News

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 commentary and analysis

Leah Wright Rigueur on ABC Nightline

How Donald Trump Has Used Twitter as Bully Pulpit

January 18, 2017

ABC News Nightline | Features Leah Wright Rigueur of the Harvard Kennedy School: "If we have a president who's blocking all access and trying to discredit the press, we don't have people who are holding the President's feet to the fire."

Brookings forum on public investment

Larry Summers v. Edward Glaeser: Two Harvard economists debate increased infrastructure investments

January 18, 2017

Brookings Institution | As politicians debate the merits of increased federal spending on infrastructure, the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy asked two prominent economists—Harvard University’s Lawrence Summers and Edward Glaeser—about the economic case for stepped-up infrastructure spending and their thoughts on how to spend any additional money most wisely. Here are the highlights of the conversation. (Read more)

What Does Free College Mean?

What Does Free College Mean?

January 17, 2017

Harvard Graduate School of Education | A Q&A with David Deming (Ph.D. '10), a professor at the HGSE and Harvard Kennedy School.

Among the research highlighted in this interview, a study of the Adams scholarship in Massachusetts, by Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15) and Joshua Goodman, Associate Professor of Public Policy, published in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics (Oct 2014); and a new paper by Deming and Christopher Walters of UC Berkeley, "The Impacts of Price and Spending Subsidies on U.S. Postsecondary Attainment."

Dept of Education

Federal Education Policy: What to Expect

January 13, 2017

Usable Knowledge (HGSE) | A primer on presidential transitions, Betsy DeVos, and how federal policy trickles down. Interview with Martin West (Ph.D. '06), Associate Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Lawrence Katz, J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative

Webcast: J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative Convening

January 12, 2017

J-PAL North America | Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allen Professor of Economics, and Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, were among the speakers and panelists for the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative Year 1 Convening. Katz serves as Scientific Director for J-PAL North America, along with MIT economist Amy Finkelstein.
View agenda

Preparing for a Next Generation Economy

Preparing for a Next Generation Economy

January 11, 2017

HKS PolicyCast | Policy roundtable with Douglas Elmendorf, Brigitte Madrian, and David Ellwood. Second in a three-part series with Harvard Kennedy School experts on the challenges facing President-elect Trump. Look for an edited version of their discussion to appear in the winter issue of the Harvard Kennedy School Magazine.

Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, led the Congressional Budget Office for six years before becoming Dean in 2016. Brigitte Madrian is a behavioral economist whose work focuses on household savings and investment behavior. David Ellwood is a leading expert on poverty and welfare in the United States. He served as Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School from 2004-2015, and is now focused on issues of inequality and mobility as Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

Brookings forum on public investment

From bridges to education: Best bets for public investment

January 9, 2017

Brookings Institution | A forum examining questions of public investment—in both physical infrastructure and human capital—opened with keynote remarks by Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus of Harvard University, and discussion from Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics. (Summers provides a summary of his key points from the presentation and discussion on his blog).

Subsequent speakers turned to human capital investment, including Richard Murnane, Juliana W. and William Foss Thompson Research Professor of Education and Society at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Video, transcripts, and presentation materials from the day's events are available on the Brookings website.

Does It Matter Where You Get Your Two-Year Degree?

Does It Matter Where You Get Your Two-Year Degree?

January 6, 2017

IRP Poverty Research & Policy Podcast | IRP National Poverty Fellow Nicole Deterding (Ph.D. '15) talks about research she and colleague David Pedulla of Stanford University conducted that examined employers' responses to degrees from for-profit versus non-profit two-year colleges in the early phases of the hiring process [audio + transcript].

The National Poverty Fellows program is an academic/government partnership between the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) at the US Department of Health and Human Services. Learn more about Nicole Deterding's work:
nicoledeterding.com

The First Hundred Days: Priorities for a New US President

The First Hundred Days: Priorities for a New US President

January 5, 2017

C-SPAN | Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy the Harvard Kennedy School, was among the speakers for this plenary session of the 131st annual meeting of the American Historical Association, held January 5-8 in Denver. The panel also featured Nathan Citino (Rice University), Margaret O'Mara (University of Washington), Kenneth Pomeranz (University of Chicago), and Sean Wilentz (Princeton University). 

What We Can Make of the Election of 2016: An Interview with Khalil Gibran Muhammad

What We Can Make of the Election of 2016: An Interview with Khalil Gibran Muhammad

January 5, 2017

History News Network | Video interview with Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, conducted at the 2017 convention of the American Historical Association. Muhammad spoke earlier in the evening at a plenary session on "The First Hundred Days: Priorities for a New US President." The session, recorded by C-SPAN, will be available within a few weeks.

Manufacturing In America: Fact And Fiction

Manufacturing In America: Fact And Fiction

January 5, 2017

NPR On Point with Tom Ashbrook | With Alicia Sasser Modestino (Ph.D. '01), Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Economics, Northeastern University, and Associate Director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.

A guide to rebuilding the Democratic Party, from the ground up

A guide to rebuilding the Democratic Party, from the ground up

January 5, 2017

Vox | By Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology. The key priority for progressives should be strengthening the Democratic Party at state and local levels, argues political scientist Theda Skocpol.

"Anti-institutional tendencies in today’s culture make the idea of dismantling the existing order attractive to many people. But social science research has long shown that majorities need strong organizations to prevail against wealthy conservative interests in democracies. The real problem in US politics today is hardly too much unified organizational heft on the center left; it is too little. Unless the Democratic Party becomes stronger and more effective, a radicalized Republican-conservative juggernaut is likely to take over for decades."

A Tribute to Sir Tony Atkinson

January 3, 2017

Canberra Times | By Andrew Leigh (Ph.D. '04). If you've ever referred to "the 1 per cent", you're using the work of Tony Atkinson. Tony, who died on January 1, aged 72, contributed as much as any modern economist to the study of poverty and inequality...(more)

Andrew Leigh met Tony Atkinson as an Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellow in 2002, when Atkinson was invited to Harvard to present his work in the Inequality Seminar Series. As part of his visit, Atkinson also joined our proseminar workshop for doctoral fellows, where he served as a discussant for Andrew's research paper. Atkinson and Leigh subsequently went on to co-author a set of papers together examining inequality trends in Australia and New Zealand.

Andrew Leigh is now shadow assistant treasurer (Australia), and a former professor of economics at the Australian National University.

Inequality: What Can Be Done?, by Anthony B. Atkinson

Tony Atkinson was an extraordinary human being. He was an economist by trade, who did more than anyone else to keep the study of income inequality alive from the 1960s to the mid-1990s, when most of his colleagues were either ignoring the subject or denying its importance.

He seemed to treat everyone he encountered, from the grandees of his profession to young graduate students, with decency and respect, and devoted thousands of hours to advancing other people's projects.

But he also cared deeply about persuading us all that rich countries could achieve low levels of economic inequality without suffering large reductions in economic efficiency or growth. Anyone who who has not read his last book, (Inequality: What Can Be Done?) should do so. 

Christopher Jencks Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, Emeritus


Inequality: What Can Be Done?
By Anthony B. Atkinson, Harvard University Press, 2015.

Tony Atkinson: Articles
Read more of Tony Atkinson's work at his personal website, where he selected what he thought were his most important articles in 15 topical areas.

Anthony B. Atkinson, Economist Who Pioneered Study of Inequality, Dies at 72
The New York Times

Passing of Anthony B. Atkinson
Le Monde (blog) | By Thomas Piketty. "Together with Simon Kuznets, Atkinson single-handedly originated a new discipline within the social sciences and political economy: the study of historical trends in the distribution of income and wealth."

Anthony Atkinson, a British economist and expert on inequality
The Economist