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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Theda Skocpol Joins Obama Presidency Oral History Advisory Board

Theda Skocpol Joins Obama Presidency Oral History Advisory Board

May 17, 2019

Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University, has joined the Advisory Board for the Obama Presidency Oral History.Produced under the auspices of the Columbia University Center for Oral History Research, this archive will include more than 1,000 hours of interviews with Obama administration officials, politicians, journalists, and other key figures outside of the White House.  

... Read more via Russell Sage Foundation ▶
... View Obama Presidency Oral History Project site ▶

Robert J. Sampson

Harvard study shows the predictive power of punishing and toxic environments on children's outcomes

May 17, 2019

Harvard Gazette
Coverage of new study by Robert Manduca, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, and Robert J. Sampson, the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, now out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They find that neighborhood measures of lead exposure, violence, and incarceration have strong independent predictive power, on top of standard variables, for children's life outcomes.

Robert Manduca

Study finds gap between rich and poor growing regionally, too

May 2, 2019

Harvard Gazette | A new paper by Robert Manduca, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, now out in Social Forces.

“In 1980, only about 12 percent of the population lived in places that were especially rich or especially poor,” Manduca said. “By 2013, it was over 30 percent. So what we’re seeing is a polarization, where people are increasingly living in places that are either much richer or much poorer than the country overall.”

While part of that shift is due to sorting — the notion that high-earning people and high-paying jobs have become more geographically concentrated — Manduca shows that the rise in national income inequality can account for more than half of the economic divergence across regions that we observe.

... View the research ▶

David J. Deming

Deming named director of Wiener Center for Social Policy

April 26, 2019

Harvard Gazette | Harvard Kennedy School has named David Deming as the faculty director of the School’s Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. Deming serves as a professor of public policy at the Kennedy School and a professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. 

The Tobin Project 2019 conference

Tobin Convenes Scholars for Conference on Inequality and Decision Making

April 26, 2019

The Tobin Project | On April 26th and 27th, the Tobin Project hosted a Conference on Inequality and Decision Making, convening forty-seven scholars of psychology, sociology, economics, and other fields to investigate the impacts of high and/or rising economic inequality on individuals’ behavior.

Harvard faculty members Ryan D. Enos (Government), Christopher Jencks (Harvard Kennedy School), Mario Luis Small (Sociology), and Michael Norton (Harvard Business School) opened the conference with a panel on how people become aware of high and rising economic inequality. Other panels featured Zoe B. Cullen (Harvard Business School) and Beth Truesdale, PhD'17, now a Sloan Postdoctoral Fellow with the Center for Population and Development Studies at Harvard. Jason Furman (Harvard Kennedy School and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, 2013-2017) gave the keynote address. 

PhD Scholars Kiera Hudson, Shom Mazumder, Preeya Mbekeani, and Nozomi Nakajima were selected to join the conference as well. 

David A. Moss (Harvard Business School and Founder of The Tobin Project) and Michael Norton served on the conference advisory board that developed and planned the event.

The Chronicle Review

Being a Black Academic in America

April 18, 2019

Chronicle of Higher Education | In the wake of the Operation Varsity Blue bribery scandal, The Chronicle Review asked graduate students, junior professors, and senior scholars what it’s like to be an African-American academic today. Includes responses by Michael Javen Fortner PhD 2010, Matthew Clair PhD 2018, and Nadirah Farah Foley, a fourth-year Ph.D. student at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is helping fight West Virginia’s opioid epidemic

Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is helping fight West Virginia’s opioid epidemic

April 3, 2019

Vox | A new study by Brendan Saloner PhD 2012 (with Rachel Landis, Bradley Stein, and Colleen Barry) suggests that expanding Medicaid helped get more West Virginians into addiction treatment. Saloner is now Associate Professor Professor of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

How the 1 Percent Is Pulling America’s Cities and Regions Apart

How the 1 Percent Is Pulling America’s Cities and Regions Apart

April 3, 2019
CityLab | By Richard Florida.

The two gravest challenges facing America today, economic inequality and geographic divides, are increasingly intertwined. Economic inequality has surged with nearly all the growth being captured by the 1 percent, and the economic fortunes of coastal superstar cities and the rest of the nation have dramatically diverged.

These two trends are fundamental to a new study by Robert Manduca, a PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Policy at Harvard University. The study uses census microdata culled from 1980 to 2013, and finds that America’s growing regional divide is largely a product of national economic inequality, in particular the outsized economic gains that have been captured by the 1 percent.

... Read more ▶

Crystal S. Yang

Making the Case for Criminal Justice Reform: Crystal Yang

January 29, 2019

Harvard Law Bulletin | Profile of Crystal Yang PhD 2013, a professor at Harvard Law School who brings an empirical focus to the study of criminal law. She has now turned her attention to the extensive use of cash bail and pretrial detention in the U.S., in order to understand their short- and long-term consequences.

How Pollution Can Hurt the Health of the Economy

How Pollution Can Hurt the Health of the Economy

November 27, 2018

The New York Times | Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of pollution. Daniel Prinz, a Harvard PhD candidate in Health Policy and Stone PhD Scholar, is the author of a recent paper on the subject. “The evidence is overwhelming that pollutants encountered in utero can cause long-term harm,” Mr. Prinz said.

View the research ►
Harvard Gazette

The Ongoing Tragedy of Lead in Our Lives

November 20, 2018

Harvard Gazette | Lead Summit at Harvard: Revolutionary Discoveries in Lead Pollution and Health Impacts. Speakers included Jessica Wolpaw Reyes PhD'02, Professor of Economics at Amherst College and chair of the Massachusetts Governor's Advisory Commitee for the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

Robert Manduca

Racial and economic disparities intertwined, study shows

October 25, 2018
Harvard Gazette | By many measures, the U.S. has made important strides when it comes to Civil Rights: The racial gaps in educational achievement, life expectancy, and wages, though still considerable, have all narrowed measurably in the past 50 years. Yet in one marker of fundamental importance — family income — disparities between black and white have remained virtually unchanged since 1968.


In a study published in Sociological Science, Robert Manduca, PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Policy, argues that a major reason that economic disparities between the races remain so large is rising income inequality nationwide.

... Read more about Racial and economic disparities intertwined, study shows

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

Jason Furman

The real cost of the Republican tax cuts

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

Achieving the American Dream may depend on where you live

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

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

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

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

The Big Picture: Violence and Criminal Justice

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

The Big Picture: Multiracial Cooperation

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

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

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

Interview with Lawrence Katz

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

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

How Could Donald Trump and Brexit Happen?

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

15 Professors of the Year: Danielle S. Allen

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

It's the Gap, Stupid

September 1, 2017

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

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

Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

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

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

Harvard Business School Research Brief

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

August 30, 2020

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

Our Common Purpose

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

June 11, 2020

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

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Economics After Neoliberalism: Introducing the EfIP Project

Economics After Neoliberalism: Introducing the EfIP Project

January 23, 2020

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

Alix S. Winter

Is Lead Exposure a Form of Housing Inequality?

January 2, 2020

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

Michael Luca

2019 in Research Highlights

December 27, 2019

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

Benjamin Schneer

Family past as political prologue

December 13, 2019

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

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DACA report

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

November 7, 2019

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

The Inflation Gap

The Inflation Gap

November 5, 2019

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

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

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Michael Hankinson

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

October 18, 2019

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

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Allison Daminger

How Couples Share “Cognitive Labor” and Why it Matters

September 19, 2019

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

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Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP) logo

The Economics of Free College

June 1, 2019

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

Stefanie Stantcheva VOX CEPR video

Where does innovation come from?

March 28, 2019

Vox EU | Stefanie Stantcheva, Professor of Economics, discusses her research (joint with Ufuk Akcigit, Santiago Caicedo Soler, Ernest Miguelez, and Valerio Sterzi), "Dancing with the Stars: Innovation Through Interactions," which shows that inventors learn by interacting with other inventors and produce better innovations [Video].

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