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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Police will aid early-childhood campaign in Mattapan

Police will aid early-childhood campaign in Mattapan

April 25, 2017

Boston Globe | Reports on a new Boston Basics campaign, targeted in one city's poorest neighborhoods, to build babies’ cognitive and learning abilities from birth to age 3.

Research shows that 80 percent of brain growth occurs during the first three years of life and that racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic gaps can become apparent by age 2, said Ron Ferguson, faculty director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University, which is helping to launch the campaign.

“By the age of two, those gaps are already there,” Ferguson said at a presentation to more than two dozen officers at the B-3 police precinct in Mattapan on Monday. “And by the time [children] start school those gaps are way behind."

School classroom

The Privilege of School Choice

April 25, 2017

The Atlantic | When given the chance, will wealthy parents ever choose to desegregate schools? Features research by Ann Owens (PhD '12), now Assistant Professor of Sociology and Spatial Sciences at USC, Sean Reardon of Stanford, and Christopher Jencks of Harvard Kennedy School, which "found that segregation between poor and non-poor students in public schools grew more than 40 percent from 1991 to 2012." (AERJ 2016)
View the research

Cracking the Mystery of Labor's Falling Share of GDP

Cracking the Mystery of Labor's Falling Share of GDP

April 24, 2017
Bloomberg View | Cites a recent study by David Autor (MIT), David Dorn (University of Zurich), Lawrence Katz (Harvard), Christina Patterson (MIT), and John Van Reenen (MIT), "Concentrating on the Fall of the Labor Share," which appears in American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings (May 2017).  For a more detailed treatment, see "The Fall of the Labor Share and the Rise of Superstar Firms," released as an NBER Working Paper in May 2017.
View AER paper
View NBER paper
Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen - The New York Times

A New Parchment Declaration of Independence Surfaces. Head-Scratching Ensues.

April 21, 2017
The New York Times | A remarkable discoverty by Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard. "Its subtle details, the scholars argue, illuminate an enduring puzzle at the heart of American politics: Was the country founded by a unitary national people, or by a collection of states? 'That is really the key riddle of the American system,' said Danielle Allen, a professor of government at Harvard, who discovered the document with a colleague, Emily Sneff."
Ruth Lopez Turley

Rice researchers are helping close the socio-economic gaps in achievement and attainment

April 18, 2017
Rice University | Read about the work of Rice University sociology professor Ruth López Turley (PhD '01), who leads the university's Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC), a research-practice partnership between Rice and the Houston Independent School District that aims to close socioeconomic achievement gaps. HERC has been awarded a $10.7 million grant to expand its work to school districts in the Greater Houston region.
Boston Basics

Can Love Close the Achievement Gap?

April 17, 2017

The Atlantic | Feature on Boston Basics, a series of evidence-based parenting principles designed for children under the age of 3, created by Ronald Ferguson of Harvard Kennedy School and director of Harvard University's Achievement Gap Initiative.

Democracy: A Case Study

Democracy on the Brink: Protecting the Republic in Trump's America

April 17, 2017

Foreign Affairs | Review essay by political scientist Suzanne Mettler of Cornell University examines David A. Moss's new book, Democracy: A Case Study (Harvard University Press, 2017), and Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels, Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government (Princeton University Press, 2016).

Donald Trump

A riveting relationship: Donald Trump woos the unions

April 8, 2017

The Economist | Cites research by Alex Hertel Fernandez (PhD '16), Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University:

Forthcoming research by Alexander Hertel-Fernandez of Columbia University suggests that limits on collective bargaining, which are mainly aimed at public-sector unions, made government workers in Indiana and Wisconsin less likely to take part in political campaigns, or to vote. In a study of 111 border counties in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, he also calculates that the right-to-work laws they introduced between 2012 and 2016 could account for two percentage points of Mrs Clinton’s underperformance in those states compared with Barack Obama in 2012. Given that Mr Trump’s victory in the electoral college was based on a combined total of 70,000 votes across Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, that could have cost her the presidency.

No, Donald Trump's triumph is not a setback for the Koch brothers

No, Donald Trump's triumph is not a setback for the Koch brothers

April 7, 2017

Minnesota Post | Coverage of Theda Skocpol's talk, "Battle  of the Mega-Donors: Koch Network vs. Democracy Alliance," delivered in the Humphrey Forum at the University of Minnesota. Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard.

Bernie Sanders

Despair is Not an Option: Bernie Sanders in Conversation

April 4, 2017

Boston Review | In the latest episode of BR: A Political and Literary Podcast, Bernie Sanders talks to Archon Fung, Boston Review board member and Professor and Academic Dean at the Harvard Kennedy School, about his new book, 'Our Revolution,' the future of progressive politics, and what must be done to resist the Trump regime. Includes an edited transcript of their conversation.

Tax policy Alvin Cheng

These 4 questions could change your views on tax fairness

March 29, 2017

Vox | A Tax Policy Center quiz published earlier this year in Vox was actually an experiment by Vanessa Williamson (Ph.D. '15) designed to test how pliable people's attitudes on taxes on are when given more information. Understanding how political knowledge correlates with political attitudes "is a really important question for democratic accountability," said Williamson, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

Read more about Williamson's study in her TPC research brief, "What Makes Taxes Seem Fair." The Tax Policy Center is a joint venture between the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.
View the research

Seattle

What Works Cities: Tackling Homelessness in Seattle [video]

March 28, 2017

What Works Cities | Seattle teamed up with What Works Cities' partner the Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School to strengthen its approach to tackling homelessness. Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy, directs the Government Performance Lab. To learn more, read the GPL brief," Shaking up the Routine: How Seattle is Implementing Results-Driven Contracting Practices to Improve Outcomes for People Experiencing Homelessness."
Read the brief

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

Mario Luis Small: Spencer Lecture 2019

How can social science improve the public discourse in a polarized society?

April 6, 2019

2019 Spencer Lecture | Widespread deficits in qualitative literacy--the ability to use and interpret data collected from interviews, observations, and similar methods--has contributed to a polarized public discourse, argued Mario Small, Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, in his 2019 Spencer Lecture at the AERA Annual Meeting in Toronto.

While there have been considerable gains in quantitative literacy in recent years, Small argued, there has been no commensurate improvement in the public's qualitative literacy. As a result, both producers and consumers of news struggle to identify or produce empirically sound  journalism and commentary. "This paucity is part of the reason that the election of Trump caught many unaware, that the rise of white supremacist movements seemed to many to come out of nowhere, and that our debates about everything from conditions in poor neighborhoods to the motivations of working class people have been stagnant," Small asserted. 

Small maintained that the “habits of thought” practiced by skilled qualitative researchers can provide a path forward, and he outlined three indicators that researchers, journalists, pundits, and all those who strive to inform and influence the public should meet.

View video, slides, written remarks ▶

... Read more about How can social science improve the public discourse in a polarized society?

Jal Mehta

High School Doesn't Have to Be Boring

March 30, 2019

The New York Times | By Jal Mehta PhD 2006 and Sarah Fine. Debate, drama and other extracurriculars provide the excitement many classrooms lack. And they can help overhaul the system, Mehta and Fine argue. The authors spent six years traveling the country studying high schools for their book, In Search of Deeper Learning, just published by Harvard University Press. Mehta is Associate Professor of Education at Harvard. Fine runs a teacher preparation program at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education in San Diego.

A letter to the class of 2023

A letter to the class of 2023

March 29, 2019

New York Daily News | By Natasha Warikoo PhD 2005. Warikoo is Associate Professor of Education at Harvard and the author of The Diversity Bargain.

Robert Manduca

To Fix Regional Inequality, Target the One Percent

March 25, 2019

Washington Monthly | By Robert Manduca, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy. Because some places are doing well while others are not, we tend to assume that disparities are largely a local problem, writes Robert Manduca. But if national income inequality in the US is largely responsible for the growing economic dispartity between its regions, as Manduca's research suggests, fixing struggling regions will require a different set of policies.

... View the research ▶

... Read more about To Fix Regional Inequality, Target the One Percent

Boston Review

Economics After Neoliberalism

February 15, 2019

Boston Review | By Suresh Naidu (Columbia University), Dani Rodrik (Harvard Kennedy School), and Gabriel Zucman (University of California Berkeley). Contemporary economics is finally breaking free from its market fetishism, offering plenty of tools we can use to make society more inclusive, the authors argue.

The Philanthropy Con

The Philanthropy Con

January 10, 2019

Dissent | By Vanessa Williamson PhD 2015, Senior Fellow in Governance Studies, Brookings Institution. In a democracy, taxes are better than charity, argues Williamson.

Why elite colleges should use a lottery to admit students

Why elite colleges should use a lottery to admit students

January 8, 2019

The Conversation | By Natasha Warikoo PhD 2005, Associate Professor of Education, Harvard University. Reprinted in Times Higher Education, Quartz, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. Selected for Five Best Ideas of the Day by The Aspen Institute.

Time Traveler: Claudia Goldin

Time Traveler: Claudia Goldin

December 14, 2018
IMF Finance and Development | People in Economics interview with Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard. By Peter J. Walker.
I voted sticker

Why letting ex-felons vote probably won’t swing Florida

November 2, 2018

Vox | By Marc Meredith and Michael Morse. We analyzed ex-felons with voting rights. Their party affiliation is more mixed than you might think. Michael Morse is a JD candidate at Yale Law School and a PhD candidate in Government at Harvard. Marc Meredith is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Andrew Leigh

The End of the Australian Miracle?

October 9, 2018

The New York Times | By Andrew Leigh (PhD 2004). The country needs to find ways to share prosperity with workers, writes Andrew Leigh, a Labor Party member of the Australian Parliament.

Protesters march in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014 after the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

What happens to police departments that collect more fines? They solve fewer crimes.

September 24, 2018

Washington Post | By Rebecca Goldstein, Michael Sances, and Hye Young You PhD 2014. Based on the authors' research, "Exploitative Revenues, Law Enforcement, and the Quality of Government Service," forthcoming in Urban Affairs Review.

Rebecca Goldstein is a PhD candidate in Government and a Malcolm Hewitt Wiener PhD Scholar in Poverty and Justice. Hye Young You received her PhD in Political Economy and Government from Harvard and is now Assistant Professor in the Wilf Family Department of Politics at New York University.

...
Read more about What happens to police departments that collect more fines? They solve fewer crimes.
JAMA Pediatrics

A Social Justice Framework for Lead Policy

August 27, 2018

JAMA Pediatrics | By Jessica Wolpaw Reyes PhD '02, Professor of Economics, Amherst College. How, given scarce resources, should society best address the threats that lead poses?

Anthony Abraham Jack

It's Hard to Be Hungry on Spring Break

March 17, 2018

The New York Times | By Anthony Abraham Jack, PhD '16. It is one thing to extend coveted invitations to poor students in recruiting them, writes Jack. it's another to really prepare for their arrival. Jack is a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Putting a Face to Anti-Trump Voters

Putting a Face to Anti-Trump Voters

March 10, 2018
NPR Weekend Edition | Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol discusses what she has found in talking to members of the resistance movemet in eight counties in North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

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

The Future of Felon Disenfranchisement Reform: Evidence from the Campaign to Restore Voting Rights in Florida
This Article offers an empirical account of felon disenfranchisement and legal financial obligations in the era of mass incarceration. It focuses on a 2018 ballot initiative, known as Amendment 4, which sought to end lifetime disenfranchisement in Florida. At the time, the Republican-controlled state accounted for more than a quarter of the six million citizens disenfranchised across the United States. Marshaling hundreds of public information requests, the Article analyzes the petitions collected to qualify the initiative for the ballot, the ballots cast for its remarkable bipartisan victory, the voter registration records of people whose voting rights were restored, and the outstanding fines and fees that still prevent most people with felony convictions from voting. Part I offers a history of the campaign and the tradeoffs it made to win Republican support, including its decisions to deemphasize race and limit the scope of reform. Part II validates the campaign’s effort to depoliticize disenfranchisement by demonstrating the limited partisan consequences of restoring the right to vote to people with felony convictions. Finally, Part III shows how unpaid fines and fees undermined the campaign’s attempt to dismantle disenfranchisement. Despite Amendment 4, Florida continues to disenfranchise more citizens than any other state. 
Using Interviews to Understand Why: Challenges and Strategies in the Study of Motivated Action
Small, Mario L., and Jenna M. Cook. Forthcoming. “Using Interviews to Understand Why: Challenges and Strategies in the Study of Motivated Action.” Sociological Methods & Research. Abstract

This article examines an important and thorny problem in interview research: How to assess whether what people say motivated their actions actually did so? We ask three questions: What specific challenges are at play? How have researchers addressed them? And how should those strategies be evaluated? We argue that such research faces at least five challenges—deceptionrecall errorreasonableness biasintentionality bias, and single-motive bias—that more than a dozen strategies have been deployed to address them; that the strategies have been externalinternal, or interactional in nature; and that each class of strategies demands distinct evaluation criteria. Researchers will likely fail to uncover motivation if they ignore the possibility of each challenge, conflate one challenge with another, or deploy strategies unmatched to the challenge at hand. Our work helps systematize the evaluation of interview-based studies of motivated action and strengthen the scientific foundations of in-depth interview research.

 

Public Money Talks Too: How Public Campaign Financing Degrades Representation
Kilborn, Mitchell, and Arjun Vishwanath. Forthcoming. “Public Money Talks Too: How Public Campaign Financing Degrades Representation.” American Journal of Political Science. Abstract
Does public campaign financing improve representation by reducing politicians’ re-liance on wealthy donors as advocates claim, or does it worsen representation by ex-panding the candidate marketplace to give extreme and non-representative candidatesan electoral boost? We conduct a novel analysis of public financing programs in Ari-zona, Connecticut, and Maine to causally identify the effect of a legislator’s fundingstatus on how closely she represents constituent preferences. Using multiple identifica-tion strategies, we show that candidates who exclusively use public campaign financingare more extreme and less representative of their districts than non-publicly financedcandidates. Our findings add new evidence to the electoral reform debate by demon-strating how replacing private campaign donations with public financing can actuallydamage substantive representation. We also advance the scholarship on how institu-tions affect substantive representation and candidate positioning as they respond tonew campaign financing structures.
The Liquidity Sensitivity of Healthcare Consumption: Evidence from Social Security Payments
Gross, Tal, Timothy J. Layton, and Daniel Prinz. Forthcoming. “The Liquidity Sensitivity of Healthcare Consumption: Evidence from Social Security Payments.” American Economic Review: Insights. Abstract
Insurance is typically viewed as a mechanism for transferring resources from good to bad states. Insurance, however, may also transfer resources from high-liquidity periods to low-liquidity periods. We test for this type of transfer from health insurance by studying the distribution of Social Security checks among Medicare recipients. When Social Security checks are distributed, prescription fills increase by 6–12 percent among recipients who pay small copayments. We find no such pattern among recipients who face no copayments. The results demonstrate that more-complete insurance allows recipients to consume healthcare when they need it rather than only when they have cash.
Life expectancy inequalities in Hungary over 25 years: The role of avoidable deaths
Bíró, Anikó, Tamás Hajdu, Gábor Kertesi, and Dániel Prinz. Forthcoming. “Life expectancy inequalities in Hungary over 25 years: The role of avoidable deaths.” Population Studies. Abstract
Using mortality registers and administrative data on income and population, we develop new evidence on the magnitude of life expectancy inequality in Hungary and the scope for health policy in mitigating this. We document considerable inequalities in life expectancy at age 45 across settlement-level income groups, and show that these inequalities have increased between 1991–96 and 2011–16 for both men and women. We show that avoidable deaths play a large role in life expectancy inequality. Income-related inequalities in health behaviours, access to care, and healthcare use are all closely linked to the inequality in life expectancy.
Hoping for the Worst? A Paradoxical Preference for Bad News
Barasz, Kate, and Serena F. Hagerty. Forthcoming. “Hoping for the Worst? A Paradoxical Preference for Bad News.” Journal of Consumer Research. Abstract
Nine studies investigate when and why people may paradoxically prefer bad news—for example, hoping for an objectively worse injury or a higher-risk diagnosis over explicitly better alternatives. Using a combination of field surveys and randomized experiments, the research demonstrates that people may hope for relatively worse (vs. better) news in an effort to preemptively avoid subjectively difficult decisions (studies 1 and 2). This is because when worse news avoids a choice (study 3A)—for example, by “forcing one’s hand” or creating one dominant option that circumvents a fraught decision (study 3B)—it can relieve the decision-maker’s experience of personal responsibility (study 3C). However, because not all decisions warrant avoidance, not all decisions will elicit a preference for worse news; fewer people hope for worse news when facing subjectively easier (vs. harder) choices (studies 4A and B). Finally, this preference for worse news is not without consequence and may create perverse incentives for decision-makers, such as the tendency to forgo opportunities for improvement (studies 5A and B). The work contributes to the literature on decision avoidance and elucidates another strategy people use to circumvent difficult decisions: a propensity to hope for the worst.
Redistribution under general decision rules
Parameswaran, Girl, and Hunter Rendleman. Forthcoming. “Redistribution under general decision rules.” Journal of Public Economic Theory. Abstract

We study the political economy of redistribution over a broad class of decision rules. Since the core is generically non-unique, we suggest a simple and elegant procedure to select a robust equilibrium. Our selected policy depends on the full income profile, and in particular, on the preferences of two decisive voters. The effect of increasing inequality on redistribution depends on the decision rule and the shape of the income distribution; redistribution will increase if both decisive voters are 'relatively poor', and decrease if at least one is sufficiently 'rich'. Additionally, redistribution decreases as the polity adopts increasingly stringent super-majority rules.

Immigration Policies and Access to the Justice System: The Effect of Enforcement Escalations on Undocumented Immigrants and Their Communities

Does intensifying immigrationenforcement lead to under-reporting of crime among undocumented immigrants and their communities? We empirically test the claims of activists and legal advocates that the escalation of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities in 2017 negatively impacted the willingness of undocumented immigrants and Hispanic communities to report crime. We hypothesize that ICE cooperation with local law enforcement, in particular, discourages undocumented immigrants and their Hispanic community members from reporting crime. Using a difference-in-difference approach and FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data at the county level, we find that total reported crime fell from 2016 to 2017 in counties with higher shares of Hispanic individuals and in counties where local law enforcement had more cooperation with ICE. Using the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), we show that these declines in the measured crime rate are driven by decreased crime reporting by Hispanic communities rather than by decreased crime commission or victimization. Finally, we replicate these results in a second case study by leveraging the staggered roll-out of the 2008–2014 Secure Communities program across US counties. Taken together, our findings add to a growing body of literature demonstrating how immigration enforcement reduces vulnerable populations’ access to state services, including the criminal justice system.

Childhood exposure to polluted neighborhood environments and intergenerational income mobility, teenage birth, and incarceration in the USA

This paper joins a growing body of research linking measures of the physical environment to population well-being, with a focus on neighborhood toxins. Extending a national database on the social mobility of American children growing up in over 70,000 Census tracts, we explore the association between childhood exposure to two forms of pollutants and three socioeconomic outcomes for African Americans, whites, and Latinos. We find that children who grew up in Census tracts with higher levels of traffic-related air pollution and housing-derived lead risk experienced lower adult incomes on average relative to their parents and higher likelihoods of being incarcerated as an adult or having children as teenagers, after controlling for standard socio-demographic characteristics and metropolitan-level effects. The spatial distribution of these two pollutants is surprisingly different, however, with air pollution varying mostly between regions of the country while lead risk varies dramatically between neighborhoods within the same city. Yet, each pollutant predicts the three aspects of social mobility similarly, and we show important disparities in exposure by race. Differential exposure to environmental toxins in childhood may be a contributor to racial inequality in socioeconomic outcomes among adults.

 

The racial burden of voter list maintenance errors: Evidence from Wisconsin’s supplemental movers poll books
Huber, Gregory A., Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, and Katie Steele. 2021. “The racial burden of voter list maintenance errors: Evidence from Wisconsin’s supplemental movers poll books.” Science Advances 7 (7). Abstract
Administrative records are increasingly used to identify registered voters who may have moved, with potential movers then sent postcards asking them to confirm their address of registration. It is important to understand how often these registrants did not move, and how often such an error is not corrected by the postcard confirmation process, because uncorrected errors make it more difficult for a registrant to subsequently vote. While federal privacy protections generally prevent researchers from observing the data necessary to estimate these quantities, we are able to study this process in Wisconsin because special poll books, available via public records requests, listed those registrants who were identified as potential movers and did not respond to a subsequent postcard. At least 4% of these registrants cast a ballot at their address of registration, with minority registrants twice as likely as white registrants to do so.
Who Votes Without Identification? Using Individual-Level Administrative Data to Measure the Burden of Strict Voter Identification Laws
Henninger, Phoebe, Marc Meredith, and Michael Morse. 2021. “Who Votes Without Identification? Using Individual-Level Administrative Data to Measure the Burden of Strict Voter Identification Laws.” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 18: 256-286. Abstract
Legal disputes over laws that require certain forms of identification (ID) to vote mostly focus on the burden placed on people who do not possess ID. We contend that this singular focus ignores the burden imposed on people who do possess ID, but nonetheless cannot access it when voting. To measure this alternative conception of burden, we focus on Michigan, which allows anyone who lacks access to ID to vote after signing an affidavit. A sample of affidavits filed in the 2016 presidential election from a random set of precincts reveals that about 0.45 percent of voters lacked access to ID. Consistent with our broader conception of the burden of voter ID laws, nearly all voters who filed an affidavit were previously issued a still-active state ID. Importantly, we show minority voters were about five times more likely to lack access to ID than white voters. We also present survey evidence suggesting that people who live in states where voters are asked to show ID, as in Michigan, are more likely to incorrectly believe that access to ID is required to vote than are people who live in states that do not ask voters to show ID.
The spatial structure of US metropolitan employment: New insights from administrative data
Manduca, Robert. 2021. “The spatial structure of US metropolitan employment: New insights from administrative data.” Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science 48 (5): 1357-1372. Abstract

Urban researchers have long debated the extent to which metropolitan employment is monocentric, polycentric, or diffuse. In this paper I use high-resolution data based on unemployment insurance records to show that employment in US metropolitan areas is not centralized but is spatially concentrated. Unlike residents, who form a continuous surface covering most parts of each metropolitan area, jobs have a bimodal spatial distribution, with most blocks containing no jobs whatsoever and a small number having extremely high employment densities. Across the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas, about 75% of jobs are located on the 6.5% of built land in Census blocks with at least twice as many jobs as people. These relative proportions are extremely consistent across cities, even though they vary greatly in the physical density at which they are constructed. Motivated by these empirical regularities, I introduce an algorithm to identify contiguous business districts and classify them into four major types. Based solely on the relative densities of employment and population, this algorithm is both simpler to implement and more flexible than current approaches, requiring no metro-specific tuning parameters and no assumptions about urban spatial layout.

Which Data Fairly Differentiate? American Views on the Use of Personal Data in Two Market Settings
Corporations increasingly use personal data to offer individuals different products and prices. I present first-of-its-kind evidence about how U.S. consumers assess the fairness of companies using personal information in this way. Drawing on a nationally representative survey that asks respondents to rate how fair or unfair it is for car insurers and lenders to use various sorts of information—from credit scores to web browser history to residential moves—I find that everyday Americans make strong moral distinctions among types of data, even when they are told data predict consumer behavior (insurance claims and loan defaults, respectively). Open-ended responses show that people adjudicate fairness by drawing on shared understandings of whether data are logically related to the predicted outcome and whether the categories companies use conflate morally distinct individuals. These findings demonstrate how dynamics long studied by economic sociologists manifest in legitimating a new and important mode of market allocation.
Physical Health Symptoms and Hurricane Katrina: Individual Trajectories of Development and Recovery More Than a Decade After the Storm
Zacher, Meghan, Ethan J. Raker, Mariana C. Arcaya, Sarah R. Lowe, Jean Rhodes, and Mary C. Waters. 2021. “Physical Health Symptoms and Hurricane Katrina: Individual Trajectories of Development and Recovery More Than a Decade After the Storm.” American Journal of Public Health 111: 127–135. Abstract

Objectives. To examine how physical health symptoms developed and resolved in response to Hurricane Katrina.

Methods. We used data from a 2003 to 2018 study of young, low-income mothers who were living in New Orleans, Louisiana, when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 (n = 276). We fit logistic regressions to model the odds of first reporting or “developing” headaches or migraines, back problems, and digestive problems, and of experiencing remission or “recovery” from previously reported symptoms, across surveys.

Results. The prevalence of each symptom increased after Hurricane Katrina, but the odds of developing symptoms shortly before versus after the storm were comparable. The number of traumatic experiences endured during Hurricane Katrina increased the odds of developing back and digestive problems just after the hurricane. Headaches or migraines and back problems that developed shortly after Hurricane Katrina were more likely to resolve than those that developed just before the storm.

Conclusions. While traumatic experiences endured in disasters such as Hurricane Katrina appear to prompt the development of new physical symptoms, disaster-induced symptoms may be less likely to persist or become chronic than those emerging for other reasons.

 

Loyalists and Switchers: Characterizing Voters’ Responses to Donald Trump’s Campaign and Presidency
Dost, Meredith, Ryan Enos, and Jennifer Hochschild. 2021. “Loyalists and Switchers: Characterizing Voters’ Responses to Donald Trump’s Campaign and Presidency.” Political Science Quarterly 136 (1): 81-103. Abstract

Meredith Dost, Ryan Enos, and Jennifer Hochschild look at the crucial segment of American voters who have changed their views about Donald Trump since the 2016 presidential election. Using two original surveys, they find that attitudes on race and immigration, populism and authoritarianism, and the nation’s and their own economic well-being are all associated with loyalty to and switching from this divisive president.

 

Locked Out of College: When Admissions Bureaucrats Do and Do Not Discriminate
Brown, Jacob R., and Hanno Hilbig. 2021. “Locked Out of College: When Admissions Bureaucrats Do and Do Not Discriminate.” British Journal of Political Science, 1-11. Abstract

How does an individual's criminal record shape interactions with the state and society? This article presents evidence from a nationwide field experiment in the United States, which shows that prospective applicants with criminal records are about 5 percentage points less likely to receive information from college admission offices. However, this bias does not extend to race: there is no difference in response rates to Black and White applicants. The authors further show that bias is all but absent in public bureaucracies, as discrimination against formerly incarcerated applicants is driven by private schools. Examining why bias is stronger for private colleges, the study demonstrates that the private–public difference persists even after accounting for college selectivity, socio-economic composition and school finances. Moving beyond the measurement of bias, an intervention designed to reduce discrimination is evaluated: whether an email from an advocate mitigates bias associated with a criminal record. No evidence is found that advocate endorsements decrease bureaucratic bias.

 

The measurement of partisan sorting for 180 million voters
Brown, Jacob R., and Ryan D. Enos. 2021. “The measurement of partisan sorting for 180 million voters.” Nature Human Behavior. Abstract

Segregation across social groups is an enduring feature of nearly all human societies and is associated with numerous social maladies. In many countries, reports of growing geographic political polarization raise concerns about the stability of democratic governance. Here, using advances in spatial data computation, we measure individual partisan segregation by calculating the local residential segregation of every registered voter in the United States, creating a spatially weighted measure for more than 180 million individuals. With these data, we present evidence of extensive partisan segregation in the country. A large proportion of voters live with virtually no exposure to voters from the other party in their residential environment. Such high levels of partisan isolation can be found across a range of places and densities and are distinct from racial and ethnic segregation. Moreover, Democrats and Republicans living in the same city, or even the same neighbourhood, are segregated by party.

 

Childhood cross-ethnic exposure predicts political behavior seven decades later: Evidence from linked administrative data
Brown, Jacob R., Ryan D. Enos, James Feigenbaum, and Soumyajit Mazumder. 2021. “Childhood cross-ethnic exposure predicts political behavior seven decades later: Evidence from linked administrative data.” Science Advances 7 (24). Abstract
Does contact across social groups influence sociopolitical behavior? This question is among the most studied in the social sciences with deep implications for the harmony of diverse societies. Yet, despite a voluminous body of scholarship, evidence around this question is limited to cross-sectional surveys that only measure short-term consequences of contact or to panel surveys with small samples covering short time periods. Using advances in machine learning that enable large-scale linkages across datasets, we examine the long-term determinants of sociopolitical behavior through an unprecedented individual-level analysis linking contemporary political records to the 1940 U.S. Census. These linked data allow us to measure the exact residential context of nearly every person in the United States in 1940 and, for men, connect this with the political behavior of those still alive over 70 years later. We find that, among white Americans, early-life exposure to black neighbors predicts Democratic partisanship over 70 years later.
Getting Eyes in the Home: Child Protective Services Investigations and State Surveillance of Family Life

Each year, U.S. child protection authorities investigate millions of families, disproportionately poor families and families of color. These investigations involve multiple home visits to collect information across numerous personal domains. How does the state gain such widespread entrée into the intimate, domestic lives of marginalized families? Predominant theories of surveillance offer little insight into this process and its implications. Analyzing observations of child maltreatment investigations in Connecticut and interviews with professionals reporting maltreatment, state investigators, and investigated mothers, this article argues that coupling assistance with coercive authority—a hallmark of contemporary poverty governance—generates an expansive surveillance of U.S. families by attracting referrals from adjacent systems. Educational, medical, and other professionals invite investigations of families far beyond those ultimately deemed maltreating, with the hope that child protection authorities’ dual therapeutic and coercive capacities can rehabilitate families, especially marginalized families. Yet even when investigations close, this arrangement, in which service systems channel families to an entity with coercive power, fosters apprehension among families and thwarts their institutional engagement. These findings demonstrate how, in an era of welfare retrenchment, rehabilitative poverty governance renders marginalized populations hyper-visible to the state in ways that may reinforce inequality and marginality.

 

Picking Prosecutors
Hessick, Carissa Byrne, and Michael Morse. 2020. “Picking Prosecutors.” Iowa Law Review 105 (4): 1537-1590. Abstract
The conventional academic wisdom is that elections for local prosecutor are little more than empty exercises. Using the results of a new, national survey of local prosecutor elections––the first of its kind––this Article offers a more complete account of the legal and empirical landscape. It confirms that incumbent prosecutors rarely face challengers and almost always win. But it moves beyond extant work to consider the nature of local political conflict, including how often local prosecutors face a contested election or any degree of competition. It also demonstrates a significant difference in the degree of incumbent entrenchment based on time in office. Most importantly, it reveals a stark divide between rural and urban prosecution. Urban areas are more likely to hold a contested election than rural areas. Rural areas, in which very few lawyers live, rarely hold contested elections and sometimes are not able to field even a single candidate for a prosecutor election. The results suggest that the nascent movement to use prosecutor elections as a source of criminal justice reform may have success, at least in the short term. But elections are, as of now, not a likely source of reform in rural areas—the very areas where incarceration rates continue to rise.
One Person, One Vote: Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections
Goel, Sharad, Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, David Rothschild, and Houshmand Shirani-Mehr. 2020. “One Person, One Vote: Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections.” American Political Science Review 114 (2): 456–469. Abstract
Beliefs about the incidence of voter fraud inform how people view the trade-off between electoral integrity and voter accessibility. To better inform such beliefs about the rate of double voting, we develop and apply a method to estimate how many people voted twice in the 2012 presidential election. We estimate that about one in 4,000 voters cast two ballots, although an audit suggests that the true rate may be lower due to small errors in electronic vote records. We corroborate our estimates and extend our analysis using data from a subset of states that share social security numbers, making it easier to quantify who may have voted twice. For this subset of states, we find that one suggested strategy to reduce double voting—removing the registration with an earlier registration date when two share the same name and birthdate—could impede approximately 300 legitimate votes for each double vote prevented.
How Do Low-Income People Form Survival Networks? Routine Organizations as Brokers
Small, Mario L., and Leah E. Gose. 2020. “How Do Low-Income People Form Survival Networks? Routine Organizations as Brokers.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 689 (1): 89-109. Abstract
While supportive social ties help to buffer against the consequences of poverty, few researchers have examined how people form such ties. New ties are often formed in routine organizations such as businesses, churches, and childcare centers, which, beyond being places to work, shop, or receive services, are institutionally governed spaces of social interaction. Based on the notion of organizational brokerage, we introduce a perspective that specifies when routine organizations contribute to tie formation and use it to reexamine data from existing qualitative studies of such organizations among the poor. We argue that successful brokerage will depend on the degree to which an organization’s institutional norms render interaction among participants frequent, long-lasting, focused on others, and centered on joint tasks; and that the ensuing networks may differ from other supportive ties in the sense of belonging they may cultivate, the form of generalized exchange they may engender, and the organizational connections they may create.
Mitigating Health Disparities After Natural Disasters: Lessons From The RISK Project
Raker, Ethan J., Mariana C. Arcaya, Sarah R. Lowe, Meghan Zacher, Jean Rhodes, and Mary C. Waters. 2020. “Mitigating Health Disparities After Natural Disasters: Lessons From The RISK Project.” Health Affairs 39 (12): 2128-2135 . Abstract

Climate change exacerbates the severity of natural disasters, which disproportionately affect vulnerable populations. Mitigating disasters’ health consequences is critical to promoting health equity, but few studies have isolated the short- and long-term effects of disasters on vulnerable groups. We filled this gap by conducting a fifteen-year (2003–2018) prospective study of low-income, predominantly Black parents who experienced Hurricane Katrina: the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina (RISK) Project. Here we describe this project and synthesize lessons from work that has resulted from it. Our findings can guide policy makers, service providers, and health officials in disaster planning and response. We synthesize them into an organizational schema of five priorities: Primary efforts should be aimed at preventing exposure to trauma through investments in climate resilience and by eliminating impediments to evacuation, health care policies should promote uninterrupted and expanded access to care, social services should integrate and strive to reduce the administrative burden on survivors, programs should aid survivors in forging or strengthening connections to their communities, and policy makers should fund targeted long-term services for highly affected survivors.

 

A Life-Course Model of Trauma Exposure and Mental Health Among Low-Income Survivors of Hurricane Katrina
Lowe, Sarah R., Ethan J. Raker, Mariana C. Arcaya, Meghan L. Zacher, Mary C. Waters, and Jean E. Rhodes. 2020. “A Life-Course Model of Trauma Exposure and Mental Health Among Low-Income Survivors of Hurricane Katrina.” Journal of Traumatic Stress 33: 950-961. Abstract
Prior research has provided robust evidence that exposure to potentially traumatic events (PTEs) during a disaster is predictive of adverse postdisaster mental health outcomes, including posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and nonspecific psychological distress (PD). However, few studies have explored the role of exposure to other PTEs over the life-course in shaping postdisaster mental health. Based on the broader literature on trauma exposure and mental health, we hypothesized a path analytic model linking predisaster PTEs to long-term postdisaster PTSS and PD via predisaster PD, short-term postdisaster symptoms, and disaster-related and postdisaster PTEs. We tested this model using data from the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina study, a longitudinal study of low-income, primarily non-Hispanic Black mothers exposed to Hurricane Katrina and assessed before the disaster and at time points 1, 4, and 12 years thereafter. The models evidenced a good fit with the data, RMSEA < .01–.04, CFIs > .99. In addition, 44.1%–67.4% of the effect of predisaster PTEs on long-term postdisaster symptoms was indirect. Descriptive differences were observed across models that included PTSS versus PD, as well as models that included all pre- and postdisaster PTEs versus only those that involved assaultive violence. The results suggest the importance of incorporating disaster preparedness in clinical work with trauma survivors and the value in attending to other lifetime PTEs when working in postdisaster contexts.
Lessons from Hurricane Katrina for predicting the indirect health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic
Raker, Ethan J., Meghan Zacher, and Sarah R. Lowe. 2020. “Lessons from Hurricane Katrina for predicting the indirect health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117 (23): 12595-12597. Abstract

Beyond their immediate effects on mortality, disasters have widespread, indirect impacts on mental and physical well-being by exposing survivors to stress and potential trauma. Identifying the disaster-related stressors that predict health adversity will help officials prepare for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Using data from a prospective study of young, low-income mothers who survived Hurricane Katrina, we find that bereavement, fearing for loved ones’ well-being, and lacking access to medical care and medications predict adverse mental and physical health 1 y postdisaster, and some effects persist 12 y later. Adjusting for preexisting health and socioeconomic conditions attenuates, but does not eliminate, these associations. The findings, while drawn from a demographically unique sample, suggest that, to mitigate the indirect effects of COVID-19, lapses in medical care and medication use must be minimized, and public health resources should be directed to those with preexisting medical conditions, their social networks, and the bereaved.

 

De-gendered Processes, Gendered Outcomes: How Egalitarian Couples Make Sense of Non-egalitarian Household Practices
Despite widespread support for gender-egalitarianism, men’s and women’s household labor contributions remain strikingly unequal. This article extends prior research on barriers to equality by closely examining how couples negotiate contradictions between their egalitarian ideals and admittedly non-egalitarian practices. Data from 64 in-depth interviews with members of 32 different-sex, college-educated couples show that respondents distinguish between labor allocation processes and outcomes. When they understand the processes as gender-neutral, they can write off gendered outcomes as the incidental result of necessary compromises made among competing values. Respondents “de-gender” their allocation process, or decouple it from gender ideology and gendered social forces, by narrowing their temporal horizon to the present moment and deploying an adaptable understanding of constraint that obscures alternative paths. This de-gendering helps prevent spousal conflict, but it may also facilitate behavioral stasis by directing attention away from the inequalities that continue to shape domestic life.
The Declining Worker Power Hypothesis
Stansbury, Anna, and Lawrence H. Summers. 2020. “The Declining Worker Power Hypothesis.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity. Abstract

Rising profitability and market valuations of U.S. businesses, sluggish wage growth and a declining labor share of income, and reduced unemployment and inflation have defined the macroeconomic environment of the last generation. This paper offers a unified explanation for these phenomena based on reduced worker power. Using individual, industry, and state-level data, we demonstrate that measures of reduced worker power are associated with lower wage levels, higher profit shares, and reductions in measures of the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment (NAIRU). We argue that the declining worker power hypothesis is more compelling as an explanation for observed changes than increases in firms’ market power, both because it can simultaneously explain a falling labor share and a reduced NAIRU and because it is more directly supported by the data. 

 

Disentangling policy effects using proxy data: Which shutdown policies affected unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We use high-frequency Google search data, combined with data on the announcement dates of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) during the COVID-19 pandemic in U.S. states, to disentangle the short-run direct impacts of multiple different state-level NPIs in an event study framework. Exploiting differential timing in the announcements of restaurant and bar limitations, non-essential business closures, stay-at-home orders, large-gatherings bans, school closures, and emergency declarations, we leverage the high-frequency search data to separately identify the effects of multiple NPIs that were introduced around the same time. We then describe a set of assumptions under which proxy outcomes can be used to estimate a causal parameter of interest when data on the outcome of interest are limited. Using this method, we quantify the share of overall growth in unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic that was directly due to each of these state-level NPIs. We find that between March 14 and 28, restaurant and bar limitations and non-essential business closures can explain 6.0% and 6.4% of UI claims respectively, while the other NPIs did not directly increase own-state UI claims. This suggests that most of the short-run increase in UI claims during the pandemic was likely due to other factors, including declines in consumer demand, local policies, and policies implemented by private firms and institutions.
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Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Harvard Business School Research Brief

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

August 30, 2020

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

Our Common Purpose

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

June 11, 2020

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

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Economics After Neoliberalism: Introducing the EfIP Project

Economics After Neoliberalism: Introducing the EfIP Project

January 23, 2020

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

Alix S. Winter

Is Lead Exposure a Form of Housing Inequality?

January 2, 2020

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

Michael Luca

2019 in Research Highlights

December 27, 2019

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

Benjamin Schneer

Family past as political prologue

December 13, 2019

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

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DACA report

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

November 7, 2019

Immigration Initiative at Harvard
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The Inflation Gap

The Inflation Gap

November 5, 2019

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

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

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Michael Hankinson

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

October 18, 2019

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Allison Daminger

How Couples Share “Cognitive Labor” and Why it Matters

September 19, 2019

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

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The Economics of Free College

June 1, 2019

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

Stefanie Stantcheva VOX CEPR video

Where does innovation come from?

March 28, 2019

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

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