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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Finding Common Political Ground on Poverty

Finding Common Political Ground on Poverty

February 2, 2016

The New York Times | Economic Scene column by Eduardo Porter examines the AEI-Brookings plan for reducing poverty and enhancing mobility, which David T. Ellwood, the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy and a participant of the working group that crafted the plan, presented at a Washington Press Club event in December. The plan is a coherent approach, writes Porter, that "raises a tantalizing prospect. Is it possible that combating America’s entrenched poverty — the deepest among advanced industrialized nations— may have finally become salient enough for the left and right to break through the ideological gridlock?"

Black America and the Class Divide

Black America and the Class Divide

February 1, 2016

The New York Times | Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. draws on William Julius Wilson's observations on the significance of income inequality within the black community, noting the growing share of black Americans reaching upper-middle income prosperity in recent decades on one hand, and the relatively enduring share of black Americans living on incomes of less than $15,000 on the other. 

The costs of inequality: When a Fair Shake Isn't Enough

The costs of inequality: When a Fair Shake Isn't Enough

February 1, 2016

Harvard Gazette | First in a series on what Harvard scholars are doing to deepen our understanding of inequality—its causes, consequences, and policies to address one of America’s most vexing problems. Features Inequality & Social Policy faculty participants Jennifer Hochschild, Archon Fung, Lawrence Katz, and Bruce Western, along with Michael Norton of HBS, who is scheduled to speak in the Inequality & Social Policy Seminar Series on March 28.  This article also appeared online at U.S. News and World Report.... Read more about The costs of inequality: When a Fair Shake Isn't Enough

Work-life balance in Japan leans in one direction

Work-life balance in Japan leans in one direction

January 30, 2016

The Japan Times | Opinion essay draws on findings of Mary Brinton, Reischauer Institute Professor of Sociology and Department Chair, and Eunmi Mun (Amherst College) in their article, "Between state and family: managersimplementation and evaluation of parental leave policies in Japan."
Read the research

Why ‘Nudges’ to Help Students Succeed Are Catching On

Why ‘Nudges’ to Help Students Succeed Are Catching On

January 29, 2016

The Chronicle of Higher Education | Highlights research by Judith Scott-Clayton (Ph.D. '09, now Columbia University Teachers College) illustrating how insights from behavioral economics are influencing education research and policy: "Higher education presents a 'perfect storm for the frailties of human reasoning,' Andrew P. Kelly says. 'The system often seems set up to frustrate people.' That’s especially true for the least-advantaged students, as Judith Scott-Clayton showed in 'The Shapeless River,' a paper describing the unstructured environment that community-college students must navigate."

Takeover to Turnaround: What States and Schools Can Learn from the Massachusetts Takeover of Lawrence Public Schools

Takeover to Turnaround: What States and Schools Can Learn from the Massachusetts Takeover of Lawrence Public Schools

January 28, 2016

HGSE Usable Knowledge | Spotlights new research by Inequality Fellow Beth Shueler (Ed.D. candidate), Joshua Goodman (Associate Professor, Harvard Kennedy School), and David Deming (Ph.D. '10 and Associate Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education), which found achievement gains from state takeover and district-level turnaround of Lawrence public schools  in a new working paper that may serve as a blueprint for other districts and states.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen to Receive Radcliffe Medal

Fed Chair Janet Yellen to Receive Radcliffe Medal

January 27, 2016

Harvard Magazine | Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School,  and Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, are among the participants in a Radcliffe Day event on May 27 honoring Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair and this year's Radcliffe Medalist. The day will open with the panel "Building an Economy for Prosperity and Equality," featuring Elmendorf and Goldin. As the article notes,"Yellen has been outspoken on the subject of inequality, and last year defended the Fed’s interest in reducing the nation’s wealth gap." Other Radcliffe Day participants include former Fed Chair Ben S. Bernanke; economics professor Gregory Mankiw of Harvard; Cecilia Rouse, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs at Princeton University; economics professor David Autor of MIT, and Louise Sheiner of the Brookings Institution. The day's events will be webcast live.
For more information: Radcliffe Day 2016 ►

District in Turnaround: Ed.D. candidate's study on Massachusetts' Lawrence Public Schools shows improvements for turnaround district.

District in Turnaround: Ed.D. candidate's study on Massachusetts' Lawrence Public Schools shows improvements for turnaround district.

January 26, 2016

Harvard Graduate School of EducationNew research by Inequality Fellow Beth Schueler (Ed.D. candidate), co-authored by Joshua Goodman (Associate Professor, Harvard Kennedy School) and David Deming (Ph.D. '10 and Associate Professor, HGSE), demonstrates the direct impact of state takeover of the Lawrence Public School district on student performance and outcomes.

“While researchers can point to several successful efforts to improve individual schools serving primarily low-income students, examples of district-wide turnaround have been frustratingly few and far between,” said Schueler. “Lawrence is an exciting case because it provides an encouraging proof point that accountability-driven improvement of a chronically low-performing school district is indeed possible.”... Read more about District in Turnaround: Ed.D. candidate's study on Massachusetts' Lawrence Public Schools shows improvements for turnaround district.

New Koch: Rebranding the Koch Brothers

New Koch: Rebranding the Koch Brothers

January 25, 2016

The New Yorker | Highlights new, data-rich study by Theda Skocpol (Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology) and Alex Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy) on grassroots mobilizations by the Koch Network. Read their paper, “The Koch Effect: The Impact of a Cadre-Led Network on American Politics and Policy," which includes early results from a collaborative study of “The Shifting U.S. Political Terrain” under way at Harvard University.

The Great Immigration-Data Debate

The Great Immigration-Data Debate

January 19, 2016

The Atlantic | Discusses latest analysis by George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, in an ongoing debate among economists on the wage impact of the Mariel boatlift on Miami workers. Read Borjas's NBER paper, "The Wage Impact of the Marielitos: Additional Evidence" (January 2016). Links to Borjas's earlier papers and further discussion of these issues in his recently revived blog may be found at his faculty website.

Lunch with the FT: Roland Fryer

Lunch with the FT: Roland Fryer

January 15, 2016

Financial Times | Roland Fryer, Henry Lee Professor of Economics. Over steak and fries, the US economist says that the best way to combat police violence and poor schools is through data, not personal experience.

The Republican Party's 50-State Solution

The Republican Party's 50-State Solution

January 13, 2016

The New York Times | Drawing on research by Inequality & Social Policy faculty member Theda Skocpol and doctoral fellow Alex Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy), Thomas Edsall column analyzes how "sustained determination on the part of the conservative movement has paid off in an unprecedented realignment of power in state governments," which have proved to be more receptive to efforts by the Koch Brothers and conservative allies to protect business interests.

Inequality is a problem schools alone can't fix

Inequality is a problem schools alone can't fix

January 12, 2016

The Guardian | Op-ed urging that British politicians and government minsters step up in addressing inequality by taking seriously the arguments of Our Kids, by Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy: "For what Our Kids shows is the desperate need to move discussion of disadvantage and social mobility beyond the school gate into the much more vexed territory of family, parenting, community and economic injustice."

Lowering healthcare spending by tackling non-medical issues

Lowering healthcare spending by tackling non-medical issues

January 8, 2016

Marketplace | Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, comments on a federal experiment to improve care and lower healthcare spending by focusing on social problems like homelessness and domestic violence. Chandra suggests that money could be better spent by increasing funding for community health centers and hospitals that serve low-income communities—interventions, he says, that we know improve health and are cost-effective.

When Teamwork Doesn't Work for Women

When Teamwork Doesn't Work for Women

January 8, 2016

The New York Times | Spotlights research by Heather Sarsons, Ph.D. candidate in Economics, showing that when female economists co-author with men, they incur a substantial penalty in their tenure prospects that their male colleagues do not.

"The numbers tell a compelling story of men getting the credit whenever there is any ambiguity about who deserves credit for work performed in teams. And this is a very big deal: The bias that Ms. Sarsons documents is so large that it may account on its own for another statistic: [That while women in the field publish as much as men], female economists are twice as likely to be denied tenure as their male colleagues." 

"The numbers," writes Justin Wolfers (Ph.D. '01, now University of Michigan) in his review of Sarsons's research, "tell a compelling story of men getting the credit whenever there is any ambiguity about who deserves credit for work performed in teams.

"And this is a very big deal: The bias that Ms. Sarsons documents is so large that it may 
account on its own for another statistic: [That while women in the field publish as much as men], female economists are twice as likely to be denied tenure as their male colleagues." 

Beyond the field of economics, the pattern that Sarsons pinpoints, suggests Wolfers, "may explain why women struggle to get ahead in other professions involving teamwork."

In contrast, in settings where attribution is more explicit, reducing the need to draw inferences (where biases can enter), Sarsons hypothesizes that we should see men and women benefiting in more equal measure from collaborative work. Her initial results from sociology, where authors are often listed in order of contribution, lend support to this idea: There she found no penalty to female coauthors.
Go to the NYTimes article ►
View the original research ►

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 policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

The Great Gatsby Curve: All heat, no light

The Great Gatsby Curve: All heat, no light

May 20, 2015

Brookings Institution—Social Mobility Memos | By Scott Winship.  Second of a series of memos on both sides of the "The Great Gatsby Curve" debate, including pieces by Alan Krueger (Princeton University) and Heather Boushey (Washington Center for Equitable Growth).

Six Examples of the Long-Term Benefits of Anti-Poverty Programs

Six Examples of the Long-Term Benefits of Anti-Poverty Programs

May 11, 2015

Council of Economic Advisers | CEA Chairman Jason Furman web brief provides a more detailed detailed discussion of the research mentioned in his New York Times op-ed, "Smart Social Programs". This brief highlights research by  Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy), David Deming (faculty member and Ph.D. '10), Lawrence KatzJeffrey Liebman, Jonah Rockoff (Ph.D. '04), and Christopher Wimer (Ph.D. '07).