather the cause, a potentially game-changing insight into what traps people in poverty." A word of advice for the next president? "Fight poverty."

The Politico 50: George J. Borjas

The Politico 50: George J. Borjas

September 12, 2016

Politico | George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, has been named to The Politico 50, Politico's annual list of "thinkers transforming politics."  From the citation: "But Borjas isn’t necessarily anti-immigration; in fact, his research shows immigration can benefit the nation overall. The real message he has been delivering since his pioneering 1994 study is that both political parties are far too simplistic when they talk about immigration’s harms and benefits. The problem is that immigration doesn’t lift everyone equally: Immigrants themselves get a lot out of it, as do business owners and people on the top of the economic pyramid. But it genuinely hurts many native-born Americans, especially low-skilled workers."

Poor Students’ Futures Are on the Ballot in Massachusetts

Poor Students’ Futures Are on the Ballot in Massachusetts

September 3, 2016

Daily Beast | Highlights research findings by Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15), Professor of Education and Public Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. This work includes “Teaching to the Student: Charter School Effectiveness in Spite of Perverse Incentives,” Education Finance and Policy; and "Stand and Deliver: Effects of Boston’s Charter High Schools on College Preparation, Entry, and Choice,” by Joshua D. Angriest, Sarah Cohodes, Susan Dynarski, Parag A. Pathak, and Christopher R. Walters,  Journal of Labor Economics.
View the research

The Array of Things is Coming to Chicago (and the World)

The Array of Things is Coming to Chicago (and the World)

September 2, 2016

Chicago Magazine | What can we learn from environmental sensors in these new fixtures? Highlights pioneering work of Robert Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, "doing Google Street View before there was a Google," and Edward Glaeser and colleagues, who have used a machine learning algorithm with Google Street View to answer social science questions.

Clinton drug plan: Is it enough?

Clinton drug plan: Is it enough?

September 2, 2016

Marketplace | Marketplace talks with Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, for his analysis.

School reform: After freedom, what?

School reform: After freedom, what?

August 27, 2016

The Economist | Cites research by Roland Fryer, Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard, and Will Dobbie (Ph.D. '13), Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton, on the essential qualities of the best charter schools. "In a new paper, Mr Dobbie and Mr Fryer found that although the best charter schools in Houston did better than equivalent state schools in tests and college admissions, attending one had no discernible impact on wages."
View this research

Tobin Project Holds Conference on Inequality and Decision Making

Tobin Project Holds Conference on Inequality and Decision Making

August 26, 2016

Tobin Project | A number of Inequality & Social Policy affiliates participated in the Tobin Project's Conference on Inequality and Decision-Making, held Aug 4-5 in Cambridge. The conference, whose organizers included faculty members David Moss and Michael Norton of Harvard Business School, "brought together leading scholars from across the social and behavioral sciences to explore the effects of economic inequality on individual behavior and decision making."

"Participants examined the ways in which rising inequality might influence the perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors of Americans..., [with the aim] to improve understanding of the mechanisms through which inequality affects our democracy, economy, and society as a whole."

In addition to Moss and Norton, speakers included Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellow Beth Truesdale (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology) and alumnae Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington (Ph.D. '14) and Vanessa Williamson (Ph.D. '15), who presented pilot research at the conference. Robert Manduca (Ph.D. student in Sociology & Social Policy) presented research in progress on income inequality and structural change at a smaller doctoral student workshop organized by the Tobin Project on August 6.
View conference program 

Why you should save more than 3% in your 401(k)

Why you should save more than 3% in your 401(k)

August 26, 2016

San Francisco Chronicle | Quotes and cites early research by Brigitte Madrian, Aetna Professor of Public Policy and Corporate Management at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Employees who are auto-enrolled in 401(k) plans often contribute 3 percent of pay 
because this is the most popular default contribution level. How did this become the default? The 3 percent rate was used as a hypothetical example in two Internal Revenue Service rulings in 1998 and 2000, in which the IRS explained how 401(k) plans could automatically enroll workers without jeopardizing their tax benefits.... Read more about Why you should save more than 3% in your 401(k)

Latest commentary and analysis

The Rights and Wrongs of Economics

The Rights and Wrongs of Economics

June 7, 2017
Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast | Twenty years ago, Dani Rodrik predicted that too much globalization could lead to social disintegration and weakened democracies. Dani Rodrik is the Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School.
How “the community” undermines the goals of participatory democracy

How “the community” undermines the goals of participatory democracy

June 5, 2017
Work in Progress | By Jeremy R. Levine (PhD '16), Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies, University of Michigan. Discusses the findings of his academic research, "The Paradox of Community Power: Cultural Processes and Elite Authority in Participatory Governance, published earlier this spring in Social Forces. 'Work in Progress' is a public blog of the American Sociological Association (ASA) for 'short-form sociology' on the economy, work, and inequality.
View the research
Ronald Ferguson interview - HarvardX

Can 'The Boston Basics' Help Close the Achievement Gap?

June 5, 2017
WBUR Radio Boston | WBUR talks with Ron Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University and creator of The Boston Basics. The Boston Basics Campaign is partnering with hospitals, community health centers, childcare providers, libraries, and early learning centers across Boston to close skill gaps that emerge in early childhood, in the critical first years of brain development.
Ethnic and Racial Studies

Race, class, politics, and the disappearance of work: a rejoinder

June 5, 2017
Ethnic and Racial Studies | By William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard. For its 40th anniversary special issue, Ethnic and Racial Studies is revisiting classic articles in context, including William Julius Wilson's "When Work Disappears" (1999). Here he responds to Harvard political scientist Jennifer Hochsdhild's review essay.
Ethnic and Racial Studies

Race, class, politics, and the disappearance of work

June 5, 2017
Ethnic and Racial Studies | By Jennifer L. Hochschlld. For its 40th anniversary special issue, Ethnic and Racial Studies reexamines classic articles in context. Here Harvard political scientist Jennifer Hochschild revisits "When Work Disappears" by William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor.
Neoliberal Social Justice: From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama

Neoliberal Social Justice: From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama

May 30, 2017
SSRC items | Leah Wright Rigueur, as part of the Social Science Research Council's “Reading Racial Conflict” series, critically engages with the career and the writings of Edward Brooke in a reflection on the arguments for and limits of capitalism to uplift African Americans out of poverty. She also deploys Brooke, the first popularly elected black senator in US history who served in the 1960s and 1970s, as a window onto how Barack Obama connects racial inequalities to access to the market.
Douglas W. Elmendorf

The Republican Health Care Debacle: How Not to Make Public Policy

May 24, 2017

Foreign Affairs | By Douglas W. Elmendorf. "The development and passage of the ACHA is a case study in how not to make public policy," writes Elmendorf. Douglas Elmendorf is Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy. He served as the director of the Congressional Budget Office from January 2009 through March 2015.

Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Insitute

Opportunity & Inclusive Growth Institute Conference

May 22, 2017

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis | Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, joined the inaugural conference of the Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute, where he spoke in the opening panel on segregation and inequality. Putnam and Harvard economist Lawrence Katz both serve on the Institute's Board of Advisors.

Why Opportunity and Inclusion Matter to America's Economic Strength
Lael Brainard of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors delivered the keynote address, highlighting issues of employment, household financial health, the geography of opportunity, and affordable housing. She also drew attention to insights generated by the Boston Fed's Workng Cities Challenge.
View text of remarks
 

Earlier this spring Governor Brainard delivered the 2017 Malcolm Wiener Lecture in International Political Economy in the JFK Jr. Forum at Harvard Kennedy School.

Investigating the Causes and Consequences of Inequality

Investigating the Causes and Consequences of Inequality

May 18, 2017

Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast | Professor David Deming (PhD '10) sits down with PolicyCast host Matt Cadwallader to talk about his new Harvard Kennedy School course, The Causes and Consequences of Inequality (SUP-206). If traditional jobs like manufacturing aren’t coming back, how can the economy adapt? How can the American education system better prepare the next generation for the needs of the modern economy? Deming's research grapples with these questions.

Harvard Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging: A Discussion with the Co-Chairs

Harvard Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging: A Discussion with the Co-Chairs

May 17, 2017

Harvard Gazette | This past fall, Harvard President Drew Faust convened a University-wide task force to examine ways to help Harvard thrive as a place where all members of its increasingly diverse community feel that they truly belong. The task force is co-chaired by James Bryant Conant University Professor Danielle Allen, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics; Harvard Kennedy School Academic Dean Archon Fung, the Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship; and Vice President for Campus Services Meredith Weenick.

The task force’s co-chairs recently sat down with the Harvard Gazette to discuss this report, their first year, and what’s next for this important work.

U.S. Congress

The State of Social Capital in America

May 17, 2017

U.S. Congress Joint Economic Commitee | Professors Robert D. Putnam and Mario L. Small (PhD '01), joined by Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute and Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs, testified before the Joint Economic Committee on the potential role for social capital in addressing U.S. economic and social challenges.

Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, focused on two generational concerns: why social capital matters in narrowing the opportunity gap among today's children, and what a boomer generation "aging alone" portends for U.S. eldercare costs in the years ahead.
Read Robert Putnam testimony

Mario Small, Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology, discussed the evidence that "early education and childcare programs may be an especially effective venue to help low-income parents generate social capital,"..." that this social capital is beneficial, and that there is reason to believe that targeted interventions may help such programs maximize these benefits."
Read Mario Small testimony

How Massachusetts provides education policymakers with research insights: An interview with Carrie Conaway, Chief Strategy and Research Officer, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

How Massachusetts provides education policymakers with research insights: An interview with Carrie Conaway, Chief Strategy and Research Officer, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

May 12, 2017

Gov Innovator Podcast | Andy Feldman (PhD '07) interviews Carrie Conaway (AM '01), Chief Strategy and Research Officer for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Conaway was recently appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Board for Education Sciences. Feldman is currently a visiting fellow with the Center for Children and Families at the Brookings Institution.

The Ambition-Marriage Trade-Off Too Many Single Women Face

The Ambition-Marriage Trade-Off Too Many Single Women Face

May 8, 2017
Harvard Business Review | By Leonardo Bursztyn, Thomas Fujiwara, and Amanda Pallais. Harvard economist Amanda Pallais and co-authors discuss the findings of their latest research on marriage market incentives and labor market investments, forthcoming in the American Economic Review: "Many schooling and initial career decisions, such as whether to take advanced math in high school, major in engineering, or become an entrepreneur, occur early in life, when most women are single. These decisions can have labor market consequences with long-lasting effects," they write. 
View the research

Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

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

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

September 21, 2016

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

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

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

September 7, 2016

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

New Study: Market Forces Do Affect Health Care Sector

September 7, 2016

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