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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

PBS NewsHour Making Sen$e

Anger or fear: which is worse?

May 24, 2017
PBS NewHour | Economics correspondent Paul Solman explores the biology of leadership in this week's Making Sen$e broadcast. Here he delves more deeply into psychologist Jennifer Lerner's research on fear and anger in a print interview. Jennifer Lerner is Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and Co-Founder of the Harvard Decision Sciences Laboratory.
Young men falling to the bottom of the income ladder

Young men falling to the bottom of the income ladder

May 22, 2017
Boston Globe | Quotes Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics: "People from elite colleges moving to Wall Street and top law firms and to tech companies are doing perfectly fine. In fact, they're doing much better than comparable people in their parents' generation," Katz said. "But for the typical young man, they're donig substantially worse economically than their father."
Tony Jack - Harvard Ed Magazine

Poor, but Privileged

May 20, 2017
Harvard Ed Magazine | New faculty member Tony Jack knows first hand what his research revealed: some low-income kids come to college more prepared than others. Anthony A. Jack (PhD '16) is is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and Assistant Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He also holds the Shutzer Assistant Professorship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
Nudge comes to shove: Policymakers around the world are embracing behavioural science

Nudge comes to shove: Policymakers around the world are embracing behavioural science

May 18, 2017

The Economist | Cites Todd Rogers, Associate Professor at Harvard Kennedy School. Also features work in which Elizabeth Linos (PhD '16) of  Behavioural Insights Team North America participated, a collaboration with the Chattanooga Police Department to attract more minority applicants to the force. (Read a detailed account of the Chattanooga experiment, including an interview with Linos, which appeared earlier this year in Quartz).

Price's Remarks On Opioid Treatment Were Unscientific And Damaging, Experts Say

Price's Remarks On Opioid Treatment Were Unscientific And Damaging, Experts Say

May 16, 2017
NPR | Quoted: Brendan Saloner (PhD '12), an addiction researcher and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "I couldn't believe we were having to reopen this conversation. It totally flies in the face of all the evidence," Saloner says. "These drugs are highly effective in restoring a sense of normalcy in people's lives."
Jessica Simes

Mapping Inequality: How Massachusetts is Failing Its Smaller Cities and Towns

May 14, 2017
Boston University | A detailed look at Jessica Simes's (PhD '16) research on the Massachusetts communities that are disproportionately affected by incarceration. Simes is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Boston University and holds a University Provost Career Development Professorship awarded in 2016.
Modern motherhood

Modern Motherhood Has Economists Worried

May 12, 2017
Bloomberg | Cites Harvard economist Claudia Goldin and Joshua Mitchell (PhD '11), a senior economist at the U.S. Census: "A new life cycle of women's labor force participation has emerged," Goldin and Mitchell found in a recent study published in the Winter 2017 issue of Journal of Economic Perspectives. "Women in the U.S. participate in the workforce at high rates in their 20s—but fewer of them are working in their 30s and early 40s, a time Goldin and Mitchell call 'the sagging middle.'"
View the research
'After Piketty' released today

'After Piketty' released today

May 8, 2017

Harvard University Press | Ellora Derenoncourt, Ph.D. candidate in Economics, has authored a chapter in After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality, released today by Harvard University Press. Derenoncourt's contribution "addresses the deep historical and institutional origins of [global] wealth inequality, which she argues may be driven by what Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson identify as 'extractive' versus 'inclusive' institutions."

The 688-page volume, edited by Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong, and Marshall Steinbaum, brings together published reviews by Nobel laureates Paul Krugman and Robert Solow and newly-commissioned essays by Suresh Naidu, Laura Tyson, Michael Spence, Heather Boushey, Branko Milanovic, and many others. Emmanuel Saez lays out an agenda for future research on inequality, while a variety of essays examine the book's implications for the social sciences more broadly. Harvard Inequality & Social Policy alumna Elisabeth Jacobs (PhD '08), now senior director of research and a senior fellow at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, probes the political dimension in her contribution, "Everywhere and Nowhere: Politics in Capital in the Twenty-First Century." Piketty replies in a substantial concluding chapter.

Child at play

Flipping the Switch

May 5, 2017

Huffington Post | Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund, urges Congress to heed the evidence and invest in early childhood brain development, citing Ron Ferguson's work with the Boston Basics initiative and findings from Harvard's Center on the Developing Child. Ferguson is faculty director of Harvard's Achievement Gap Initiative and a fellow in the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

The New Study That Shows Trumpcare’s Damage

The New Study That Shows Trumpcare’s Damage

May 3, 2017

The New York Times | A new study by Amy Finkelstein (MIT), Nathaniel Hendren (Harvard Economics), and Matthew Shepard (Harvard Kennedy School) exploits a natural experiment from Massachusetts health insurance subsidies and finds that "as subsidies fall, insurance take-up falls rapidly" among low-income individuals.
View the research

Black People Are Not All 'Living in Hell'

Black People Are Not All 'Living in Hell'

April 27, 2017

The New York Times | Thomas B. Edsall column discusses a growing body of scholarly work showing that upper-middle class and affluent African-Americans have experienced substantial income gains within the past 15 years. Cites William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard, who has drawn attention to growing economic inequality and the increased heterogeneity of experience within the black community. Wilson is writing a book on upward social mobility among African-Americans.

Orlando Patterson

Harvard professor recognized with a portrait

April 27, 2017
Harvard Gazette | A portrait of Orlando Patterson, the John Cowles Professor of Sociology at Harvard, is now among the University-wide collection. To date, 17 portraits (including Patterson’s) have been commissioned and hung throughout the Harvard as part of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations’ Portraiture Project, which ensures recognition of the diversity of individuals who serve the University with distinction. Patterson has been a Harvard Professor for 47 years.
Money magazine

How a Harvard Economist Would Make Free Tuition Even Better

April 26, 2017

Money | Discusses new Hamilton Project policy proposal by David J. Deming (PhD '10), Professor of Education and Economics at HGSE and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.

The rising cost of a college degree is only one-half of the problem. The other? Far too few students who start college actually go on to earn a degree. And free tuition models could exacerbate that problem by increasing enrollment at already under-resourced state colleges without improving colleges’ ability to handle an influx of students.

The solution, according to a paper released today by Harvard economist David Deming, is to provide states with a financial incentive to focus on improving outcomes while also reducing costs to families. Deming is suggesting Congress establish a matching grant program, to be paid by the federal government to states with free tuition programs.
Get the full paper

Latest awards

Soledad Artiz Prillaman

Soledad Artiz Prillaman: APSA Juan Linz Prize for Best Dissertation in the Comparative Study of Democracy

August 31, 2018
Awardee | Soledad Artiz Prillaman PhD 2017 is the recipient of the 2019 Juan Linz Prize for best dissertation from the American Political Science Association's Section on Democracy and Autocracy. The award recognizes the best dissertation on democratization and/or the development and dynamics of democracy and authoritarianism completed within the two previous calendar years. Prillaman earned her PhD in Political Science from Harvard and is a Prize Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Oxford's Nuffield College. In July 2019 Prillaman joins the faculty of Stanford University as Assistant Professor of Political Science.
Beth Truesdale: ASA Best Graduate Student Paper Award in Aging and the Life Course

Beth Truesdale: ASA Best Graduate Student Paper Award in Aging and the Life Course

August 15, 2018

Awardee | Beth Truesdale PhD 2017 is the recipient of the Best Graduate Student Paper Award from the American Sociological Association Section on Aging and the Life Course, for “Coming of Age in an Unequal State: The Life Course Effects of Economic Inequality on Health." Truesdale received her PhD in Sociology from Harvard in 2017 and is now a Sloan Postdoctoral Research Fellow on Aging and Work, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.

Barbara Kiviat receives ASA Ronald Burt Outstanding Student Paper Award in Economic Sociology

Barbara Kiviat receives ASA Ronald Burt Outstanding Student Paper Award in Economic Sociology

August 10, 2018

Awardee | Barbara Kiviat, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, is the 2018 recipient of the Ronald Burt Outstanding Student Paper Award by the American Sociological Association's section on Economic Sociology, for her paper, "The Art of Deciding with Data: Evidence from how Employers Translate Credit Reports into Hiring Decisions," published in Socio-Economic Review.

Washington Center for Equitable Growth announces 2018 grantees: Ellora Derenoncourt

Washington Center for Equitable Growth announces 2018 grantees: Ellora Derenoncourt

July 25, 2018

Awardee | Ellora Derenoncourt, PhD candidate in Economics, is one of 12 doctoral student grantees announced today by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.  Ellora and colleague Claire Montialoux of CREST and UC Berkeley will invetigate how effective basic and universal labor standards are at reducing group inequality in order to increase our understanding of how a higher wage floor and universal federal labor standards can impact the racial and gender wage gaps. 

View the announcement
Ellora Derenoncourt website
Karen Dynan

Karen Dynan joins Equitable Growth Steering Committee

June 27, 2018

Washington Center for Equitable Growth | Karen Dynan, a former assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy and amcurrent professor of the practice of economics at Harvard, has joined the Washington Center for Equitable Growth's Steering Committee, the organization announce today.

“As policymakers continue to confront the challenges of stagnant wages and rising economic inequality, Equitable Growth’s support of new research and evidence-based policy solutions is essential,” Dynan said. “Economic policymaking will ultimately be more effective when we take into account the question of how and to what degree inequality may be altering our understanding of the economic landscape facing households and the broader economy. Equitable Growth’s growing network and body of supported research is critical for policymakers looking to better understand how to attain growth that benefits all, not only the few.”

... Read more about Karen Dynan joins Equitable Growth Steering Committee

Barbara Kiviat receives ASA Best Student Paper Award

Barbara Kiviat receives ASA Best Student Paper Award

June 19, 2018

Awardee | Barbara Kiviat, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, is a recipient of the Best Student Paper Award by the American Sociological Association's Consumers and Consumption Section for her paper, "The Art of Deciding with Data: Evidence from How Employers Translate Credit Reports into Hiring Decisions," published in Socio-Economic Review.

... View the research ▶

Hope Harvey

Hope Harvey awarded SSSP Poverty, Class, and Inequality paper prize

June 15, 2018

Awardee | Hope Harvey, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, has been awarded the 2018 Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) Poverty, Class , and Inequality dvision graduate student paper prize for her paper, "Exchange and Relational Work within Doubled-up Households."

Hope Harvey will receive her PhD in November 2018, and will be a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University, 2018-2020.

Aaron Benavidez

Aaron Benavidez: Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Undergraduates

May 2, 2018

Awardee | Aaaron Benavidez, PhD candidate in Sociology, is one of five recipeients of the 2018 Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching of Undergraduates. Benavidez was referred to by his nominator as “one of the very best teaching fellows that we have ever had the pleasure of employing in sociology.” Students and faculty praised Aaron for his pedagogical innovation, leadership, and his attention and care for each of his students...Read more ►

Jane Mansbridge

Jane Mansbridge awarded the 2018 Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science

April 15, 2018

Jane Mansbridge, the Charles F. Adams Professor in Political Leadership and Democratic Values at Harvard University, is awarded the 2018 Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science. Professor Mansbridge wins the prize for “having shaped our understanding of democracy in its direct and representative forms, with incisiveness, deep commitment and feminist theory.”

The Johan Skytte Prize, often referred to as political-science equivalent of the Nobel Prizes, is awarded annually since 1995 to a scholar who in the view of the Prize Committee has made the most valuable contribution to political science

Christopher Bail

Christopher Bail awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

April 5, 2018

John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Christopher A. Bail PhD 2011, Douglas and Ellen Lowey Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Duke University, is one of 173 scholars, artists, and scientists named today as 2018 Guggenheim Fellows. "Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise," this year's class was selected from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Guggenheim Foundation's 94th annual competition.

During his year as a Guggenheim Fellow, Bail will work on a book about political polarization based on a large field experiment designed to disrupt social media echo chambers on Twitter that combines survey data, text analysis, and in-depth interviews with hundreds of Republicans and Democrats in the United States.

Robert Sampson

Robert J. Sampson awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

April 5, 2018

John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Robert J. Sampson, the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, is one of 173 scholars, artists, and scientists named today as 2018 Guggenheim Fellows. "Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise," this year's class was selected from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Guggenheim Foundation's 94th annual competition.

As a Guggenheim Fellow, Sampson will work on a book project that examines how children navigated the transition to adulthood during the transformation of crime, punishment, and inequality in America during the latter part of the 20th century until the present. Becoming Marked draws on an original long-term original study that originated in the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, for which Sampson served as Scientific Director.

Peter A. Hall awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

Peter A. Hall awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

April 5, 2018

John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Peter A. Hall, Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies at Harvard, is one of 173 scholars, artists, and scientists named today as 2018 Guggenheim Fellows. "Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise," this year's class was selected from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Guggenheim Foundation's 94th annual competition.

Professor Hall's Guggenheim project will focus on the renegotiation of the social contract in the developed democracies over the years since 1945 and on the role of electoral politics and producer group politics in that process.

Maya Sen

Maya Sen recognized with 2018 Early Career Award

March 20, 2018
Awardee | Political scientist Maya Sen, an associate professor at Harvard Kennedy School, has been awarded the Midwest Women's Caucus for Political Science's 2018 Early Career Award for research contributions and impact on the discipline.
Blythe George

Blythe George awarded NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant

March 14, 2018

National Science Foundation | Blythe George, PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Policy, has been awarded a National Science Foundation doctoral dissertation research grant for her doctoral dissertation work on "Employment of Native Americans with Criminal Records."

Stefanie Stantcheva

Stefanie Stantcheva awarded tenure in Economics

March 5, 2018
Harvard Economics | Stefanie Stantcheva has been promoted to Professor of Economics. Stantcheva's research focuses on the optimal design of the tax system, taking into account important labor market features, social preferences, and long-term effects such as human capital acquisition and innovation by people and firms. She also examines the empirical effects of taxation on inequality, top incomes, migration, human capital, and innovation. Stantcheva earned her PhD in Economics from MIT in 2014 and was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows from 2014-2016.
Todd Rogers

Todd Rogers awarded tenure at Harvard Kennedy School

February 27, 2018
Harvard Kennedy School | Harvard's Behavioral Science Insights Group celebrated behavioral scientist Todd Rogers, who has been promoted to Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Marie Lawrence (MPP'18) sat down with Prof. Rogers about his work to date, some of his ongoing projects, and upcoming plans in the years ahead.
Amanda Pallais awarded tenure in Economics

Amanda Pallais awarded tenure in Economics

February 23, 2018
Harvard Economics | Amanda Pallais, formerly Paul Sack Associate Professor of Political Economy  and Social Studies, has been promoted to Professor of Economics. Palliais studies the labor market performance and educational investment decisions of  disadvantaged and socially excluded groups. Pallais's research has shown how manager bias can depress the job performance of minorities, how the cost of developing a reputation can make it difficult for young workers to enter the labor market, how marriage market concerns can lead women to invest less in labor market success, and how financial aid can increase the educational attainment of low-income students.

Latest commentary and analysis

Project Syndicate

Robert Barro's Tax-Reform Advocacy: A Response

December 15, 2017
Project Syndicate | By Jason Furman and Lawrence H. Summers. Jason Furman is Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Lawrence Summers is Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University.
Adam Looney

How the new tax bill encourages tax avoidance

December 14, 2017
Brookings Institution | By Adam Looney (PhD '04), Senior Fellow in Economic Studies, Brookings Institution. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Analysis in the U.S. Treasury from 2013 to 2017.
LSE Brexit

Brexit appealed to white working-class men who feel society no longer values them

December 14, 2017
LSE Brexit | By Noam Gidron and Peter A. Hall. Why is there such strong support for right-populist causes and candidates among the white working class? The authors' summarize their recent article published in the British Journal of Sociology.
View the research

Noam Gidron (PhD '16) is a fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University. Beginning in 2018, he will join the faculty of the Department of Political Science and the Joint Program in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Peter A Hall is Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies in the Department of Government, Harvard University, and at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies.
Daniel Schlozman

The Plutocratic Id

December 4, 2017
n + 1 | By Daniel Schlozman (PhD '11), Assistant Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University. 

"The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a horrifying but aso politically curious document," Schlozman observes. He examines "why a bill so manifestly written to please such a narrow stratum of plutocrats, with so few evident political benefits to a party hoping to retain power, now heads into the home stretch...That this is 'what Republicans do' hardly seems sufficient to make sense of how we got there."
Jack Cao

Ideas42: A Talk with Jack Cao

November 20, 2017

Ideas42 | With the ideas42 Seminar Series, we invite leading scholars to share their insights and what inspires their exploration into human behavior. Our New York office was pleased to host Jack Cao, a 5th year PhD candidate in social psychology at Harvard University. Jack’s research examines the divide between the conscious values we try to uphold and the implicit biases that reside within the mind...After giving a talk to the ideas42 team, Jack was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on behavioral science.

Cuz

‘One of so many millions gone’: how my cousin’s life was taken from him

November 17, 2017
The Guardian | By Danielle Allen. At the age of just 15, Michael was sent to prison for 11 years. On his release, I tried to help him start again. Why did his story end in tragedy? Allen is a political theorist and the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard. This is an edited extract from Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.
Michèle Lamont

The Big Picture: Social Solidarity

November 13, 2017
Public Books | By Michèle Lamont, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and Professor of Sociology and of African American Studies. This is the 26th installment of The Big Picture, a public symposium on what’s at stake in Trump’s America, co-organized by Public Books and NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge.

Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Residential Mobility by Whites Maintains Segregation Despite Recent Changes

Residential Mobility by Whites Maintains Segregation Despite Recent Changes

December 21, 2016

NYU Furman Center | By Jackelyn Hwang (Ph.D. '15), essay for the NYU Furman Center discussion series "The Dream Revisited." Hwang is postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton University, and in fall 2017 will join the Stanford University faculty as Assistant Professor of Sociology.

Economic Report of the President 2017

Economic Report of the President 2017

December 15, 2016

Reducing inequality, reforming the health care system, investing in higher education, strengthening the financial system, and addressing climate change are the focus of this year's Economic Report of the President.

Draws on research by Inequality & Social Policy affiliates Amitabh Chandra, Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15), David Deming (Ph.D. '10 and faculty), Will Dobbie (Ph.D. '13), Roland Fryer, Claudia Goldin, Joshua Goodman, Nathaniel Hendren, Thomas Kane, Lawrence Katz, Adam Looney (Ph.D. '04), Brigitte Madrian, Sendhil Mullainathan, Jonah Rockoff (Ph.D. '04), and Judith Scott-Clayton (Ph.D. '09).

Washington Center for Equitable Growth

The fading American dream: trends in absolute income mobility since 1940

December 8, 2016

Washington Center for Equitable Growth | By Raj Chetty, David Grusky, Maximilian Hell, Nathaniel Hendren, Robert Manduca, and Jimmy Narang.

A summary of the authors' findings from a newly-released paper by a team of researchers from Stanford, Harvard, and UC Berkeley. Harvard Inequality & Social Policy affiliates are Nathaniel Hendren, Assistant Professor of Economics, and Robert Manduca, Ph.D. student in Sociology & Social Policy. Learn more: The Equality of Opportunity Project 

A principled federal role in PreK-12 education

A principled federal role in PreK-12 education

December 7, 2016

Brookings Institution | By Douglas N. Harris, Helen F. Ladd, Marshall S. Smith, and Martin R. West. A set of principles to guide the federal role in education policy from a bipartisan group of scholars and policy experts. Martin West (Ph.D. '06) is an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

High-Stakes Student Testing has Mixed Results in Texas Schools

High-Stakes Student Testing has Mixed Results in Texas Schools

December 1, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School | Discusses findings of new study forthcoming in the December issue of The Review of Economics and Statistics by David J. Deming (Ph.D. '10), Professor of Education and Economics, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15), Assistant Professor of Education an Public Policy, Teachers College, Columbia University; Jennifer Jennings of New York University; and Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, Emeritus, Harvard Kennedy School.... Read more about High-Stakes Student Testing has Mixed Results in Texas Schools

After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality

After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality

November 15, 2016

 

Harvard University Press | Ellora Derenoncourt, Ph.D. candidate in Economics, is a contributor to After Piketty, forthcoming from Harvard University Press in April 2017. Edited by Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong, and Marshall Steinbaum, the 640-page volume brings together published reviews by Nobel laureates Paul Krugman and Robert Solow and newly-commissioned essays by Suresh Naidu, Laura Tyson, Michael Spence, Heather Boushey, Branko Milanovic, and others. Emmanuel Saez lays out an agenda for future research on inequality, while a variety of essays examine the book's implications for the social sciences more broadly. Piketty replies in a substantial concluding chapter.

Derenoncourt's chapter explores the historical and institutional origins of the wealth and income inequality documented in Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. Drawing on the framework introduced by Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and James Robinson of extractive and inclusive institutions, Derenoncourt demonstrates how these institutions influence the distribution of economic outcomes in different countries and regions historically. In particular, she explores these questions in the context of slavery in the US South and European colonization in Africa and the Americas.

Learn more about her work:
Ellora Derenoncourt: Ph.D. fellow page ▶... Read more about After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality

Chart of the week: Do high taxes motivate star inventors to relocate?

Chart of the week: Do high taxes motivate star inventors to relocate?

November 4, 2016

American Economics Association | Is tax flight by the rich mostly a myth or a serious concern? Discusses new study co-authored by Stefanie Stantcheva, Assistant Professor of Economics, which appears in the October issue of the American Economic Review. The research is co-authored by Ufuk Akcigit, University of Chicago, and Salomé Baslandze, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance. 
View AER article (complimentary access)

Research highlight: Are hospitals more like other businesses than we thought?

Research highlight: Are hospitals more like other businesses than we thought?

November 2, 2016

American Economics Association | Delves into new article by Harvard's Amitabh Chandra (Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy), Amy Finkelstein (MIT), Adam Sacarny (Columbia University), and Chad Syverson (Chicago Booth).

"A study published in the August issue of American Economic Review found that hospitals – long thought to be economic islands apart from typical market pressures – are shaped by consumer-driven forces like in other industries. The findings challenge long-held beliefs about health care “exceptionalism” and raise questions for policymakers as they consider reforms to the $3 trillion U.S. health care sector."
View the AER article (complimentary access)

The Importance of Middle Skill Jobs

The Importance of Middle Skill Jobs

October 25, 2016

National Academy of Sciences—Issues in Science and Technology | By Alicia Sasser Modestino (Ph.D. '01). Middle-skill jobs are key for the nation and its workforce. Here is where things stand today and projections for future improvements. 

Alicia Sasser Modestino is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Economics at Northeastern University, and Associate Director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.

6 charts showing race gaps within the American middle class

6 charts showing race gaps within the American middle class

October 21, 2016

Brookings Institution | Latest Social Mobility Memo by Richard V. Reeves and Dana Bowen Matthew of the Brookings Institution features findings of new study by Judith-Scott Clayton (Ph.D. '09), Associate Professor of Education and Economics, Teachers College, Columbia University, and Jing-Li, also of Columbia University, revealing large black-white disparities in student loan debt, which more than triples after graduation.

Invention, place, and economic inclusion

Invention, place, and economic inclusion

October 20, 2016

Brookings Institution | Delves into research by Inequality fellow Alex Bell (Ph.D. candidate in Economics), Raj Chetty (Stanford University), Xavier Jaravel (now a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford), and John Van Reenen (LSE and MIT) showing that "children of low-income parents are much less likely to become inventors than their higher-income counterparts (as are minorities and women)." Their research explores the sources of differences, and "establishes the importance of 'innovation exposure effects' during childhood," both geographic and parental.
View the research

Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation

Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation

October 20, 2016

Brookings Institution | By Judith Scott Clayton (Ph.D. '09), Associate Professor of Economics and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, and Jing Li, Research Associate, Teachers College: "While previous work has documented racial disparities in student borrowing, delinquencies, and defaults, in this report we provide new evidence that racial gaps in total debt are far larger than even recent reports have recognized, far larger now than in the past, and correlated with troubling trends in the economy and in the for-profit sector. We conclude with a discussion of policy implications."

Recommendations for Federal Budget Policy

Recommendations for Federal Budget Policy

October 7, 2016

Brookings Institution | By Douglas W Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School. This brief is part of "Election 2016 and America’s Future." a Brookings-wide initiative in which Brookings scholars have identified the biggest issues facing the country this election season and are providing individual ideas for how to address them. Elmendorf was a visiting fellow with Brookings until he became Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School in January 2016.

Seven Facts on Noncognitive Skills from Education to the Labor Market

Seven Facts on Noncognitive Skills from Education to the Labor Market

October 4, 2016

The Hamilton Project | New policy brief  by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and colleagues draws from research by Harvard faculty member David Deming, "The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market." Deming (Ph.D. '10), Professor of Education and Economics at Harvard Graduate School of Education, first presented this work in the Inequality & Social Policy Seminar Series in fall 2015.
View the latest version of Deming's paper (Aug 2016).... Read more about Seven Facts on Noncognitive Skills from Education to the Labor Market

Housing Development Toolkit

Housing Development Toolkit

September 26, 2016

The White House | The Obama administration issued a policy brief that takes aim at accumulated barriers to housing development, zoning and other land-use regulations that the administration argues are jeopardizing housing affordability, increasing income inequality by reducing access to high-wage labor  markets, and stifling economic growth. The report cites Sociology faculty member Matthew Desmond's Evicted, noting the lasting trauma that extreme rent burdens and housing insecurity can pose for families, and draws extensively on research by Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11 and HKS faculty), Edward Glaeser (Economics), and Raven (Saks) Malloy (Ph.D. '05), now section chief with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, on the rise and consequences of land-use regulations.