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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Election 2016: How Did We Get Here and What Does it Mean?

Election 2016: How Did We Get Here and What Does it Mean?

March 2, 2017

American Historical Association—AHA Today | Recap of the American Historical Association's plenary session, "Election 2016: How Did We Get Here and What Does it Mean?," featuring Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Outsourcing at home

Shaky Jobs, Sluggish Wages: Reasons Are at Home

February 28, 2017

The New York Times | "This reorganization of employment is playing a big role in keeping a lid on wages — and in driving income inequality — across a much broader swath of the economy than globalization can account for," writes Economic Scene columnist Eduardo Porter.

Cites recent study by Lawrence Katz of Harvard and Alan Krueger of Princeton, which concluded that temp agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, and freelancers accounted for 94% of U.S. employment growth from 2005 to 2015. View this research»

Also cites Katz on the pay gaps between firms as an important source of inequality: "Overall, Professor Katz estimates, the sorting of workers into high- and low-end employers accounts for a quarter to a third of the increase of wage inequality in the United States since 1980."

Just How Abnormal Is the Trump Presidency? Rating 20 Events

Just How Abnormal Is the Trump Presidency? Rating 20 Events

February 27, 2017

The New York Times | The New York Times consulted a panel of experts, among them Jennifer Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard, and Vesla Weaver (Ph.D. '07), Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of ISPS Center for the Study of Inequality at Yale University.

Do we need a new kind of economics?

Do we need a new kind of economics?

February 24, 2017

Financial Times | FT Books Essay by Martin Sandu recalls an instructive insight from an international trade theory course at Harvard with Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy.

Related
Comments on Economic Models, Economics, and Economists: Remarks on Economics Rules by Dani Rodrik
Journal of Economic Literature | By Ariel Rubinstein. "This essay reviews Dani Rodrik’s superb book Economics Rules and argues that it can serve as an ideal platform for discussing what economists can and should accomplish."

Betsy DeVos

Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins

February 23, 2017

The New York Times | Martin West, Associate Professor of Education, comments on a recent research finding unusually large negative effects of vouchers on children's test scores in Louisiana.

The article also cites research by Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Jonah Rockoff (PhD '04, now Columbia Business School) linking teachers' impacts on test scores (teacher value-added) to improved adult outcomes on a variety of measures.

And it notes that "the new voucher studies stand in marked contrast to research findings that well-regulated charter schools in Massachusetts and elsewhere have a strong, positive impact on test scores," citing research by Sarah Cohodes (PhD '15, now Columbia Teachers College) and collaborators. Cohodes and Susan Dynarski summarize the evidence in a 2016 Brookings Institution report, "Massachusetts charter cap holds back disadvantaged students."

Retraining Paradox

The Retraining Paradox

February 23, 2017

The New York Times Magazine | Many Americans need jobs, or want better jobs, while employers have good jobs they can’t fill. Matching them up is the tricky part. Quoted: Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics.

Amanda Pallais

When Bias Hurts Profits

February 22, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Details new study by economics professor Amanda Pallais and colleagues, which found that when minority employees in a French grocery chain worked for biased managers their job performance dropped from 79th to 53rd percentile on average. Pallais is the Paul Sack Associate Professor of Political Economy and Social Studies. The study is forthcoming in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.
View the research

Robert Sampson

To advance sustainability, fight inequality, researcher says

February 17, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Unless social and economic inequalities are addressed, sustainability efforts in urban centers will likely stall or never take hold, according to a new Harvard study by Robert J. Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences. 

San Francisco Chronicle

Trump’s storm keeps Democrats busy on many fronts

February 17, 2017

San Francisco Chronicle | Quoted: Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology.

Midterm elections such as 2018 favor opposition parties, which makes House Democrats “well positioned” as a fulcrum of the Trump resistance, said Theda Skocpol, a Harvard University sociologist. “That’s the place where Democrats will be able to make gains, if they can pick up support from a broader array of people,” Skocpol said. “That and the governors races are the really critical turning points.”

Monopoly

Monopolies Are Worse Than We Thought

February 15, 2017

Bloomberg View | New research suggests that growing market concentration may partly explain labor's declining share of national income, but what accounts for this growing market concentration? A new paper by  David Autor (MIT), David Dorn (University of Zurich), Lawrence Katz (Harvard), Christina Patterson (MIT), and John Van Reenen (MIT) suggests a technological explanation driving the rise of "superstar firms" in "winner take most' markets. This paper is forthcoming in American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings.
View the research

ACA alternatives in the JFK Jr Forum

The confused future of health care

February 14, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Coverage of the JFK Jr. Forum event, "Alternatives to the Affordable Care Act," with panelists Katherine Baicker, C. Boyden Gray Professor of Health Economics at Harvard; Jonathan Gruber, Ford Professor of Economics at MIT; Avik Roy, co-founder and president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity; and Gail R. Wilensky, senior fellow at Project HOPE and former director of Medicare and Medicaid. Moderated by Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy. Co-sponsored by the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.
View event video

Chicago Tribune building

Welcome to the 'Great Divergence'

February 14, 2017

The Atlantic—CityLab | "Before 1980, places in America with lower average incomes grew faster than their richer counterparts, so that incomes converged. Today, that’s no longer the case." Richard Florida delves into a recent study by economists Peter Ganong, Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago Harris School, and Daniel Shoag (Ph.'11), Associate Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.
...

Read more about Welcome to the 'Great Divergence'
Automation

The Relentless Pace of Automation

February 13, 2017

MIT Technology Review | Quotes Lawrence Katz, Elisabath Allison Professor of Economics:“I’m very worried that the next wave [of AI and automation] will hit and we won’t have the supports in place,” says Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard. Katz has published research showing that large investments in secondary education in the early 1900s helped the nation make the shift from an agriculture-based economy to a manufacturing one. And now, he says, we could use our education system much more effectively. For example, some areas of the United States have successfully connected training programs at community colleges to local companies and their needs, he says, but other regions have not, and the federal government has done little in this realm. As a result, he says, “large areas have been left behind.”

Also quotes MIT economist Daron Acemoglu, who presented his latest work in this area, "Machine vs. Man: The Labor Market in the Age of Robots," in the Harvard Inequality Seminar, Feb 6, 2017 (view seminar abstract).

Americans just can't leave retirement savings alone

Americans just can't leave retirement savings alone

February 13, 2017

Marketplace | “For every dollar people are contributing to the retirement savings system, about 40 cents of that money is coming out before people reach their late 50s,” said Brigitte Madrian, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. “That’s a quite striking amount of leakage, especially when many people are not saving enough in the first place.”

Illiquid savings

People Trying to Save Prefer Accounts That Are Hard to Tap

February 12, 2017

Wall Street Journal | Research suggests policy makers could make retirement accounts even more restrictive without reducing their appeal. Discusses findings of an experimental study by John Beshears (Harvard Business School), James J. Choi (Yale), Christopher Harris (University of Cambridge), David Laibson (Harvard Economics), Brigitte C. Madrian (Harvard Kennedy School), and Jung Sakong (University of Chicago).
View the research

More Women in their 60's and 70's are Working

More Women in their 60's and 70's are Working

February 11, 2017

The New York Times | The Upshot talks with Harvard economist Claudia Goldin on her recent study with Lawrence Katz, "Women Working Longer: Facts and Some Explanations." Also highlights Goldin's work with Joshua Mitchell (Ph.D. '11), a senior economist at the U.S. Census Bureau, which appears in the current issue of Journal of Economics Perspectives.

"Nearly 30 percent of women 65 to 69 are working, up from 15 percent in the late 1980s, one of the analyses, by the Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, found. Eighteen percent of women 70 to 74 work, up from 8 percent.

"This rejection of retirement is more common among women with higher education and savings, though not confined to them. Those who are not working are more likely to have poor health and low savings, and to be dependent on Social Security and sometimes disability benefits, Ms. Goldin said.

Of those still working, Ms. Goldin said, 'They’re in occupations in which they really have an identity.' She added, 'Women have more education, they’re in jobs that are more fulfilling, and they stay with them.'” 
View the research (by Goldin and Katz)
View JEP article (by Goldin and Mitchell)

Latest awards

Matthew Clair and Alix Winter

Law and Society John Hope Franklin Prize: Matthew Clair and Alix Winter

April 17, 2017

Awardees | The Law and Society Association has awarded Matthew Clair, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, and Alix Winter, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, its John Hope Franklin Prize for the best article on race, racism, and the law published in the past two years. The article, How Judges Think about Racial Disparties: Situational Decision-Making in the Criminal Justice System, "reveals that judges who routinely impose sentences with a differential racial impact sometimes intervene to mitigate the effects, and in many cases, justify decision making that continues to perpetuate disparities," in the words of the award citation. In so doing, "this article provides valuable new insights into the legal consciousness of elite actors and their thinking about the discriminatory impact of their decisions."
View the research

Torben Iversen

Torben Iversen elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

April 12, 2017

Awardee | Torben Iversen, Harold Hitchings Burbank Professor of Political Economy, is one of 228 newly-elected members to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Founded in 1780, membership in the Academy recognizes "some of the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists, as well as civic, business, and philanthropic leaders."
View the 2017 class by field

Pulitzer Prize

Matthew Desmond wins Pulitzer Prize for 'Evicted'

April 10, 2017

Awardee | Matthew Desmond's Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City has won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction. The award citation lauded Desmond's book "as a deeply researched exposé that showed how mass evictions after the 2008 economic crash were less a consequence than a cause of poverty." Desmond is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

Natasha Warikoo awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

Natasha Warikoo awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

April 7, 2017

Natasha Warikoo (Ph.D. '05), Associate Professor in the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is one of 173 scholars, artists, and scientists announced today as 2017 Guggenheim Fellows. "Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise," this year's class was selected from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Guggenheim Foundation's 93rd annual competition.

Warikoo will spend her fellowship year working on a book about racial change in suburban America. "She is studying how the settlement of the nation’s most successful immigrant groups in privileged, previously predominantly white communities shapes the nature of racial boundaries, beliefs about success and achievement, and youth cultures," notes her Guggenheim Fellow profile (Read more).

The Tobin Project Spring 2017 Fellows: Sarah James

The Tobin Project Spring 2017 Fellows: Sarah James

March 29, 2017
The Tobin Project | Sarah James, PhD candidate in Government & Social Policy, has been named a spring 2017 graduate fellow with The Tobin Project, which will support her research titled "Identification of and response to policy failure in state governments."
Jimmy Biblarz

The Tobin Project Spring 2017 fellows: James Biblarz

March 29, 2017
The Tobin Project | Jimmy Biblarz, PhD student in Sociology & Social Policy, has been named a spring 2017 graduate fellow with The Tobin Project, which will support his research titled "From Integration to Resource Fortification: Ideology and America’s Second Reconstruction."
Margot Moinester awarded American Bar Foundation Doctoral Fellowship in Law & Inequality

Margot Moinester awarded American Bar Foundation Doctoral Fellowship in Law & Inequality

March 23, 2017
American Bar Foundation | Margot Moinester, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, has been awarded a two-year doctoral fellowship in Law & Inequality from the American Bar Foundation, the nation's leading research institute for the empirical study of law. ABF doctoral and postdoctoral fellows spend their fellowship tenure in residence at the American Bar Foundation's headquarters in Chicago.
Tom Wooten awarded NSF doctoral dissertation research grant

Tom Wooten awarded NSF doctoral dissertation research grant

March 23, 2017
National Science Foundation | Tom Wooten, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, has been awarded an NSF doctoral dissertation research grant (NSF-DDRI) for his PhD dissertation, "The Transition to College Experience of Low-Income Students." Learn more about Tom's work at his homepage:
tomwooten.com
'Evicted' honored with  2017 PEN New England Award

'Evicted' honored with 2017 PEN New England Award

March 22, 2017

PEN New England | Sociologist Matthew Desmond's Evicted has won the 2017 PEN New England Award for Nonfiction. Earlier thiis year, Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, was named the recipient of PEN America's John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction.

'Evicted' wins National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction

'Evicted' wins National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction

March 16, 2017

Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, was recognized tonight with the 2016 National Books Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction for Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

"Just a few books have reframed the national conversation about poverty: How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York by Jacob Riis, The Other America by Michael Harrington, When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor by William Julius Wilson, There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America by Alex Kotlowitz," wrote NBCC board member Elizabeth Taylor.

"With his ground-breaking book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond now forcefully shapes our understanding of poverty. His focus is on the dynamics of poverty, and with remarkable clarity explains why solutions directed at joblessness or low wages reflect a misunderstanding of the problem. He eloquently argues: poverty is a product of exploitation, and that eviction not just a condition of it but rather a cause of it."

Stefanie Stantcheva wins NSF CAREER Award

Stefanie Stantcheva wins NSF CAREER Award

March 13, 2017

Awardee | Stefanie Stantcheva, Assistant Professor of Economics, is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, an NSF-wide initiative "that offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty." Stantcheva will investigate "Taxes and Innovation: Optimal Taxation and the Effects of Taxes on Entrepreneurs, Inventors, and Firms' Innovation."

Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Teachers College Convocation 2017 Medalists Announced: Khalil Gibran Muhammad

March 6, 2017

Awardee | Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, has been selected to receive Columbia University Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service, the highest honor it bestows. Muhammad will be honored and address the graduates at TC's doctoral hooding ceremony on May 17.

2016 Discover Great New Writers Awards: Matthew Desmond

2016 Discover Great New Writers Awards: Matthew Desmond

March 1, 2017

Awardee | The winners of the 2016 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Awards in fiction and nonfiction were announced today in a ceremony in New York City. Matthew Desmond's Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City took first place in the non-fiction category. Desmond is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

Maya Sen

Maya Sen named a Stanford CASBS Fellow for 2017-2018

February 28, 2017

Awardee | Political scientist Maya Sen, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, has been selected to be a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University for the 2017-2018 academic year. Sen's research examines issues in the political economy of race relations, the American legal system, and law and politics. 

Learn more about Sen's work:
scholar.harvard.edu/msen

Danielle Allen named 2017 SSRC Democracy Fellow

Danielle Allen named 2017 SSRC Democracy Fellow

February 24, 2017

Social Science Research Council | The Anxieties of Democracy program announced that its 2017 Democracy Fellow will be Harvard's Danielle Allen, James Conant Bryant University Professor and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. As Democracy Fellow, Allen will spend November 2017 in residence at the Social Science Research Council headquarters in New York, where she will participate in a series of "Democracy in the City" public talks and debates, as well as a series of in-house Democracy Seminars. The theme of her residency: "Democracy and Justice."

L.A. Times Book Prize Finalists Announced

L.A. Times Book Prize Finalists Announced

February 22, 2017

Los Angeles Times  | The finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were announced today, including Matthew Desmond's Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City in the current interest category. The prizes will be awarded on April 21, the evening before the L.A. Times Festival of Books begins on the USC campus.

PEN/John Kennedy Galbraith Award for NonFiction: Matthew Desmond

PEN/John Kennedy Galbraith Award for NonFiction: Matthew Desmond

February 22, 2017

PEN America | Matthew Desmond's Evicted has been named the winner of the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction, a biennial award for a distinguished work of nonfiction "possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective and illuminating important contemporary issues." Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, will be honored at the PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony in NYC on March 27.

William Julius Wilson to receive 2017 SAGE-CASBS Award

William Julius Wilson to receive 2017 SAGE-CASBS Award

February 21, 2017

One of the nation’s most accomplished scholars of race, inequality, and poverty will deliver a public award lecture in June at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

SAGE-CASBS | SAGE Publishing and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University are pleased to announce that William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard, is the 2017 recipient of the SAGE-CASBS Award.

Established in 2013, the SAGE-CASBS Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the behavioral and social sciences that advance our understanding of pressing social issues. It underscores the role of the social and behavioral sciences in enriching and enhancing public policy and good governance. 

Past winners of the award include psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, sociologist and education rights activist Pedro Noguera, and political scientist and former U.S. Census Bureau director Kenneth Prewitt.

Latest commentary and analysis

Project Syndicate

Robert Barro's Tax-Reform Advocacy: A Response

December 15, 2017
Project Syndicate | By Jason Furman and Lawrence H. Summers. Jason Furman is Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Lawrence Summers is Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University.
Adam Looney

How the new tax bill encourages tax avoidance

December 14, 2017
Brookings Institution | By Adam Looney (PhD '04), Senior Fellow in Economic Studies, Brookings Institution. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Analysis in the U.S. Treasury from 2013 to 2017.
LSE Brexit

Brexit appealed to white working-class men who feel society no longer values them

December 14, 2017
LSE Brexit | By Noam Gidron and Peter A. Hall. Why is there such strong support for right-populist causes and candidates among the white working class? The authors' summarize their recent article published in the British Journal of Sociology.
View the research

Noam Gidron (PhD '16) is a fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University. Beginning in 2018, he will join the faculty of the Department of Political Science and the Joint Program in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Peter A Hall is Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies in the Department of Government, Harvard University, and at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies.
Daniel Schlozman

The Plutocratic Id

December 4, 2017
n + 1 | By Daniel Schlozman (PhD '11), Assistant Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University. 

"The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a horrifying but aso politically curious document," Schlozman observes. He examines "why a bill so manifestly written to please such a narrow stratum of plutocrats, with so few evident political benefits to a party hoping to retain power, now heads into the home stretch...That this is 'what Republicans do' hardly seems sufficient to make sense of how we got there."
Jack Cao

Ideas42: A Talk with Jack Cao

November 20, 2017

Ideas42 | With the ideas42 Seminar Series, we invite leading scholars to share their insights and what inspires their exploration into human behavior. Our New York office was pleased to host Jack Cao, a 5th year PhD candidate in social psychology at Harvard University. Jack’s research examines the divide between the conscious values we try to uphold and the implicit biases that reside within the mind...After giving a talk to the ideas42 team, Jack was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on behavioral science.

Cuz

‘One of so many millions gone’: how my cousin’s life was taken from him

November 17, 2017
The Guardian | By Danielle Allen. At the age of just 15, Michael was sent to prison for 11 years. On his release, I tried to help him start again. Why did his story end in tragedy? Allen is a political theorist and the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard. This is an edited extract from Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.
Michèle Lamont

The Big Picture: Social Solidarity

November 13, 2017
Public Books | By Michèle Lamont, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and Professor of Sociology and of African American Studies. This is the 26th 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.

Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

The Border Within: The Economics of Immigration in an Age of Fear
Watson, Tara, and Kalee Thompson. 2022. The Border Within: The Economics of Immigration in an Age of Fear. University of Chicago Press, 304. Abstract
An eye-opening analysis of the costs and effects of immigration and immigration policy, both on American life and on new Americans.

For decades, immigration has been one of the most divisive, contentious topics in American politics. And for decades, urgent calls for its policy reform have gone mostly unanswered. As the discord surrounding the modern immigration debate has intensified, border enforcement has tightened. Crossing harsher, less porous borders makes unauthorized entry to the United States a permanent, costly undertaking. And the challenges don’t end on the other side.

At once enlightening and devastating, The Border Within examines the costs and ends of America’s interior enforcement—the policies and agencies, including ICE, aimed at removing immigrants already living in the country. Economist Tara Watson and journalist Kalee Thompson pair rigorous analysis with deeply personal stories from immigrants and their families to assess immigration’s effects on every aspect of American life, from the labor force to social welfare programs to tax revenue. What emerges is a critical, utterly complete examination of what non-native Americans bring to the country, including immigration’s tendency to elevate the wages and skills of those who are native-born.

News coverage has prompted many to question the humanity of American immigration policies; The Border Within opens a conversation of whether it is effective. The United States spends billions each year on detention and deportation, all without economic gain and at a great human cost. With depth and discipline, the authors dissect the shock-and-awe policies that make up a broken, often cruel system, while illuminating the lives caught in the chaos. It is an essential work with far-reaching implications for immigrants and non-immigrants alike.
What's the Worst That Could Happen? Existential Risk and Extreme Politics

Why catastrophic risks are more dangerous than you think, and how populism makes them worse.

Did you know that you're more likely to die from a catastrophe than in a car crash? The odds that a typical US resident will die from a catastrophic event—for example, nuclear war, bioterrorism, or out-of-control artificial intelligence—have been estimated at 1 in 6. That's fifteen times more likely than a fatal car crash and thirty-one times more likely than being murdered. In What's the Worst That Could Happen?, Andrew Leigh looks at catastrophic risks and how to mitigate them, arguing provocatively that the rise of populist politics makes catastrophe more likely. 

Leigh explains that pervasive short-term thinking leaves us unprepared for long-term risks. Politicians sweat the small stuff—granular policy details of legislation and regulation—but rarely devote much attention to reducing long-term risks. Populist movements thrive on short termism because they focus on their followers' immediate grievances. Leigh argues that we should be long-termers: lengthen our thinking and give big threats the attention and resources they need. 

Leigh outlines the biggest existential risks facing humanity and suggests remedies for them. He discusses pandemics, considering the possibility that the next virus will be more deadly than COVID-19; warns that unchecked climate change could render large swaths of the earth inhabitable; describes the metamorphosis of the arms race from a fight into a chaotic brawl; and examines the dangers of runaway superintelligence. Moreover, Leigh points out, populism (and its crony, totalitarianism) not only exacerbates other dangers, but is also a risk factor in itself, undermining the institutions of democracy as we watch.

The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power
Hacker, Jacob S., Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Paul Pierson, and Kathleen Thelen, ed. 2021. The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power. Cambridge University Press. Abstract

This volume brings together leading political scientists to explore the distinctive features of the American political economy. The introductory chapter provides a comparatively informed framework for analyzing the interplay of markets and politics in the United States, focusing on three key factors: uniquely fragmented and decentralized political institutions; an interest group landscape characterized by weak labor organizations and powerful, parochial business groups; and an entrenched legacy of ethno-racial divisions embedded in both government and markets. Subsequent chapters look at the fundamental dynamics that result, including the place of the courts in multi-venue politics, the political economy of labor, sectional conflict within and across cities and regions, the consolidation of financial markets and corporate monopoly and monopsony power, and the ongoing rise of the knowledge economy. Together, the chapters provide a revealing new map of the politics of democratic capitalism in the United States.

  • Provides a comprehensive analysis of the American political economy in comparative perspective
  • Develops a theoretical framework that emphasizes how distinctive features of the US political economy have interacted with one another over time to produce unique patterns of inequality, power, and precarity
  • Sheds new light on under-examined institutions, actors, and arenas of conflict, generating insights for the study of both American politics and comparative politics
Constructing Community: Urban Governance, Development, and Inequality in Boston
Levine, Jeremy R. 2021. Constructing Community: Urban Governance, Development, and Inequality in Boston . Princeton University Press, 280. Abstract

Who makes decisions that shape the housing, policies, and social programs in urban neighborhoods? Who, in other words, governs? Constructing Community offers a rich ethnographic portrait of the individuals who implement community development projects in the Fairmount Corridor, one of Boston’s poorest areas. Jeremy Levine uncovers a network of nonprofits and philanthropic foundations making governance decisions alongside public officials—a public-private structure that has implications for democratic representation and neighborhood inequality.

Levine spent four years following key players in Boston’s community development field. While state senators and city councilors are often the public face of new projects, and residents seem empowered through opportunities to participate in public meetings, Levine found a shadow government of nonprofit leaders and philanthropic funders, nonelected neighborhood representatives with their own particular objectives, working behind the scenes. Tying this system together were political performances of “community”—government and nonprofit leaders, all claiming to value the community. Levine provocatively argues that there is no such thing as a singular community voice, meaning any claim of community representation is, by definition, illusory. He shows how community development is as much about constructing the idea of community as it is about the construction of physical buildings in poor neighborhoods.

Constructing Community demonstrates how the nonprofit sector has become integral to urban policymaking, and the tensions and trade-offs that emerge when private nonprofits take on the work of public service provision.

Breaking the Social Media Prism: How to Make Our Platforms Less Polarizing

In an era of increasing social isolation, platforms like Facebook and Twitter are among the most important tools we have to understand each other. We use social media as a mirror to decipher our place in society but, as Chris Bail explains, it functions more like a prism that distorts our identities, empowers status-seeking extremists, and renders moderates all but invisible. Breaking the Social Media Prism challenges common myths about echo chambers, foreign misinformation campaigns, and radicalizing algorithms, revealing that the solution to political tribalism lies deep inside ourselves.

Drawing on innovative online experiments and in-depth interviews with social media users from across the political spectrum, this book explains why stepping outside of our echo chambers can make us more polarized, not less. Bail takes you inside the minds of online extremists through vivid narratives that trace their lives on the platforms and off—detailing how they dominate public discourse at the expense of the moderate majority. Wherever you stand on the spectrum of user behavior and political opinion, he offers fresh solutions to counter political tribalism from the bottom up and the top down. He introduces new apps and bots to help readers avoid misperceptions and engage in better conversations with the other side. Finally, he explores what the virtual public square might look like if we could hit “reset” and redesign social media from scratch through a first-of-its-kind experiment on a new social media platform built for scientific research.

Providing data-driven recommendations for strengthening our social media connections, Breaking the Social Media Prism shows how to combat online polarization without deleting our accounts.

Organizational Imaginaries
Chen, Victor Tan. 2021. Organizational Imaginaries. Edited by Katherine K. Chen. Emerald Publishing Limited. Abstract

Our everyday lives are structured by the rhythms, values, and practices of various organizations, including schools, workplaces, and government agencies. These experiences shape common-sense understandings of how “best” to organize and connect with others. Today, for-profit managerial firms dominate society, even though their practices often curtail information-sharing and experimentation, engender exploitation, and exclude the interests of stakeholders, particularly workers and the general public.

This Research in the Sociology of Organizations volume explores an expansive array of organizational imaginaries, or conceptions of organizational possibilities, with a focus on collectivist-democratic organizations that operate in capitalist markets but place more authority and ownership in the hands of stakeholders other than shareholders. These include worker and consumer cooperatives and other enterprises that, to varying degrees:

  • Emphasize social values over profit
  • Are owned not by shareholders but by workers, consumers, or other stakeholders
  • Employ democratic forms of managing their operations
  • Have social ties to the organization based on moral and emotional commitments

Organizational Imaginaries explores how these enterprises generate solidarity among members, network with other organizations and communities, contend with market pressures, and enhance their larger organizational ecosystems. By ensuring that organizations ultimately support and serve broader communities, collectivist-democratic organizing can move societies closer to hopeful “what if” and “if only” futures.

This volume is essential for researchers and students seeking innovative and egalitarian approaches to business and management.

Thrive: The Purpose of Schools in a Changing World
Hannon, Valerie, and Amelia Peterson. 2021. Thrive: The Purpose of Schools in a Changing World. Cambridge University Press. Abstract
Every generation faces challenges, but never before have young people been so aware of theirs. Whether due to school strikes for climate change, civil war, or pandemic lockdowns, almost every child in the world has experienced the interruption of their schooling by outside forces. When the world we have taken for granted proves so unstable, it gives rise to the question: what is schooling for? Thrive advocates a new purpose for education, in a rapidly changing world, and analyses the reasons why change is urgently needed in our education systems. The book identifies four levels of thriving: global – our place in the planet; societal – localities, communities, economies; interpersonal – our relationships; intrapersonal – the self. Chapters provide research-based theoretical evidence for each area, followed by practical international case studies showing how individual schools are addressing these considerable challenges. Humanity's challenges are shifting fast: schools need to be a part of the response.
American Affective Polarization in Comparative Perspective
Gidron, Noam, James Adams, and Will Horne. 2020. American Affective Polarization in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge University Press. Abstract
American political observers express increasing concern about affective polarization, i.e., partisans' resentment toward political opponents. We advance debates about America's partisan divisions by comparing affective polarization in the US over the past 25 years with affective polarization in 19 other western publics. We conclude that American affective polarization is not extreme in comparative perspective, although Americans' dislike of partisan opponents has increased more rapidly since the mid-1990s than in most other Western publics. We then show that affective polarization is more intense when unemployment and inequality are high; when political elites clash over cultural issues such as immigration and national identity; and in countries with majoritarian electoral institutions. Our findings situate American partisan resentment and hostility in comparative perspective, and illuminate correlates of affective polarization that are difficult to detect when examining the American case in isolation.
Reconnected: A Community Builder's Handbook
Leigh, Andrew, and Nick Terrell. 2020. Reconnected: A Community Builder's Handbook. La Trobe University Press, 288. Abstract

We're all in this together.

Strong social connections make communities more resilient. But today Australians have fewer close friends and local connections than in the past, and more of us say we have no-one to turn to in tough times. How can we turn this trend around?

In Reconnected, Andrew Leigh and Nick Terrell look at some of the most successful community organisations and initiatives – from conversation groups to community gardens, from parkrun to Pub Choir – to discover what really works. They explore ways to encourage philanthropy and volunteering, describe how technology can be used effectively, and introduce us to remarkable and inspirational leaders.

Reconnected is an essential guide for anyone interested in strengthening social ties.

After PrisonNavigating Adulthood in the Shadow of the Justice System
Harding, David J., and Heather M. Harris. 2020. After PrisonNavigating Adulthood in the Shadow of the Justice System. Russell Sage Foundation, 304. Abstract

The incarceration rate in the United States is the highest of any developed nation, with a prison population of approximately 2.3 million in 2016. Over 700,000 prisoners are released each year, and most face significant educational, economic, and social disadvantages. In After Prison, sociologist David Harding and criminologist Heather Harris provide a comprehensive account of young men’s experiences of reentry and reintegration in the era of mass incarceration. They focus on the unique challenges faced by 1,300 black and white youth aged 18 to 25 who were released from Michigan prisons in 2003, investigating the lives of those who achieved some measure of success after leaving prison as well as those who struggled with the challenges of creating new lives for themselves.

The transition to young adulthood typically includes school completion, full-time employment, leaving the childhood home, marriage, and childbearing, events that are disrupted by incarceration. While one quarter of the young men who participated in the study successfully transitioned into adulthood—achieving employment and residential independence and avoiding arrest and incarceration—the same number of young men remained deeply involved with the criminal justice system, spending on average four out of the seven years after their initial release re-incarcerated. Not surprisingly, whites are more likely to experience success after prison. The authors attribute this racial disparity to the increased stigma of criminal records for blacks, racial discrimination, and differing levels of social network support that connect whites to higher quality jobs. Black men earn less than white men, are more concentrated in industries characterized by low wages and job insecurity, and are less likely to remain employed once they have a job.

The authors demonstrate that families, social networks, neighborhoods, and labor market, educational, and criminal justice institutions can have a profound impact on young people’s lives. Their research indicates that residential stability is key to the transition to adulthood. Harding and Harris make the case for helping families, municipalities, and non-profit organizations provide formerly incarcerated young people access to long-term supportive housing and public housing. A remarkably large number of men in this study eventually enrolled in college, reflecting the growing recognition of college as a gateway to living wage work. But the young men in the study spent only brief spells in college, and the majority failed to earn degrees. They were most likely to enroll in community colleges, trade schools, and for-profit institutions, suggesting that interventions focused on these kinds of schools are more likely to be effective. The authors suggest that, in addition to helping students find employment, educational institutions can aid reentry efforts for the formerly incarcerated by providing supports like childcare and paid apprenticeships.

After Prison offers a set of targeted policy interventions to improve these young people’s chances: lifting restrictions on federal financial aid for education, encouraging criminal record sealing and expungement, and reducing the use of incarceration in response to technical parole violations. This book will be an important contribution to the fields of scholarly work on the criminal justice system and disconnected youth.

Measuring Culture
Mohr, John W., Christopher A. Bail, Margaret Frye, Jennifer C. Lena, Omar Lizardo, Terence E. McDonnell, Ann Mische, Iddo Tavory, and Frederick F. Wherry. 2020. Measuring Culture . Columbia University Press, 256. Abstract
Social scientists seek to develop systematic ways to understand how people make meaning and how the meanings they make shape them and the world in which they live. But how do we measure such processes? Measuring Culture is an essential point of entry for both those new to the field and those who are deeply immersed in the measurement of meaning. Written collectively by a team of leading qualitative and quantitative sociologists of culture, the book considers three common subjects of measurement—people, objects, and relationships—and then discusses how to pivot effectively between subjects and methods. Measuring Culturetakes the reader on a tour of the state of the art in measuring meaning, from discussions of neuroscience to computational social science. It provides both the definitive introduction to the sociological literature on culture as well as a critical set of case studies for methods courses across the social sciences.
Common-Sense Evidence: The Education Leader’s Guide to Using Data and Research
Gordon, Nora, and Carrie Conaway. 2020. Common-Sense Evidence: The Education Leader’s Guide to Using Data and Research. Harvard Education Publishing Group, 240. Abstract

Written by two leading experts in education research and policy, Common-Sense Evidence is a concise, accessible guide that helps education leaders find and interpret data and research, and then put that knowledge into action. 

In the book, Nora Gordon and Carrie Conaway empower educators to address the federal Every Student Succeeds Act mandate that schools use evidence-based improvement strategies.

The authors walk readers through the processes for determining whether research is relevant and convincing; explain useful statistical concepts; and show how to quickly search for and scan research studies for the necessary information.

The book directs readers through case studies of typical scenarios including a superintendent trying to reduce chronic absenteeism; a middle school math department chair trying to improve student performance on exams; and a chief state school officer attempting to recruit teachers for rural schools.

Common-Sense Evidence helps education leaders build capacity for evidence-based practice in their schools and

Confronting inequality: How policies and practices shape children's opportunities
Tach, Laura, Rachel Dunifon, and Douglas L. Miller, ed. 2020. Confronting inequality: How policies and practices shape children's opportunities. American Psychological Association. Abstract

All children deserve the best possible future. But in this era of increasing economic and social inequality, more and more children are being denied their fair chance at life.

This book examines the impact of inequality on children’s health and education, and offers a blueprint for addressing the impact of inequality among children in economic, sociological, and psychological domains.

Chapters examine a wide range of studies including exposure to stress and its biological consequences; the impact of federal programs offering access to nutrition for mothers and children; the impact of parental decision-making and child support systems; the effects of poverty on child care and quality of education, parental engagement with schools, parent-child interactions, friendship networks, and more.

The book concludes with commentaries from leading scholars about the state of the field, and efforts to help mitigate the effects of inequality for children in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Residential Mobility by Whites Maintains Segregation Despite Recent Changes

Residential Mobility by Whites Maintains Segregation Despite Recent Changes

December 21, 2016

NYU Furman Center | By Jackelyn Hwang (Ph.D. '15), essay for the NYU Furman Center discussion series "The Dream Revisited." Hwang is postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton University, and in fall 2017 will join the Stanford University faculty as Assistant Professor of Sociology.

Economic Report of the President 2017

Economic Report of the President 2017

December 15, 2016

Reducing inequality, reforming the health care system, investing in higher education, strengthening the financial system, and addressing climate change are the focus of this year's Economic Report of the President.

Draws on research by Inequality & Social Policy affiliates Amitabh Chandra, Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15), David Deming (Ph.D. '10 and faculty), Will Dobbie (Ph.D. '13), Roland Fryer, Claudia Goldin, Joshua Goodman, Nathaniel Hendren, Thomas Kane, Lawrence Katz, Adam Looney (Ph.D. '04), Brigitte Madrian, Sendhil Mullainathan, Jonah Rockoff (Ph.D. '04), and Judith Scott-Clayton (Ph.D. '09).

Washington Center for Equitable Growth

The fading American dream: trends in absolute income mobility since 1940

December 8, 2016

Washington Center for Equitable Growth | By Raj Chetty, David Grusky, Maximilian Hell, Nathaniel Hendren, Robert Manduca, and Jimmy Narang.

A summary of the authors' findings from a newly-released paper by a team of researchers from Stanford, Harvard, and UC Berkeley. Harvard Inequality & Social Policy affiliates are Nathaniel Hendren, Assistant Professor of Economics, and Robert Manduca, Ph.D. student in Sociology & Social Policy. Learn more: The Equality of Opportunity Project 

A principled federal role in PreK-12 education

A principled federal role in PreK-12 education

December 7, 2016

Brookings Institution | By Douglas N. Harris, Helen F. Ladd, Marshall S. Smith, and Martin R. West. A set of principles to guide the federal role in education policy from a bipartisan group of scholars and policy experts. Martin West (Ph.D. '06) is an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

High-Stakes Student Testing has Mixed Results in Texas Schools

High-Stakes Student Testing has Mixed Results in Texas Schools

December 1, 2016

Harvard Kennedy School | Discusses findings of new study forthcoming in the December issue of The Review of Economics and Statistics by David J. Deming (Ph.D. '10), Professor of Education and Economics, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15), Assistant Professor of Education an Public Policy, Teachers College, Columbia University; Jennifer Jennings of New York University; and Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, Emeritus, Harvard Kennedy School.... Read more about High-Stakes Student Testing has Mixed Results in Texas Schools

After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality

After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality

November 15, 2016

 

Harvard University Press | Ellora Derenoncourt, Ph.D. candidate in Economics, is a contributor to After Piketty, forthcoming from Harvard University Press in April 2017. Edited by Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong, and Marshall Steinbaum, the 640-page volume brings together published reviews by Nobel laureates Paul Krugman and Robert Solow and newly-commissioned essays by Suresh Naidu, Laura Tyson, Michael Spence, Heather Boushey, Branko Milanovic, and others. Emmanuel Saez lays out an agenda for future research on inequality, while a variety of essays examine the book's implications for the social sciences more broadly. Piketty replies in a substantial concluding chapter.

Derenoncourt's chapter explores the historical and institutional origins of the wealth and income inequality documented in Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. Drawing on the framework introduced by Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and James Robinson of extractive and inclusive institutions, Derenoncourt demonstrates how these institutions influence the distribution of economic outcomes in different countries and regions historically. In particular, she explores these questions in the context of slavery in the US South and European colonization in Africa and the Americas.

Learn more about her work:
Ellora Derenoncourt: Ph.D. fellow page ▶... Read more about After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality

Chart of the week: Do high taxes motivate star inventors to relocate?

Chart of the week: Do high taxes motivate star inventors to relocate?

November 4, 2016

American Economics Association | Is tax flight by the rich mostly a myth or a serious concern? Discusses new study co-authored by Stefanie Stantcheva, Assistant Professor of Economics, which appears in the October issue of the American Economic Review. The research is co-authored by Ufuk Akcigit, University of Chicago, and Salomé Baslandze, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance. 
View AER article (complimentary access)

Research highlight: Are hospitals more like other businesses than we thought?

Research highlight: Are hospitals more like other businesses than we thought?

November 2, 2016

American Economics Association | Delves into new article by Harvard's Amitabh Chandra (Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy), Amy Finkelstein (MIT), Adam Sacarny (Columbia University), and Chad Syverson (Chicago Booth).

"A study published in the August issue of American Economic Review found that hospitals – long thought to be economic islands apart from typical market pressures – are shaped by consumer-driven forces like in other industries. The findings challenge long-held beliefs about health care “exceptionalism” and raise questions for policymakers as they consider reforms to the $3 trillion U.S. health care sector."
View the AER article (complimentary access)

The Importance of Middle Skill Jobs

The Importance of Middle Skill Jobs

October 25, 2016

National Academy of Sciences—Issues in Science and Technology | By Alicia Sasser Modestino (Ph.D. '01). Middle-skill jobs are key for the nation and its workforce. Here is where things stand today and projections for future improvements. 

Alicia Sasser Modestino is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Economics at Northeastern University, and Associate Director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.

6 charts showing race gaps within the American middle class

6 charts showing race gaps within the American middle class

October 21, 2016

Brookings Institution | Latest Social Mobility Memo by Richard V. Reeves and Dana Bowen Matthew of the Brookings Institution features findings of new study by Judith-Scott Clayton (Ph.D. '09), Associate Professor of Education and Economics, Teachers College, Columbia University, and Jing-Li, also of Columbia University, revealing large black-white disparities in student loan debt, which more than triples after graduation.

Invention, place, and economic inclusion

Invention, place, and economic inclusion

October 20, 2016

Brookings Institution | Delves into research by Inequality fellow Alex Bell (Ph.D. candidate in Economics), Raj Chetty (Stanford University), Xavier Jaravel (now a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford), and John Van Reenen (LSE and MIT) showing that "children of low-income parents are much less likely to become inventors than their higher-income counterparts (as are minorities and women)." Their research explores the sources of differences, and "establishes the importance of 'innovation exposure effects' during childhood," both geographic and parental.
View the research

Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation

Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation

October 20, 2016

Brookings Institution | By Judith Scott Clayton (Ph.D. '09), Associate Professor of Economics and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, and Jing Li, Research Associate, Teachers College: "While previous work has documented racial disparities in student borrowing, delinquencies, and defaults, in this report we provide new evidence that racial gaps in total debt are far larger than even recent reports have recognized, far larger now than in the past, and correlated with troubling trends in the economy and in the for-profit sector. We conclude with a discussion of policy implications."

Recommendations for Federal Budget Policy

Recommendations for Federal Budget Policy

October 7, 2016

Brookings Institution | By Douglas W Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School. This brief is part of "Election 2016 and America’s Future." a Brookings-wide initiative in which Brookings scholars have identified the biggest issues facing the country this election season and are providing individual ideas for how to address them. Elmendorf was a visiting fellow with Brookings until he became Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School in January 2016.

Seven Facts on Noncognitive Skills from Education to the Labor Market

Seven Facts on Noncognitive Skills from Education to the Labor Market

October 4, 2016

The Hamilton Project | New policy brief  by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and colleagues draws from research by Harvard faculty member David Deming, "The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market." Deming (Ph.D. '10), Professor of Education and Economics at Harvard Graduate School of Education, first presented this work in the Inequality & Social Policy Seminar Series in fall 2015.
View the latest version of Deming's paper (Aug 2016).... Read more about Seven Facts on Noncognitive Skills from Education to the Labor Market

Housing Development Toolkit

Housing Development Toolkit

September 26, 2016

The White House | The Obama administration issued a policy brief that takes aim at accumulated barriers to housing development, zoning and other land-use regulations that the administration argues are jeopardizing housing affordability, increasing income inequality by reducing access to high-wage labor  markets, and stifling economic growth. The report cites Sociology faculty member Matthew Desmond's Evicted, noting the lasting trauma that extreme rent burdens and housing insecurity can pose for families, and draws extensively on research by Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11 and HKS faculty), Edward Glaeser (Economics), and Raven (Saks) Malloy (Ph.D. '05), now section chief with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, on the rise and consequences of land-use regulations.