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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Why So Many Poor Americans Don't Get Help Paying for Housing

Why So Many Poor Americans Don't Get Help Paying for Housing

September 16, 2016

FiveThirtyEight | Quotes Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences. "Desmond said that by prioritizing assistance for homeownership — which mostly benefits middle-class and wealthy families — over rental assistance for the poor, the federal government is making the nation’s poverty problem worse...Desmond argues that unaffordable housing, and the subsequent instability, is often the catalyst for a cycle of poverty. And in his book, he says that instead of focusing housing policy on increasing homeownership, we should be 'pulling housing back to the center of the poverty debate.'"

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.

The Anger that Won't End on Nov. 8

The Anger that Won't End on Nov. 8

September 15, 2016

Bloomberg | Donald Trump's supporters won't want olive branches if he loses. That's not how anger works, reports Bloomberg. Draws from research by Jennifer Lerner, Professor of Public Policy and Management at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Co-founder of the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory.

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.
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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."
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Latest commentary and analysis

The New Yorker

The Life of a South Central Statistic

July 24, 2017
The New Yorker | By Danielle Allen. My cousin became a convicted felon in his teens. I tried to make sure he got a second chance. What went wrong?  Danielle Allen is a political theorist and the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard. She is the author of Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A., from which this essay is drawn.
War on Work

Ending the 'War on Work'

June 28, 2017
City Journal Podcast | Harvard economics professor Edward L. Glaeser joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson discuss the great American domestic crisis of the twenty-first century: persistent joblessness, particularly among prime-age men. [Audio and transcript]
The Prospects and Limits of Deliberative Democracy

The Prospects and Limits of Deliberative Democracy

June 28, 2017
American Academy of Arts & Sciences | “Democracy is under siege.” So begins the Summer 2017 issue of Dædalus on “The Prospects and Limits of Deliberative Democracy.” In their introduction to the issue, editors James S. Fishkin of Stanford University and Jane Mansbridge, the Charles F. Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values at Harvard Kennedy School, consider the crisis of confidence in the ideal of democracy as rule by the people. If the “will of the people” can be manufactured by marketing strategies, fake news, and confirmation bias, then how real is our democracy? If the expanse between decision-making elites and a mobilized public grows, then how functional is our democracy? If political alienation and apathy increase, then how representative is our democracy? [ead more]
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View introduction and selected articles (open access)
The War on Work and How to End It

The War on Work and How to End It

June 25, 2017
City Journal | By Edward L. Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics. An agenda to address joblessness, the great American domestic crisis of the twenty-first century.
Luck, Chance, and Taxes

Luck, Chance, and Taxes

June 23, 2017
The American Interest | By Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, Emeritus. Luck has more to do with economic success than Americans like to believe. Robert Frank’s new book challenges us to reckon honestly with fortune, and what it means for social policy,  Jencks writes.
Michèle Lamont

Trois questions à Michèle Lamont

June 15, 2017
Université de Bordeaux | Interview with Michèle Lamont, awarded a Doctorate Honoris Causa by the Université de Bordeaux in recognition of her work in the social sciences. Michèle Lamont is Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies at Harvard.
NBC News

Analysis: DACA Boosts Young Immigrants' Well-Being, Mental Health

June 15, 2017
NBC News | By Roberto G. Gonzales (Assistant Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education) and Kristina Brant (PhD student in Sociology). Roberto Gonazles is Principal Investigator of the National UnDACAmented Research Project. Kristina Brant is the Project Coordinator.
Jal Mehta, Radcliffe Institute

Learning Deeply at Scale: The Challenge of Our Times (video)

June 13, 2017
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study | As part of the 2016–2017 Fellows’ Presentation Series at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Jal Mehta RI ’17 looks beneath the surface of pedagogical methods in American high schools. What does instruction in high schools look like? Where is it better? What can we do about it?

Jal Mehta (PhD '06) is the 2016–2017 Evelyn Green Davis Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute and Associate Professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The CFPB Is Making Government More Accountable. The GOP Wants to Stop It

The CFPB Is Making Government More Accountable. The GOP Wants to Stop It

June 9, 2017
Washington Monthly | By Barbara Kiviat, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy. The Financial CHOICE Act would remove the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s popular consumer complaints database from public view. At a time when many Americans feel government is unaccountable and out of touch with the day-to-day lives of everyday people, Kiviat argues, "Keeping complaints visible to the full American public, and not just to government bureaucrats, represents one of the more innovative mechanisms of accountability to emerge from federal government in recent years."
Christine Desan - HLS Thinks Big

The Dollar as a Democratic Medium: Making Money a Currency of Social Justice

June 8, 2017
Harvard Law Today | HLS Thinks Big: Harvard Law School's annual event featuring Christine Desan, who asks whether we can re-design money to deliver fairness in a world in which inequality is escalating. Christine Desan is the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law and co-founder of Harvard's Program on the Study of Capitalism. (Text + video)
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.
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.
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.
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Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence

Beginning in the mid-1990s, American cities experienced an astonishing drop in violent crime. By 2014, the United States was safer than it had been in sixty years. Sociologist Patrick Sharkey gathered data from across the country to understand why this happened, and how it changed the nature of urban inequality. He shows that the decline of violence is one of the most important public health breakthroughs of the past several decades, that it has made schools safer places to learn and increased the chances of poor children rising into the middle class. Yet there have been costs, in the abuses and high incarceration rates generated by aggressive policing.

Sharkey puts forth an entirely new approach to confronting violence and urban poverty. At a time when inequality, complacency, and conflict all threaten a new rise in violent crime, and the old methods of policing are unacceptable, the ideas in this book are indispensable.

The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life
Jiménez, Tomás R. 2017. The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 296. Abstract

The immigration patterns of the last three decades have profoundly changed nearly every aspect of life in the United States. What do those changes mean for the most established Americans—those whose families have been in the country for multiple generations?
 
The Other Side of Assimilation shows that assimilation is not a one-way street. Jiménez explains how established Americans undergo their own assimilation in response to profound immigration-driven ethnic, racial, political, economic, and cultural shifts. Drawing on interviews with a race and class spectrum of established Americans in three different Silicon Valley cities, The Other Side of Assimilation illuminates how established Americans make sense of their experiences in immigrant-rich environments, in work, school, public interactions, romantic life, and leisure activities. With lucid prose, Jiménez reveals how immigration not only changes the American cityscape but also reshapes the United States by altering the outlooks and identities of its most established citizens. 

 

(Re)Generating Inclusive Cities: Poverty and Planning in Urban North America
Zuberi, Dan, and Ariel Judith Taylor. 2017. (Re)Generating Inclusive Cities: Poverty and Planning in Urban North America. Routledge, 144. Abstract

As suburban expansion declines, cities have become essential economic, cultural and social hubs of global connectivity. This book is about urban revitalization across North America, in cities including San Francisco, Toronto, Boston, Vancouver, New York and Seattle. Infrastructure projects including the High Line and Big Dig are explored alongside urban neighborhood creation and regeneration projects such as Hunters Point in San Francisco and Regent Park in Toronto. Today, these urban regeneration projects have evolved in the context of unprecedented neoliberal public policy and soaring real estate prices. Consequently, they make a complex contribution to urban inequality and poverty trends in many of these cities, including the suburbanization of immigrant settlement and rising inequality. 

(Re)Generating Inclusive Cities wrestles with challenging but important questions of urban planning, including who benefits and who loses with these urban regeneration schemes, and what policy tools can be used to mitigate harm? We propose a new way forward for understanding and promoting better urban design practices in order to build more socially just and inclusive cities and to ultimately improve the quality of urban life for all.

Someone To Talk To
Small, Mario Luis. 2017. Someone To Talk To. Oxford University Press, 288. Abstract

When people are facing difficulties, they often feel the need for a confidant-a person to vent to or a sympathetic ear with whom to talk things through. How do they decide on whom to rely? In 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. 

In Someone To Talk To, Mario L. Small follows a group of graduate students as they cope with stress, overwork, self-doubt, failure, relationships, children, health care, and poverty. He unravels how they decide whom to turn to for support. And he then confirms his findings based on representative national data on adult Americans. 

Small shows that rather than consistently rely on their "strong ties," Americans often take pains to avoid close friends and family, as these relationships are both complex and fraught with expectations. In contrast, they often confide in "weak ties," as the need for understanding or empathy trumps their fear of misplaced trust. In fact, people may find themselves confiding in acquaintances and even strangers unexpectedly, without having reflected on the consequences. 

Someone To Talk To reveals the often counter-intuitive nature of social support, helping us understand questions as varied as why a doctor may hide her depression from friends, how a teacher may come out of the closet unintentionally, why people may willingly share with others their struggle to pay the rent, and why even competitors can be among a person's best confidants.

Amid a growing wave of big data and large-scale network analysis, Small returns to the basic questions of who we connect with, how, and why, upending decades of conventional wisdom on how we should think about and analyze social networks.

Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes
Williamson, Vanessa S. 2017. Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 304. Abstract

Conventional wisdom holds that Americans hate taxes. But the conventional wisdom is wrong. Bringing together national survey data with in-depth interviews, Read My Lips presents a surprising picture of tax attitudes in the United States. Vanessa Williamson demonstrates that Americans view taxpaying as a civic responsibility and a moral obligation. But they worry that others are shirking their duties, in part because the experience of taxpaying misleads Americans about who pays taxes and how much. Perceived "loopholes" convince many income tax filers that a flat tax might actually raise taxes on the rich, and the relative invisibility of the sales and payroll taxes encourages many to underestimate the sizable tax contributions made by poor and working people.

Americans see being a taxpayer as a role worthy of pride and respect, a sign that one is a contributing member of the community and the nation. For this reason, the belief that many Americans are not paying their share is deeply corrosive to the social fabric. The widespread misperception that immigrants, the poor, and working-class families pay little or no taxes substantially reduces public support for progressive spending programs and undercuts the political standing of low-income people. At the same time, the belief that the wealthy pay less than their share diminishes confidence that the political process represents most people.

Upending the idea of Americans as knee-jerk opponents of taxes, Read My Lips examines American taxpaying as an act of political faith. Ironically, the depth of the American civic commitment to taxpaying makes the failures of the tax system, perceived and real, especially potent frustrations.

 

Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

Healthcare spending inequality: Evidence from Hungarian administrative data
Bíró, Anikó, and Daniel Prinz. 2020. “Healthcare spending inequality: Evidence from Hungarian administrative data.” Health Policy 124 (3): 282-290. Abstract

Using administrative data on a random 50% of the Hungarian population, including individual-level information on incomes, healthcare spending, and mortality for the 2003–2011 period, we develop new evidence on the distribution of healthcare spending and mortality in Hungary by income and geography. By linking detailed administrative data on employment, income, and geographic location with measures of healthcare spending and mortality we are able to provide a more complete picture than the existing literature which has relied on survey data. We compute mean spending and 5-year and 8-year mortality measures by geography and income quantiles, and also present gender and age adjusted results.

We document four patterns: (i) substantial geographic heterogeneity in healthcare spending; (ii) positive association between labor income and public healthcare spending; (iii) geographic variation in the strength of the association between labor income and healthcare spending; and (iv) negative association between labor income and mortality. In further exploratory analysis, we find no statistically significant correlation between simple county-level supply measures and healthcare spending. We argue that taken together, these patterns suggest that individuals with higher labor income are in better health but consume more healthcare because they have better access to services.

Our work suggests new directions for research on the relationship between health inequalities and healthcare spending inequalities and the role of subtler barriers to healthcare access.

 

Inequality in socially permissible consumption
Hagerty, Serena F., and Kate Barasz. 2020. “Inequality in socially permissible consumption.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117 (25): 14084-14093. Abstract

Contributing to the burgeoning discourse on economic inequality, we expose an inequality in what the poor are socially permitted to buy. Across 11 experiments (n = 4,179), we demonstrate that lower-income individuals are held to more restrictive standards of permissible consumption, judged negatively for purchasing the same items as their higher-income peers. We rule out the explanation that higher-income people are socially permitted to consume more simply because they can afford more; instead, we find lower-income people are socially permitted to consume less because they are presumed to need less. These findings suggest that—in addition to economic disparities that restrict what lower-income individuals financially can consume—there is an inequality in what they are socially permitted to consume.

 

Going National: Immigration Enforcement and the Politicization of Local Police
Zoorob, Michael. 2020. “Going National: Immigration Enforcement and the Politicization of Local Police.” PS: Political Science & Politics 53 (3): 421–426. Abstract

This article develops a theory of when and how political nationalization increases interest in local elections using evidence from county sheriff elections. A quintessentially local office, the sheriff has long enjoyed buffers from ideological or partisan politics. However, many sheriff elections since 2016 were waged on ideological grounds as progressive challengers—often backed by outside money—linked their campaigns to opposition to President Trump. I argue that this “redirected nationalization” becomes possible when a salient national issue impinges on a local government service, enabling challengers to expand the scope of conflict against valence-advantaged incumbents. In the highly nationalized 2018 midterm election, the question of cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the nation’s jails provided a compelling link between local sheriffs and national politics, infusing new interest and energy in these races. Although redirected nationalization can help align local policies with voter preferences, the politicization of local law enforcement also might undermine police professionalism and credibility.

Resisting Broken Windows: The Effect of Neighborhood Disorder on Political Behavior
Brown, Jacob R., and Michael Zoorob. 2020. “Resisting Broken Windows: The Effect of Neighborhood Disorder on Political Behavior.” Political Behavior. Abstract

Concurrent housing and opioid crises have increased exposure to street-crime, homelessness and addiction in American cities. What are the political consequences of this increased neighborhood disorder? We examine a change in social context following the relocation of homelessness and drug treatment services in Boston. In 2014, an unexpected bridge closing forced nearly 1000 people receiving emergency shelter or addiction treatment to relocate from an island in the Boston Harbor to mainland Boston, causing sustained increases in drug-use, loitering, and other features of neighborhood disorder. Residents near the relocation facilities mobilized to maintain order in their community. In the subsequent Mayoral election, their turnout grew 9% points while participation in state and national elections was unchanged. However, increased turnout favored the incumbent Mayor, consistent with voter learning about candidate quality following local shocks. Voters responded to neighborhood changes at the relevant electoral scale and rewarded responsive politicians.

 

Natural Hazards, Disasters, and Demographic Change
Raker, Ethan J. 2020. “Natural Hazards, Disasters, and Demographic Change.” Demography 57. Abstract
Natural hazards and disasters distress populations and inflict damage on the built environment, but existing studies yield mixed results regarding their lasting demographic implications. I leverage variation across three decades of block group exposure to an exogenous and acute natural hazard—severe tornadoes—to focus conceptually on social vulnerability and to empirically assess local net demographic change. Using matching techniques and a difference-in-difference estimator, I find that severe tornadoes result in no net change in local population size but lead to compositional changes, whereby affected neighborhoods become more white and socioeconomically advantaged. Moderation models show that the effects are exacerbated for wealthier communities and that a federal disaster declaration does not mitigate the effects. I interpret the empirical findings as evidence of a displacement process by which economically disadvantaged residents are forcibly mobile, and economically advantaged and white locals rebuild rather than relocate. To make sense of demographic change after natural hazards, I advance an unequal replacement of social vulnerability framework that considers hazard attributes, geographic scale, and impacted local context. I conclude that the natural environment is consequential for the socio-spatial organization of communities and that a disaster declaration has little impact on mitigating this driver of neighborhood inequality.
The Social Consequences of Disasters
Arcaya, Mariana, Ethan J. Raker, and Mary C. Waters. 2020. “The Social Consequences of Disasters.” Annual Review of Sociology 46 (1). Abstract
We review the findings from the last decade of research on the effects of disasters, concentrating on three important themes: the differences between the recovery of places vs. people, the need to differentiate between short and long term recovery trajectories, and the changing role of government and how it has exacerbated inequality in recovery and engendered feedback loops that create greater vulnerability. We reflect the focus of the majority of sociological studies on disasters by concentrating our review on studies in the United States, but we also include studies on disasters throughout the world if they contribute to our empirical and theoretical understanding of disasters and their impacts. We end with a discussion of the inevitability of more severe disasters as climate change progresses and call on social scientists to develop new concepts and to use new methods to study these developments.
Do Police Brutality Stories Reduce 911 Calls? Reassessing an Important Criminological Finding
Zoorob, Michael. 2020. “Do Police Brutality Stories Reduce 911 Calls? Reassessing an Important Criminological Finding.” American Sociological Review 85 (1): 176-183. Abstract
This paper reassesses the prominent claim from Desmond, Papachristos, and Kirk (2016) that 911 calls plummeted – and homicides surged – because of a police brutality story (the Jude story). The results in DPK depend on a substantial outlier 47 weeks after the Jude story, the final week of data. Identical analyses without the outlier final week show that the Jude story had no statistically significant effect on either total 911 calls or violent crime 911 calls. Modeling choices which do not extrapolate from data many weeks after the Jude story – including an event study and "regression discontinuity in time" – also find no evidence that calls declined, a consistent result across predominantly Black neighborhoods, predominantly White neighborhoods, and citywide. Finally, plotting the raw data demonstrates stable 911 calls in the weeks around the Jude story. Overall, the existing empirical evidence does not support the theory that publishing brutality stories decreases crime reporting and increases murders.
Does Public Opinion Affect Elite Rhetoric?
Hager, Anselm, and Hanno Hilbig. 2020. “Does Public Opinion Affect Elite Rhetoric?” American Journal of Political Science 64 (4): 921-937. Abstract

Does public opinion affect elite rhetoric? This central question of political science has received little empirical scrutiny. Of particular interest is whether public opinion af- fects i) what topics elites address and ii) what positions they endorse. We add to this debate by drawing on unique evidence from Germany. In 2015, a legal ruling forced the German government to declassify all its public opinion research. Our causal identifica- tion strategy exploits the demonstrably exogenous timing of the reports’ dissemination to cabinet members within a window of a few days. We find that exposure to the public opinion reports leads elites to change their rhetoric markedly. Specifically, lin- guistic similarity between elite speech and public opinion increases significantly after reports are disseminated—a finding that points toward rhetorical agenda setting. By hand-coding a subset of 2,000 report-speech pairs, we also demonstrate that elites sub- stantively adapt their rhetoric to majority opinion.

Forever Homes and Temporary Stops: Housing Search Logics and Residential Selection
Harvey, Hope, Kelley Fong, Kathryn Edin, and Stefanie DeLuca. 2020. “Forever Homes and Temporary Stops: Housing Search Logics and Residential Selection.” Social Forces 98 (4): 1498–1523. Abstract
Residential selection is central in determining children’s housing, neighborhood, and school contexts, and an extensive literature considers the social processes that shape residential searches and attainment. While this literature typically frames the residential search as a uniform process oriented around finding residential options with desired characteristics, we examine whether individuals may differentially conceive of these searches in ways that sustain inequality in residential attainment. Drawing on repeated, in-depth interviews with a stratified random sample of 156 households with young children in two metropolitan counties, we find that parents exhibit distinct residential search logics, informed by the constraints they face. Higher-income families usually engage in purposive searches oriented around their residential preferences. They search for “forever homes” that will meet their families’ needs for years to come. In contrast, low-income parents typically draw on a logic of deferral. While they hope to eventually search for a home with the unit, neighborhood, and school characteristics they desire, aspirations for homeownership lead them to conceive of their moves (which are often between rental units) as “temporary stops,” which justifies accepting homes that are inconsistent with their long-term preferences. In addition, because they are often “pushed” to move by negative circumstances, they focus on their immediate housing needs and, in the most extreme cases, adopt an “anywhere but here” approach. These logics constitute an unexamined mechanism through which economic resources shape residential searches and ultimate attainment.
Gender Bias in Rumors among Professionals: An Identity-Based Interpretation
Wu, Alice H. 2020. “Gender Bias in Rumors among Professionals: An Identity-Based Interpretation.” The Review of Economics and Statistics 102 (5): 867–880. Abstract
This paper measures gender bias in discussions about women versus men in an online professional forum. I study the content of posts that refer to each gender, and the transitions in the topics between consecutive posts once attention turns to one gender or the other. Discussions about women tend to emphasize their personal characteristics instead of professional accomplishments. Posts about women are also more likely to lead to deviations from professional topics than posts about men. I interpret these findings through a model that highlights posters' incentives to boost their own identities relative to the underrepresented out-group in a profession.
Thick Red Tape and the Thin Blue Line: A Field Study on Reducing Administrative Burden in Police Recruitment
Linos, Elizabeth, and Nefara Riesch. 2020. “Thick Red Tape and the Thin Blue Line: A Field Study on Reducing Administrative Burden in Police Recruitment.” Public Administration Review 80: 92-103. Abstract
Police departments struggle to recruit officers, and voluntary drop‐off of candidates exacerbates this challenge. Using four years of administrative data and a field experiment conducted in the Los Angeles Police Department, the authors analyze the impact of administrative burden on the likelihood that a candidate will remain in the recruitment process. Findings show that reducing friction costs to participation and simplifying processes improve compliance, as behavioral public administration would predict. Applicants who were offered simpler, standardized processes completed more tests and were more likely to be hired. Later reductions to perceived burden led to an 8 percent increase in compliance, with a 60 percent increase in compliance within two weeks. However, removing steps that would have allowed for better understanding of eligibility kept unqualified candidates in the process for longer, reducing organizational efficiency. These results extend the field's understanding of how administrative burden can impact the selection of talent into government.
The art of deciding with data: evidence from how employers translate credit reports into hiring decisions

About half of US employers consider personal credit history when hiring, a practice that connects individuals’ prospects for employment to their financial pasts. Yet little is known about how employers translate credit reports, complicated financial documents, into hiring decisions. Using interviews with 57 hiring professionals, this paper offers the first in-depth look at how employers move from document to decision. Faced with the context-free numbers of a credit report, and without predictively valid credit scores to fall back on, hiring professionals struggle to make sense of financial data without knowing the details of job candidates’ lives. They therefore reach beyond credit reports, both by inferring events that led to delinquent debt and by testing to see if candidates can offer morally redeeming accounts. A process of moral storytelling re-inflates credit reports with social meaning and prevents people with bad credit from getting jobs. This process carries implications for the reproduction of economic disadvantage since judgments about when it is and is not legitimate to have unpaid debt seem to at least partly depend on social background.

 

The Moral Limits of Predictive Practices: The Case of Credit-Based Insurance Scores
Kiviat, Barbara. 2019. “The Moral Limits of Predictive Practices: The Case of Credit-Based Insurance Scores.” American Sociological Review 84 (6): 1134-1158. Abstract
Corporations gather massive amounts of personal data to predict how individuals will behave so that they can profitably price goods and allocate resources. This article investigates the moral foundations of such increasingly prevalent market practices. I leverage the case of credit scores in car insurance pricing—an early and controversial use of algorithmic prediction in the U.S. consumer economy—to unpack the premise that predictive data are fair to use and to understand the conditions under which people are likely to challenge that moral logic. Policymaker resistance to credit-based insurance scores reveals that contention arises when predictions depend on mathematical distinctions that do not align with broader understandings of good and bad behavior, and when theories about why predictions work point to the market holding people accountable for actions that are not really their fault. Via a de-commensuration process, policymakers realign the market with their own notions of moral deservingness. This article thus demonstrates the importance of causal understanding and moral categorization for people accepting markets as fair. As data and analytics permeate markets of all sorts, as well as other domains of social life, these findings have implications for how social scientists understand the novel forms of stratification that result.
Screening in Contract Design: Evidence from the ACA Health Insurance Exchanges
Geruso, Michael, Timothy Layton, and Daniel Prinz. 2019. “Screening in Contract Design: Evidence from the ACA Health Insurance Exchanges.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 11 (2): 64-107. Abstract
We study insurers' use of prescription drug formularies to screen consumers in the ACA Health Insurance exchanges. We begin by showing that exchange risk adjustment and reinsurance succeed in neutralizing selection incentives for most, but not all, consumer types. A minority of consumers, identifiable by demand for particular classes of prescription drugs, are predictably unprofitable. We then show that contract features relating to these drugs are distorted in a manner consistent with multidimensional screening. The empirical findings support a long theoretical literature examining how insurance contracts offered in equilibrium can fail to optimally trade off risk protection and moral hazard.
A Look to the Interior: Trends in U.S. Immigration Removals by Criminal Conviction Type, Gender, and Region of Origin, Fiscal Years 2003-2015
Over the past two decades, the U.S. federal government has sought to increase its capacity to find, apprehend, and deport noncitizens residing in the United States who have violated federal immigration laws. One way the federal government has done this is by partnering with state and local law enforcement agencies on immigration enforcement efforts. The present study analyzes the records of all 1,964,756 interior removals between fiscal years 2003 and 2015 to examine how, if at all, the types of criminal convictions leading to removal from the U.S. interior have changed during this period of heightened coordination between law enforcement agencies and whether there are differences by gender and region of origin in the types of convictions leading to removal. Findings show that as coordination between law enforcement agencies intensified, the proportion of individuals removed from the U.S. interior with either no criminal convictions or with a driving-related conviction as their most serious conviction increased. Findings also show that the proportion of individuals removed with no criminal convictions was greater for women than for men and that the share of individuals removed with a driving-related conviction as their most serious conviction was greater for Latin Americans than for individuals from all other regions. Given renewed investment in these types of law enforcement partnerships under the Trump administration, the patterns presented in this article may foreshadow trends to come.
Twelve years later: The long-term mental health consequences of Hurricane Katrina
Raker, Ethan J., Sarah R. Lowe, Mariana C. Arcaya, Sydney T. Johnson, Jean Rhodes, and Mary C. Waters. 2019. “Twelve years later: The long-term mental health consequences of Hurricane Katrina.” Social Science & Medicine 242: 112610. Abstract
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused unprecedented damage, widespread population displacement, and exposed Gulf Coast residents to traumatic events. The hurricane's adverse impact on survivors' mental health was apparent shortly after the storm and persisted, but no study has examined the long-term effects now that more than a decade has transpired. Using new data from a panel study of low-income mothers interviewed once before Hurricane Katrina and now three times after, we document changes in mental health, and estimate the sociodemographic and hurricane-related factors associated with long-term trajectories of mental health. We find that post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) declined at each of the three post-Katrina follow-ups, but 12 years after the hurricane, one in six still had symptoms indicative of probable post-traumatic stress disorder. The rate of non-specific psychological distress (PD) remained consistently higher in all three follow-ups, compared to the pre-disaster period. In full covariate-adjusted models, no sociodemographic variables predicted long-run combinations of PTSS and PD. However, 12 years later, exposure to hurricane-related traumatic events and pre-disaster PD significantly predicted co-occurring PTSS and PD. Hurricane-related housing damage predicted PTSS in earlier follow-ups, but no longer predicted PTSS in the long-term. Furthermore, hurricane-related traumatic events significantly differentiated the risk of having persistent PTSS, relative to recovering from PTSS. The results suggest that there is still a non-negligible group of survivors with continued need for recovery resources and that exposure to traumatic events is a primary predictor of adverse mental health more than a decade post-disaster.
Fentanyl shock: The changing geography of overdose in the United States
Zoorob, Michael. 2019. “Fentanyl shock: The changing geography of overdose in the United States.” International Journal of Drug Policy 70: 40-46. Abstract

Background: Rapid increases in drug overdose deaths in the United States since 2014 have been highly regionally stratified, with the largest increases occurring in the eastern and northeastern states. By contrast, many western states saw overdose deaths plateau. This paper shows how the differential influx of fentanyl and fentanyl ana- logues in the drug supply has reshaped the geography and demography of the overdose crisis in the United States.

Methods: Using all state lab drug seizures obtained by Freedom of Information Act request, I analyze the re- gionally distinctive presence of fentanyl in the US drug supply with descriptive plots and statistical models. Main analyses explore state-year overdose trends using two-way fixed effects ordinary least squares (OLS) regression and two-stage least squares regression (2SLS) instrumenting for fentanyl exposure with state-longitude times a linear trend.

Results: First, fentanyl exposure is highly correlated with geography and only weakly explained by overdose rates prior to 2014. States in the east (higher degrees longitude) are much more heavily affected. Second, fentanyl exposure exhibits a statistically significant and important effect on overdose mortality, with model- predicted deaths broadly consistent with official death statistics. Third, fentanyl exposure explains most of the variation in increased overdose mortality between 2011 and 2017. Consequently, the epicenter of the overdose crisis shifted towards the eastern United States over these years.

Conclusion: These findings shed light on the “third-wave” of the overdose epidemic, characterized by rapid and geographically disparate changes in drug supply that heighten the risk of overdose. Above all, they underscore the urgency of adopting evidence-based policies to combat addiction in light of the rapidly changing drug environment.

Blue Endorsements Matter: How the Fraternal Order of Police Contributed to Donald Trump’s Victory
Zoorob, Michael. 2019. “Blue Endorsements Matter: How the Fraternal Order of Police Contributed to Donald Trump’s Victory.” PS: Political Science and Politics 52 (2): 243-250. Abstract

Conventional accounts of Donald Trump’s unexpected electoral victory stress idiosyncratic events and media celebrity because most observers assume this unusual candidate won without much organized support. However, considerable evidence suggests that the support of conservative organizational networks, including police unions such as the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), propelled Trump to victory. The FOP is both a public-sector union and a conservative, mass-membership fraternal association that was courted by the Trump campaign at a time of politically charged debates about policing. Four years before, the FOP had refused to endorse Republican candidate Mitt Romney because he opposed public-sector unionism, which provided fruitful and rare variation in interest-group behavior across electoral cycles. Using a difference-in-differences approach, I find that FOP lodge density contributed to a significant swing in vote share from Romney to Trump. Moreover, survey evidence indicates that police officers reported increased political engagement in 2016 versus 2012. Belying the notion that Trump lacked a “ground game,” this research suggests that he tapped into existing organizational networks, showing their enduring importance in electoral politics.

Do Inheritance Customs Affect Political and Social Inequality?
Hager, Anselm, and Hanno Hilbig. 2019. “Do Inheritance Customs Affect Political and Social Inequality?” American Journal of Political Science 63 (4): 758-773. Abstract
Why are some societies more unequal than others? The French revolutionaries believed unequal inheritances among siblings to be responsible for the strict hierarchies of the ancien régime. To achieve equality, the revolutionaries therefore enforced equal inheritance rights. Their goal was to empower women and to disenfranchise the noble class. But do equal inheritances succeed in leveling the societal playing field? We study Germany—a country with pronounced local‐level variation in inheritance customs—and find that municipalities that historically equally apportioned wealth, to this day, elect more women into political councils and have fewer aristocrats in the social elite. Using historic data, we point to two mechanisms: wealth equality and pro‐egalitarian preferences. In a final step, we also show that, counterintuitively, equitable inheritance customs positively predict income inequality. We interpret this finding to mean that equitable inheritances level the playing field by rewarding talent, not status.
Shooting the Messenger
John, Leslie K., Hayley Blunden, and Heidi Liu. 2019. “Shooting the Messenger.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 148 (4): 644–666. Abstract
Eleven experiments provide evidence that people have a tendency to “shoot the messenger,” deeming innocent bearers of bad news unlikeable. In a preregistered lab experiment, participants rated messengers who delivered bad news from a random drawing as relatively unlikeable (Study 1). A second set of studies points to the specificity of the effect: Study 2A shows that it is unique to the (innocent) messenger and not mere bystanders. Study 2B shows that it is distinct from merely receiving information that one disagrees with. We suggest that people’s tendency to deem bearers of bad news as unlikeable stems in part from their desire to make sense of chance processes. Consistent with this account, receiving bad news activates the desire to sense-make (Study 3A), and in turn, activating this desire enhances the tendency to dislike bearers of bad news (Study 3B). Next, stemming from the idea that unexpected outcomes heighten the desire to sense-make, Study 4 shows that when bad news is unexpected, messenger dislike is pronounced. Finally, consistent with the notion that people fulfill the desire to sense-make by attributing agency to entities adjacent to chance events, messenger dislike is correlated with the belief that the messenger had malevolent motives (Studies 5A, 5B, & 5C). Studies 6A & 6B go further, manipulating messenger motives independently from news valence to suggest its causal role in our process account: the tendency to dislike bearers of bad news is mitigated when recipients are made aware of the benevolence of the messenger’s motives.
The Great Decoupling: The Disconnection Between Criminal Offending and Experience of Arrest Across Two Cohorts
Weaver, Vesla M., Andrew Papachristos, and Michael Zanger-Tishler. 2019. “The Great Decoupling: The Disconnection Between Criminal Offending and Experience of Arrest Across Two Cohorts.” RSF: Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 5 (1): 89-123. Abstract

Our study explores the arrest experiences of two generational cohorts—those entering adulthood on either side of a large shift in American policing. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979 and 1997), we find a stark increase in arrest odds among the later generation at every level of offending, suggesting a decoupling between contact with the justice system and criminal conduct. Furthermore, this decoupling became racially inflected. Blacks had a much higher probability of arrest at the start of the twenty-first century than both blacks of the generation prior and whites of the same generation. The criminal justice system, we argue, slipped from one in which arrest was low and strongly linked to offending to one where a substantial share of Americans experienced arrest without committing a crime.

We can help, but there’s a catch: Nonprofit organizations and access to government-funded resources among the poor
Siliunas, Andreja, Mario L. Small, and Joey Wallerstein. 2019. “We can help, but there’s a catch: Nonprofit organizations and access to government-funded resources among the poor.” Journal of Organizational Ethnography 8 (1): 109-128. Abstract
Today, low-income people seeking resources from the federal government must often work through non-profit organizations. The purpose of this paper is to examine the constraints that the poor must face today to secure resources through non-profit organizations. This is a conceptual paper. The authors review cases of non-profit organizations providing federally supported resources to the poor across multiple sectors.The authors find that to accept government contracts serving the poor, nonprofit organizations must often engage in one or several practices: reject clients normally consistent with their mission, select clients based on likely outcomes, ignore problems in clients’ lives relevant to their predicament, or undermine client progress to manage funding requirements. To secure government-supported resources from nonprofits, the poor must often acquiesce to intrusions into one or more of the following: their privacy (disclosing sensitive information), their self-protection (renouncing legal rights), their identity (avowing a particular self-understanding) or their self-mastery (relinquishing authority over daily routines). The authors show that the nonprofits’ dual role as brokers, both liaisons transferring resources and representatives of the state, can complicate their relation to their clients and the predicament of the poor themselves; the authors suggest that two larger trends, toward increasing administrative accountability and demonstrating deservingness, are having both intended and unintended consequences for the ability of low-income individuals to gain access to publicly funded resources.
Beyond Likely Voters: An Event Analysis of Conservative Political Outreach
Bautista-Chavez, Angie M., and Sarah E. James. 2019. “Beyond Likely Voters: An Event Analysis of Conservative Political Outreach.” Political Science Quarterly 134 (3): 407-443. Abstract
Angie M. Bautista-Chavez and Sarah E. James  look at the constituency-building strategies of three politically conservative organizations designed to reach veterans, millennials, and Latinos. They show how these organizations vary their outreach tactics to align the target audience with the political right.
The Organization of Neglect: Limited Liability Companies and Housing Disinvestment
Travis, Adam. 2019. “The Organization of Neglect: Limited Liability Companies and Housing Disinvestment.” American Sociological Review 84 (1): 142-170. Abstract
Sociological accounts of urban disinvestment processes rarely assess how landlords’ variable investment strategies may be facilitated or constrained by the legal environment. Nor do they typically examine how such factors might, in turn, affect housing conditions for city dwellers. Over the past two decades, the advent and diffusion of the limited liability company (LLC) has reshaped the legal landscape of rental ownership. Increasingly, rental properties are owned by business organizations that limit investor liability, rather than by individual landlords who own property in their own names. An analysis of administrative records and survey data from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, demonstrates that signs of housing disinvestment increase when properties transition from individual to LLC ownership. This increase is not explained by selection on property characteristics or by divergent pre-transfer trends. Results affirm that real estate investors are responsive to changes in the legal environment and that the protective structure of the LLC facilitates housing disinvestment in Milwaukee. Elaborating the role of real estate investors can deepen accounts of neighborhood change processes and help explain variation in local housing conditions. Ultimately, public policies that enable business operators to circumscribe or reallocate risk may generate unintended costs for consumers and the public.
Subject to Evaluation: How Parents Assess and Mobilize Information from Social Networks in School Choice.
A rich literature examines how information spreads through social networks to influence life opportunities. However, receiving information does not guarantee its use in decision making. This article analyzes information evaluation as a fundamental component of social network mobilization. The case of school choice, where the value of information may be more uncertain, brings this evaluative dimension to the forefront. Interviews with 55 parents in Boston show how parents selecting schools assess their social network ties as information sources, privileging information from those they perceive to have affinity and authority. These evaluative criteria map onto disparate networks to engender unequal mobilization of this information. The findings illuminate mechanisms sustaining inequality in social network mobilization and reorient scholars to consider processes underlying information use alongside information diffusion to attain a more complete understanding of how network resources are mobilized in action.
Concealment and Constraint: Child Protective Services Fears and Poor Mothers’ Institutional Engagement
With the expansion of state surveillance and enforcement efforts in recent decades, a growing literature examines how those vulnerable to punitive state contact strategize to evade it. This article draws on in-depth interviews with eighty-three low-income mothers to consider whether and how concerns about Child Protective Services (CPS), a widespread presence in poor communities with the power to remove children from their parents, inform poor mothers’ institutional engagement. Mothers recognized CPS reports as a risk in interactions with healthcare, educational, and social service systems legally mandated to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Departing from findings on responses to policing and immigration enforcement, I find that CPS concerns rarely prompted mothers to avoid systems wholesale. Within their system participation, however, mothers engaged in a selective or constrained visibility, concealing their hardships, home life, and parenting behavior from potential reporters. As reporting systems serve as vital sources of support for disadvantaged families, mothers’ practices of information management, while perhaps protecting them from CPS reports, may preclude opportunities for assistance and reinforce a sense of constraint in families’ institutional interactions.
Punishing and toxic neighborhood environments independently predict the intergenerational social mobility of black and white children
Manduca, Robert, and Robert J. Sampson. 2019. “Punishing and toxic neighborhood environments independently predict the intergenerational social mobility of black and white children.” PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (16): 7772-7777. Abstract
We use data on intergenerational social mobility by neighborhood to examine how social and physical environments beyond concentrated poverty predict children’s long-term well-being. First, we examine neighborhoods that are harsh on children’s development: those characterized by high levels of violence, incarceration, and lead exposure. Second, we examine potential supportive or offsetting mechanisms that promote children’s development, such as informal social control, cohesion among neighbors, and organizational participation. Census tract mobility estimates from linked income tax and Census records are merged with surveys and administrative records in Chicago. We find that exposure to neighborhood violence, incarceration, and lead combine to independently predict poor black boys’ later incarceration as adults and lower income rank relative to their parents, and poor black girls’ teenage motherhood. Features of neighborhood social organization matter less, but are selectively important. Results for poor whites also show that toxic environments independently predict lower social mobility, as do features of social organization, to a lesser extent. Overall, our measures contribute a 76% relative increase in explained variance for black male incarceration beyond that of concentrated poverty and other standard characteristics, an 18% increase for black male income rank (70% for whites), and a 17% increase for teenage motherhood of black girls (40% for whites).
The Contribution of National Income Inequality to Regional Economic Divergence
Manduca, Robert. 2019. “The Contribution of National Income Inequality to Regional Economic Divergence.” Social Forces 98 (2): 622-648. Abstract
After more than a century of convergence, the economic fortunes of rich and poor regions of the United States have diverged dramatically over the last 40 years. Roughly a third of the US population now lives in metropolitan areas that are substantially richer or poorer than the nation as a whole, almost three times the proportion that did in 1980. In this paper I use counterfactual simulations based on Census microdata to understand the dynamics of regional divergence. I first show that regional divergence has primarily resulted from the richest people and places pulling away from the rest of the country. I then estimate the relative contributions to regional divergence of two major socioeconomic trends of recent decades: the sorting of people across metro areas by income level and the national rise in income inequality. I show that the national rise in income inequality is sufficient on its own to account for more than half of the observed divergence across regions, while income sorting on its own accounts for less than a quarter. The major driver of regional economic divergence is national-level income dispersion that has exacerbated preexisting spatial inequalities.
Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation
Bell, Alex, Raj Chetty, Xavier Jaravel, Neviana Petkova, and John Van Reenen. 2019. “Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 134 (2): 647–713. Abstract
We characterize the factors that determine who becomes an inventor in the United States, focusing on the role of inventive ability (“nature”) versus environment (“nurture”). Using deidentified data on 1.2 million inventors from patent records linked to tax records, we first show that children’s chances of becoming inventors vary sharply with characteristics at birth, such as their race, gender, and parents’ socioeconomic class. For example, children from high-income (top 1%) families are 10 times as likely to become inventors as those from below-median income families. These gaps persist even among children with similar math test scores in early childhood—which are highly predictive of innovation rates—suggesting that the gaps may be driven by differences in environment rather than abilities to innovate. We directly establish the importance of environment by showing that exposure to innovation during childhood has significant causal effects on children’s propensities to invent. Children whose families move to a high-innovation area when they are young are more likely to become inventors. These exposure effects are technology class and gender specific. Children who grow up in a neighborhood or family with a high innovation rate in a specific technology class are more likely to patent in exactly the same class. Girls are more likely to invent in a particular class if they grow up in an area with more women (but not men) who invent in that class. These gender- and technology class–specific exposure effects are more likely to be driven by narrow mechanisms, such as role-model or network effects, than factors that only affect general human capital accumulation, such as the quality of schools. Consistent with the importance of exposure effects in career selection, women and disadvantaged youth are as underrepresented among high-impact inventors as they are among inventors as a whole. These findings suggest that there are many “lost Einsteins”—individuals who would have had highly impactful inventions had they been exposed to innovation in childhood—especially among women, minorities, and children from low-income families.

Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Harvard Business School Research Brief

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

August 30, 2020

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

Our Common Purpose

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

June 11, 2020

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

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View launch event and discussion ►

Economics After Neoliberalism: Introducing the EfIP Project

Economics After Neoliberalism: Introducing the EfIP Project

January 23, 2020

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

Alix S. Winter

Is Lead Exposure a Form of Housing Inequality?

January 2, 2020

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

Michael Luca

2019 in Research Highlights

December 27, 2019

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

Benjamin Schneer

Family past as political prologue

December 13, 2019

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

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DACA report

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

November 7, 2019

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

The Inflation Gap

The Inflation Gap

November 5, 2019

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

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

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

Michael Hankinson

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

October 18, 2019

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

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Allison Daminger

How Couples Share “Cognitive Labor” and Why it Matters

September 19, 2019

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

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Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP) logo

The Economics of Free College

June 1, 2019

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

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