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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

How America Lost its Mojo

How America Lost its Mojo

May 27, 2016

The AtlanticAmericans are less likely to switch jobs, move to another state, or create new companies than they were 30 years ago (or 100 years ago). What’s going on? Cites research by Raven Molloy (Ph.D. '06, now a senior economist with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System) and colleagues (See their BPEA paper). Also cites research by Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11, now Assistant Professor, HKS) linking rising housing prices in wealthy areas to declining income convergence (See their paper).

Chicago's Murder Problem

Chicago's Murder Problem

May 27, 2016

The New York Times | Why homicide rates in Chicago outpace those in New York, with insights from Robert Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences.

Prosperity and Equality

Prosperity and Equality

May 27, 2016

Harvard Magazine | Dean  Douglas Elmendorf of  the Harvard Kennedy School and Claudia Goldin, Harvard's Henry Lee Professor of Economics, were among the participants in "Building an Economy for Prosperity and Equality," the opening symposium of Radcliffe Day, which honored  Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair, with this year's Radcliffe Medal. Harvard Magazine writes that the panel, which also included economists David Autor of MIT, Louise Sheiner of the Brookings Institution, and Celia Rouse of Princeton University as moderator, "featured some of the most interesting researchers addressing these problems...in a searching, intelligent exchange of the sort that rarely occurred in the debates televised during the primary season."
View the discussion [85 minutes] ▶

Janet Yellen Talks Policy and Inequality at Radcliffe Day Celebration

Janet Yellen Talks Policy and Inequality at Radcliffe Day Celebration

May 27, 2016

Harvard Magazine | Harvard's Commencement week concluded with a a program "honoring Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, the recipient of this year’s Radcliffe Medal and one of today’s most publicly vocal advocates of shared prosperity." Harvard Magazine notes that "Yellen has been unapologetic in her view that promoting broadly shared prosperity is inherent in the Fed’s mandate, a role which has cemented her leadership in the public conversation on inequality."
View event video ▶

Janet Yellen to receive Radcliffe Medal

Janet Yellen to receive Radcliffe Medal

May 26, 2016

Harvard Gazette | Dean Douglas Elmendorf of  Harvard Kennedy School and Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard, are among the participants in a Radcliffe Day event on May 27 honoring Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair and this year's Radcliffe Medalist. The day will open with the panel "Building an Economy for Prosperity and Equality," featuring Elmendorf and Goldin. Other Radcliffe Day participants include former Fed Chair Ben S. Bernanke; economics professor Gregory Mankiw of Harvard; Cecilia Rouse, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs at Princeton University; economics professor David Autor of MIT, and Louise Sheiner of the Brookings Institution. The day's events will be webcast live beginning at 10:30 am.

Inside the Eviction Epidemic

Inside the Eviction Epidemic

May 26, 2016

WNET Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America | Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, provides a firsthand look at the harsh realities of living in a trailer park [video segment: 8:27 minutes]. See the full documentary, The Last Trailer Park, which includes Desmond's interview [26:47 minutes].

Bringing Back Labor, Without the Unions

Bringing Back Labor, Without the Unions

May 24, 2016

Bloomberg View | Cites study by Bruce Western (Professor of Sociology and Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice) and Jake Rosenfeld (Washington University in St. Louis), which found that the decline of organized labor between 1973 and 2007 explains one-third of the rise in wage inequality among men during this time (See their ASR article), and by Richard Freeman (Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics) and colleagues, which finds a "strong, though not necessarily causal link between unions, the middle class, and intergenerational mobility." (See Freeman et. al. study)

Neighborhoods Can Shape Success—Down to the Level of a City Block

Neighborhoods Can Shape Success—Down to the Level of a City Block

May 23, 2016

The Atlantic | A small but intriguing study done in West Philadelphia points to the importance of what researchers call microenvironments.  Features Laura Tach (Ph. '10) of Cornell University, lead author of the study. Also cites work of  Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren and Lawrence Katz.

Not Leaving, Just Changing Jobs

Not Leaving, Just Changing Jobs

May 23, 2016

Education Next | By Paul E. Peterson, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government. With this issue, Peterson passes leadership of the journal Education Next to Martin West (Ph.D. 06), Associate Professor of Education, who will now serve as editor-in-chief. Peterson will continue to serve as senior editor for the publication, which he and collaborators launched 17-years ago.

Researchers Find Surprising Results After Testing A New Way To Measure Poverty

Researchers Find Surprising Results After Testing A New Way To Measure Poverty

May 19, 2016

NPR Morning Edition | Christopher Wimer (Ph.D. '07), Co-Director of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, is working with colleagues on a better way to measure poverty in New York City. Visit the interactive website to learn more about the Robin Hood Poverty Tracker. Scott Winship (Ph.D. '09), Walter B. Wriston Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, agrees that the research reveals some useful findings but expresses reservations about the measures, arguing that they may misdirect attention and public resources from those who really are struggling.

The Complex Relationship between Data and Cities

The Complex Relationship between Data and Cities

May 18, 2016

The Atlantic CityLab |Checking in on the latest advancements, and the challenges that remain. Highlights work by faculty affiliate Robert Sampson and Jackelyn Hwang (Ph.D. '15, now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Princeton University), and a recent NBER paper by faculty affiliates Edward L. Glaeser and Michael Luca (with colleagues Scott Duke Kominers and Nikhil Naik), which uses computer visioning to better understand geographic differences in income and housing prices.

The Destructive Legacy of Housing Segregation

The Destructive Legacy of Housing Segregation

May 17, 2016

The Atlantic | By Patrick Sharkey (Ph.D. '07), New York University. Less visible than the rise of economic inequality is the way it has altered America's urban neighborhoods. Two books—Evicted by Harvard's Matthew Desmond and Ghetto by Mitchell Duneier (Princeton)—should help change that, writes Sharkey.

Latest awards

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Latest commentary and analysis

Jason Furman

The real cost of the Republican tax cuts

November 1, 2017
Vox | By Jason Furman and Greg Leiserson. They’ll require spending cuts, or tax increases in other areas. Either could hurt many American families.
PBS NewsHour Making Sen$e

Achieving the American Dream may depend on where you live

October 26, 2017
PBS NewsHour Making Sen$e | The economists Nathaniel Hendren and Raj Chetty have co-authored studies on social mobility and income inequality. Hendren, who teaches at Harvard University, and Chetty, who teaches at Stanford University, recently spoke with PBS NewsHour’s Paul Solman for Thursday’s Making $ense segment. Here is an excerpt of their conversation, which was edited for length and clarity.
Mario Luis Small

How do we decide whom to rely on? A Q&A with Mario L. Small

October 23, 2017
OUPblogIn theory, the answer seems obvious: if the matter is personal, they will turn to a spouse, a family member, or someone close. In practice, what people actually do often belies these expectations. 

We sat down with Mario L. Small, author of Someone To Talk To, to answer some key questions into how we decide whom to rely on and understanding social networks. Small (PhD '01) is Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology at Harvard.
The Big Picture: Violence and Criminal Justice

The Big Picture: Violence and Criminal Justice

October 23, 2017
Public Books | By Patrick Sharkey (PhD '07'), Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at NYU. This is the 11th installment of The Big Picture, a public symposium on what’s at stake in Trump’s America, co-organized by Public Books and NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge. 
William Julius Wilson

The Big Picture: Multiracial Cooperation

October 9, 2017
Public Books | By William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University. This is the first installment of The Big Picture, a public symposium on what’s at stake in Trump’s America, co-organized by Public Books and NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge.
National Academies logo

National Academies Committee Meeting on the Impacts of Sexual Harassment in Academia

October 4, 2017
The National Academies  | The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is undertaking a study on the impact of sexual harassment in academia on the career advancement of women in the scientific, technical, and medical workforce. To advance this discussion, the Committee on the Impacts of Sexual Harassment in Academia held a half-day meeting in Boston. Harvard's Frank Dobbin, a Professor of Sociology whose research has examined discrimination in the workplace and diversity management, spoke in the opening session. View the conference materials and presentation videos online.
Larry Katz

Interview with Lawrence Katz

September 25, 2017
The Region—Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis | Harvard's Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics, on the gender pay gap, fissuring workplaces, decling labor share and superstar firms, and the importance of moving to a good neighborhood early in a child's life. 

By Douglas Clement—Lawrence Katz is an institution in labor economics—indeed, in economics as a whole. As editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics since 1991, principal investigator of the decades-long Moving to Opportunity Program, co-founder and co-scientific director of J-PAL North America and collaborator with Claudia Goldin in pathbreaking research on the causes and consequences of rising education levels, he has been a singular force in shaping the field. Continue reading ▶️ 
How Could Donald Trump and Brexit Happen?

How Could Donald Trump and Brexit Happen?

September 20, 2017
Social Europe | In this spotlight video, Social Europe Editor-in-Chief Henning Meyer discusses the roots of populism with Peter Hall, Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies in the Department of Government and at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies of Harvard University. This conversation is also available as an audio podcast.
Danielle Allen

15 Professors of the Year: Danielle S. Allen

September 14, 2017
Fifteen Minutes Magazine - The Harvard Crimson |Danielle Allen, one of the 15 Professors of 2017, has been trying to shift the conversation from inequality to equality. An interview.
Archon Fung

It's the Gap, Stupid

September 1, 2017

Boston Review | By Archon Fung, Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship. In this essay, Fung explores three new books on inequality which "draw an important and disturbing picture of America as a system of compounding inequality driven by a hereditary meritocracy of professional elites." One of Boston Review's Top Ten Reads in Inequality in 2017.

The fall 2017 Harvard Inequality Seminar featured the authors of two of these books: Thomas Shapiro, author of Toxic Inequality, on November 13, and Richard V. Reeves, author of Dream Hoarders, on November 27, 2017. Joan C. Williams, author of White Working Class, spoke at Harvard's Inequality in America Symposium, organized by the FAS Division of Social Science on October 13, 2017.

Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

The Border Within: The Economics of Immigration in an Age of Fear
Watson, Tara, and Kalee Thompson. 2022. The Border Within: The Economics of Immigration in an Age of Fear. University of Chicago Press, 304. Abstract
An eye-opening analysis of the costs and effects of immigration and immigration policy, both on American life and on new Americans.

For decades, immigration has been one of the most divisive, contentious topics in American politics. And for decades, urgent calls for its policy reform have gone mostly unanswered. As the discord surrounding the modern immigration debate has intensified, border enforcement has tightened. Crossing harsher, less porous borders makes unauthorized entry to the United States a permanent, costly undertaking. And the challenges don’t end on the other side.

At once enlightening and devastating, The Border Within examines the costs and ends of America’s interior enforcement—the policies and agencies, including ICE, aimed at removing immigrants already living in the country. Economist Tara Watson and journalist Kalee Thompson pair rigorous analysis with deeply personal stories from immigrants and their families to assess immigration’s effects on every aspect of American life, from the labor force to social welfare programs to tax revenue. What emerges is a critical, utterly complete examination of what non-native Americans bring to the country, including immigration’s tendency to elevate the wages and skills of those who are native-born.

News coverage has prompted many to question the humanity of American immigration policies; The Border Within opens a conversation of whether it is effective. The United States spends billions each year on detention and deportation, all without economic gain and at a great human cost. With depth and discipline, the authors dissect the shock-and-awe policies that make up a broken, often cruel system, while illuminating the lives caught in the chaos. It is an essential work with far-reaching implications for immigrants and non-immigrants alike.
What's the Worst That Could Happen? Existential Risk and Extreme Politics

Why catastrophic risks are more dangerous than you think, and how populism makes them worse.

Did you know that you're more likely to die from a catastrophe than in a car crash? The odds that a typical US resident will die from a catastrophic event—for example, nuclear war, bioterrorism, or out-of-control artificial intelligence—have been estimated at 1 in 6. That's fifteen times more likely than a fatal car crash and thirty-one times more likely than being murdered. In What's the Worst That Could Happen?, Andrew Leigh looks at catastrophic risks and how to mitigate them, arguing provocatively that the rise of populist politics makes catastrophe more likely. 

Leigh explains that pervasive short-term thinking leaves us unprepared for long-term risks. Politicians sweat the small stuff—granular policy details of legislation and regulation—but rarely devote much attention to reducing long-term risks. Populist movements thrive on short termism because they focus on their followers' immediate grievances. Leigh argues that we should be long-termers: lengthen our thinking and give big threats the attention and resources they need. 

Leigh outlines the biggest existential risks facing humanity and suggests remedies for them. He discusses pandemics, considering the possibility that the next virus will be more deadly than COVID-19; warns that unchecked climate change could render large swaths of the earth inhabitable; describes the metamorphosis of the arms race from a fight into a chaotic brawl; and examines the dangers of runaway superintelligence. Moreover, Leigh points out, populism (and its crony, totalitarianism) not only exacerbates other dangers, but is also a risk factor in itself, undermining the institutions of democracy as we watch.

The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power
Hacker, Jacob S., Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Paul Pierson, and Kathleen Thelen, ed. 2021. The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power. Cambridge University Press. Abstract

This volume brings together leading political scientists to explore the distinctive features of the American political economy. The introductory chapter provides a comparatively informed framework for analyzing the interplay of markets and politics in the United States, focusing on three key factors: uniquely fragmented and decentralized political institutions; an interest group landscape characterized by weak labor organizations and powerful, parochial business groups; and an entrenched legacy of ethno-racial divisions embedded in both government and markets. Subsequent chapters look at the fundamental dynamics that result, including the place of the courts in multi-venue politics, the political economy of labor, sectional conflict within and across cities and regions, the consolidation of financial markets and corporate monopoly and monopsony power, and the ongoing rise of the knowledge economy. Together, the chapters provide a revealing new map of the politics of democratic capitalism in the United States.

  • Provides a comprehensive analysis of the American political economy in comparative perspective
  • Develops a theoretical framework that emphasizes how distinctive features of the US political economy have interacted with one another over time to produce unique patterns of inequality, power, and precarity
  • Sheds new light on under-examined institutions, actors, and arenas of conflict, generating insights for the study of both American politics and comparative politics
Constructing Community: Urban Governance, Development, and Inequality in Boston
Levine, Jeremy R. 2021. Constructing Community: Urban Governance, Development, and Inequality in Boston . Princeton University Press, 280. Abstract

Who makes decisions that shape the housing, policies, and social programs in urban neighborhoods? Who, in other words, governs? Constructing Community offers a rich ethnographic portrait of the individuals who implement community development projects in the Fairmount Corridor, one of Boston’s poorest areas. Jeremy Levine uncovers a network of nonprofits and philanthropic foundations making governance decisions alongside public officials—a public-private structure that has implications for democratic representation and neighborhood inequality.

Levine spent four years following key players in Boston’s community development field. While state senators and city councilors are often the public face of new projects, and residents seem empowered through opportunities to participate in public meetings, Levine found a shadow government of nonprofit leaders and philanthropic funders, nonelected neighborhood representatives with their own particular objectives, working behind the scenes. Tying this system together were political performances of “community”—government and nonprofit leaders, all claiming to value the community. Levine provocatively argues that there is no such thing as a singular community voice, meaning any claim of community representation is, by definition, illusory. He shows how community development is as much about constructing the idea of community as it is about the construction of physical buildings in poor neighborhoods.

Constructing Community demonstrates how the nonprofit sector has become integral to urban policymaking, and the tensions and trade-offs that emerge when private nonprofits take on the work of public service provision.

Breaking the Social Media Prism: How to Make Our Platforms Less Polarizing

In an era of increasing social isolation, platforms like Facebook and Twitter are among the most important tools we have to understand each other. We use social media as a mirror to decipher our place in society but, as Chris Bail explains, it functions more like a prism that distorts our identities, empowers status-seeking extremists, and renders moderates all but invisible. Breaking the Social Media Prism challenges common myths about echo chambers, foreign misinformation campaigns, and radicalizing algorithms, revealing that the solution to political tribalism lies deep inside ourselves.

Drawing on innovative online experiments and in-depth interviews with social media users from across the political spectrum, this book explains why stepping outside of our echo chambers can make us more polarized, not less. Bail takes you inside the minds of online extremists through vivid narratives that trace their lives on the platforms and off—detailing how they dominate public discourse at the expense of the moderate majority. Wherever you stand on the spectrum of user behavior and political opinion, he offers fresh solutions to counter political tribalism from the bottom up and the top down. He introduces new apps and bots to help readers avoid misperceptions and engage in better conversations with the other side. Finally, he explores what the virtual public square might look like if we could hit “reset” and redesign social media from scratch through a first-of-its-kind experiment on a new social media platform built for scientific research.

Providing data-driven recommendations for strengthening our social media connections, Breaking the Social Media Prism shows how to combat online polarization without deleting our accounts.

Organizational Imaginaries
Chen, Victor Tan. 2021. Organizational Imaginaries. Edited by Katherine K. Chen. Emerald Publishing Limited. Abstract

Our everyday lives are structured by the rhythms, values, and practices of various organizations, including schools, workplaces, and government agencies. These experiences shape common-sense understandings of how “best” to organize and connect with others. Today, for-profit managerial firms dominate society, even though their practices often curtail information-sharing and experimentation, engender exploitation, and exclude the interests of stakeholders, particularly workers and the general public.

This Research in the Sociology of Organizations volume explores an expansive array of organizational imaginaries, or conceptions of organizational possibilities, with a focus on collectivist-democratic organizations that operate in capitalist markets but place more authority and ownership in the hands of stakeholders other than shareholders. These include worker and consumer cooperatives and other enterprises that, to varying degrees:

  • Emphasize social values over profit
  • Are owned not by shareholders but by workers, consumers, or other stakeholders
  • Employ democratic forms of managing their operations
  • Have social ties to the organization based on moral and emotional commitments

Organizational Imaginaries explores how these enterprises generate solidarity among members, network with other organizations and communities, contend with market pressures, and enhance their larger organizational ecosystems. By ensuring that organizations ultimately support and serve broader communities, collectivist-democratic organizing can move societies closer to hopeful “what if” and “if only” futures.

This volume is essential for researchers and students seeking innovative and egalitarian approaches to business and management.

Thrive: The Purpose of Schools in a Changing World
Hannon, Valerie, and Amelia Peterson. 2021. Thrive: The Purpose of Schools in a Changing World. Cambridge University Press. Abstract
Every generation faces challenges, but never before have young people been so aware of theirs. Whether due to school strikes for climate change, civil war, or pandemic lockdowns, almost every child in the world has experienced the interruption of their schooling by outside forces. When the world we have taken for granted proves so unstable, it gives rise to the question: what is schooling for? Thrive advocates a new purpose for education, in a rapidly changing world, and analyses the reasons why change is urgently needed in our education systems. The book identifies four levels of thriving: global – our place in the planet; societal – localities, communities, economies; interpersonal – our relationships; intrapersonal – the self. Chapters provide research-based theoretical evidence for each area, followed by practical international case studies showing how individual schools are addressing these considerable challenges. Humanity's challenges are shifting fast: schools need to be a part of the response.
American Affective Polarization in Comparative Perspective
Gidron, Noam, James Adams, and Will Horne. 2020. American Affective Polarization in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge University Press. Abstract
American political observers express increasing concern about affective polarization, i.e., partisans' resentment toward political opponents. We advance debates about America's partisan divisions by comparing affective polarization in the US over the past 25 years with affective polarization in 19 other western publics. We conclude that American affective polarization is not extreme in comparative perspective, although Americans' dislike of partisan opponents has increased more rapidly since the mid-1990s than in most other Western publics. We then show that affective polarization is more intense when unemployment and inequality are high; when political elites clash over cultural issues such as immigration and national identity; and in countries with majoritarian electoral institutions. Our findings situate American partisan resentment and hostility in comparative perspective, and illuminate correlates of affective polarization that are difficult to detect when examining the American case in isolation.
Reconnected: A Community Builder's Handbook
Leigh, Andrew, and Nick Terrell. 2020. Reconnected: A Community Builder's Handbook. La Trobe University Press, 288. Abstract

We're all in this together.

Strong social connections make communities more resilient. But today Australians have fewer close friends and local connections than in the past, and more of us say we have no-one to turn to in tough times. How can we turn this trend around?

In Reconnected, Andrew Leigh and Nick Terrell look at some of the most successful community organisations and initiatives – from conversation groups to community gardens, from parkrun to Pub Choir – to discover what really works. They explore ways to encourage philanthropy and volunteering, describe how technology can be used effectively, and introduce us to remarkable and inspirational leaders.

Reconnected is an essential guide for anyone interested in strengthening social ties.

After PrisonNavigating Adulthood in the Shadow of the Justice System
Harding, David J., and Heather M. Harris. 2020. After PrisonNavigating Adulthood in the Shadow of the Justice System. Russell Sage Foundation, 304. Abstract

The incarceration rate in the United States is the highest of any developed nation, with a prison population of approximately 2.3 million in 2016. Over 700,000 prisoners are released each year, and most face significant educational, economic, and social disadvantages. In After Prison, sociologist David Harding and criminologist Heather Harris provide a comprehensive account of young men’s experiences of reentry and reintegration in the era of mass incarceration. They focus on the unique challenges faced by 1,300 black and white youth aged 18 to 25 who were released from Michigan prisons in 2003, investigating the lives of those who achieved some measure of success after leaving prison as well as those who struggled with the challenges of creating new lives for themselves.

The transition to young adulthood typically includes school completion, full-time employment, leaving the childhood home, marriage, and childbearing, events that are disrupted by incarceration. While one quarter of the young men who participated in the study successfully transitioned into adulthood—achieving employment and residential independence and avoiding arrest and incarceration—the same number of young men remained deeply involved with the criminal justice system, spending on average four out of the seven years after their initial release re-incarcerated. Not surprisingly, whites are more likely to experience success after prison. The authors attribute this racial disparity to the increased stigma of criminal records for blacks, racial discrimination, and differing levels of social network support that connect whites to higher quality jobs. Black men earn less than white men, are more concentrated in industries characterized by low wages and job insecurity, and are less likely to remain employed once they have a job.

The authors demonstrate that families, social networks, neighborhoods, and labor market, educational, and criminal justice institutions can have a profound impact on young people’s lives. Their research indicates that residential stability is key to the transition to adulthood. Harding and Harris make the case for helping families, municipalities, and non-profit organizations provide formerly incarcerated young people access to long-term supportive housing and public housing. A remarkably large number of men in this study eventually enrolled in college, reflecting the growing recognition of college as a gateway to living wage work. But the young men in the study spent only brief spells in college, and the majority failed to earn degrees. They were most likely to enroll in community colleges, trade schools, and for-profit institutions, suggesting that interventions focused on these kinds of schools are more likely to be effective. The authors suggest that, in addition to helping students find employment, educational institutions can aid reentry efforts for the formerly incarcerated by providing supports like childcare and paid apprenticeships.

After Prison offers a set of targeted policy interventions to improve these young people’s chances: lifting restrictions on federal financial aid for education, encouraging criminal record sealing and expungement, and reducing the use of incarceration in response to technical parole violations. This book will be an important contribution to the fields of scholarly work on the criminal justice system and disconnected youth.

Measuring Culture
Mohr, John W., Christopher A. Bail, Margaret Frye, Jennifer C. Lena, Omar Lizardo, Terence E. McDonnell, Ann Mische, Iddo Tavory, and Frederick F. Wherry. 2020. Measuring Culture . Columbia University Press, 256. Abstract
Social scientists seek to develop systematic ways to understand how people make meaning and how the meanings they make shape them and the world in which they live. But how do we measure such processes? Measuring Culture is an essential point of entry for both those new to the field and those who are deeply immersed in the measurement of meaning. Written collectively by a team of leading qualitative and quantitative sociologists of culture, the book considers three common subjects of measurement—people, objects, and relationships—and then discusses how to pivot effectively between subjects and methods. Measuring Culturetakes the reader on a tour of the state of the art in measuring meaning, from discussions of neuroscience to computational social science. It provides both the definitive introduction to the sociological literature on culture as well as a critical set of case studies for methods courses across the social sciences.
Common-Sense Evidence: The Education Leader’s Guide to Using Data and Research
Gordon, Nora, and Carrie Conaway. 2020. Common-Sense Evidence: The Education Leader’s Guide to Using Data and Research. Harvard Education Publishing Group, 240. Abstract

Written by two leading experts in education research and policy, Common-Sense Evidence is a concise, accessible guide that helps education leaders find and interpret data and research, and then put that knowledge into action. 

In the book, Nora Gordon and Carrie Conaway empower educators to address the federal Every Student Succeeds Act mandate that schools use evidence-based improvement strategies.

The authors walk readers through the processes for determining whether research is relevant and convincing; explain useful statistical concepts; and show how to quickly search for and scan research studies for the necessary information.

The book directs readers through case studies of typical scenarios including a superintendent trying to reduce chronic absenteeism; a middle school math department chair trying to improve student performance on exams; and a chief state school officer attempting to recruit teachers for rural schools.

Common-Sense Evidence helps education leaders build capacity for evidence-based practice in their schools and

Confronting inequality: How policies and practices shape children's opportunities
Tach, Laura, Rachel Dunifon, and Douglas L. Miller, ed. 2020. Confronting inequality: How policies and practices shape children's opportunities. American Psychological Association. Abstract

All children deserve the best possible future. But in this era of increasing economic and social inequality, more and more children are being denied their fair chance at life.

This book examines the impact of inequality on children’s health and education, and offers a blueprint for addressing the impact of inequality among children in economic, sociological, and psychological domains.

Chapters examine a wide range of studies including exposure to stress and its biological consequences; the impact of federal programs offering access to nutrition for mothers and children; the impact of parental decision-making and child support systems; the effects of poverty on child care and quality of education, parental engagement with schools, parent-child interactions, friendship networks, and more.

The book concludes with commentaries from leading scholars about the state of the field, and efforts to help mitigate the effects of inequality for children in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

Do Tax Cuts Produce more Einsteins? The Impacts of Financial Incentives Versus Exposure to Innovation on the Supply of Inventors
Bell, Alex, Raj Chetty, Xavier Jaravel, Neviana Petkova, and John Van Reenen. 2019. “Do Tax Cuts Produce more Einsteins? The Impacts of Financial Incentives Versus Exposure to Innovation on the Supply of Inventors.” Journal of the European Economic Association 17 (3): 651–677. Abstract
Many countries provide financial incentives to spur innovation, ranging from tax incentives to research and development grants. In this paper, we study how such financial incentives affect individuals’ decisions to pursue careers in innovation. We first present empirical evidence on inventors’ career trajectories and income distributions using deidentified data on 1.2 million inventors from patent records linked to tax records in the United States. We find that the private returns to innovation are extremely skewed—with the top 1% of inventors collecting more than 22% of total inventors’ income—and are highly correlated with their social impact, as measured by citations. Inventors tend to have their most impactful innovations around age 40 and their incomes rise rapidly just before they have high-impact patents. We then build a stylized model of inventor career choice that matches these facts as well as recent evidence that childhood exposure to innovation plays a critical role in determining whether individuals become inventors. The model predicts that financial incentives, such as top income tax reductions, have limited potential to increase aggregate innovation because they only affect individuals who are exposed to innovation and have essentially no impact on the decisions of star inventors, who matter most for aggregate innovation. Importantly, these results hold regardless of whether the private returns to innovation are fully known at the time of career choice or are fully stochastic. In contrast, increasing exposure to innovation (e.g., through mentorship programs) could have substantial impacts on innovation by drawing individuals who produce high-impact inventions into the innovation pipeline. Although we do not present direct evidence supporting these model-based predictions, our results call for a more careful assessment of the impacts of financial incentives and a greater focus on alternative policies to increase the supply of inventors.
Antitrust Enforcement as Federal Policy to Reduce Regional Economic Disparities
Manduca, Robert. 2019. “Antitrust Enforcement as Federal Policy to Reduce Regional Economic Disparities.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 685 (1): 156-171. Abstract
Regions of the United States have seen their incomes diverge dramatically over the last four decades. This article makes the empirical and political case for treating regional economic disparities as a national phenomenon best resolved through federal policy, rather than exclusively as a matter of local responsibility. It then considers reinvigorated antitrust enforcement as an example of a federal policy that would strengthen local economies while benefiting from policy feedback effects.
The Cognitive Dimension of Household Labor
Daminger, Allison. 2019. “The Cognitive Dimension of Household Labor.” American Sociological Review 84 (4): 609-633. Abstract
Household labor is commonly defined as a set of physical tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Sociologists sometimes reference non-physical activities related to “household management,” but these are typically mentioned in passing, imprecisely defined, or treated as equivalent to physical tasks. Using 70 in-depth interviews with members of 35 couples, this study argues that such tasks are better understood as examples of a unique dimension of housework: cognitive labor. The data demonstrate that cognitive labor entails anticipating needs, identifying options for filling them, making decisions, and monitoring progress. Because such work is taxing but often invisible to both cognitive laborers and their partners, it is a frequent source of conflict for couples. Cognitive labor is also a gendered phenomenon: women in this study do more cognitive labor overall and more of the anticipation and monitoring work in particular. However, male and female participation in decision-making, arguably the cognitive labor component most closely linked to power and influence, is roughly equal. These findings identify and define an overlooked—yet potentially consequential—source of gender inequality at the household level and suggest a new direction for research on the division of household labor.
Unemployment insurance and reservation wages: Evidence from administrative data
Barbanchon, Thomas Le, Roland Rathelot, and Alexandra Roulet. 2019. “Unemployment insurance and reservation wages: Evidence from administrative data.” Journal of Public Economics 171: 1-17. Abstract

Although the reservation wage plays a central role in job search models, empirical evidence on the determinants of reservation wages, including key policy variables such as unemployment insurance (UI), is scarce. In France, unemployed people must declare their reservation wage to the Public Employment Service when they register to claim UI benefits. We take advantage of these rich French administrative data and of a reform of UI rules to estimate the effect of the Potential Benefit Duration (PBD) on reservation wages and on other dimensions of job selectivity, using a difference-in-difference strategy. We cannot reject that the elasticity of the reservation wage with respect to PBD is zero. Our results are precise and we can rule out elasticities larger than 0.006. Furthermore, we do not find any significant effects of PBD on the desired number of hours, duration of labor contract and commuting time/distance. The estimated elasticity of actual benefit duration with respect to PBD of 0.3 is in line with the consensus in the literature. Exploiting a Regression Discontinuity Design as an alternative identification strategy, we find similar results.

Environmental Inequality: The Social Causes and Consequences of Lead Exposure
Muller, Christopher, Robert J. Sampson, and Alix S. Winter. 2018. “Environmental Inequality: The Social Causes and Consequences of Lead Exposure.” Annual Review of Sociology 44 (1): 263-282 . Abstract
In this article, we review evidence from the social and medical sciences on the causes and effects of lead exposure. We argue that lead exposure is an important subject for sociological analysis because it is socially stratified and has important social consequences—consequences that themselves depend in part on children's social environments. We present a model of environmental inequality over the life course to guide an agenda for future research. We conclude with a call for deeper exchange between urban sociology, environmental sociology, and public health, and for more collaboration between scholars and local communities in the pursuit of independent science for the common good.
he consequences of lead exposure for later crime are theoretically compelling, but direct evidence from representative, longitudinal samples is sparse. By capitalizing on an original follow-up of more than 200 infants from the birth cohort of the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods matched to their blood lead levels from around age 3 years, we provide several tests. Through the use of four waves of longitudinal data that include measures of individual development, family background, and structural inequalities in how lead becomes embodied, we assess the hypothesized link between early childhood lead poisoning and both parent-reported delinquent behavior and official arrest in late adolescence. We also test for mediating developmental processes of impulsivity and anxiety or depression. The results from multiple analytic strategies that make different assumptions reveal a plausibly causal effect of childhood lead exposure on adolescent delinquent behavior but no direct link to arrests. The results underscore lead exposure as a trigger for poisoned development in the early life course and call for greater integration of the environment into theories of individual differences in criminal behavior.
Public Campaign Financing, Candidate Socioeconomic Diversity, and Representational Inequality at the U.S. State Level: Evidence from Connecticut
Conventional wisdom holds that public campaign financing can diversify the socioeconomic makeup of candidate pools and, therefore, of U.S. elected officials, which could make U.S. public policy more responsive to lower socioeconomic status (SES) citizens. I argue that in addition to the absence of a positive relationship between public financing and candidate socioeconomic diversity, public financing, depending on the program design, may, in fact, reduce candidate socioeconomic diversity. Using occupational data on state legislative candidates in public financing state Connecticut and two paired control states to execute a difference in difference analysis, I demonstrate that when public financing is available, fewer low SES candidates run for state legislative office, and those who do run are not more likely to win and are less likely to utilize public financing.
Environmental Inequality: The Social Causes and Consequences of Lead Exposure
Muller, Christopher, Robert J. Sampson, and Alix S. Winter. 2018. “Environmental Inequality: The Social Causes and Consequences of Lead Exposure.” Annual Review of Sociology 44 (1): 263-282. Abstract
In this article, we review evidence from the social and medical sciences on the causes and effects of lead exposure. We argue that lead exposure is an important subject for sociological analysis because it is socially stratified and has important social consequences—consequences that themselves depend in part on children's social environments. We present a model of environmental inequality over the life course to guide an agenda for future research. We conclude with a call for deeper exchange between urban sociology, environmental sociology, and public health, and for more collaboration between scholars and local communities in the pursuit of independent science for the common good.
Introducing a performance-based component into Jakarta's school grants: What do we know about its impact after three years?
Samarrai, Samer Al, Unika Shrestha, Amer Hasan, Nozomi Nakajima, Santoso Santoso, and Wisnu Harto Adi Wijoyo. 2018. “Introducing a performance-based component into Jakarta's school grants: What do we know about its impact after three years?” Economics of Education Review 67: 110-136. Abstract
Using administrative data, this paper evaluates the early impact of introducing a performance-based component into Jakarta's long-standing school grant program on learning outcomes. The authors use difference-in-differences and regression discontinuity approaches to identify the component's impact on both government primary and junior secondary schools. Learning outcomes improved in primary schools at the bottom of the performance distribution, which narrowed the performance gaps between schools. However, the component had a negative impact on the better performing primary schools. Overall, primary examination scores fell slightly but this effect was only temporary. In contrast, the performance-based component improved examination scores in junior secondary schools. This impact seems to have been greatest among better-performing schools, thus widening the performance gap between these schools and those whose performance was worse. The data suggest that the main impact of the performance-based grant in terms of learning outcomes operated through an increase in competition among schools to earn the performance-based grant rather than through receipt of the actual grant funds.
Beyond the Border and Into the Heartland: Spatial Patterning of U.S. Immigration Detention
The expansion of U.S. immigration enforcement from the borders into the interior of the country and the fivefold increase in immigration detentions and deportations since 1995 raise important questions about how the enforcement of immigration law is spatially patterned across American communities. Focusing on the practice of immigration detention, the present study analyzes the records of all 717,160 noncitizens detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2008 and 2009—a period when interior enforcement was at its peak—to estimate states’ detention rates and examine geographic variation in detention outcomes, net of individual characteristics. Findings reveal substantial state heterogeneity in immigration detention rates, which range from approximately 350 detentions per 100,000 noncitizens in Connecticut to more than 6,700 detentions per 100,000 noncitizens in Wyoming. After detainment, individuals’ detention outcomes are geographically stratified, especially for detainees eligible for pretrial release. These disparities indicate the important role that geography plays in shaping individuals’ chances of experiencing immigration detention and deportation.
Attitudes Toward Mass Arrivals: Variations by Racial, Spatial, and Temporal Distances to Incoming Disaster Evacuees
Raker, Ethan J., and James R. Elliott. 2018. “Attitudes Toward Mass Arrivals: Variations by Racial, Spatial, and Temporal Distances to Incoming Disaster Evacuees.” Social Science Quarterly 99 (3): 1200-1213. Abstract

Objective

Disasters can send large numbers of evacuees into new contexts of reception, where attitudes toward them can vary significantly by perceived social distance. To conventional assessment of such distance along racial lines, we add spatial and temporal distance from point of central arrival.

Methods

A novel research design combines the natural experiment triggered by Hurricane Katrina with five consecutive Kinder Houston Area Surveys (2006–2010), which gather data on attitudes toward arrived evacuees as well as tract‐level data on residential context.

Results

Regression analyses reveal that spatial and temporal distance act similarly to racial distance in predicting negative attitudes toward evacuees. Results also show these effects are moderated by the racial context of incumbents’ residential neighborhoods.

Conclusions

Social distance exerts a multifaceted influence on evacuee reception in ways that become especially pertinent in the arrival of communities from large‐scale, urban evacuations.

Does ‘right to work’ imperil the right to health? The effect of labour unions on workplace fatalities
Zoorob, Michael. 2018. “Does ‘right to work’ imperil the right to health? The effect of labour unions on workplace fatalities.” Occupational and Environmental Medicine 75: 736-738. Abstract

Objective Economic policies can have unintended consequences on population health. In recent years, many states in the USA have passed ‘right to work’ (RTW) laws which weaken labour unions. The effect of these laws on occupational health remains unexplored. This study fills this gap by analysing the effect of RTW on occupational fatalities through its effect on unionisation.

Methods Two-way fixed effects regression models are used to estimate the effect of unionisation on occupational mortality per 100 000 workers, controlling for state policy liberalism and workforce composition over the period 1992–2016. In the final specification, RTW laws are used as an instrument for unionisation to recover causal effects.

Results The Local Average Treatment Effect of a 1% decline in unionisation attributable to RTW is about a 5% increase in the rate of occupational fatalities. In total, RTW laws have led to a 14.2% increase in occupational mortality through decreased unionisation.

Conclusion These findings illustrate and quantify the protective effect of unions on workers’ safety. Policymakers should consider the potentially deleterious effects of anti-union legislation on occupational health.

The Persistent Effect of U.S. Civil Rights Protests on Political Attitudes
Mazumder, Soumyajit. 2018. “The Persistent Effect of U.S. Civil Rights Protests on Political Attitudes.” American Journal of Political Science 62 (4): 922-935. Publisher's Version Abstract
Protests can engender significant institutional change. Can protests also continue to shape a nation's contemporary politics outside of more formalized channels? I argue that social movements can not only beget institutional change, but also long‐run, attitudinal change. Using the case of the U.S. civil rights movement, I develop a theory in which protests can shift attitudes and these attitudes can persist. Data from over 150,000 survey respondents provide evidence consistent with the theory. Whites from counties that experienced historical civil rights protests are more likely to identify as Democrats and support affirmative action, and less likely to harbor racial resentment against blacks. These individual‐level results are politically meaningful—counties that experienced civil rights protests are associated with greater Democratic Party vote shares even today. This study highlights how social movements can have persistent impacts on a nation's politics.
Political Consequences of Survival Strategies among the Urban Poor
Desmond, Matthew, and Adam Travis. 2018. “Political Consequences of Survival Strategies among the Urban Poor.” American Sociological Review 83 (5): 869–896. Abstract
Combining ethnographic and statistical methods, this study identifies interlocking mechanisms that help explain how disadvantaged neighborhoods influence their residents’ political capacity. Support systems that arise in low-income neighborhoods promote social interaction that helps people make ends meet, but these systems also expose residents to heavy doses of adversity, which dampens perceptions of collective political capacity. For the poorest residents of these neighborhoods in particular, the expected positive effect of informal social support is suppressed by the negative effect of perceived trauma. These findings present a micro-level account of poverty, social interaction, and political capacity, one that holds implications for scholarship and public policy on participatory inequality.
Income Inequality and the Persistence of Racial Economic Disparities
Manduca, Robert. 2018. “Income Inequality and the Persistence of Racial Economic Disparities.” Sociological Science 5 (8): 182-205. Abstract
More than 50 years after the Civil Rights Act, black–white family income disparities in the United States remain almost exactly the same as what they were in 1968. This article argues that a key and underappreciated driver of the racial income gap has been the national trend of rising income inequality. From 1968 to 2016, black–white disparities in family income rank narrowed by almost one-third. But this relative gain was negated by changes to the national income distribution that resulted in rapid income growth for the richest—and most disproportionately white—few percentiles of the country combined with income stagnation for the poor and middle class. But for the rise in income inequality, the median black–white family income gap would have decreased by about 30 percent. Conversely, without the partial closing of the rank gap, growing inequality alone would have increased the racial income gap by 30 percent.
Is Running Enough? Reconsidering the Conventional Wisdom about Women Candidates
BucchianerI, Peter. 2018. “Is Running Enough? Reconsidering the Conventional Wisdom about Women Candidates.” Political Behavior 40 (2): 435-466. Abstract
The conventional wisdom in the literature on women candidates holds that “when women run, they win as often as men.” This has led to a strong focus in the literature on the barriers to entry for women candidates and significant evidence that these barriers hinder representation. Yet, a growing body of research suggests that some disadvantages persist for Republican women even after they choose to run for office. In this paper, I investigate the aggregate consequences of these disadvantages for general election outcomes. Using a regression discontinuity design, I show that Republican women who win close House primaries lose at higher rates in the general election than Republican men. This nomination effect holds throughout the 1990s despite a surge in Republican voting starting in 1994. I find no such effect for Democratic women and provide evidence that a gap in elite support explains part of the cross-party difference.
Racialized legal status as a social determinant of health
Asad, Asad L., and Matthew Clair. 2018. “Racialized legal status as a social determinant of health.” Social Science & Medicine 199: 19-28. Abstract

This article advances the concept of racialized legal status (RLS) as an overlooked dimension of social stratification with implications for racial/ethnic health disparities. We define RLS as a social position based on an ostensibly race-neutral legal classification that becomes colored through its disparate impact on racial/ethnic minorities. To illustrate the implications of RLS for health and health disparities in the United States, we spotlight existing research on two cases: criminal status and immigration status. We offer a conceptual framework that outlines how RLS shapes disparities through (1) direct effects on those who hold a legal status and (2) spillover effects on racial/ethnic in-group members, regardless of these individuals' own legal status. Direct effects of RLS operate by marking an individual for material and symbolic exclusion. Spillover effects result from the vicarious experiences of those with social proximity to marked individuals, as well as the discredited meanings that RLS constructs around racial/ethnic group members. We conclude by suggesting multiple avenues for future research that considers RLS as a mechanism of social inequality with fundamental effects on health.

Jurors' Subjective Experiences of Deliberations in Criminal Cases
Winter, Alix S., and Matthew Clair. 2018. “Jurors' Subjective Experiences of Deliberations in Criminal Cases.” Law & Social Inquiry 43 (4): 1458-1490. Abstract

Research on jury deliberations has largely focused on the implications of deliberations for criminal defendants' outcomes. In contrast, this article considers jurors' outcomes by integrating subjective experience into the study of deliberations. We examine whether jurors' feelings that they had enough time to express themselves vary by jurors' gender, race, or education. Drawing on status characteristics theory and a survey of more than 3,000 real-world jurors, we find that the majority of jurors feel that they had enough time to express themselves. However, blacks and Hispanics, and especially blacks and Hispanics with less education, are less likely to feel so. Jurors' verdict preferences do not account for these findings. Our findings have implications for status characteristics theory and for legal cynicism among members of lower-status social groups.

Discretionary Disenfranchisement: The Case of Legal Financial Obligations
Meredith, Marc, and Michael Morse. 2017. “Discretionary Disenfranchisement: The Case of Legal Financial Obligations.” Journal of Legal Studies 46 (2). Abstract
Conditioning voting rights on the payment of legal financial obligations (LFOs) may be unconstitutional if there are no exceptions for indigency. Appellate courts, though, generally have upheld felon-disenfranchisement laws that withhold voting rights until all fees, fines, and restitution are paid in full. These decisions, however, have been made with limited evidence available about the type, burden, and disparate impact of criminal debt. We address this by detailing who owes LFOs, how much they owe, and for what purpose using representative statewide samples in Alabama. The median amount of LFOs assessed to discharged felons across all of their criminal convictions is $3,956, more than half of which stems from court fees. As a result, most ex-felons remain disenfranchised after completing their sentences. People who are disproportionately indigent—blacks and those utilizing a public defender—are even less likely to be eligible to restore their voting rights.
Measuring the natural rate of interest: International trends and determinants
Holston, Kathryn, Thomas Lobach, and John C. Williams. 2017. “Measuring the natural rate of interest: International trends and determinants.” Journal of International Economics 108 (1): S59-S75. Abstract

U.S. estimates of the natural rate of interest – the real short-term interest rate that would prevail absent transitory disturbances – have declined dramatically since the start of the global financial crisis. For example, estimates using the Laubach–Williams (2003) model indicate the natural rate in the United States fell to close to zero during the crisis and has remained there into 2016. Explanations for this decline include shifts in demographics, a slowdown in trend productivity growth, and global factors affecting real interest rates. This paper applies the Laubach–Williams methodology to the United States and three other advanced economies – Canada, the Euro Area, and the United Kingdom. We find that large declines in trend GDP growth and natural rates of interest have occurred over the past 25 years in all four economies. These country-by-country estimates are found to display a substantial amount of comovement over time, suggesting an important role for global factors in shaping trend growth and natural rates of interest.

 

Awarded the Bhagwati Prize for 2017-2018, given every two years for the best article published in the Journal of International Economics during the previous two years.
The fading American dream: Trends in absolute income mobility since 1940
Chetty, Raj, David Grusky, Maximilian Hell, Nathaniel Hendren, Robert Manduca, and Jimmy Narang. 2017. “The fading American dream: Trends in absolute income mobility since 1940.” Science 356 (6336): 398-406. Abstract
We estimated rates of “absolute income mobility”—the fraction of children who earn more than their parents—by combining data from U.S. Census and Current Population Survey cross sections with panel data from de-identified tax records. We found that rates of absolute mobility have fallen from approximately 90% for children born in 1940 to 50% for children born in the 1980s. Increasing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rates alone cannot restore absolute mobility to the rates experienced by children born in the 1940s. However, distributing current GDP growth more equally across income groups as in the 1940 birth cohort would reverse more than 70% of the decline in mobility. These results imply that reviving the “American dream” of high rates of absolute mobility would require economic growth that is shared more broadly across the income distribution.
Does Consumer Demand Reproduce Inequality? High-Income Consumers, Vertical Differentiation, and the Wage Structure

This article considers the effects on the wage structure of the U.S. economy’s growing reliance on demand from high-income consumers. Relative to the mass consumers that defined the post–World War II U.S. economy, high-income consumers are willing to pay for high-quality and high-status products. These spending patterns split producers into up-market and down-market segments and stoke winner-take-all dynamics among up-market producers. Economic dependence on high-income consumers could thus lead to a new form of industrial segmentation, based on vertical differentiation by product quality or status. To test these predictions, data from consumer expenditure and wage surveys are linked using input-output tables and used to fit variance function regressions. Results show that industries more dependent on high-income consumers have greater wage inequality. This analysis identifies a new structural source of wage inequality not considered in previous research: the increasingly unequal composition of consumer demand reproduces wage inequality.

Police Reform and the Dismantling of Legal Estrangement
Bell, Monica C. 2017. “Police Reform and the Dismantling of Legal Estrangement.” Yale Law Journal 126 (7): 2054-2150. Abstract

In police reform circles, many scholars and policymakers diagnose the frayed relationship between police forces and the communities they serve as a problem of illegitimacy, or the idea that people lack confidence in the police and thus are unlikely to comply or cooperate with them. The core proposal emanating from this illegitimacy diagnosis is procedural justice, a concept that emphasizes police officers’ obligation to treat people with dignity and respect, behave in a neutral, nonbiased way, exhibit an intention to help, and give them voice to express themselves and their needs, largely in the context of police stops. This Essay argues that legitimacy theory offers an incomplete diagnosis of the policing crisis, and thus de-emphasizes deeper structural, group-centered approaches to the problem of policing. The existing police regulatory regime encourages large swaths of American society to see themselves as existing within the law’s aegis but outside its protection. This Essay critiques the reliance of police decision makers on a simplified version of legitimacy and procedural justice theory. It aims to expand the predominant understanding of police mistrust among African Americans and the poor, proposing that legal estrangement offers a better lens through which scholars and policymakers can understand and respond to the current problems of policing. Legal estrangement is a theory of detachment and eventual alienation from the law’s enforcers, and it reflects the intuition among many people in poor communities of color that the law operates to exclude them from society. Building on the concepts of legal cynicism and anomie in sociology, the concept of legal estrangement provides a way of understanding the deep concerns that motivate today’s police reform movement and points toward structural approaches to reforming policing. 

Wealth Inequality and Accumulation
Killewald, Alexandra, Fabian T. Pfeffer, and Jared N. Schachner. 2017. “Wealth Inequality and Accumulation.” Annual Review of Sociology 43 (1). Abstract
Research on wealth inequality and accumulation and the data upon which it relies have expanded substantially in the twenty-first century. Although the field has experienced rapid growth, conceptual and methodological challenges remain. We begin by discussing two major unresolved methodological concerns facing wealth research: how to address challenges to causal inference posed by wealth’s cumulative nature and how to operationalize net worth, given its highly skewed distribution. Next, we provide an overview of data sources available for wealth research. To underscore the need for continued empirical attention to net worth, we review trends in wealth levels and inequality and evaluate wealth’s distinctiveness as an indicator of social stratification. We then review recent empirical evidence on the effects of wealth on other social outcomes, as well as research on the determinants of wealth. We close with a list of promising avenues for future research on wealth, its causes, and its consequences.
Autocracies and the international sources of cooperation
Mazumder, Soumyajit. 2017. “Autocracies and the international sources of cooperation.” Journal of Peace Research 54 (3): 412-426. Publisher's Version Abstract
Under what conditions do autocracies peacefully settle disputes? Existing studies tend to focus on the domestic factors that shape conflict initiation. In this article, I show how domestic institutions interact with international institutions to produce more cooperative outcomes. Particularly, this study argues that as autocracies become more central in the network of liberal institutions such as preferential trade agreements (PTAs), they are less likely to initiate a militarized interstate dispute (MID). As a state becomes more democratic, the effect of centrality within the PTA network on the peaceful dispute settlement dissipates. This is because greater embeddedness in the PTA regime is associated with enhanced transparency for autocracies, which allows autocracies to mitigate ex ante informational problems in dispute resolution. Using a dataset of MID initiation from 1965 to 1999, this study finds robust empirical support for the aforementioned hypothesis. Moreover, the results are substantively significant. Further analysis into the causal mechanisms at work provides evidence in favor of the information mechanism. Autocrats who are more embedded in the PTA network tend to have higher levels of economic transparency and economic transparency itself is associated with lower rates of conflict initiation. The results suggest that an autocrat’s structural position within the international system can help to peacefully settle its disputes.
One Egalitarianism or Several? Two Decades of Gender-Role Attitude Change in Europe
Knight, Carly R., and Mary C. Brinton. 2017. “One Egalitarianism or Several? Two Decades of Gender-Role Attitude Change in Europe.” American Journal of Sociology 122 (5): 1485-1532. Abstract
This article challenges the implicit assumption of many cross-national studies that gender-role attitudes fall along a single continuum between traditional and egalitarian. The authors argue that this approach obscures theoretically important distinctions in attitudes and renders analyses of change over time incomplete. Using latent class analysis, they investigate the multidimensional nature of gender-role attitudes in 17 postindustrial European countries. They identify three distinct varieties of egalitarianism that they designate as liberal egalitarianism, egalitarian familism, and flexible egalitarianism. They show that while traditional gender-role attitudes have precipitously and uniformly declined in accordance with the “rising tide” narrative toward greater egalitarianism, the relative prevalence of different egalitarianisms varies markedly across countries. Furthermore, they find that European nations are not converging toward one dominant egalitarian model but rather, remain differentiated by varieties of egalitarianism.
Urban Income Inequality and the Great Recession in Sunbelt Form: Disentangling Individual and Neighborhood-Level Change in Los Angeles
Sampson, Robert J., Jared N. Schachner, and Robert L. Mare. 2017. “Urban Income Inequality and the Great Recession in Sunbelt Form: Disentangling Individual and Neighborhood-Level Change in Los Angeles.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 3 (2): 102-128. Abstract

New social transformations within and beyond the cities of classic urban studies challenge prevailing accounts of spatial inequality. This paper pivots from the Rust Belt to the Sunbelt accordingly, disentangling persistence and change in neighborhood median income and concentrated income extremes in Los Angeles County. We first examine patterns of change over two decades starting in 1990 for all Los Angeles neighborhoods. We then analyze an original longitudinal study of approximately six hundred Angelenos from 2000 to 2013, assessing the degree to which contextual changes in neighborhood income arise from neighborhood-level mobility or individual residential mobility. Overall we find deep and persistent inequality among both neighborhoods and individuals. Contrary to prior research, we also find that residential mobility does not materially alter neighborhood economic conditions for most race, ethnic, and income groups. Our analyses lay the groundwork for a multilevel theoretical framework capable of explaining spatial inequality across cities and historical eras.

Labor Unions as Activist Organizations: A Union Power Approach to Estimating Union Wage Effects

Amid the long decline of US unions, research on union wage effects has struggled with selection problems and inadequate theory. I draw on the sociology of labor to argue that unions use non-market sources of power to pressure companies into raising wages. This theory of union power implies a new test of union wage effects: does union activism have an effect on wages that is not reducible to workers’ market position? Two institutional determinants of union activity are used to empirically isolate the wage effect of union activism from labor market conditions: increased union revenue from investment shocks and increased union activity leading up to union officer elections. Instrumental variable analysis of panel data from the Department of Labor shows that a 1 percent increase in union spending increases a proxy for union members’ wages between 0.15 percent and 0.30 percent. These wage effects are larger in years of active collective bargaining, and when unions increase spending in ways that could pressure companies. The results indicate that non-market sources of union power can affect workers’ wages and that even in a period of labor weakness unions still play a role in setting wages for their members.

Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Pretrial detention

Proposals for improving the U.S. Pretrial System

March 15, 2019

The Hamilton Project | By Will Dobbie (PhD 2013) and Crystal S. Yang (PhD 2013). Will Dobbie is now Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Crystal S. Yang is Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Economics for Inclusive Prosperity

Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP) Launches

February 15, 2019

Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School, announced the launch of a new initiative - Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP) - a network of academic economists dedicated to producing creative policy ideas for an inclusive society and economy. Co-directing the initiative are Dani Rodrik, Suresh Naidu of Columbia University, and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California, Berkeley. Download the (free) EfIP eBook: Economics for Inclusive Prosperity: An Introduction and policy briefs.

View the EfIP eBook (pdf) ▶ 
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BPEA heartland

Saving the heartland: Place-based policies in 21st century America

March 8, 2018
Brookings Papers on Economic Activity | By Benjamin Austin, Edward Glaeser, and Lawrence Summers. Austin is a PhD candidate in Economics at Harvard. Glaeser is the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard. Lawrence Summers is the Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus at Harvard University.
Tax reform

Macroeconomic effects of the 2017 tax reform

March 8, 2018
Brookings Papers on Economic Activity | By Robert J. Barro and Jason Furman. Barro is Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics at Harvard. Furman is Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. 
Lawrence F. Katz

Imagining a Future of Work That Fosters Mobility for All

February 1, 2018
U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty | Idea paper by Lawrence Katz, Ai-Jen Poo, and Elaine Waxman. Lawrence Katz is Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard and a member of U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty.
Restoring the American Dream: What Would It Take to Dramatically Increase Mobility from Poverty?

Restoring the American Dream: What Would It Take to Dramatically Increase Mobility from Poverty?

January 23, 2018

US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty | The US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty is a collaboration of 24 leading scholars, policy experts, and practitioners tasked with answering one big, bold, and exciting question: What would it take to dramatically increase mobility from poverty? This two-year project was funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Co-authored by David T. Ellwood, Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and Nisha G. Patel, Executive Director of the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, Urban Institute

David J. Deming

The Value of Soft Skills in the Labor Market

January 17, 2018
NBER Reporter | By David J. Deming (PhD '10), Professor at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education. Deming provides an overview of the current state of research on soft skills in the labor market. His own work in this area, "The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market," appears in the November 2017 issue of Quarterly Journal of Economics.
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Can the Financial Benefit of Lobbying be Quantified?

Can the Financial Benefit of Lobbying be Quantified?

January 16, 2018
Washington Center for Equitable Growth | A look at a new paper by Inequality doctoral fellow Brian Libgober, PhD candidate in Government, and Daniel Carpenter, Allie S. Freed Professor of Government, "Lobbying with Lawyers: Financial Market Evidence for Banks' Influence on Rulemaking."
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Does a Criminal Past Predict Worker Performance? Evidence from One of America’s Largest Employers

Does a Criminal Past Predict Worker Performance? Evidence from One of America’s Largest Employers

January 12, 2018
Social Forces | New research by Harvard's Devah Pager and collaborators  Jennifer Hickes Lundquist and Eiko Strader provides one of the first systematic assessments of workplace performance by those with criminal records. Examining military employment records, they find that, overall, the military's screening process can result in successful employment outcomes for those with felony convictions. An important question, they write, is whether the military's 'whole person' review can apply succssfully to the civilian sector. Pager is Professor of Sociology and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard.
An inside view of credit checks in hiring

An inside view of credit checks in hiring

October 14, 2017
Work in Progress | By Barbara Kiviat, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy. Barbara Kiviat summarizes findings from her research, "The Art of Deciding with Data," recently published in Socio-Economic Review.  Work in Progress is the American Sociological Assocation's blog for short-form sociology on the economy, work, and inequality.
Jason Furman - PIIE Macroeconomic Policy Conference

Should Policymakers Care Whether Inequality is Helpful or Harmful for Growth?

October 13, 2017
Peterson Institute for International Economics | Presentation by Jason Furman (Harvard Kennedy School) at PIIE's "Rethinking Macroeconomic Policy Conference," with discussion by Dani Rodrik (Harvard Kennedy School), Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and Justin Wolfers (PhD '01). View the paper, slides, and conference videos at the conference webpage.