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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Biggest Week Yet for Pay for Success in the United States

Biggest Week Yet for Pay for Success in the United States

February 17, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School | Highlights work of Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab. This week's announcement of three new projects brings the total number of US Pay for Success projects to 11, seven of which have relied on GPL technical assistance. The new projects aim to reduce homelessness in Denver, provide healthier starts for low-income babies and their families in South Carolina, and to promote family stability and reduce parental substance use for families involved in Connecticut's child welfare system.

What do trends in economic inequality imply for innovation and entrepreneurship? A framework for future research and policy

What do trends in economic inequality imply for innovation and entrepreneurship? A framework for future research and policy

February 16, 2016

Washington Center for Equitable Growth | By Elisabeth Jacobs (Ph.D. '08), now Senior Director for Policy and Academic Programs at Equitable Growth. Also cites work by Inequality doctoral fellow Alex Bell (Ph.D. candidate in Economics) et. al., which finds that children of parents in the top 1% of the income distribution are ten times more likely to become inventors than those in the bottom 50%.

Women, overshadowed

Women, overshadowed

February 16, 2016

Harvard Gazette | Interview with Heather Sarsons, Ph.D. candidate in Economics on implications of, and the reactions to, her research—first featured in The New York Times—finding that female economists received less credit for co-authored work than their male counterparts.

How Segregated Schools Drive Criminal Behaviors

How Segregated Schools Drive Criminal Behaviors

February 16, 2016

Pacific Standard | Delves into new research by David J. Deming (Ph.D. '10 and Associate Professor, HGSE), co-authored with Stephen Billings (UNC Charlotte) and Stephen L. Ross (University of Connecticut), which suggests that re-segregation of American schools has consequences beyond the classroom in increasing criminal behavior. Read the NBER Working Paper.

Also highlights earlier research by Billings, Deming, and Jonah Rockoff (Ph.D. '04, now Columbia Business School), which found "the end of race-based busing widened racial inequality [in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools], despite efforts by CMS to mitigate the impact of segregation through compensatory resource allocation."

One Simple Trick that Boosts Kids' College Graduation Rates

One Simple Trick that Boosts Kids' College Graduation Rates

February 15, 2016

Pacific Standard | Examines new study co-authored by doctoral fellow Preeya Mbekeani (Ed.D. candidate), which found that providing four additional SAT score reports for free to low-income students increased college access and completion rates.

How segregated schools turn kids into criminals

How segregated schools turn kids into criminals

February 12, 2016

Washington Post | Explores new study co-authored by Stephen Billings (UNC Charlotte), David J. Deming (Ph.D. '10 and Associate Professor, HGSE), and Stephen L. Ross (University of Connecticut), who show that concentrating disadvantaged youth together in the same schools and neighborhoods increases total crime. Read the NBER Working Paper.
Also notes earlier research by Billings, Deming, and Jonah Rockoff (Ph.D. '04, now Columbia Business School), which found that attempts to mitigate the effects of segregation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools by providing extra resources did help improve academic outcomes in segregated schools, but not crime.

How Highlighting the Best and Brightest Can Backfire

How Highlighting the Best and Brightest Can Backfire

February 9, 2016

Pacific Standard | Research by Todd Rogers (Associate Professor of Public Policy, HKS) and Avi Feller (UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy) finds that exposing students in a massive open online course to the best of their peers' work lowers their grades and increases dropout rates.

Immigrants Push Down Wages for Workers, But How Much?

Immigrants Push Down Wages for Workers, But How Much?

February 9, 2016

Wall Street Journal | Differing assessments among economists, including George Borjas (Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy, HKS) and Lawrence Katz (Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics).

Giving Voice

Giving Voice

February 8, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School Magazine | Feature profile of Bruce Western, Professor of Sociology, the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice, and Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

"The kind of work, or research, that we want to promote I think has a central role for the human voices and stories of the people who are experiencing criminal justice involvement, eviction and housing insecurity, and deep material deprivation,” Western says. “We thought this could come to define a style of work in the poverty field, and part of our hope for it is we could use work like this to engage a public conversation.”

Money Interests are Blocking US Action on Climate Change

Money Interests are Blocking US Action on Climate Change

February 8, 2016

Aljazeera America | Opinion piece by Sean McElwee of Demos draws on data from recent work  by Theda Skocpol (Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government & Sociology) and Alex Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy).  Skocpol and Hertel-Fernandez are presenting the latest version of their paper,"The Koch Effect: The Impact of a Cadre-Led Network on American Politics," at the Harvard Center for American Political Studies, Feb 12, 2016.

What the Science Says About Long-Term Damage from Lead

What the Science Says About Long-Term Damage from Lead

February 8, 2016

The New York Times | Highlights research by Jessica Wolpaw Reyes (Ph.D. '01, now Professor of Economics, Amherst College) on the effects of  childhood lead exposure on educational test scores and on behavioral outcomes in later childhood and young adulthood. View Reyes's research at her homepage.

Christopher Muller (Ph.D. '14, now a Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholar) will be presenting related research, "Lead Exposure and Violent Crime in the Early Twentieth Century," co-authored by James Feigenbaum (Ph.D. candidate in Economics), in the Inequality & Social Policy Seminar Series on Apr 18, 2016.

Getting to Win-Win

Getting to Win-Win

February 8, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School Magazine | Jane Mansbridge on the vanishing art and science of political compromise. Mansbridge and Cathie Jo Martin (Boston University) are the editors of Political Negotiation, published by Brookings Institution Press in December 2015.  Doctoral fellow Chase Foster (Ph.D. candidate in Government), Mansbridge, and Martin co-authored chapter 4 in the book, "Negotiation Myopia."

"The stakes are now higher than ever, Mansbridge argues...'
The idea is that when we design institutions we should be thinking consciously of how to design them to be partial cures for the mistakes our brains habitually make,' says Mansbridge. 'That’s how you get the rules of political engagement.'"

One-Party System

One-Party System

February 8, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School Magazine | Delves into Leah Wright Rigueur's new book, The Loneliness of the Black Republican, Princeton University Press. Rigueur is an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.

David Ellwood to Chair New U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty

February 5, 2016


Urban Institute
The Urban Institute and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the establishment of the U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, aimed at discovering permanent ladders of mobility out of poverty in the U.S.

David Ellwood, the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School, will chair the national group of 24 leading  voices on these issues, which also includes Lawrence F. Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard University; Kathryn Edin, former director of the Inequality & Social Policy program, now Johns Hopkins University; and Raj Chetty of Stanford University. "We hope that as a result, we can reset our country's approach to social mobility," Ellwood said.

The Inequality Problem

The Inequality Problem

February 4, 2016

London Review of Books | Essay by Ed Miliband, MP and former leader of the Labour Party, draws from Robert Putnam's Our Kids to argue that inequality is a defining issue for progressives in the UK, that Labour's renewal must be built on ideas and a determination to tackle inequality.

Latest awards

'Our Kids' selected for Books of the Year 2015

'Our Kids' selected for Books of the Year 2015

December 3, 2015

The Economist | Robert Putnam's, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, described as "thoughtful and persuasive", has been selected by The Economist as one of the best books of 2015.  Also making the list, Inequality: What Can Be Done?, by Anthony Atkinson (University of Oxford).

ISA Medal of Science

ISA Medal of Science

October 6, 2015

Awardee | Robert D. Putnam to receive the Institute for Advanced Studies' (University of Bologna) highest honor for scientific excellence and international acclaim.

Dan Zuberi named to the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists

Dan Zuberi named to the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists

September 25, 2015

Awardee | Dan Zuberi (Ph.D. '04) has been named to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) College, which represents "the emerging generation of scholarly, scientific and artistic leadership in Canada." Zuberi, now RBC chair and Associate Professor of Social Policy at the University of Toronto's School of Public Policy and Governance, was recognized for his "innovative social policy research" on vulnerable and disadvantaged populations in Canada and the U.S.  (Read the full citation)

Viridiana Rios will be a visiting fellow at Wilson Center

Viridiana Rios will be a visiting fellow at Wilson Center

September 18, 2015

Awardee | Viridiana Rios (Ph.D. '13) will be a visiting fellow this fall at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, where she will be working on a project titled, "Economic Policy for Crime Deterrence in Mexico."

Robert Putnam named to The Politico 50

Robert Putnam named to The Politico 50

September 10, 2015

Politico Magazine | Robert Putnam recognized as one of fifty "thinkers, doers, and visionaries transforming American politics in 2015."

Latest commentary and analysis

Hearing on Impact of House Republican ACA Repeal Bill

Douglas Elmendorf joins Hearing on Impact of House Republican ACA Repeal Bill

March 16, 2017

Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, spoke as an expert witness before a House Democratic Caucus hearing on the impact of the Affordable Health Care Act, the House Republican health care bill.

"The health care legislation supported by the House Republican leadership would take our country backward, not forward. It would do that in at least 4 important ways," Elmendorf said.

Elmendorf highlighted its reversal of progress in expanding health insurance coverage, and the inability to afford health insurance—not freedom to choose—as the main driver behind the expected rise in the numbers of uninsured. The bill "would not represent shared sacrifice for the national good but rather targeted sacrifice by lower- and middle-income Americans," Elmendorf maintained, and "would take us backward by providing a large tax cut focused on the very top of the income distribution."

On the burden to lower- and middle-income Americans, Elmendorf noted that the bill "would leave the tax subsidies for higher-income Americans fully in place and clobber the tax subsidies -- and spending subsidies -- for lower-and middle-income Americans." At the same time, "one percent of households with the highest incomes would receive 40 percent of the gains from repealing the tax increases under the ACA," Elmendorf said, citing estimates by the Tax Policy Center.
Read full text

American apartheid

American apartheid

March 16, 2017

UVA Miller Center | By Orlando Patterson, John Cowles Professor of Sociology. Volume 9 in the Miller Center's First Year 2017 project, which examines the key issues the new U.S. president must confront. The current volume, "Grappling with Tensions Over Race," also includes essays by Elizabeth Hinton (Assistant Professor of History and of African and African American Studies at Harvard), Douglas A. Blackmon, and Michael Eric Dyson (Georgetown University)
See all essays

Dani Rodrik

How Much Europe Can Europe Tolerate?

March 14, 2017

Project Syndicate | By Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard Kennedy School. "Today, the Union is mired in a deep existential crisis, and its future is very much in doubt. The symptoms are everywhere: Brexit, crushing levels of youth unemployment in Greece and Spain, debt and stagnation in Italy, the rise of populist movements, and a backlash against immigrants and the euro. They all point to the need for a major overhaul of Europe’s institutions," Rodrik writes.

CBS News: Douglas Elmendorf

Fmr. CBO director on new health care bill report

March 13, 2017

CBS News | Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy, joins CBSN's "Red & Blue" to discuss today's Congressional Budget Office report on the House Republican health care bill. Elmendorf served as director of the Congressional Budget Office from January 2009 to March 2015.
[Video: 8 minutes].

"...A bigger part of the reason people will lose health insurance coverage is they won’t be able to afford it, People are not maintaining access to health insurance coverage, or gaining access to health insurance coverage, in this legislation. People are being taken out of Medicaid. The subsidies are being cut back by 40% on average in insurance marketplaces. So the bill is not maintaining access and giving people freedom to choose as the Speaker suggested. It is reducing access very significantly.," Elmendorf said.

Bloomberg: Douglas Elmendorf

Why the CBO Report Is a Blow to the GOP Health Plan

March 13, 2017

Bloomberg | Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School and former director of the Congressional Budget Office, reacts to the CBO scorecard on the GOP health plan. [video: 6 minutes]

Securities and Exchange Commission Evidence Summit

Securities and Exchange Commission Evidence Summit

March 10, 2017

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission | Economist Brigitte Madrian of the Harvard Kennedy School spoke at an SEC "Evidence Summit," a public conference "to discuss...potential strategies for enhancing retail investors’ understanding of key investment characteristics such as fees, risks, returns, and conflicts of interest." 

The summit aimed to "marshal research from the fields of economics and cognitive sciences to help inform ways of thinking about investor behavior and identify areas for possible future research to be conducted under the auspices of an investor research initiative led by the Commission’s Office of the Investor Advocate."  An archive version of the webcast will be posted soon at SEC.gov.

Turning a March into a Movement

Turning a March into a Movement

March 9, 2017

HKS PolicyCast | If the Women’s March on Washington was a spark, what does it now take to fan that spark into a flame? In this week's roundtable discussion: Assistant Professor Leah Wright Rigueur, Women and Public Policy Program Executive Director Victoria Budson, and Adjunct Lecturer Tim McCarthy.

Trump attacks cities, but they’re the lifeblood of our country (Part 1)

Trump attacks cities, but they’re the lifeblood of our country (Part 1)

March 8, 2017

Washington Post | A conversation with Harvard economist Edward Glaeser. "Perhaps the most troubling division to me is the gap in prime age joblessness between urban and rural America. That gap is widening perilously," Glaeser says. "In 1980, only about nine percent of men between 25 and 54 were jobless in both urban and rural America. Today, the jobless rate is about 15 percent in America’s metropolitan areas, which is slightly below the national average, and about 19 percent outside of metropolitan America."

NABE Economic Policy Conference 2017

Economic Policy Conference: Fiscal Policy Perspectives

March 6, 2017

C-SPAN | National Association of Business Economics conference session with Douglas Elmendorf of the Harvard Kennedy School and Glenn Hubbard of Columbia Business School. Elmendorf, Dean and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy, served as Director of the Congressional Budget Office from January 2009 through March 2015. Hubbard served as Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers from 2001 to 2003.
View conference program and materials

Robots are wealth creators and taxing them is illogical

Robots are wealth creators and taxing them is illogical

March 5, 2017

Financial Times | By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor "Why tax in ways that reduce the size of the pie rather than ways that assure that the larger pie is well distributed?," Summers writes. "There are many better approaches. Governments will, however, have to concern themselves with problems of structural joblessness. They likely will need to take a more explicit role in ensuring full employment than has been the practice in the US." This article also appeared in the Washington Post.

Race, Segregation, and Politics

Linking Multiracial Coalitions and Class-Based Appeals

March 4, 2017

NYU Furman Center | By Lawrence Bobo, W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University. Part of the "The Dream Revisted: Race, Segregation, and Politics," a discussion with J. Phillip Thompson (MIT), and also featuring responses by Patrick Bayer (Duke) and Christina Greer (Fordham).

Why We Don’t Value Flextime Enough

Why We Don’t Value Flextime Enough

March 3, 2017

Wall Street Journal | By Ray Fisman (Boston University) and Michael Luca (Harvard Business School). Most American workers won’t trade less pay for a more flexible schedule, but they’re underestimating the role of free time in personal happiness, Fisman and Luca write. Among the research discussed in this article, a recent study by Alexandre Mas (Princeton University) and Amanda Pallais (Harvard Economics), "Valuing Alternative Work Arrangements."
View the research

'Deportation Nation'

'Deportation Nation'

March 2, 2017

Radio Open Source | Harvard's Mary Waters, John L. Loeb Professor of Sociology, and Roberto Gonzales, Assistant Professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, join Daniel Kanstroom, Professor of Law at Boston College and author of  Deportation Nation: Outsiders in American History.

From Radio Open Source:
Mary Waters, sociologist at Harvard, is increasingly concerned by the parallels between mass deportation and mass incarceration. She termed the phenomenon “crimmigration.” In order to resist this system, she writes, “we need a model of a social movement that is not based in civil rights, because we have defined millions of people living in this country as being outside of civil society.

Roberto Gonzales spent 12 years following the lives of undocumented teenagers in Los Angeles. His heart-breaking account in Lives in Limbo paints a tragic portrait of squandered potential and unrealized dreams. For undocumented teenagers, adulthood marks a transition to illegality — a period of ever-narrowing opportunities. One teenager named Esperanza lamented to Roberto: “I would have been the walking truth instead of a walking shadow.”

What Could We Expect on Ed From a Justice Gorsuch?

What Could We Expect on Ed From a Justice Gorsuch?

March 1, 2017

EdNext Podcast | Arizona Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick has been poring over Neil Gorsuch’s opinions as a federal judge to learn how he might approach the steady stream of education cases that inevitably make their way before the Supreme Court. He discusses his conclusions in this week's episode with Marty West, Associate Professor of Education  and executive edtor of Education Next.

Natasha Warikoo

The Diversity Bargain

February 28, 2017

C-SPAN Book TV | Professor Natasha Warikoo talks about her book The Diversity Bargain: And Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities, in which she examines what college students in the U.S. and Britain think about race and diversity programs. A presentation delivered at New York University by Natasha Warikoo (Ph.D. '05), Associate Professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The GOP's Long History with Black Colleges

The GOP’s Long History With Black Colleges

February 27, 2017

Politico | By Theodore R. Johnson and Leah Wright Rigueur. "In the tenous relationship between Republican leaders and historically black schools, this is the way it's been for a long time," write Johnson and Rigueur. "Politics makes for strange bedfellows—as is undoubtedly true of Trump and Talladega—but the blend of political expediency and areas of ideological overlap have proved a strong enough elixir to bring the two together and sustain a relationship over time."

Leah Wright Rigueur is an assistant professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and the author of The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power. Theodore R. Johnson is an Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellow at New America and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy.

Bart Bonikowski

In Europe, nationalism rising

February 27, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Featuring interviews with Bart Bonikowski, Associate Professor of Sociology, and Michèle Lamont,  Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies.

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

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.

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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.