Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Claudine Gay

FAS's Inequality in America Initiative

October 17, 2017
Harvard Magazine | Harvard launches its new Inequality in America Initiative, led by Claudine Gay, Dean of Social Science in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government and of African and African-American Studies.
The $100 million question: Did Newark’s school reforms work? New study finds big declines, then progress

The $100 million question: Did Newark’s school reforms work? New study finds big declines, then progress

October 16, 2017
Chalkbeat | Education reporter Matt Barnum describes findings from a new study released this week by Harvard's Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) and NBER. The study's authors include Thomas J. Kane, Walter H. Gale Professor of Education and Economics at HGSE, and Beth Schueler (PhD '16), now a postdoctoral research fellow with the Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) at Harvard Kennedy School.
View the research
Mary Jo Bane

The challenges facing Boston’s disadvantaged

October 3, 2017
Harvard Kennedy School | Leading figures from academia, government, and the nonprofit sector shared the stage Monday (Oct. 2) to discuss the challenges faced by Boston’s disadvantaged and to honor the career of Kennedy School Professor Mary Jo Bane who has spent decades advocating for the poor and underprivileged. 
Richard Freeman and Takao Kato Announce Launch of the Journal of Participation and Employee Ownership

Richard Freeman and Takao Kato Announce Launch of the Journal of Participation and Employee Ownership

September 19, 2017
News from Harvard Economics  | Richard Freeman of Harvard University and Takao Kato of Colgate University have launched the Journal of Participation and Employee Ownership, the first peer-reviewed journal for "original empirical and theoretical research in the broad area of employee participation and shared capitalism." Richard Freeman is the Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics at Harvard and the faculty co-director of the Labor and Worklife Program at the Harvard Law School. 
William Julius Wilson

Moderator's perspective on William Julius Wilson and JD Vance's discussion of race, class and culture

September 11, 2017
Brookings Institution | By Camille Busette, Senior Fellow and Director of the Race, Prosperity, and Inclusion Initiative at the Brookings Institution offers refelctsion on a discussion that brought together Harvard's William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, and J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy. Hosted by the Brookings Institution, September 5, 2017.

See also
Six takeaways from the discussion on race, class, and culture
By Camille Busette, Richard V. Reeves, and Eleanor Krause

View event video 

Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking Releases Final Report

September 7, 2017
The federal Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking issued its final report on September 7th. The commissioners, including Jeffrey LIebman, Malcolm WIener Professor of Public Policy and director of the Government Performance Lab at Harvard Kennedy School, laid out a vision for how the federal government could generate more evidence about government programs while protecting privacy and enhancing data security. 
Don't suspend students. Empathize.

Don't Suspend Students. Empathize.

September 2, 2017
The New York Times | Cites experimental study by Hunter Gelbach of UC Santa Barbara, Todd Rogers of the Harvard Kennedy School, and collaborators, which found that giving high school teachers and students information about similarties they shared had a big effect on students' grades—closing the racial achievement gap in the study by over 60%.
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Nathan Wilmers

Reproducing Inequality

August 29, 2017
Nature | Discusses new study by Nathan Wilmers, PhD candidate in Sociology, recently published in the American Journal of Sociology: "Does Consumer Demand Reproduce Inequality? High-Income Consumers, Vertical Differentiation, and the Wage Structure."
View the research 
Google Street View

Scientists are using Google Street View to watch cities improve in real time

August 27, 2017
Quartz | Discusses new tool developed by a team of Harvard and MIT researchers: Nikhil Naik, Scott Duke Kominers (MBA Class of 1960 Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School), Edward L. Glaeser (Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard University), César A. Hidalgo, and Ramesh Raskar.

The collaborators presented their findings in a May 2017 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "Computer Vision Uncovers Predictors of Physical Urban Change."
​​​​​​​View the research
How a New Generation of Progressive Activists Is Leading the Trump Resistance

How a New Generation of Progressive Activists Is Leading the Trump Resistance

August 24, 2017

Rolling Stone | Rolling Stone talks with Harvard's Theda Skocpol, who is now researching Indivisible groups as part of a study on eight counties won by Trump across swing states from North Carolina to Wisconsin.

"When you see Charles Schumer out there calling for 'resistance,' you realize something's happening," says Theda Skocpol, the famed Harvard political scientist who studies American civic engagement. "That's not his natural state."

Housing construction

The real driver of regional inequality in America

August 18, 2017
Vox | People can no longer afford to move to opportunity. A look at new empirical research by Peter Ganong of the University of Chicago and Daniel Shoag (PhD '11), Associate Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, forthcoming in the Journal of Urban Economics.
View the research

Latest awards

Raj Chetty

Raj Chetty named a 2019 Carnegie Fellow

April 23, 2019

Harvard Gazette | Raj Chetty, the William A. Ackman Professor of Public Economics and director of Opportunity Insights, is among the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Fellows announced today by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. His project: "Restoring the American Dream: Leveraging Big Data to Support Local Policy Change."

“I’m delighted and honored to have been chosen as a recipient of the Carnegie fellowship,” Chetty wrote in an email. “I intend to use the fellowship to dedicate more time to our team’s work on restoring the American dream at Opportunity Insights, focusing specifically on how we can improve children’s opportunities in communities that currently offer limited prospects for upward income mobility.”

View the 2019 Carnegie Fellows ▶

Margot Moinester

Margot Moinester: Dorothy S. Thomas Award for Best Graduate Student Paper

April 23, 2019

Population Association of America | Margot Moinester, PhD candidate in Sociology, was presented with the Population Association of America (PAA) Dorothy S. Thomas Award for best graduate student paper for her paper, "Rethinking the U.S. Deportation Boom." Margot currently holds an NSF-Law & Inequalty Doctoral Fellowship with the American Bar Foundation.

Michele Lamont

Michèle Lamont named a 2019 Carnegie Fellow

April 23, 2019

Harvard Gazette | Michèle Lamont, Professor of Sociology and African and African American Studies and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, is among the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Fellows announced today by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Her project: "New Narratives of Hope: Self-Worth and the Current Crisis of American Society." 

Lamont will spend the year at the Russell Sage Foundation writing a book “trying to make sense of the current moment through the framework through which people understand their value and that of others.” The American dream is no longer working for any group, she said, from the working poor to the upper-middle class, and “we’re now facing a crisis in the way people imagine hope.”

View the 2019 Carnegie Fellows  ▶

Peter A. Hall

Peter A. Hall elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

April 17, 2019

American Academy of Arts and Sciences | Peter A. Hall, Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies at Harvard, has been elected to the 2019 class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Founded in 1780 "by John Adams, John Hancock, and others who believed the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good," the Academy recgonizes outstanding achievements in academia, the arts, business, government, and public affairs.

Claudia Goldin

Claudia Goldin recognized with BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award

March 26, 2019
Fundación BBVA| Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard, has been awarded the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the category of Economics, Finance, and Management for "her groundbreaking contributions to the historical analysis of the role of women in the economy and for her analysis of the reasons behind gender inequality.” Now in its eleventh edition, the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Awards recognize fundamental contributions in eight disciplines and domains of scientific knowledge, technology, humanities, and artistic creation.
Shom Mazumder

Shom Mazumder: Finalist for Frank Prize for Research in Public Interest Communications

February 25, 2019

Awardee | Stone PhD Scholar Shom Mazumder, a PhD candidate in Government, has been selected as a finalist for the 2019 Frank Prize for his paper, "The Persistent Effect of US Civil Rights Protests on Political Attitudes," forthcoming in the Oct 2019 issue of American Journal of Political Science. The Frank Prize, awarded by the University of Florida Center for Public Interest Communications, recognizes peer-reviewed academic research that informs public interest communications. As a finalist, Shom presented his research at frank, a gathering of 300 social change communication practitionerm, scholars, and students.

View Shom Mazumder's presentation ►
View interview with Shom Mazumder ►
View the research in AJPS ►
National Academy of Social Insurance

Forty-Five Experts Elected to the National Academy of Social Insurance

February 14, 2019

National Academy of Social Insurance | Inequality & Social Policy faculty members Amitabh Chandra (Harvard Kennedy School) and  David Laibson (Economics) and alumna Elisabeth Jacobs PhD 2008 (Senior Director for Family Economic Security, Washington Center for Equitable Growth) are among the 45 newly-elected members of the National Academy of Social Insurance. The Academy solutions to challenges facing the nation by increasing public understanding of how social insurance contributes to economic security. 

Vesla M. Weaver

Vesla Weaver named Gilman Scholar

December 19, 2018

Awardee | Vesla M. Weaver,  PhD in Government and Social Policy 2007, is one of five Johns Hopkins University faculty members recently named Gilman Scholars, a distinction that honors and celebrates select Johns Hopkins faculty who embody the highest standards of scholarship and research across the university. A leading scholar on racial politics and criminal justice issues, Weaver has devoted her research to investigating the causes and effects of inequality and mass incarceration in America. Weaver joined Johns Hopkins as a Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor in fall 2017, bridging the sociology and political science departments, after holding faculty poitions at Yale and the University of Virginia.  

Oren Danieli: Martin Award for Excellence in Business Economics

Oren Danieli: Martin Award for Excellence in Business Economics

December 5, 2018

Awardee | Oren Danieli, PhD candidate in Business Economics, is the 2019 recipient of the Harvard Business School Martin Award for Excellence, based on excellence in innovative dissertation research. From the award announcement: "Danieli develops novel approaches to study of income inequality. He has developed a big-data method to optimize social experiments aimed at increasing income mobility, used machine-learning tools to improve hiring of teachers and policemen, and created a new method to study wage polarization." Learn more about Oren Danieli's research: »

Jason Furman

Jason Furman Joins RSF Board of Trustees

November 16, 2018

Russell Sage Foundation | The Russell Sage Foundation announced the appointment of Jason Furman to its board of trustees. Furman is Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and a nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He is a former economic adviser to President Obama and served as the 28th Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Blythe George

Blythe George awarded Mellon Mays Travel and Research Grant

October 18, 2018

Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation | Blythe George, PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Policy, has been awarded a Mellon Mays travel and research grant to support her doctoral dissertation research. Blythe participated in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College (BA 2012).

Olivia Chi

Olivia Chi: Emerging Education Policy Scholars program

September 4, 2018

Thomas B. Fordham Institute | Olivia Chi, a PhD candidate in Education, has been selected for the 2018-2019 cohort of Emerging Education Policy Scholars, a program of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and American Enterprise Insitute that brings together newly-minted PhD scholars and PhD candidates to the nation's capital to meet with education-policy experts and to share and brainstorm new directions for K–12 education research. Olivia's own research interests include the economics of education, teacher labor markets, and policies that reduce educational inequality.

Amelia Peterson awarded APSA best comparative public policy paper prize

Amelia Peterson awarded APSA best comparative public policy paper prize

September 1, 2018

Awardee | Amelia Peterson, PhD candidate in Education, has been awarded the Best Comparative Policy Paper Award by the American Political Science Association's Public Policy section. The award recognizes an article of particular distinction published in the area of comparative public policy. Amelia's research examines who drives education reforms and the relationship to inequality.

Latest commentary and analysis

Right-to-Work Laws Have Devastated Unions — and Democrats

Right-to-Work Laws Have Devastated Unions — and Democrats

March 8, 2018

The New York Times | By James Feigenbaum PhD 2016, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez PhD 2016,  and Vanessa Williamson PhD 2015. Based on the authors' NBER paper, "From the Bargaining Table to the Ballot Box: Downstream Effects of Right to Work Laws."

James Feigenbaum received his PhD in Economics from Harvard and is now Assistant Professor of Economics at Boston University. Alexander Hertel-Fernandez received his PhD in Government and Social Policy from Harvard and is now Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Vanessa Williams received her PhD in Government and Social Policy from Harvard and is now a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

View the research ►


Right-to-Work Laws Have Devastated Unions — and Democrats

March 8, 2018

The New York Times | By James Feigenbaum (PhD '16), Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (PhD '16), and Vanessa Williamson (PhD '15). James Feigenbaum, Assistant Professor of Economics at Boston University; Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Asssistant Professor of Public Affairs at Columbia University; and Vanessa Williamson, a Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, are members of the Scholars Strategy Network.

Based on the authors' research, "From the Bargaining Table to the Ballot Box: Political Effects of Right to Work Laws," recently released as an NBER Working Paper.
View the research

Roberto Gonzales

A Harvard discussion series highlights the concerns of DACA students

February 23, 2018
Harvard Gazette | Interview with HGSE Professor Roberto Gonzales, one of the organizers of the DACA seminar at Harvard, a series of events exploring questions about the termination of DACA and TPS, deportations, and the current state of immigration policy.
Boston Review

The Almost Inevitable Failure of Justice

February 22, 2018

Boston Review | By Thad Williamson (PhD '04). Today it is hard not to fear that the persistence of racial injustice and U.S. poverty is anything but a permanent feature of our democracy, writes Williamson, in his review essay of Tommie Shelby's Dark Ghettos. "The lopsided distribution of wealth characteristic of U.S. capitalism must be on the table in any discussion about realizing social justice—including the discussion of ghetto poverty."

Thad Williamson is Associate Professor of Leadership Studies and Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law at the University of Richmond and co-editor of Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond. In 2014-2016, Williamson served as the first director of the City of Richmond's Office of Community Wealth Building while on leave from the University of Richmond.

Middle America Reboots Democracy

Middle America Reboots Democracy

February 20, 2018
Democracy Journal | By Lara Putnam and Theda Skocpol. We spent months talking with anti-Trump forces—and they’re not who pundits say they are. Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government at Harvard. Lara Putnam is Professor and Chair of History at the University of Pittsburgh.
Fragments Were What I Had Available to Me: Talking to Danielle Allen

Fragments Were What I Had Available to Me: Talking to Danielle Allen

January 26, 2018
Los Angeles Review of Books |Interivew with Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard. How to address in catalyzing prose the policy ramifications of your family’s most intimate personal struggles? How (and why) to construct a poetics of prison reform? When I want to ask such questions, I pose them to Danielle Allen. This conversation, transcribed by Phoebe Kaufman, focuses on Allen’s Cuz, a kaleidoscopic account of her cousin Michael’s life before, during, and after incarceration. Read more>>
Jason Furman

‘Repeal and Replace’ the Trump Tax Cuts

January 25, 2018
Wall Street Journal | By Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. We need to repeal and replace the tax cuts with something more sustainable, efficient, simple and better for American families, Furman argues.
Jason Furman

The Right Question about Inequality and Growth

January 19, 2018
Project Syndicate | By Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. Whether inequality is good or bad for growth should and will continue to concern social scientists, Furman writes. But policymakers would do better, he urges, to focus on how policies impact average incomes and other welfare indicators
How the Alt-Right Uses Social Science to Make Racism Respectable

How the Alt-Right Uses Social Science to Make Racism Respectable

January 15, 2018
The Nation | By Khalil Gibran Muhammad. "By focusing their opprobrium on the Nazi next door, white liberals are missing the very real threat posed by a growing white nationalism," Muhammad writes. Muhammad is Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, Suzanne Young Murray professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America.
Anthony Jack

Increasing Opportunity and Harnessing Talent—What Works?

January 11, 2018
Brookings Institution | Anthony Abraham Jack (PhD '16) joined Raj Chetty (Stanford University), Reshma Saujani (Founder and CEO, Girls Who Code), and Richard V. Reeves (Brookings Institution) for a panel on how to harness America's underutilized talent. Anthony Jack is a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows and Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Ryan D. Enos

'The Space Between Us'

January 9, 2018
Harvard Gazette | Ryan Enos, Associate Professor of Government, talks about his new book The Space Between Us (Cambridge University Press), in which he explores how geography shapes politics and how members of racial, ethnic, and religious groups think about each other.
How tax cuts for the wealthy became Republican orthodoxy

How tax cuts for the wealthy became Republican orthodoxy

December 21, 2017
Washington Post | By Vanessa Williamson (PhD '15). Vanessa Williamson is a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and author of Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes (Princeton University Press, 2017).
Evidence-Based Health Policy

Evidence-Based Health Policy

December 21, 2017
The New England Journal of Medicine | By Katherine Baicker and Amitabh Chandra. "Having a clear framework for characterizing what is, and isn’t, evidence-based health policy (EBHP) is a prerequisite for a rational approach to making policy choices," Baicker and Chandra argue, "and it may even help focus the debate on the most promising approaches."

Katherine Baicker is Dean of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. Amitabh Chandra is Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.
Danielle Allen

In ‘Cuz,’ the story of a cousin’s tragic fate and justice system in crisis

December 19, 2017
PBS NewsHour | In her new book “Cuz,” Danielle Allen looks to her own family tragedy for a deeper understanding of gangs, American drug policy and the consequences of mass incarceration, predominantly for young, African-American men. The author sits down for an interview. [Video and transcript]
Jason Furman

How to Get American Men Back into the Workforce

December 17, 2017
Wall Street Journal | By Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. Rethink unemployment insurance and increase public investment in improving skills, Furman argues.

Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

Leigh, Andrew. 2010. Disconnected. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. Abstract

As Australians, we traditionally see ourselves as friendly, relaxed and connected people. But the data from our census and countless other surveys show that Australian society is shifting rapidly. These days, chances are you never quite get around to talking to your neighbours. You're always too busy to give blood. You might find that you've become disconnected

The casualty gap : the causes and consequences of American wartime inequalities
Kriner, Douglas L, and Francis X Shen. 2010. The casualty gap : the causes and consequences of American wartime inequalities. New York: Oxford University Press. Abstract

"The Casualty Gap shows how the most important cost of American military campaigns - the loss of human life - has been paid disproportionately by poorer and less-educated communities since the 1950s. Drawing on a rich array of evidence, including National Archives data on the hometowns of more than 400,000 American soldiers killed in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, this book is the most ambitious inquiry to date into the distribution of American wartime casualties across the nation, the forces causing such inequalities to emerge, and their consequences for politics and democratic governance." "Although the most immediate costs of military sacrifice are borne by service members and their families, The Casualty Gap traces how wartime deaths also affect entire communities. Americans who see the high price war exacts on friends and neighbors are more likely to oppose a war and its leaders than residents of low-casualty communities. Moreover, extensive empirical evidence connects higher community casualty rates in Korea and Vietnam to lower levels of trust in government, interest in politics, and electoral and non-electoral participation. A series of original survey experiments finds that Americans informed of the casualty gap's existence will accept substantially fewer casualties that those who are not told about inequality in sacrifice." "By presenting a wealth of evidence and analysis, this book seeks both to bolster public awareness of casualty inequalities and to spur critical dialogue about the nation's policy response. The Casualty Gap should be read by all who care about the future of America's military and the effects of war on society and democracy."–Jacket.

Sprawl, justice, and citizenship : the civic costs of the American way of life
Williamson, Thad. 2010. Sprawl, justice, and citizenship : the civic costs of the American way of life. New York: Oxford University Press. Abstract

"Must the strip mall and the eight-lane highway define 21st century American life?" That is a central question posed by critics of suburban and exurban living in America. Yet despite the ubiquity of the critique, it never sticks–Americans by the scores of millions have willingly moved into sprawling developments over the past few decades. Americans find many of the more substantial criticisms of sprawl easy to ignore because they often come across as snobbish in tone. Yet as Thad Williamson explains, sprawl does create real, measurable social problems. Williamson's work is unique in two important ways. First, while he highlights the deleterious effects of sprawl on civic life in America, he is also evenhanded. He does not dismiss the pastoral, homeowning ideal that is at the root of sprawl, and is sympathetic to the vast numbers of Americans who very clearly prefer it. Secondly, his critique is neither aesthetic nor moralistic in tone, but based on social science. Utilizing a landmark 30,000-person survey, he shows that sprawl fosters civic disengagement, accentuates inequality, and negatively impacts the environment. Sprawl, Justice, and Citizenship will not only be the most comprehensive work in print on the subject, it will be the first to offer a empirically rigorous critique of the most popular form of living in America today."–Publisher description.

Who cares? : Public ambivalence and government activism from the New Deal to the second gilded age
Newman, Katherine S, and Elisabeth S Jacobs. 2010. Who cares? : Public ambivalence and government activism from the New Deal to the second gilded age. Princeton, N.J. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2010. Abstract

"Americans like to think that they look after their own, especially in times of hardship. Particularly for the Great Depression and the Great Society eras, the collective memory is one of solidarity and compassion for the less fortunate. Who Cares? challenges this story by examining opinion polls and letters to presidents from average citizens. This evidence, some of it little known, reveals a much darker, more impatient attitude toward the poor, the unemployed, and the dispossessed during the 1930s and 1960s. Katherine Newman and Elisabeth Jacobs show that some of the social policies that Americans take for granted today suffered from declining public support just a few years after their inception. Yet Americans have been equally unenthusiastic abotu efforts to dismantle social programs once their are established. Again contrary to popular belief, conservative Republicans had little public support in the 1980s and 1990s for their efforts to unravel the progressive heritage of the New Deal and the Great Society. Whether creating or rolling back such programs, leaders like Roosevelt, Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan often found themselves working against public opposition, and they left lasting legacies only by persevering despite it.""Timely and surprising, Who Cares? demonstrates not that Americans are callous but that they are frequently ambivalent about public support for the poor. It also suggests that presidential leadership requires bold action, regardless of opinion polls."--Jacket.

Includes bibliographical references (p. [203]-210) and index.

Unanticipated gains : origins of network inequality in everyday life
Small, Mario Luis. 2009. Unanticipated gains : origins of network inequality in everyday life. Origins of network inequality in everyday life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Abstract

"Social capital theorists have shown that some people do better than others in part because they enjoy larger, more supportive, or otherwise more useful networks. But why do some people have better networks than others? Unanticipated Gains argues that the practice and structure of the churches, colleges, firms, gyms, childcare centers, and schools in which people happen to participate routinely matter more than their deliberate "networking." Exploring the experiences of New York City mothers whose children were enrolled in childcare centers, this book examines why a great deal of these mothers, after enrolling their children, dramatically expanded both the size and usefulness of their personal networks. Whether, how, and how much the mother's networks were altered–and how useful these networks were–depended on the apparently trivial, but remarkably consequential, practices and regulations of the centers. The structure of parent-teacher organizations, the frequency of fieldtrips, and the rules regarding drop-off and pick-up times all affected the mothers' networks. Relying on scores of in-depth interviews with mothers, quantitative data on both mothers and centers, and detailed case studies of other routine organizations, Small shows that how much people gain from their connections depends substantially on institutional conditions they often do not control, and through everyday processes they may not even be aware of."–Jacket.

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Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

Asymmetric Interest Group Mobilization and Party Coalitions in U.S. Tax Politics
Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander, and Theda Skocpol. 2015. “Asymmetric Interest Group Mobilization and Party Coalitions in U.S. Tax Politics.” Studies in American Political Development 29 (2): 235-249. Abstract

Arguments about national tax policy have taken center stage in U.S. politics in recent times, creating acute dilemmas for Democrats. With Republicans locked into antitax agendas for some time, Democrats have recently begun to push back, arguing for maintaining or even increasing taxes on the very wealthy in the name of deficit reduction and the need to sustain funding for public programs. But the Democratic Party as a whole has not been able to find a consistent voice on tax issues. It experienced key defections when large, upward-tilting tax cuts were enacted under President George W. Bush, and the Democratic Party could not control the agenda on debates over continuing those tax cuts even when it enjoyed unified control in Washington, DC, in 2009 and 2010. To explain these cleavages among Democrats, we examine growing pressures from small business owners, a key antitax constituency. We show that organizations claiming to speak for small business have become more active in tax politics in recent decades, and we track the ways in which constituency pressures have been enhanced by feedbacks from federal tax rules that encourage individuals to pass high incomes through legal preferences for the self-employed. Comparing debates over the inception and renewal of the Bush tax cuts, we show how small business organizations and constituencies have divided Democrats on tax issues. Our findings pinpoint the mechanisms that have propelled tax resistance in contemporary U.S. politics, and our analysis contributes to theoretical understandings of the ways in which political parties are influenced by policy feedbacks and by coalitions of policy-driven organized economic interests.

How Legislators Respond to Localized Economic Shocks: Evidence from Chinese Import Competition
Feigenbaum, James J., and Andrew B. Hall. 2015. “How Legislators Respond to Localized Economic Shocks: Evidence from Chinese Import Competition.” Journal of Politics 77 (4): 1012-1030. Abstract

We explore the effects of localized economic shocks from trade on roll-call behavior and electoral outcomes in the US House, 1990–2010. We demonstrate that economic shocks from Chinese import competition—first studied by Autor, Dorn, and Hanson—cause legislators to vote in a more protectionist direction on trade bills but cause no change in their voting on all other bills. At the same time, these shocks have no effect on the reelection rates of incumbents, the probability an incumbent faces a primary challenge, or the partisan control of the district. Though changes in economic conditions are likely to cause electoral turnover in many cases, incumbents exposed to negative economic shocks from trade appear able to fend off these effects in equilibrium by taking strategic positions on foreign-trade bills. In line with this view, we find that the effect on roll-call voting is strongest in districts where incumbents are most threatened electorally. Taken together, these results paint a picture of responsive incumbents who tailor their roll-call positions on trade bills to the economic conditions in their districts.

Forced Relocation and Residential Instability among Urban Renters
Desmond, Matthew, Carl Gershenson, and Barbara Kiviat. 2015. “Forced Relocation and Residential Instability among Urban Renters.” Social Service Review 89. The University of Chicago Press: pp. 227-262. Abstract

Abstract Residential instability often brings about other forms of instability in families, schools, and communities that compromise the life chances of adults and children. Social scientists have found that low-income families move frequently without fully understanding why. Drawing on novel data of more than 1,000 Milwaukee renters, this article explores the relationship between forced relocation and residential instability. It finds that low incomes are associated with higher rates of mobility due to poorer renters’ greater exposure to forced displacement. Not only do higher rates of formal and informal eviction, landlord foreclosure, and building condemnation directly increase the mobility of poorer renters, but forced displacement also increases subsequent unforced mobility. A forced move often compels renters to accept substandard housing, which drives them to soon move again. This article reveals mechanisms of residential mobility among low-income renters, identifies previously undocumented consequences of forced displacement, and develops a more comprehensive model of residential instability and urban inequality.

This study draws upon cognitive maps and interviews with 56 residents living in a gentrifying area to examine how residents socially construct neighborhoods. Most minority respondents, regardless of socioeconomic status and years of residency, defined their neighborhood as a large and inclusive spatial area, using a single name and conventional boundaries, invoking the area’s black cultural history, and often directly responding to the alternative way residents defined their neighborhoods. Both longterm and newer white respondents defined their neighborhood as smaller spatial areas and used a variety of names and unconventional boundaries that excluded areas that they perceived to have lower socioeconomic status and more crime. The large and inclusive socially constructed neighborhood was eventually displaced. These findings shed light on how the internal narratives of neighborhood identity and boundaries are meaningfully tied to a broader structure of inequality and shape how neighborhood identities and boundaries change or remain.

Racial and Spatial Targeting: Segregation and Subprime Lending within and across Metropolitan Areas
Hwang, Jackelyn, Michael Hankinson, and Kreg Steven Brown. 2015. “Racial and Spatial Targeting: Segregation and Subprime Lending within and across Metropolitan Areas.” Social Forces 93 (3): 1081-1108. Abstract

Recent studies find that high levels of black-white segregation increased rates of foreclosures and subprime lending across US metropolitan areas during the housing crisis. These studies speculate that segregation created distinct geographic markets that enabled subprime lenders and brokers to leverage the spatial proximity of minorities to disproportionately target minority neighborhoods. Yet, the studies do not explicitly test whether the concentration of subprime loans in minority neighborhoods varied by segregation levels. We address this shortcoming by integrating neighborhood-level data and spatial measures of segregation to examine the relationship between segregation and subprime lending across the 100 largest US metropolitan areas. Controlling for alternative explanations of the housing crisis, we find that segregation is strongly associated with higher concentrations of subprime loans in clusters of minority census tracts but find no evidence of unequal lending patterns when we examine minority census tracts in an aspatial way. Moreover, residents of minority census tracts in segregated metropolitan areas had higher likelihoods of receiving subprime loans than their counterparts in less segregated metropolitan areas. Our findings demonstrate that segregation played a pivotal role in the housing crisis by creating relatively larger areas of concentrated minorities into which subprime loans could be efficiently and effectively channeled. These results are consistent with existing but untested theories on the relationship between segregation and the housing crisis in metropolitan areas.

Faller, Julie, Noah Nathan, and Ariel White. 2015. “What Do I Need to Vote? Bureaucratic Discretion and Discrimination by Local Election Officials.” American Political Science Review. Publisher's Version Abstract

Do street-level bureaucrats discriminate in the services they provide to constituents? We use a field experiment to measure differential information provision about voting by local election administrators in the United States. We contact over 7,000 election officials in 48 states who are responsible for providing information to voters and implementing voter ID laws. We find that officials provide different information to potential voters of different putative ethnicities. Emails sent from Latino aliases are significantly less likely to receive any response from local election officials than non-Latino white aliases and receive responses of lower quality. This raises concerns about the effect of voter ID laws on access to the franchise and about bias in the provision of services by local bureaucrats more generally. 

Complex Tax Incentives
Abeler, Johannes, and Simon Jäger. 2015. “Complex Tax Incentives.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 7 (3): 1-28. Author's version Abstract

How does tax complexity affect people’s reaction to tax changes? To answer this question, we conduct an experiment in which subjects work for a piece rate and face taxes. One treatment features a simple, the other a complex tax system. The payoff-maximizing output level and the incentives around this optimum are, however, identical across treatments. We introduce the same sequence of additional taxes in both treatments. Subjects in the complex treatment underreact to new taxes; some ignore new taxes entirely. The underreaction is stronger for subjects with lower cognitive ability. Contrary to predictions from models of rational inattention, subjects are equally likely to ignore large or small incentive changes. 

Cutler, David M, Wei Huang, and Adriana Lleras-Muney. 2015. “When Does Education Matter? The Protective Effect of Education for Cohorts Graduating in Bad Times.” Social Science & Medicine 127: 63-73. Publisher's Version Abstract

Using Eurobarometer data, we document large variation across European countries in education gradients in income, self-reported health, life satisfaction, obesity, smoking and drinking. While this variation has been documented previously, the reasons why the effect of education on income, health and health behaviors varies is not well understood. We build on previous literature documenting that cohorts graduating in bad times have lower wages and poorer health for many years after graduation, compared to those graduating in good times. We investigate whether more educated individuals suffer smaller income and health losses as a result of poor labor market conditions upon labor market entry. We confirm that a higher unemployment rate at graduation is associated with lower income, lower life satisfaction, greater obesity, more smoking and drinking later in life. Further, education plays a protective role for these outcomes, especially when unemployment rates are high: the losses associated with poor labor market outcomes are substantially lower for more educated individuals. Variation in unemployment rates upon graduation can potentially explain a large fraction of the variance in gradients across different countries.

Collaborating with People Like Me: Ethnic Co-authorship within the US
Freeman, Richard B., and Wei Huang. 2015. “Collaborating with People Like Me: Ethnic Co-authorship within the US.” Journal of Labor Economics 33 (S1): S289-S318. Abstract

By examining the ethnic identity of authors in over 2.5 million scientific papers written by US-based authors from 1985 to 2008, we find that persons of similar ethnicity coauthor together more frequently than predicted by their proportion among authors. The greater homophily is associated with publication in lower-impact journals and with fewer citations. Meanwhile, papers with authors in more locations and with longer reference lists get published in higher-impact journals and receive more citations. These findings suggest that diversity in inputs by author ethnicity, location, and references leads to greater contributions to science as measured by impact factors and citations.

Huang, Wei. 2015. “Do ABCs Get More Citations Than XYZs?” Economic Inquiry 53: 773-789. Publisher's Version Abstract

Using a sample of US-based scientific journal articles, I examine the relationship between author surname initials and paper citations, finding that the papers with first authors whose surname initials appear earlier in the alphabet get more citations, and that this effect does not exist for non-first authors. Further analysis shows that the alphabetical order effect is stronger in those fields with longer reference lists, and that such alphabetical bias exists among citations by others and not for self-citations. In addition, estimates also reveal that the alphabetical order effect is stronger when the length of reference lists in citing papers is longer. These findings suggest that the order in reference lists plays an important role in the alphabetical bias.

Asad, Asad L. 2015. “Contexts of Reception, Post-Disaster Migration, and Socioeconomic Mobility.” Population and Environment 36 (3): 279-310. Publisher's Version Abstract

Current theories conceptualize return migration to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as an individual-level assessment of costs and benefits. Since relocation is cost prohibitive, return migration is thought to be unlikely for vulnerable populations. However, recent analyses of longitudinal survey data suggest that these individuals are likely to return to New Orleans over time despite achieving socioeconomic gains in the post-disaster location. I extend the “context of reception” approach from the sociology of immigration and draw on longitudinal data from the Resilience in the Survivors of Katrina Project to demonstrate how institutional, labor market, and social contexts influence the decision to return. Specifically, I show how subjective comparisons of the three contexts between origin and destination, perceived experiences of discrimination within each context, and changing contexts over time explain my sample’s divergent migration and mobility outcomes. I conclude with implications for future research on, and policy responses to, natural disasters.

Winner of 2014 Marvin E. Olsen Student Paper Award, Section on Environment and Technology, American Sociological Association.

Tach, Laura, Kathryn Edin, Hope Harvey, and Brielle Bryan. 2014. “The Family-Go-Round: Family Complexity and Father Involvement from a Father's Perspective.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social SciencesAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 654 (1): 169-184. Abstract

Men who have children with several partners are often assumed to be “deadbeats” who eschew their responsibilities to their children. Using data from the nationally representative National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 cohort (NLSY-97), we show that most men in complex families intensively parent the children of one mother while being less involved, or not involved at all, with children by others. Repeated qualitative interviews with 110 low-income noncustodial fathers reveal that men in complex families often engage with and provide, at least to some degree, for all of the biological and stepchildren who live in one mother’s household. These activities often exceed those extended to biological children living elsewhere. Interviews also show that by devoting most or all of their resources to the children of just one mother, men in complex families feel successful as fathers even if they are not intensively involved with their other biological children.

Moynihan, Donald, Pamela Herd, and Hope Harvey. 2014. “Administrative Burden: Learning, Psychological, and Compliance Costs in Citizen-State Interactions.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. Abstract

This article offers two theoretical contributions. First, we develop the concept of administrative burden as an important variable in understanding how citizens experience the state. Administrative burden is conceptualized as a function of learning, psychological, and compliance costs that citizens experience in their interactions with government. Second, we argue that administrative burden is a venue of politics, that is, the level of administrative burden placed on an individual, as well as the distribution of burden between the state and the individual, will often be a function of deliberate political choice rather than simply a product of historical accident or neglect. The opaque nature of administrative burdens may facilitate their use as forms of “hidden politics,” where significant policy changes occur without broad political consideration. We illustrate this argument via an analysis of the evolution of Medicaid policies in the state of Wisconsin. Across three Governorships, the level of burden evolved in ways consistent with the differing political philosophies of each Governor, with federal actors playing a secondary but important role in shaping burden in this intergovernmental program. We conclude by sketching a research agenda centered on administrative burden.

Hwang, Jackelyn, and Robert J Sampson. 2014. “Divergent Pathways of Gentrification: Racial Inequality and the Social Order of Renewal in Chicago Neighborhoods.” American Sociological Review 79. Abstract

Gentrification has inspired considerable debate, but direct examination of its uneven evolution across time and space is rare. We address this gap by developing a conceptual framework on the social pathways of gentrification and introducing a method of systematic social observation using Google Street View to detect visible cues of neighborhood change. We argue that a durable racial hierarchy governs residential selection and, in turn, gentrifying neighborhoods. Integrating census data, police records, prior street-level observations, community surveys, proximity to amenities, and city budget data on capital investments, we find that the pace of gentrification in Chicago from 2007 to 2009 was negatively associated with the concentration of blacks and Latinos in neighborhoods that either showed signs of gentrification or were adjacent and still disinvested in 1995. Racial composition has a threshold effect, however, attenuating gentrification when the share of blacks in a neighborhood is greater than 40 percent. Consistent with theories of neighborhood stigma, we also find that collective perceptions of disorder, which are higher in poor minority neighborhoods, deter gentrification, while observed disorder does not. These results help explain the reproduction of neighborhood racial inequality amid urban transformation. 

Asad, Asad L, and Monica C Bell. 2014. “Winning to Learn, Learning to Win: Evaluative Frames and Practices in Urban Debate.” Qualitative Sociology 37: 1-26. Abstract

Sociologists of (e)valuation have devoted considerable attention to understanding differences in evaluative practices across a number of fields. Yet, little is understood about how individuals learn about and navigate multivalent valid group styles within a single setting. As a social phenomenon, many accept how central processes of evaluation are to everyday life. Accordingly, scholars have attempted to link research on evaluation to processes of inequality. Nevertheless, the sociology of evaluation only has tenuous, often implicit connections to literature on inequality and disadvantage. This article addresses these two gaps. Drawing on over two hundred hours of ethnographic fieldwork in an urban high school debate league (“League”), twenty-seven semi-structured interviews with League judges, and archival data, we illustrate how high school policy debate judges employ evaluative frames and link them to the implementation of evaluative practices in a disadvantaged setting. We show that the cultural meanings that emerge within the evaluation process—in this case, urban uplift and competition—stem from the conflicted context in which evaluation is occurring. We also make a first step toward applying the conceptual tools within the sociology of evaluation to a disadvantaged setting, and more broadly, suggest that micro-processes of evaluation are important to the study of urban inequality.

Jack, Anthony Abraham. 2014. “Culture Shock Revisited: The Social and Cultural Contingencies to Class Marginality.” Sociological Forum 29: 453-475. Abstract

Existing explanations of class marginality predict similar social experiences for all lower-income undergraduates. This paper extends this literature by presenting data highlighting the cultural and social contingencies that account for differences in experiences of class marginality. The degree of cultural and social dissimilarity between one’s life before and during college helps explain variation in experiences. I contrast the experiences of two groups of lower-income, black undergraduates—the Doubly Disadvantaged and Privileged Poor. Although from comparable disadvantaged households and neighborhoods, they travel along divergent paths to college. Unlike the Doubly Disadvantaged, whose precollege experiences are localized, the Privileged Poor cross social boundaries for school. In college, the Doubly Disadvantaged report negative interactions with peers and professors and adopt isolationist strategies, while the Privileged Poor generally report positive interactions and adopt integrationist strategies. In addition to extending present conceptualizations of class marginality, this study advances our understanding of how and when class and culture matter in stratification processes in college.

"Culture Shock Revisited" won the 2014 Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Award from the ASA Section on Children and Youth and honorable mention for the 2014 David Lee Stevenson Award for Best Graduate Student Paper from the ASA Section on Sociology of Education

Asad, Asad L, Michel Anteby, and Filiz Garip. 2014. “Who Donates Their Bodies to Science? The Combined Role of Gender and Migration Status among California Whole-Body Donors.” Social Science & Medicine 106: 53-58. Publisher's Version Abstract

The number of human cadavers available for medical research and training, as well as organ transplantation, is limited. Researchers disagree about how to increase the number of whole-body bequeathals, citing a shortage of donations from the one group perceived as most likely to donate from attitudinal survey data - educated white males over 65. This focus on survey data, however, suffers from two main limitations: First, it reveals little about individuals’ actual registration or donation behavior. Second, past studies’ reliance on average survey measures may have concealed variation within the donor population. To address these shortcomings, we employ cluster analysis on all whole-body donors’ data from the Universities of California at Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Two donor groups emerge from the analyses: One is made of slightly younger, educated, married individuals, an overwhelming portion of whom are U.S.-born and have U.S.-born parents, while the second includes mostly older, separated women with some college education, a relatively higher share of whom are foreign-born and have foreign-born parents. Our results demonstrate the presence of additional donor groups within and beyond the group of educated and elderly white males previously assumed to be most likely to donate. More broadly, our results suggest how the intersectional nature of donors’ demographics - in particular, gender and migration status - shapes the configuration of the donor pool, signaling new ways to possibly increase donations.

Asad, Asad L, and Tamara Kay. 2014. “Theorizing the Relationship between NGOs and the State in Medical Humanitarian Development Projects.” Social Science & Medicine 120: 325-333. Publisher's Version Abstract

Social scientists have fiercely debated the relationship between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the state in NGO-led development projects. However, this research often carries an implicit, and often explicit, anti-state bias, suggesting that when NGOs collaborate with states, they cease to be a progressive force. This literature thus fails to recognize the state as a complex, heterogeneous, and fragmented entity. In particular, the unique political context within which an NGO operates is likely to influence how it carries out its work. In this article, we ask: how do NGOs work and build relationships with different types of states and – of particular relevance to practitioners – what kinds of relationship building lead to more successful development outcomes on the ground? Drawing on 29 in-depth interviews with members of Partners in Health and Oxfam America conducted between September 2010 and February 2014, we argue that NGOs and their medical humanitarian projects are more likely to succeed when they adjust how they interact with different types of states through processes of interest harmonization and negotiation. We offer a theoretical model for understanding how these processes occur across organizational fields. Specifically, we utilize field overlap theory to illuminate how successful outcomes depend on NGOs’ ability to leverage resources – alliances and networks; political, financial, and cultural resources; and frames – across state and non-state fields. By identifying how NGOs can increase the likelihood of project success, our research should be of interest to activists, practitioners, and scholars.

Waters, Mary C, Philip Kasinitz, and Asad L Asad. 2014. “Immigrants and African Americans.” Annual Review of Sociology 40: 369-390. Publisher's Version Abstract

We examine how recent immigration to the United States has affected African Americans. We first review the research on the growing diversity within the black population, driven largely by the presence of black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa. As their children and grandchildren come of age, relations between immigrants and African Americans are complicated by the fact that a growing portion of the African American community has origins in both groups. We then review literature on both new destinations and established gateway cities to illustrate the patterns of cooperation, competition, and avoidance between immigrants of diverse races and African Americans in neighborhoods, the labor market, and politics. We explore the implications of the population’s increasing racial diversity owing to immigration for policies that aim to promote racial equality but that are framed in terms of diversity. We conclude with suggestions for new areas of research.

Marshall, John, and Stephen D Fisher. 2014. “Compensation or Constraint? How Different Dimensions of Economic Globalization Affect Government Spending and Electoral Turnout.” British Journal of Political Science FirstView: 1–37. Publisher's Version Abstract
ABSTRACT This article extends theoretical arguments regarding the impact of economic globalization on policy making to electoral turnout and considers how distinct dimensions of globalization may produce different effects. It theorizes that constraints on government policy that reduce incentives to vote are more likely to be induced by foreign ownership of capital, while compensation through increased government spending is more likely (if at all) to be the product of structural shifts in production associated with international trade. Using data from twenty-three OECD countries from 1970–2007, the study finds strong support for the ownership-constraint hypothesis in which foreign ownership reduces turnout, both directly and – in strict opposition to the compensation hypothesis – indirectly by reducing government spending (and thus the importance of politics). The results suggest that increased foreign ownership, especially the most mobile capital flows, can explain up to two-thirds of the large declines in turnout over recent decades.
Aghion, Philippe, and Alexandra Roulet. 2014. “Growth and the Smart State.” Annual Review of Economics 6: 913-926. Publisher's Version Abstract
As countries develop, the main driver of economic growth shifts from imitation to innovation. These two sources of growth require different policies and institutions. In particular, in this article we argue that the transition from an imitation-based to an innovation-based economy calls the old welfare state model into question. It is not so much the size of the state that is at stake but rather its governance. What we need to foster economic growth in developed economies is not a reduced state but a strategic state, which acts as a catalyst using selective and properly governed support to the market-driven innovation process. This idea of a strategic state that targets its investments to maximize growth in the face of hard budget constraints departs both from the Keynesian view of a state sustaining growth through demand-driven policies and from the neoliberal view of a minimal state confined to its regalian functions.

ABSTRACT Which policymakers are most likely to enact legislation drafted by organized business interests? Departing from the business power scholarship that emphasizes structural, electoral, or financial mechanisms for corporate influence, I argue that lawmakers are likely to rely on businesses' proposals when they lack the time and resources to develop legislation on their own, especially when they also hold an ideological affinity for business. Using two new datasets of “model bills” developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a policy group that promotes pro-business legislation across the states, I find strong support for this theory. These results indicate that ALEC provides private policy capacity to state legislators who would otherwise lack such support, and relatedly, that low state policy capacity may favor certain organized interests over others—namely the business interests affiliated with ALEC. My findings have implications for the study of business influence in policymaking, as well as for state politics.

Herd, Pamela, Thomas DeLeire, Hope Harvey, and Donald P Moynihan. 2013. “Shifting Administrative Burden to the State: The Case of Medicaid Take‐Up.” Public Administration Review 73 (s1): S69-S81. Abstract
Administrative burden is an individual's experience of policy implementation as onerous. Such burdens may be created because of a desire to limit payments to ineligible claimants, but they also serve to limit take-up of benefits by eligible claimants. For citizens, this burden may occur through learning about a program; complying with rules and discretionary bureaucratic behavior to participate; and the psychological costs of participating in an unpopular program. Using a mixed-method approach, the authors explain process changes that reduced individual burden and demonstrate how this resulted in increased take-up in Medicaid in the state of Wisconsin. The findings inform the planned expansion of Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A key design principle for Medicaid and other means-tested programs is that it is possible to increase program take-up while maintaining program integrity by shifting administrative burdens from the citizen to the state.

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