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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Harvard Yard

Harvard presidential search: Faculty advisory committee named

August 15, 2017
Harvard Gazette | Professors David Ellwood and Claudine Gay are among the 13 faculty members from across the University named to Harvard's presidential search faculty advisory committee. David Ellwood is the Isabelle and Scott Black Professor of Political Economy and Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. He served as Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School from 2004-2015. Claudine Gay is the Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government and of African and African American Studies and Dean of Social Science in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Tech's Damaging Myth of the Lone Genius Nerd

Tech's Damaging Myth of the Lone Genius Nerd

August 12, 2017
The New York Times | Cites research by Professor David Deming (PhD '10), forthcoming in Quarterly Journal of Economics, which finds the strongest employment and wage growth in jobs requiring both high levels of math and social skills. Deming is Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor of Education and Economics at Harvard Graduate School of Education.
... Read more about Tech's Damaging Myth of the Lone Genius Nerd
Maya Sen

Gauging the bias of lawyers

August 10, 2017
Harvard Gazette | Despite political affiliations or contributions, the only sure test of their fairness is their performance, associate professor says. Harvard Kennedy School political scientist Maya Sen discusses her research into the political leanings of lawyers.
View the research
Heart Mountain Internment Camp

First interned, then left behind

August 4, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Daniel Shoag (PhD '11), Associate Professor of Public Policy, discusses his new research on Japanese-American internment and the enduring effect of place. Shoag and his co-author Nicholas Carollo, a PhD candidate in economics at UCLA, "found that the economic consequences of confinement lingered among internees even 50 years later, and varied greatly on where they were placed."
View the research

Walls

The Walls We Won't Tear Down

August 3, 2017
The New York Times | Op-ed by Richard D. Kahlenberg on economic exclusionary zoning cites Robert D. Putnam's book Our Kids on growing class segregation in America. Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy.
How to Prepare Preschoolers for an Automated Economy

How to Prepare Preschoolers for an Automated Economy

July 31, 2017
The New York Times | Professor David Deming (PhD '10) of the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education discusses the type of education that can best prepare students for a changing labor market. Deming draws from his findings in "The Growing Importance of Socal Skills in the Labor Market," forthcoming in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.
View the research
Newark 1967

Newark's Long Hot Summer

July 29, 2017
The Atlantic | The circumtances that drove the city's 1967 uprising still haunt America to this day. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, are interviewed for this article.
Street change

Gauging street change over time

July 28, 2017

Harvard Gazette | A new joint Harvard-MIT study uses computer vision algorithm to study Google Street View images to show urban shifts. Among the collaborators: Harvard faculty members Scott Duke Kominers, MBA Class of 1960 Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, and Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics.

The Gazette notes that "using Street View images to track urban change isn't a new idea. In 2014, then-doctoral student Jackelyn Hwang [now Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stanford University] and Robert Sampson, the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, published a study that employed volunteers to analyze Street View images and locate signs of gentrification across 3,000 city blocks in Chicago." The new study takes this "a step further by using artificial intelligence to automate the process."

William Julius Wilson

William Julius Wilson Delivers Stirring SAGE-CASBS Award Lecture on Inequality, Race

June 19, 2017
Stanford University - Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences | A discussion of William Julius Wilson's award lecture, "Reflctions on American Race Relations in the Age of Donald Trump."  Wilson, the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard, is the recipient of the 2017 SAGE-CASBS Award for "outstanding achievement in the behavioral and social sciences that advance our understanding of pressing social issues." Wilson was recognized as "one of the nation's most accomplished scholars of race, inequality, and poverty."
View the lecture on CSPAN (60 minutes)
Outsourcing U.S. Jobs

How U.S. Companies Stole American Jobs

June 16, 2017

Harvard Magazine | Domestic subcontracting, not globalization, has redefined employer-employee ties. Alternative work arrangements now encompass 16% of the U.S. workforce. Finding ways to make these jobs more meaningful and more rewarding will be key to building a robust workforce, says Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics. 
View the research here and here.

Mariel boatlift

The Great Mariel Boatlift Debate: Does Immigration Lower Wages?

June 16, 2017
Wall Street Journal | Decades after a wave of Cuban refugees landed in Florida, a dispute among economists over their economic impact. On one side of the debate: George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.
Zoua Vang

Council Member Spotlight: Zoua Vang

June 15, 2017
ASA Migrations | Zoua Vang (PhD '08) reflects on how her lifelong pursuit to understand her own lived experience as a Hmong refugee shaped her path to sociology and the study of immigration. Zoua Vang is an Associate Professor of Sociology (with tenure) at McGill University. Read more about Zoua M. Vang:
zouamvang.com
Gender Wage Gap Widens to 43 Percent by Age 45

Gender Wage Gap Widens to 43 Percent by Age 45

June 14, 2017
NBC News | Features new research by Harvard economist Claudia Goldin and colleagues. "Women are disproportionately losing out during these periods of time when families are being formed,” Goldin says. “...It really takes two sides here to make that market. So if all the guys said ‘We also want to see our kids, we also want temporal flexibility,’ then this difference wouldn’t exist.”
Gabrielle Malina

Your Rabbi? Probably a Democrat. Your Baptist Pastor? Probably a Republican. Your Priest? Who Knows.

June 12, 2017
The New York Times | Delves into a new dataset by Yale political scientist Eitan Hersh and Harvard's Gabrielle Malina, a PhD candidate in Government & Social Policy, "the largest compilation of American religious leaders ever assembled," the Times reports. The data reveal an American clergy sharply divided along political lines, even more so than congregants in their denomination.
View the research
The club where business meets gender politics

The club where business meets gender politics

June 9, 2017
Financial Times | Women-only spaces in the US have had a new lease of life in the age of Trump. Cited: Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol, who is now studying post-Trump activism in swing states: "I can tell you so far, the evidence is just overwhelming. Women are leading these so-called resist groups and networks. In pockets across the country, there's movement happening everywhere, and women are overwhelmingly in the lead."
Female MBA's: Downplaying ambitions?

Female MBA's: Downplaying ambitions?

June 5, 2017
The Economist | Discusses research by Harvard economist Amanda Pallais on how marriage market incentives influence women's labor market investments, forthcoming in the American Economic Review. Pallais is the Paul Sack Associate Professor of Political Economy and Social Studies.
View the research
The gender pay gap

The Gender Pay Gap Is Largely Because of Motherhood

May 27, 2017
The New York Times | Features research on the gender pay gap by Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, including a new paper—joint with Sari Pekkala Kerr of Wellesley College, Claudia Olivetti of Boston College, and Erling Barth of the Institute for Social Research in Oslo—in the May 2017 issue of American Economic Review.
View the research

Latest awards

Stefanie Stantcheva

Stefanie Stantcheva named a 2018 Sloan Research Fellow

February 15, 2018
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Stefanie Stantcheva, Associate Professor of Economics, is one of 126 early-career scholars selected for the 2018 Sloan Research Fellowship. The Sloan Research Fellows, drawn from eight scientific fields, "represent the most promising scientific researchers working today." Since 1955, Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win 45 Nobel Prizes, 16 Fields Medals, 69 National Medals of Science, 17 John Bates Clark Medals, and numerous other distinguished awards.

Learn more about Stefanie Stantcheva's work
scholar.harvard.edu/stantcheva
American Academy of Political and Social Science Elects Five Scholars as 2018 Fellows

American Academy of Political and Social Science Elects Five Scholars as 2018 Fellows

January 16, 2018
Edward L. Glaeser is one of five scholars elected to the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences as a 2018 Fellow.  Each year the AAPSS elects scholars who have contributed to the advancement of the social sciences and whose research has informed the public good. Glaeser, the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard University, will be officially inducted into the Academy as the 2018 Herbert Simon Fellow on May 17, 2018, in Washington, DC.
TIAA Samuelson Award 2017

David Laibson, Brigitte Madrian: TIAA Institute Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security

January 5, 2018
Awardees | Professors David Laibson (Harvard Economics) and  Brigitte C. Madrian (Harvard Kennedy School), together with  colleagues John Beshears (Harvard Business School) and James J. Choi (Yale SOM), are the winners of the TIAA Institute's 2017 Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security. They received the award at the 2018 Allied Social Science Associations Annual Meeting (ASSA) for their article, "Does Aggregated Returns Disclosure Increase Portfolio Risk Taking?," published in The Review of Financial Studies (June 2017).
View the research
Bernard Fraga: MPSA Latino/a Caucus Early Career Award

Bernard Fraga: MPSA Latino/a Caucus Early Career Award

December 20, 2017
Awardee | Bernard L. Fraga (PhD '13) is the 2018 recipient of the Midwest Political Science Association Latino/a Caucus Early Career Award. An Assistant Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Fraga's  research examines American electoral politics, racial and ethnic politics, and political behavior.
New RSF grant: Inequality, Institutions, and the Making of Financial Policy

New RSF grant: Inequality, Institutions, and the Making of Financial Policy

December 1, 2017
Russell Sage Foundation | Daniel Carpenter, Allie S. Freed Professor of Government and Director of Social Sciences at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, in collaboration with Susan Yackee of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has been awarded a Russell Sage Foundation grant to examine the ways that special interests use their considerable resources to influence administrative and executive decisionmaking, focusing on financial industry influence on rulemaking in the aftermath of Dodd-Frank.
Michele Lamont

Michèle Lamont awarded Erasmus Prize: Honored for contributions to social science

November 28, 2017
Harvard Gazette | Michèle Lamont, Harvard’s Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, professor of sociology, professor of African and African-American studies, and director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, has been awarded the prestigious 2017 Erasmus Prize.

See also
Laudatio and Acceptance speech

Erasmus Prize Winner 2017 Michèle Lamont - Film portrait (video) by Shanti van Dam of Praemium Erasmianum Foundation
Washington Center for Equitable Growth

Jason Furman, Former Council of Economic Advisers Chairman, Joins Equitable Growth Steering Committee

November 17, 2017
Washington Center for Equitable Growth | Equitable Growth announced today that Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, has joined the organization's steering committee.

“Equitable Growth is a leader in advancing academic and policy-relevant research into whether and how inequality affects growth,” said Furman. “I am thrilled to be joining an organization that is driving the conversation on issues that are central to today’s economic policy debate.”
Mario Luis Small

Mario Luis Small Joins RSF Board of Trustees

November 10, 2017
Russell Sage Foundation | The Russell Sage Foundation announced the appointment of sociologist Mario Luis Small to its board of trustees. Mario Luis Small (PhD '01) is Grafstein Family Professor at Harvard University. 
Orlando Patterson honored by historians

Orlando Patterson honored by historians

September 12, 2017
Harvard Sociology | Wiley Blackwell has recently published a book, On Human Bondage: After Slavery and Social Death, edited by two of the nation’s most eminent historians of antiquity, that assesses the impact of Orlando Patterson's  work, Slavery and Social Death, on ancient, and comparative cultural and historical studies.  

This is the first time that a living sociologist’s work has been so honored by historians of classical antiquity and comparative historical studies. Read more
Amelia Peterson: Emerging Education Policy Scholars program

Amelia Peterson: Emerging Education Policy Scholars program

September 1, 2017

Thomas B. Fordham Institute | Amelia Peterson a PhD candidate in Education, has been selected for the 2017-2018 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. 

Alex Hertel-Fernandez awarded APSA McGillivray Best Paper Award

Alex Hertel-Fernandez awarded APSA McGillivray Best Paper Award

September 1, 2017
Awardee | Alex Hertel-Fernandez (PhD '16) has been awarded the 2017 Fiona McGillivray Prize for the best paper in political economy presented at the previous year’s American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. The paper, "American Employers as Political Machines," has been published in the Journal of Politics 79,1 (2017). Hertel-Fernandez is now Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
Peter Hall one of 66 newly-elected Fellows of the British Academy

Peter Hall one of 66 newly-elected Fellows of the British Academy

July 21, 2017
The British Academy announced the election of its 2017 Fellows, a group representing "the very best of humanities an social science research, in the UK and globally." Harvard's Peter A. Hall, Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies, is one of 20 overseas scholars, known as Corresponding Fellows, selected from outside the U.K.
Devah Pager

RSF Recent Awards for the Future of Work: Devah Pager

July 20, 2017
Russell Sage Foundation | Devah Pager, Director of the Inequality & Social Policy program and a Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, has been awarded a research grant (joint with David Pedulla of Stanford University) to investigate "The Organizational Bases of Discrimination."
Helen B. Marrow

RSF Announces New Visiting Researchers: Helen Marrow

June 20, 2017

Russell Sage Foundation | Helen Marrow (PhD '07), Associate Professor of Sociology at Tufts University, has been selected to be a Visiting Researcher at the Russell Sage Foundation in 2017-2018. While in residence, she will work on her next book on Immigrant-Native Relations in 21st Century America. The book is a collaborative project with scholars Dina Okamato of Indiana University, Linda Tropp of University of Massachsuetts-Amherst, and Michael Jones-Correa of University of Pennsylvania. Read more about Helen Marrow's work:
helenmarrow.com

Carlos Lastra-Anadon

Technological Change, Inequality, and the Collapse of the Liberal Order

June 17, 2017

G20 Insights | Carlos Lastra-Anadón, PhD candidate in Government & Social Policy, has co-authored a policy brief that has been selected to appear in "20 Solution Proposals for the G20" to be circulated to summit participants at the G20 Hamburg summit, July 7-8, 2017. Theirs is one of 20 policy recommendations "chosen for their novelty, implementability, and relevance to the G20 during the German presidency."

The brief is co-authored by Manuel Muñiz (Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University), Karl Kaiser (Harvard University), Henning Meyer (London School of Economics), and Manuel Torres (Accenture).

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

Healthcare spending inequality: Evidence from Hungarian administrative data
Bíró, Anikó, and Daniel Prinz. 2020. “Healthcare spending inequality: Evidence from Hungarian administrative data.” Health Policy 124 (3): 282-290. Abstract

Using administrative data on a random 50% of the Hungarian population, including individual-level information on incomes, healthcare spending, and mortality for the 2003–2011 period, we develop new evidence on the distribution of healthcare spending and mortality in Hungary by income and geography. By linking detailed administrative data on employment, income, and geographic location with measures of healthcare spending and mortality we are able to provide a more complete picture than the existing literature which has relied on survey data. We compute mean spending and 5-year and 8-year mortality measures by geography and income quantiles, and also present gender and age adjusted results.

We document four patterns: (i) substantial geographic heterogeneity in healthcare spending; (ii) positive association between labor income and public healthcare spending; (iii) geographic variation in the strength of the association between labor income and healthcare spending; and (iv) negative association between labor income and mortality. In further exploratory analysis, we find no statistically significant correlation between simple county-level supply measures and healthcare spending. We argue that taken together, these patterns suggest that individuals with higher labor income are in better health but consume more healthcare because they have better access to services.

Our work suggests new directions for research on the relationship between health inequalities and healthcare spending inequalities and the role of subtler barriers to healthcare access.

 

Inequality in socially permissible consumption
Hagerty, Serena F., and Kate Barasz. 2020. “Inequality in socially permissible consumption.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117 (25): 14084-14093. Abstract

Contributing to the burgeoning discourse on economic inequality, we expose an inequality in what the poor are socially permitted to buy. Across 11 experiments (n = 4,179), we demonstrate that lower-income individuals are held to more restrictive standards of permissible consumption, judged negatively for purchasing the same items as their higher-income peers. We rule out the explanation that higher-income people are socially permitted to consume more simply because they can afford more; instead, we find lower-income people are socially permitted to consume less because they are presumed to need less. These findings suggest that—in addition to economic disparities that restrict what lower-income individuals financially can consume—there is an inequality in what they are socially permitted to consume.

 

Going National: Immigration Enforcement and the Politicization of Local Police
Zoorob, Michael. 2020. “Going National: Immigration Enforcement and the Politicization of Local Police.” PS: Political Science & Politics 53 (3): 421–426. Abstract

This article develops a theory of when and how political nationalization increases interest in local elections using evidence from county sheriff elections. A quintessentially local office, the sheriff has long enjoyed buffers from ideological or partisan politics. However, many sheriff elections since 2016 were waged on ideological grounds as progressive challengers—often backed by outside money—linked their campaigns to opposition to President Trump. I argue that this “redirected nationalization” becomes possible when a salient national issue impinges on a local government service, enabling challengers to expand the scope of conflict against valence-advantaged incumbents. In the highly nationalized 2018 midterm election, the question of cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the nation’s jails provided a compelling link between local sheriffs and national politics, infusing new interest and energy in these races. Although redirected nationalization can help align local policies with voter preferences, the politicization of local law enforcement also might undermine police professionalism and credibility.

Resisting Broken Windows: The Effect of Neighborhood Disorder on Political Behavior
Brown, Jacob R., and Michael Zoorob. 2020. “Resisting Broken Windows: The Effect of Neighborhood Disorder on Political Behavior.” Political Behavior. Abstract

Concurrent housing and opioid crises have increased exposure to street-crime, homelessness and addiction in American cities. What are the political consequences of this increased neighborhood disorder? We examine a change in social context following the relocation of homelessness and drug treatment services in Boston. In 2014, an unexpected bridge closing forced nearly 1000 people receiving emergency shelter or addiction treatment to relocate from an island in the Boston Harbor to mainland Boston, causing sustained increases in drug-use, loitering, and other features of neighborhood disorder. Residents near the relocation facilities mobilized to maintain order in their community. In the subsequent Mayoral election, their turnout grew 9% points while participation in state and national elections was unchanged. However, increased turnout favored the incumbent Mayor, consistent with voter learning about candidate quality following local shocks. Voters responded to neighborhood changes at the relevant electoral scale and rewarded responsive politicians.

 

Natural Hazards, Disasters, and Demographic Change
Raker, Ethan J. 2020. “Natural Hazards, Disasters, and Demographic Change.” Demography 57. Abstract
Natural hazards and disasters distress populations and inflict damage on the built environment, but existing studies yield mixed results regarding their lasting demographic implications. I leverage variation across three decades of block group exposure to an exogenous and acute natural hazard—severe tornadoes—to focus conceptually on social vulnerability and to empirically assess local net demographic change. Using matching techniques and a difference-in-difference estimator, I find that severe tornadoes result in no net change in local population size but lead to compositional changes, whereby affected neighborhoods become more white and socioeconomically advantaged. Moderation models show that the effects are exacerbated for wealthier communities and that a federal disaster declaration does not mitigate the effects. I interpret the empirical findings as evidence of a displacement process by which economically disadvantaged residents are forcibly mobile, and economically advantaged and white locals rebuild rather than relocate. To make sense of demographic change after natural hazards, I advance an unequal replacement of social vulnerability framework that considers hazard attributes, geographic scale, and impacted local context. I conclude that the natural environment is consequential for the socio-spatial organization of communities and that a disaster declaration has little impact on mitigating this driver of neighborhood inequality.
The Social Consequences of Disasters
Arcaya, Mariana, Ethan J. Raker, and Mary C. Waters. 2020. “The Social Consequences of Disasters.” Annual Review of Sociology 46 (1). Abstract
We review the findings from the last decade of research on the effects of disasters, concentrating on three important themes: the differences between the recovery of places vs. people, the need to differentiate between short and long term recovery trajectories, and the changing role of government and how it has exacerbated inequality in recovery and engendered feedback loops that create greater vulnerability. We reflect the focus of the majority of sociological studies on disasters by concentrating our review on studies in the United States, but we also include studies on disasters throughout the world if they contribute to our empirical and theoretical understanding of disasters and their impacts. We end with a discussion of the inevitability of more severe disasters as climate change progresses and call on social scientists to develop new concepts and to use new methods to study these developments.
Do Police Brutality Stories Reduce 911 Calls? Reassessing an Important Criminological Finding
Zoorob, Michael. 2020. “Do Police Brutality Stories Reduce 911 Calls? Reassessing an Important Criminological Finding.” American Sociological Review 85 (1): 176-183. Abstract
This paper reassesses the prominent claim from Desmond, Papachristos, and Kirk (2016) that 911 calls plummeted – and homicides surged – because of a police brutality story (the Jude story). The results in DPK depend on a substantial outlier 47 weeks after the Jude story, the final week of data. Identical analyses without the outlier final week show that the Jude story had no statistically significant effect on either total 911 calls or violent crime 911 calls. Modeling choices which do not extrapolate from data many weeks after the Jude story – including an event study and "regression discontinuity in time" – also find no evidence that calls declined, a consistent result across predominantly Black neighborhoods, predominantly White neighborhoods, and citywide. Finally, plotting the raw data demonstrates stable 911 calls in the weeks around the Jude story. Overall, the existing empirical evidence does not support the theory that publishing brutality stories decreases crime reporting and increases murders.
Does Public Opinion Affect Elite Rhetoric?
Hager, Anselm, and Hanno Hilbig. 2020. “Does Public Opinion Affect Elite Rhetoric?” American Journal of Political Science 64 (4): 921-937. Abstract

Does public opinion affect elite rhetoric? This central question of political science has received little empirical scrutiny. Of particular interest is whether public opinion af- fects i) what topics elites address and ii) what positions they endorse. We add to this debate by drawing on unique evidence from Germany. In 2015, a legal ruling forced the German government to declassify all its public opinion research. Our causal identifica- tion strategy exploits the demonstrably exogenous timing of the reports’ dissemination to cabinet members within a window of a few days. We find that exposure to the public opinion reports leads elites to change their rhetoric markedly. Specifically, lin- guistic similarity between elite speech and public opinion increases significantly after reports are disseminated—a finding that points toward rhetorical agenda setting. By hand-coding a subset of 2,000 report-speech pairs, we also demonstrate that elites sub- stantively adapt their rhetoric to majority opinion.

Forever Homes and Temporary Stops: Housing Search Logics and Residential Selection
Harvey, Hope, Kelley Fong, Kathryn Edin, and Stefanie DeLuca. 2020. “Forever Homes and Temporary Stops: Housing Search Logics and Residential Selection.” Social Forces 98 (4): 1498–1523. Abstract
Residential selection is central in determining children’s housing, neighborhood, and school contexts, and an extensive literature considers the social processes that shape residential searches and attainment. While this literature typically frames the residential search as a uniform process oriented around finding residential options with desired characteristics, we examine whether individuals may differentially conceive of these searches in ways that sustain inequality in residential attainment. Drawing on repeated, in-depth interviews with a stratified random sample of 156 households with young children in two metropolitan counties, we find that parents exhibit distinct residential search logics, informed by the constraints they face. Higher-income families usually engage in purposive searches oriented around their residential preferences. They search for “forever homes” that will meet their families’ needs for years to come. In contrast, low-income parents typically draw on a logic of deferral. While they hope to eventually search for a home with the unit, neighborhood, and school characteristics they desire, aspirations for homeownership lead them to conceive of their moves (which are often between rental units) as “temporary stops,” which justifies accepting homes that are inconsistent with their long-term preferences. In addition, because they are often “pushed” to move by negative circumstances, they focus on their immediate housing needs and, in the most extreme cases, adopt an “anywhere but here” approach. These logics constitute an unexamined mechanism through which economic resources shape residential searches and ultimate attainment.
Gender Bias in Rumors among Professionals: An Identity-Based Interpretation
Wu, Alice H. 2020. “Gender Bias in Rumors among Professionals: An Identity-Based Interpretation.” The Review of Economics and Statistics 102 (5): 867–880. Abstract
This paper measures gender bias in discussions about women versus men in an online professional forum. I study the content of posts that refer to each gender, and the transitions in the topics between consecutive posts once attention turns to one gender or the other. Discussions about women tend to emphasize their personal characteristics instead of professional accomplishments. Posts about women are also more likely to lead to deviations from professional topics than posts about men. I interpret these findings through a model that highlights posters' incentives to boost their own identities relative to the underrepresented out-group in a profession.
Thick Red Tape and the Thin Blue Line: A Field Study on Reducing Administrative Burden in Police Recruitment
Linos, Elizabeth, and Nefara Riesch. 2020. “Thick Red Tape and the Thin Blue Line: A Field Study on Reducing Administrative Burden in Police Recruitment.” Public Administration Review 80: 92-103. Abstract
Police departments struggle to recruit officers, and voluntary drop‐off of candidates exacerbates this challenge. Using four years of administrative data and a field experiment conducted in the Los Angeles Police Department, the authors analyze the impact of administrative burden on the likelihood that a candidate will remain in the recruitment process. Findings show that reducing friction costs to participation and simplifying processes improve compliance, as behavioral public administration would predict. Applicants who were offered simpler, standardized processes completed more tests and were more likely to be hired. Later reductions to perceived burden led to an 8 percent increase in compliance, with a 60 percent increase in compliance within two weeks. However, removing steps that would have allowed for better understanding of eligibility kept unqualified candidates in the process for longer, reducing organizational efficiency. These results extend the field's understanding of how administrative burden can impact the selection of talent into government.
The art of deciding with data: evidence from how employers translate credit reports into hiring decisions

About half of US employers consider personal credit history when hiring, a practice that connects individuals’ prospects for employment to their financial pasts. Yet little is known about how employers translate credit reports, complicated financial documents, into hiring decisions. Using interviews with 57 hiring professionals, this paper offers the first in-depth look at how employers move from document to decision. Faced with the context-free numbers of a credit report, and without predictively valid credit scores to fall back on, hiring professionals struggle to make sense of financial data without knowing the details of job candidates’ lives. They therefore reach beyond credit reports, both by inferring events that led to delinquent debt and by testing to see if candidates can offer morally redeeming accounts. A process of moral storytelling re-inflates credit reports with social meaning and prevents people with bad credit from getting jobs. This process carries implications for the reproduction of economic disadvantage since judgments about when it is and is not legitimate to have unpaid debt seem to at least partly depend on social background.

 

The Moral Limits of Predictive Practices: The Case of Credit-Based Insurance Scores
Kiviat, Barbara. 2019. “The Moral Limits of Predictive Practices: The Case of Credit-Based Insurance Scores.” American Sociological Review 84 (6): 1134-1158. Abstract
Corporations gather massive amounts of personal data to predict how individuals will behave so that they can profitably price goods and allocate resources. This article investigates the moral foundations of such increasingly prevalent market practices. I leverage the case of credit scores in car insurance pricing—an early and controversial use of algorithmic prediction in the U.S. consumer economy—to unpack the premise that predictive data are fair to use and to understand the conditions under which people are likely to challenge that moral logic. Policymaker resistance to credit-based insurance scores reveals that contention arises when predictions depend on mathematical distinctions that do not align with broader understandings of good and bad behavior, and when theories about why predictions work point to the market holding people accountable for actions that are not really their fault. Via a de-commensuration process, policymakers realign the market with their own notions of moral deservingness. This article thus demonstrates the importance of causal understanding and moral categorization for people accepting markets as fair. As data and analytics permeate markets of all sorts, as well as other domains of social life, these findings have implications for how social scientists understand the novel forms of stratification that result.
Screening in Contract Design: Evidence from the ACA Health Insurance Exchanges
Geruso, Michael, Timothy Layton, and Daniel Prinz. 2019. “Screening in Contract Design: Evidence from the ACA Health Insurance Exchanges.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 11 (2): 64-107. Abstract
We study insurers' use of prescription drug formularies to screen consumers in the ACA Health Insurance exchanges. We begin by showing that exchange risk adjustment and reinsurance succeed in neutralizing selection incentives for most, but not all, consumer types. A minority of consumers, identifiable by demand for particular classes of prescription drugs, are predictably unprofitable. We then show that contract features relating to these drugs are distorted in a manner consistent with multidimensional screening. The empirical findings support a long theoretical literature examining how insurance contracts offered in equilibrium can fail to optimally trade off risk protection and moral hazard.
A Look to the Interior: Trends in U.S. Immigration Removals by Criminal Conviction Type, Gender, and Region of Origin, Fiscal Years 2003-2015
Over the past two decades, the U.S. federal government has sought to increase its capacity to find, apprehend, and deport noncitizens residing in the United States who have violated federal immigration laws. One way the federal government has done this is by partnering with state and local law enforcement agencies on immigration enforcement efforts. The present study analyzes the records of all 1,964,756 interior removals between fiscal years 2003 and 2015 to examine how, if at all, the types of criminal convictions leading to removal from the U.S. interior have changed during this period of heightened coordination between law enforcement agencies and whether there are differences by gender and region of origin in the types of convictions leading to removal. Findings show that as coordination between law enforcement agencies intensified, the proportion of individuals removed from the U.S. interior with either no criminal convictions or with a driving-related conviction as their most serious conviction increased. Findings also show that the proportion of individuals removed with no criminal convictions was greater for women than for men and that the share of individuals removed with a driving-related conviction as their most serious conviction was greater for Latin Americans than for individuals from all other regions. Given renewed investment in these types of law enforcement partnerships under the Trump administration, the patterns presented in this article may foreshadow trends to come.
Twelve years later: The long-term mental health consequences of Hurricane Katrina
Raker, Ethan J., Sarah R. Lowe, Mariana C. Arcaya, Sydney T. Johnson, Jean Rhodes, and Mary C. Waters. 2019. “Twelve years later: The long-term mental health consequences of Hurricane Katrina.” Social Science & Medicine 242: 112610. Abstract
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused unprecedented damage, widespread population displacement, and exposed Gulf Coast residents to traumatic events. The hurricane's adverse impact on survivors' mental health was apparent shortly after the storm and persisted, but no study has examined the long-term effects now that more than a decade has transpired. Using new data from a panel study of low-income mothers interviewed once before Hurricane Katrina and now three times after, we document changes in mental health, and estimate the sociodemographic and hurricane-related factors associated with long-term trajectories of mental health. We find that post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) declined at each of the three post-Katrina follow-ups, but 12 years after the hurricane, one in six still had symptoms indicative of probable post-traumatic stress disorder. The rate of non-specific psychological distress (PD) remained consistently higher in all three follow-ups, compared to the pre-disaster period. In full covariate-adjusted models, no sociodemographic variables predicted long-run combinations of PTSS and PD. However, 12 years later, exposure to hurricane-related traumatic events and pre-disaster PD significantly predicted co-occurring PTSS and PD. Hurricane-related housing damage predicted PTSS in earlier follow-ups, but no longer predicted PTSS in the long-term. Furthermore, hurricane-related traumatic events significantly differentiated the risk of having persistent PTSS, relative to recovering from PTSS. The results suggest that there is still a non-negligible group of survivors with continued need for recovery resources and that exposure to traumatic events is a primary predictor of adverse mental health more than a decade post-disaster.
Fentanyl shock: The changing geography of overdose in the United States
Zoorob, Michael. 2019. “Fentanyl shock: The changing geography of overdose in the United States.” International Journal of Drug Policy 70: 40-46. Abstract

Background: Rapid increases in drug overdose deaths in the United States since 2014 have been highly regionally stratified, with the largest increases occurring in the eastern and northeastern states. By contrast, many western states saw overdose deaths plateau. This paper shows how the differential influx of fentanyl and fentanyl ana- logues in the drug supply has reshaped the geography and demography of the overdose crisis in the United States.

Methods: Using all state lab drug seizures obtained by Freedom of Information Act request, I analyze the re- gionally distinctive presence of fentanyl in the US drug supply with descriptive plots and statistical models. Main analyses explore state-year overdose trends using two-way fixed effects ordinary least squares (OLS) regression and two-stage least squares regression (2SLS) instrumenting for fentanyl exposure with state-longitude times a linear trend.

Results: First, fentanyl exposure is highly correlated with geography and only weakly explained by overdose rates prior to 2014. States in the east (higher degrees longitude) are much more heavily affected. Second, fentanyl exposure exhibits a statistically significant and important effect on overdose mortality, with model- predicted deaths broadly consistent with official death statistics. Third, fentanyl exposure explains most of the variation in increased overdose mortality between 2011 and 2017. Consequently, the epicenter of the overdose crisis shifted towards the eastern United States over these years.

Conclusion: These findings shed light on the “third-wave” of the overdose epidemic, characterized by rapid and geographically disparate changes in drug supply that heighten the risk of overdose. Above all, they underscore the urgency of adopting evidence-based policies to combat addiction in light of the rapidly changing drug environment.

Blue Endorsements Matter: How the Fraternal Order of Police Contributed to Donald Trump’s Victory
Zoorob, Michael. 2019. “Blue Endorsements Matter: How the Fraternal Order of Police Contributed to Donald Trump’s Victory.” PS: Political Science and Politics 52 (2): 243-250. Abstract

Conventional accounts of Donald Trump’s unexpected electoral victory stress idiosyncratic events and media celebrity because most observers assume this unusual candidate won without much organized support. However, considerable evidence suggests that the support of conservative organizational networks, including police unions such as the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), propelled Trump to victory. The FOP is both a public-sector union and a conservative, mass-membership fraternal association that was courted by the Trump campaign at a time of politically charged debates about policing. Four years before, the FOP had refused to endorse Republican candidate Mitt Romney because he opposed public-sector unionism, which provided fruitful and rare variation in interest-group behavior across electoral cycles. Using a difference-in-differences approach, I find that FOP lodge density contributed to a significant swing in vote share from Romney to Trump. Moreover, survey evidence indicates that police officers reported increased political engagement in 2016 versus 2012. Belying the notion that Trump lacked a “ground game,” this research suggests that he tapped into existing organizational networks, showing their enduring importance in electoral politics.

Do Inheritance Customs Affect Political and Social Inequality?
Hager, Anselm, and Hanno Hilbig. 2019. “Do Inheritance Customs Affect Political and Social Inequality?” American Journal of Political Science 63 (4): 758-773. Abstract
Why are some societies more unequal than others? The French revolutionaries believed unequal inheritances among siblings to be responsible for the strict hierarchies of the ancien régime. To achieve equality, the revolutionaries therefore enforced equal inheritance rights. Their goal was to empower women and to disenfranchise the noble class. But do equal inheritances succeed in leveling the societal playing field? We study Germany—a country with pronounced local‐level variation in inheritance customs—and find that municipalities that historically equally apportioned wealth, to this day, elect more women into political councils and have fewer aristocrats in the social elite. Using historic data, we point to two mechanisms: wealth equality and pro‐egalitarian preferences. In a final step, we also show that, counterintuitively, equitable inheritance customs positively predict income inequality. We interpret this finding to mean that equitable inheritances level the playing field by rewarding talent, not status.
Shooting the Messenger
John, Leslie K., Hayley Blunden, and Heidi Liu. 2019. “Shooting the Messenger.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 148 (4): 644–666. Abstract
Eleven experiments provide evidence that people have a tendency to “shoot the messenger,” deeming innocent bearers of bad news unlikeable. In a preregistered lab experiment, participants rated messengers who delivered bad news from a random drawing as relatively unlikeable (Study 1). A second set of studies points to the specificity of the effect: Study 2A shows that it is unique to the (innocent) messenger and not mere bystanders. Study 2B shows that it is distinct from merely receiving information that one disagrees with. We suggest that people’s tendency to deem bearers of bad news as unlikeable stems in part from their desire to make sense of chance processes. Consistent with this account, receiving bad news activates the desire to sense-make (Study 3A), and in turn, activating this desire enhances the tendency to dislike bearers of bad news (Study 3B). Next, stemming from the idea that unexpected outcomes heighten the desire to sense-make, Study 4 shows that when bad news is unexpected, messenger dislike is pronounced. Finally, consistent with the notion that people fulfill the desire to sense-make by attributing agency to entities adjacent to chance events, messenger dislike is correlated with the belief that the messenger had malevolent motives (Studies 5A, 5B, & 5C). Studies 6A & 6B go further, manipulating messenger motives independently from news valence to suggest its causal role in our process account: the tendency to dislike bearers of bad news is mitigated when recipients are made aware of the benevolence of the messenger’s motives.
The Great Decoupling: The Disconnection Between Criminal Offending and Experience of Arrest Across Two Cohorts
Weaver, Vesla M., Andrew Papachristos, and Michael Zanger-Tishler. 2019. “The Great Decoupling: The Disconnection Between Criminal Offending and Experience of Arrest Across Two Cohorts.” RSF: Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 5 (1): 89-123. Abstract

Our study explores the arrest experiences of two generational cohorts—those entering adulthood on either side of a large shift in American policing. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979 and 1997), we find a stark increase in arrest odds among the later generation at every level of offending, suggesting a decoupling between contact with the justice system and criminal conduct. Furthermore, this decoupling became racially inflected. Blacks had a much higher probability of arrest at the start of the twenty-first century than both blacks of the generation prior and whites of the same generation. The criminal justice system, we argue, slipped from one in which arrest was low and strongly linked to offending to one where a substantial share of Americans experienced arrest without committing a crime.

We can help, but there’s a catch: Nonprofit organizations and access to government-funded resources among the poor
Siliunas, Andreja, Mario L. Small, and Joey Wallerstein. 2019. “We can help, but there’s a catch: Nonprofit organizations and access to government-funded resources among the poor.” Journal of Organizational Ethnography 8 (1): 109-128. Abstract
Today, low-income people seeking resources from the federal government must often work through non-profit organizations. The purpose of this paper is to examine the constraints that the poor must face today to secure resources through non-profit organizations. This is a conceptual paper. The authors review cases of non-profit organizations providing federally supported resources to the poor across multiple sectors.The authors find that to accept government contracts serving the poor, nonprofit organizations must often engage in one or several practices: reject clients normally consistent with their mission, select clients based on likely outcomes, ignore problems in clients’ lives relevant to their predicament, or undermine client progress to manage funding requirements. To secure government-supported resources from nonprofits, the poor must often acquiesce to intrusions into one or more of the following: their privacy (disclosing sensitive information), their self-protection (renouncing legal rights), their identity (avowing a particular self-understanding) or their self-mastery (relinquishing authority over daily routines). The authors show that the nonprofits’ dual role as brokers, both liaisons transferring resources and representatives of the state, can complicate their relation to their clients and the predicament of the poor themselves; the authors suggest that two larger trends, toward increasing administrative accountability and demonstrating deservingness, are having both intended and unintended consequences for the ability of low-income individuals to gain access to publicly funded resources.
Beyond Likely Voters: An Event Analysis of Conservative Political Outreach
Bautista-Chavez, Angie M., and Sarah E. James. 2019. “Beyond Likely Voters: An Event Analysis of Conservative Political Outreach.” Political Science Quarterly 134 (3): 407-443. Abstract
Angie M. Bautista-Chavez and Sarah E. James  look at the constituency-building strategies of three politically conservative organizations designed to reach veterans, millennials, and Latinos. They show how these organizations vary their outreach tactics to align the target audience with the political right.
The Organization of Neglect: Limited Liability Companies and Housing Disinvestment
Travis, Adam. 2019. “The Organization of Neglect: Limited Liability Companies and Housing Disinvestment.” American Sociological Review 84 (1): 142-170. Abstract
Sociological accounts of urban disinvestment processes rarely assess how landlords’ variable investment strategies may be facilitated or constrained by the legal environment. Nor do they typically examine how such factors might, in turn, affect housing conditions for city dwellers. Over the past two decades, the advent and diffusion of the limited liability company (LLC) has reshaped the legal landscape of rental ownership. Increasingly, rental properties are owned by business organizations that limit investor liability, rather than by individual landlords who own property in their own names. An analysis of administrative records and survey data from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, demonstrates that signs of housing disinvestment increase when properties transition from individual to LLC ownership. This increase is not explained by selection on property characteristics or by divergent pre-transfer trends. Results affirm that real estate investors are responsive to changes in the legal environment and that the protective structure of the LLC facilitates housing disinvestment in Milwaukee. Elaborating the role of real estate investors can deepen accounts of neighborhood change processes and help explain variation in local housing conditions. Ultimately, public policies that enable business operators to circumscribe or reallocate risk may generate unintended costs for consumers and the public.
Subject to Evaluation: How Parents Assess and Mobilize Information from Social Networks in School Choice.
A rich literature examines how information spreads through social networks to influence life opportunities. However, receiving information does not guarantee its use in decision making. This article analyzes information evaluation as a fundamental component of social network mobilization. The case of school choice, where the value of information may be more uncertain, brings this evaluative dimension to the forefront. Interviews with 55 parents in Boston show how parents selecting schools assess their social network ties as information sources, privileging information from those they perceive to have affinity and authority. These evaluative criteria map onto disparate networks to engender unequal mobilization of this information. The findings illuminate mechanisms sustaining inequality in social network mobilization and reorient scholars to consider processes underlying information use alongside information diffusion to attain a more complete understanding of how network resources are mobilized in action.
Concealment and Constraint: Child Protective Services Fears and Poor Mothers’ Institutional Engagement
With the expansion of state surveillance and enforcement efforts in recent decades, a growing literature examines how those vulnerable to punitive state contact strategize to evade it. This article draws on in-depth interviews with eighty-three low-income mothers to consider whether and how concerns about Child Protective Services (CPS), a widespread presence in poor communities with the power to remove children from their parents, inform poor mothers’ institutional engagement. Mothers recognized CPS reports as a risk in interactions with healthcare, educational, and social service systems legally mandated to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Departing from findings on responses to policing and immigration enforcement, I find that CPS concerns rarely prompted mothers to avoid systems wholesale. Within their system participation, however, mothers engaged in a selective or constrained visibility, concealing their hardships, home life, and parenting behavior from potential reporters. As reporting systems serve as vital sources of support for disadvantaged families, mothers’ practices of information management, while perhaps protecting them from CPS reports, may preclude opportunities for assistance and reinforce a sense of constraint in families’ institutional interactions.
Punishing and toxic neighborhood environments independently predict the intergenerational social mobility of black and white children
Manduca, Robert, and Robert J. Sampson. 2019. “Punishing and toxic neighborhood environments independently predict the intergenerational social mobility of black and white children.” PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (16): 7772-7777. Abstract
We use data on intergenerational social mobility by neighborhood to examine how social and physical environments beyond concentrated poverty predict children’s long-term well-being. First, we examine neighborhoods that are harsh on children’s development: those characterized by high levels of violence, incarceration, and lead exposure. Second, we examine potential supportive or offsetting mechanisms that promote children’s development, such as informal social control, cohesion among neighbors, and organizational participation. Census tract mobility estimates from linked income tax and Census records are merged with surveys and administrative records in Chicago. We find that exposure to neighborhood violence, incarceration, and lead combine to independently predict poor black boys’ later incarceration as adults and lower income rank relative to their parents, and poor black girls’ teenage motherhood. Features of neighborhood social organization matter less, but are selectively important. Results for poor whites also show that toxic environments independently predict lower social mobility, as do features of social organization, to a lesser extent. Overall, our measures contribute a 76% relative increase in explained variance for black male incarceration beyond that of concentrated poverty and other standard characteristics, an 18% increase for black male income rank (70% for whites), and a 17% increase for teenage motherhood of black girls (40% for whites).
The Contribution of National Income Inequality to Regional Economic Divergence
Manduca, Robert. 2019. “The Contribution of National Income Inequality to Regional Economic Divergence.” Social Forces 98 (2): 622-648. Abstract
After more than a century of convergence, the economic fortunes of rich and poor regions of the United States have diverged dramatically over the last 40 years. Roughly a third of the US population now lives in metropolitan areas that are substantially richer or poorer than the nation as a whole, almost three times the proportion that did in 1980. In this paper I use counterfactual simulations based on Census microdata to understand the dynamics of regional divergence. I first show that regional divergence has primarily resulted from the richest people and places pulling away from the rest of the country. I then estimate the relative contributions to regional divergence of two major socioeconomic trends of recent decades: the sorting of people across metro areas by income level and the national rise in income inequality. I show that the national rise in income inequality is sufficient on its own to account for more than half of the observed divergence across regions, while income sorting on its own accounts for less than a quarter. The major driver of regional economic divergence is national-level income dispersion that has exacerbated preexisting spatial inequalities.
Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation
Bell, Alex, Raj Chetty, Xavier Jaravel, Neviana Petkova, and John Van Reenen. 2019. “Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 134 (2): 647–713. Abstract
We characterize the factors that determine who becomes an inventor in the United States, focusing on the role of inventive ability (“nature”) versus environment (“nurture”). Using deidentified data on 1.2 million inventors from patent records linked to tax records, we first show that children’s chances of becoming inventors vary sharply with characteristics at birth, such as their race, gender, and parents’ socioeconomic class. For example, children from high-income (top 1%) families are 10 times as likely to become inventors as those from below-median income families. These gaps persist even among children with similar math test scores in early childhood—which are highly predictive of innovation rates—suggesting that the gaps may be driven by differences in environment rather than abilities to innovate. We directly establish the importance of environment by showing that exposure to innovation during childhood has significant causal effects on children’s propensities to invent. Children whose families move to a high-innovation area when they are young are more likely to become inventors. These exposure effects are technology class and gender specific. Children who grow up in a neighborhood or family with a high innovation rate in a specific technology class are more likely to patent in exactly the same class. Girls are more likely to invent in a particular class if they grow up in an area with more women (but not men) who invent in that class. These gender- and technology class–specific exposure effects are more likely to be driven by narrow mechanisms, such as role-model or network effects, than factors that only affect general human capital accumulation, such as the quality of schools. Consistent with the importance of exposure effects in career selection, women and disadvantaged youth are as underrepresented among high-impact inventors as they are among inventors as a whole. These findings suggest that there are many “lost Einsteins”—individuals who would have had highly impactful inventions had they been exposed to innovation in childhood—especially among women, minorities, and children from low-income families.

Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Pretrial detention

Proposals for improving the U.S. Pretrial System

March 15, 2019

The Hamilton Project | By Will Dobbie (PhD 2013) and Crystal S. Yang (PhD 2013). Will Dobbie is now Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Crystal S. Yang is Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Economics for Inclusive Prosperity

Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP) Launches

February 15, 2019

Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School, announced the launch of a new initiative - Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP) - a network of academic economists dedicated to producing creative policy ideas for an inclusive society and economy. Co-directing the initiative are Dani Rodrik, Suresh Naidu of Columbia University, and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California, Berkeley. Download the (free) EfIP eBook: Economics for Inclusive Prosperity: An Introduction and policy briefs.

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BPEA heartland

Saving the heartland: Place-based policies in 21st century America

March 8, 2018
Brookings Papers on Economic Activity | By Benjamin Austin, Edward Glaeser, and Lawrence Summers. Austin is a PhD candidate in Economics at Harvard. Glaeser is the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard. Lawrence Summers is the Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus at Harvard University.
Tax reform

Macroeconomic effects of the 2017 tax reform

March 8, 2018
Brookings Papers on Economic Activity | By Robert J. Barro and Jason Furman. Barro is Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics at Harvard. Furman is Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. 
Lawrence F. Katz

Imagining a Future of Work That Fosters Mobility for All

February 1, 2018
U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty | Idea paper by Lawrence Katz, Ai-Jen Poo, and Elaine Waxman. Lawrence Katz is Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard and a member of U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty.
Restoring the American Dream: What Would It Take to Dramatically Increase Mobility from Poverty?

Restoring the American Dream: What Would It Take to Dramatically Increase Mobility from Poverty?

January 23, 2018

US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty | The US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty is a collaboration of 24 leading scholars, policy experts, and practitioners tasked with answering one big, bold, and exciting question: What would it take to dramatically increase mobility from poverty? This two-year project was funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Co-authored by David T. Ellwood, Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and Nisha G. Patel, Executive Director of the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, Urban Institute

David J. Deming

The Value of Soft Skills in the Labor Market

January 17, 2018
NBER Reporter | By David J. Deming (PhD '10), Professor at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education. Deming provides an overview of the current state of research on soft skills in the labor market. His own work in this area, "The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market," appears in the November 2017 issue of Quarterly Journal of Economics.
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Can the Financial Benefit of Lobbying be Quantified?

Can the Financial Benefit of Lobbying be Quantified?

January 16, 2018
Washington Center for Equitable Growth | A look at a new paper by Inequality doctoral fellow Brian Libgober, PhD candidate in Government, and Daniel Carpenter, Allie S. Freed Professor of Government, "Lobbying with Lawyers: Financial Market Evidence for Banks' Influence on Rulemaking."
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Does a Criminal Past Predict Worker Performance? Evidence from One of America’s Largest Employers

Does a Criminal Past Predict Worker Performance? Evidence from One of America’s Largest Employers

January 12, 2018
Social Forces | New research by Harvard's Devah Pager and collaborators  Jennifer Hickes Lundquist and Eiko Strader provides one of the first systematic assessments of workplace performance by those with criminal records. Examining military employment records, they find that, overall, the military's screening process can result in successful employment outcomes for those with felony convictions. An important question, they write, is whether the military's 'whole person' review can apply succssfully to the civilian sector. Pager is Professor of Sociology and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard.
An inside view of credit checks in hiring

An inside view of credit checks in hiring

October 14, 2017
Work in Progress | By Barbara Kiviat, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy. Barbara Kiviat summarizes findings from her research, "The Art of Deciding with Data," recently published in Socio-Economic Review.  Work in Progress is the American Sociological Assocation's blog for short-form sociology on the economy, work, and inequality.
Jason Furman - PIIE Macroeconomic Policy Conference

Should Policymakers Care Whether Inequality is Helpful or Harmful for Growth?

October 13, 2017
Peterson Institute for International Economics | Presentation by Jason Furman (Harvard Kennedy School) at PIIE's "Rethinking Macroeconomic Policy Conference," with discussion by Dani Rodrik (Harvard Kennedy School), Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and Justin Wolfers (PhD '01). View the paper, slides, and conference videos at the conference webpage.