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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Michèle Lamont

Women in Research: Interview with Michèle Lamont

March 8, 2020
Wiley | In recognition of International Women's Day, Wiley is celebrating the resounding impact women in research have had on the advancement of their disciplines. It sat down with Harvard's Michèle Lamont, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and Sociology and African American Studies, to learn more about her story. Her top-cited article: "From ‘having’ to ‘being’: self‐worth and the current crisis of American society," published in the British Journal of Sociology (June 2019).
Read the research ►
Illustration by Adam Niklewicz for "Could College Be Free?"

Could College Be Free?

February 1, 2020

Harvard Magazine | In 2016, the United States spent $91 billion subsidizing access to higher education. According to David Deming, that spending isn’t as progressive or effective as it could be. Deming's proposal: redirect current spending to make public colleges tuition-free, instead of subsidizing higher education in other, roundabout ways. Deming, Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, is a professor at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Stefanie Stantcheva

Can populist economics coexist with pro-immigrant policies?

January 15, 2020
Vox | A new study by professors Alberto Alesina and Stefanie Stantcheva of Harvard Economics finds that misperceptions about immigration are widespread, and mostly serve to reduce support for redistributive programs. The paper is part of a broader project in which Alesina and Stantcheva use large-scale online surveys to measure how voters’ support for redistributive policies are shaped by perceptions around immigration, social mobility, and other factors.
View the research
Diversity, Immigration and Redistibution ►
Immigration and Redistribution ►

Also cited: A recent paper by Inequality & Social Policy PhD alumni Charlotte Cavaillé and John Marshall in the American Political Science Review, who found that the introduction of mandatory schooling laws in Europe causally reduced opposition to immigration. Cavaillé (PhD in Government and Social Policy, 2014) is a visiting fellow at Princeton University's Center for the Study of Democratic Politics (2019-2020) and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy. Marshall (PhD in Government, 2016) is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University.
View the research ►

 

Zoe B. Cullen

Here’s exactly how much extra money the ‘old boys’ club’ gives men over their career

December 11, 2019

Market Watch | A new study by Zoe Cullen, Assistant Professor at Harvard Business School, and Ricardo Perez-Truglia of UCLA on schmoozing and the gender gap finds that when male employees are assigned male managers they are promoted faster in the following years than if assigned female managers, whereas female employees have the same career progression regardless of the manager's gender. This male-to-male advantage can explain a third of the gender gap in promotions in their study.

View the research ►

Van C. Tran

For Professor Van C. Tran, Former Refugee Who Went from Hostos to Harvard, Joining the Graduate Center is about Values

December 10, 2019

The Graduate Center, CUNY | In-depth profile of Van C. Tran's research, his story, and his life. Van C. Tran received his PhD in Sociology and Social Policy from Harvard in 2011. He is now Associate Professor of Sociology and Deputy Director for the Center for Urban Research at The Graduate Center, CUNY.

Listen to Van C. Tran interview on The Thought Project ►

Boston Review

Our Top Essays of 2019

December 7, 2019

Boston Review | Among its top 10 of 2019:  "Economics After Neoliberalism," a forum with Suresh Naidu (Columbia University), Dani Rodrik (Harvard Kennedy School), and Gabriel Zucman (UC Berkeley).

“Neoliberalism—or market fundamentalism, market fetishism, etc.—is not the consistent application of modern economics, but its primitive, simplistic perversion. And contemporary economics is rife with new ideas for creating a more inclusive society.”

Blythe George

Blythe George to be published in Vision 2020, a book of 21 innovative and evidence-based ideas to shape the 2020 policy debate

December 3, 2019

Washington Center for Equitable Growth | Blythe George, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, is a contributor to the forthcoming book, Vision 2020: Evidence for a Stronger Economy, to be released in mid-to-late January by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. The book, announced at Equitable Growth's Vision 2020 conference last month, is "a compilation of 21 innovative, evidence-based, and concrete ideas to shape the 2020 policy debate." A member of the Yurok tribe, Blythe focuses on reentry back into tribal life after incarceration.

Robert Manduca

Watch Four Decades of Inequality Drive American Cities Apart

December 2, 2019

The New York Times | Research by Robert Manduca, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy, is featured in The Upshot. The articles cited have been published in Social Forces and ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, respectively.

“'We’ve had this pulling apart of the overall income distribution,” said Robert Manduca, a Ph.D. student in sociology and social policy at Harvard who has found that about half of the economic divergence between different parts of the country is explained by trends in national inequality. “That overall pulling apart has had very different effects in different places, based on which kinds of people were already living in those places.'

"Mr. Manduca says national policies like reinvigorating antitrust laws would be most effective at reducing inequality (the consolidation of many industries has meant, among other things, that smaller cities that once had company headquarters have lost those jobs, sometimes to big cities)."

robertmanduca.com ►

Tomiko Brown=Nagin

Brown-Nagin on her own path and Radcliffe's

November 13, 2019

Harvard Gazette | Radcliffe Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin discusses her priorities for Harvard's institute devoted to interdisciplinary study and research. Outlining a new initiative called Radcliffe Engaged—one of two focus areas of which will be law, education, and justice—Brown-Nagin identifies the work of Devah Pager as a model for the engaged scholarship the initiative aims to cultivate:

"I’m thinking, for example, of Devah Pager, our late colleague and a consummate, engaged intellectual who conducted sophisticated research that had an impact on national policy conversations at the intersection of race, employment, and incarceration. Devah’s work serves as a model for the kind of engaged scholarship that we want people to know the Radcliffe Institute supports. We hope to make it clear to interested scholars and students that we’re putting a stake in the ground in the law, education, and justice space."

PBS NewsHour Making Sen$e

What ending DACA could cost the U.S. economy

November 12, 2019

PBS Newshour | The fact that DACA recipients have been able to study and work under this program has also increased their spending power over time, said Roberto G. Gonzales, Professor of Education and director of Harvard University’s Immigration Initiative. A national study on the long-term impact of DACA released by the Immigration Initiative this week found that the program had enabled many beneficiaries to obtain a job and increase their earnings, and generally contributed to upward social mobility.

Roberto G. Gonzales

Rise in social mobility of DACA recipients

November 12, 2019

Harvard Gazette | Harvard Professor Roberto Gonzales is the co-author (with Sayil Camacho, Kristina Brant, and Carlos Aguilar) of a new study that surveyed nearly 2,700 young people eligible for the DACA program in 2013. Roberto Gonzales is Professor of Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Kristina Brant is a PhD candidate in Sociology and an Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellow.

The value of freeing ideas, not just locking them up

The value of freeing ideas, not just locking them up

November 8, 2019

The Economist | We can have both innovation and equality, say Joshua Gans and Andrew Leigh in their new book, Innovation and Equality (MIT Press, 2019). Andrew Leigh PhD 2004 is a Member of the Australian House of Representatives and a former Professor of Economics at Australian National University.  Joshua Gans holds the Jeffrey S. Skoll Chair of Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management.

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).

View the brief: The Costs of Being Poor ►
View the research: Quarterly Journal of Economics  ►

Immigrants waiting to be transferred, Ellis Island, Oct. 30, 1912.Credit...Library of Congress

Children of Poor Immigrants Rise, Regardless of Where They Come From

October 28, 2019

The New York Times | New research linking millions of fathers and sons dating to the 1880s shows that children of poor immigrants in America have had greater success climbing the economic ladder than children of similarly poor fathers born in the United States. That pattern has been remarkably stable for more than a century. The findings, published in a working paper by a team of economic historians including Leah Platt Boustan PhD 2006, challenge several arguments central to the debate over immigration in America today.  Boustan is now Professor of Economics at Princeton University.

View the research ►

How to boost voter registration at tax time

How to boost voter registration at tax time

October 15, 2019
Brookings Institution | Vanessa Williamson PhD 2015, a senior fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings, says that “ensuring that every citizen is able to vote is one of the most important tasks facing American democracy.” But more than one in five eligible voters is not registered to vote, and many states are imposing new voting and registration restrictions. What if at the same time Americans file their federal income taxes—one of the only times each year that most Americans interact directly with the federal government—they were also given the opportunity to register to... Read more about How to boost voter registration at tax time
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Latest awards

Anthony Abraham Jack

Anthony Abraham Jack: ASHE-CEP Mildred García Award for Exemplary Scholarship (Junior)

October 1, 2019

Awardee | Anthony Abraham Jack PhD 2016 has been awarded the 2019 Association for Higher Education CEP Mildred García Award for Exemplary Scholarship (Junior) in recognition of seminal, exemplary scholarship that focuses on research and issues specifically related to underrepresented populations of color. Anthony Abraham Jack received his PhD in Sociology in 2016 and is now Assistant Professor of Education at Harvard and a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows.

Meredith Dost

Meredith Dost: Tobin Project 2019 History of American Democracy Graduate Student Fellow

September 25, 2019

The Tobin Project | Meredith Dost, PhD candidate in Government and Social Policy and a Stone PhD Research Scholar, is one of nine History of American Democracy Graduate Student Fellows selected by the Tobin Project for her project, "The Effect of Administrative Burden on Political Participation: A Consequence of Federalism." The Tobin Project's graduate student fellows receive research support and the opportunity to receive critical feedback in an interdisciplinary, seminar-style environment.

Danielle Allen

Danielle Allen to receive Governor’s Award in Humanities

September 25, 2019
Harvard Gazette | Harvard ethicist and author Danielle Allen will be honored this fall for her contributions to the humanities in the Bay State when she accepts her 2019 Governor’s Award in the Humanities. Award recipients are nominated each year by Mass Humanities and confirmed by Governor Charlie Baker. Allen is the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. She is widely known for her work on justice and citizenship in both ancient Athens and modern America. Allen is the author of five books, including most recently “Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.” (2017).
Stefanie Stantcheva

Stefanie Stantcheva to deliver Gaston Eyskens Chair lectures

September 11, 2019

Awardee | Stefanie Stantcheva, Professor of Economics, will deliver four lectures on "The Future of Taxation, Innovation, and Redistribution" at KU Leuven as holder of the Gaston Eyskens Chair. Every two years, an economist of international renown is invited to Leuven to give a series of guest lectures as part of the Gaston Eyskens Chair, established in 1985 to honor the former KU Leuven economist and Belgian Prime Minister.

Raj Chetty

Raj Chetty to receive WZB A.SK Social Science Award

September 6, 2019

Awardee | The WZB Berlin Social Science Center honors Harvard economist Raj Chetty for his research on poverty and social mobility with the A.SK Social Science Award 2019. The award, given every two years, recognizes Chetty’s research on the opportunities for social mobility facing disadvantaged groups in the United States, as well as his pioneering use of large datasets to drive research and policy reform. The prize will be awarded at a ceremony on November 5 in Berlin.

Ellora Derenoncourt

Washington Center for Equitable Growth announces 2019 grantees: Ellora Derenoncourt

August 26, 2019

Awardee | Ellora Derenoncourt PhD 2019 and collaborator David Weil of Brandeis University are among the recipients of 14 research grants made by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth to scholars seeking evidence on key issues related to economic inequality and growth. Derenoncourt and Weil will examine the degree to which broad wage increases by large employers affect the wage-setting practices of smaller firms. Derenoncourt received her PhD in Economics from Harvard in 2019 and is now a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Industrial Relations Section in the Department of Economics at Princeton University. In July 2020, she joins the University of California, Berkeley, as an assistant professor in the Department of Economics and Goldman School of Public Policy.

Ellora Derenoncourt website ►

Benjamin Schoefer

Washington Center for Equitable Growth announces 2019 grantees: Benjamin Schoefer

August 26, 2019

Awardee | Benjamin Schoefer PhD 2015 and Simon Jäger PhD 2016 are among the recipients of 14 research grants made by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth to scholars seeking evidence on key issues related to economic inequality and growth. Schoefer and Jäger will examine the causal effects of shared corporate governance—workers participating in the management of the companies where they work—on such outcomes as wages, distribution of profits, and pay equity within firms. Schoefer received his PhD in Economics from Harvard in 2015 and is now Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

eml.berkeley.edu/~schoefer/ ►

Simon Jaeger

Washington Center for Equitable Growth announces 2019 grantees: Simon Jäger

August 26, 2019

Awardee | Simon Jäger PhD 2016 and Benjamin Schoefer PhD 2015 are among the recipients of 14 research grants made by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth to scholars seeking evidence on key issues related to economic inequality and growth. Jäger and Schoefer  will examine the causal effects of shared corporate governance—workers participating in the management of the companies where they work—on such outcomes as wages, distribution of profits, and pay equity within firms. Jäger received his PhD in Economics from Harvard in 2016 and is now the Silverman (1968) Family Career Development Assistant Professor of Economics at MIT.

economics.mit.edu/faculty/sjaeger ►
 
Nathan Wilmers

Washington Center for Equitable Growth announces 2019 grantees: Nathan Wilmers

August 26, 2019

Awardee | Nathan Wilmers PhD 2018 is among the recipients of 14 research grants made by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth to scholars seeking evidence on key issues related to economic inequality and growth. Wilmers will examine the effects of within-organization mobility on inequality. This research may help to explain macro-level processes that generate inequality in the labor market if they disproportionately benefit high-income/high-skill workers. Wilmers received his PhD in Sociology from Harvard in 2018 and is now the Sarofim Family Career Development Assistant Professor of Work and Organizations at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

nathanwilmers.com ►

Anna Stansbury

Washington Center for Equitable Growth announces 2019 grantees: Anna Stansbury

August 26, 2019

Awardee | Stone PhD Scholar Anna Stansbury, PhD candidate in Economics, is one of 13 doctoral student grantees announced today by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Stansbury received a research grant for her work (joint with Gregor Schubert, Harvard PhD candidate in Business Economics), "Getting Labor Markets Right: Occupational Mobility and Outside Options."

View the announcement ►
scholar.harvard.edu/stansbury ►
 
Peter Bucchianeri

Peter Bucchianeri: APSA Best Paper Award in Urban Politics

August 22, 2019

Awardee | Peter Bucchianeri PhD 2018 is the recipient of the 2019 Best Paper Award from the American Political Science Association's section on Urban and Local Politics for his paper, “There’s More than One Way to Party: Progressive Politics and Representation in Nonpartisan San Francisco.” Bucchianeri received his PhD in Government and Social Policy from Harvard in 2018 and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Effective Lawmaking at Vanderbilt University. Learn more about Peter Bucchianeri's work:

peterbucchianeri.com ►

Peter Bucchianeri

Peter Bucchianeri: APSA Susan Clarke Young Scholar Award in Urban Politics

August 22, 2019
Awardee | Peter Bucchianeri PhD 2018 is one of three recipients of the 2019 Susan Clarke Young Scholar Award from the American Political Science Association's section on Urban and Local Politics. The award recognizes scholars who have completed their PhD within the last three years. 

Bucchianeri received his PhD in Government and Social Policy from Harvard in 2018 and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Effective Lawmaking at Vanderbilt University. Learn more about Peter Bucchianeri's work:

peterbucchianeri.com ►

Latest commentary and analysis

Republicans Want You (Not the Rich) to Pay for Infrastructure

June 23, 2021
Brian Higsmith

The New York Times | By Brian Highsmith, PhD student in Government and Social Policy. Highsmith is also a senior researcher at Yale Law School’s Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law. He was a tax policy adviser on President Barack Obama’s National Economic Council.

Do You Live in a Political Bubble?

May 3, 2021

Ryan Enos and Jacob Brown
The New York Times | By Guz Wezerek, Ryan D. Enos, and Jacob Brown. Jacob R. Brown is a PhD candidate in Government and Social Policy and a Stone PhD Research Fellow. Ryan D. Enos is Professor of Government, at Harvard University. Based on their research in Nature Human Behavior.
View the research ►

Felix Owusu

Dissecting racial disparities in the Massachusetts criminal justice system

September 10, 2020

Harvard Gazette | Interview with Stone PhD Scholar Felix Owusu, a PhD candidate in Public Policy and author of a new report by the Criminal Justice Policy Program (CJPP) at Harvard Law School. The report shows that Black and Latinx people are overrepresented in Massachusetts’ criminal justice system and receive longer sentences than their white counterparts when convicted.

View the report ►
Danielle Allen

Why Coronavirus Is an ‘Existential Crisis’ for American Democracy

July 1, 2020

Politico | Q & A with Danielle Allen,  James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University. This moment is nothing less than an “existential crisis” that will reshape American society, says Danielle Allen, head of Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics and co-author of the university’s Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience. “It is a moment where societies are forced to answer the question of who they are. And I think [the U.S.] didn’t answer that question terribly well.”

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.

View the report ►
View launch event and discussion ►

Anthony Abraham Jack

Advice to students: Don’t be afraid to ask for help

March 6, 2020

Harvard Gazette | "At 11:43 a.m. on Aug. 10, 2015, I sent an email. And it changed my life." Anthony Abraham Jack argues we need to recast what it means to ask for help--not a sign of weakness, but a skill to be honed. Jack is Assistant Professor of Education and a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows.

Dani Rodrik

Technology for All

March 6, 2020

Project Syndicate | By Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard Kennedy School. "Technological change does not follow its own direction, but rather is shaped by moral frames, incentives, and power. If we think more about how innovation can be directed to serve society, we can afford to worry less about how we should adjust to it," Rodrik writes.

Jason Furman

Opinion: The Case for a Big Coronavirus Stimulus

March 5, 2020

Wall Street Journal | By Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. Given the mounting economic risks posed by the spread of the novel coronavirus, Congress should act swiftly to pass a fiscal stimulus that is accelerated, big, comprehensive, and dynamic, Furman argues.

Anthony Abraham Jack

‘I Want to See You Here’: How to Make College a Better Bet for More People

February 27, 2020

The Chronicle of Higher Education
Anthony Abraham Jack (PhD 2016), Assistant Professor of Education at Harvard and the author of The Privileged Poor, joins a discussion with a campus leader, a public official, and a college counselor to explore how to lift more people's prospects. Read and watch excerpts from their conversation. Part of The Chronicle series, Broken Ladder, examining the role of education in social mobility.

Nancy Pelosi

Up from Polarization

February 26, 2020

Dissent | By Daniel Schlozman PhD 2011,  Joseph and Bertha Bernstein Associate Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University and the author of When Movements Anchor Parties: Electoral Alignments in American History (Princeton University Press, 2015).

Reviewing Ezra Klein's Why We're Polarized, Schlozman writes that it " ultimately fails to account for our deepest divides...As he shifts focus to the dynamics of disagreement, he largely ignores the central conflict in contemporary politics: a particular form of racialized political economy, whose motor is the poisonous entente between racism and the one percent. Start there, and one gets a different picture of the problem, and of potential solutions."

Leah E. Gose

From the Tea Party to the Resistance

February 20, 2020

No Jargon | Leah E. Gose, a PhD candidate in Sociology and a Malcolm Hewitt Wiener PhD Scholar in Poverty and Justice, explains how The Resistance compares with the Tea Party and what we can learn by looking at them together. A podcast of the Scholars Strategy Network.

New Firms for a New Era

New Firms for a New Era

February 12, 2020

Project Syndicate | By Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard Kennedy School. "In recent years, large corporations have become increasingly aware that they must be sensitive not only to the financial bottom line, but also to the social and environmental effects of their activities...But societies should not allow firms' owners and their agents to drive the discussion about reforming corporate governance," Rodrik writes.

Jason Furman

The Disappearing Corporate Income Tax

February 11, 2020

Congressional testimony | Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on "The Disappearing Corporate Income Tax." Read his prepared testimony (via PIIE).

NPR The Indicator

Even the Facts are Polarized

February 3, 2020
The Indicator | Professor of Economics Stefanie Stantcheva joins The Indicator from Planet Money to talk about her research on the "Polarization of Reality." [audio + transcript]
View the research ►

Crystal S. Yang

Faculty Voices: Crystal Yang on fear and the safety net

January 31, 2020

Harvard Law Today | Professor Crystal Yang JD/PhD 2013 discusses her paper (joint with Marcella Alsan), “Fear and the Safety Net: Evidence from Secure Communities,” which examines the link between tougher immigration enforcement in the United States and the lack of participation in government safety-net programs by Hispanic citizens.

Crystal Yang is Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Marcella Alsan is Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.

View the research ►
David J. Deming

The Robots are Coming. Prepare for Trouble.

January 30, 2020

The New York Times | By David Deming, Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Artificial intelligence won’t eliminate every retail job, but the future could be grim unless we start planning now.

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Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

The Border Within: The Economics of Immigration in an Age of Fear
Watson, Tara, and Kalee Thompson. Forthcoming. 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.

Punishing Places: The Geography of Mass Imprisonment
Simes, Jessica T. Forthcoming. Punishing Places: The Geography of Mass Imprisonment. University of California Press, 242. Abstract
Punishing Places applies a unique spatial analysis to mass incarceration in the United States. It demonstrates that our highest imprisonment rates are now in small cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Jessica Simes argues that mass incarceration should be conceptualized as one of the legacies of U.S. racial residential segregation, but that a focus on large cities has diverted vital scholarly and policy attention away from communities affected most by mass incarceration today. This book presents novel measures for estimating the community-level effects of incarceration using spatial, quantitative, and qualitative methods. This analysis has broad and urgent implications for policy reforms aimed at ameliorating the community effects of mass incarceration and promoting alternatives to the carceral system.
The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power
Hacker, Jacob S., Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Paul Pierson, and Kathleen Thelen, ed. Forthcoming. The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power. 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

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.
Locked Out of College: When Admissions Bureaucrats Do and Do Not Discriminate
Brown, Jacob R., and Hanno Hilbig. Forthcoming. “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.

 

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.

 

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

Stefanie Stantcheva VOX CEPR video

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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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Economics for Inclusive Prosperity

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

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

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

January 23, 2018

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

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

David J. Deming

The Value of Soft Skills in the Labor Market

January 17, 2018
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Can the Financial Benefit of Lobbying be Quantified?

Can the Financial Benefit of Lobbying be Quantified?

January 16, 2018
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Does a Criminal Past Predict Worker Performance? Evidence from One of America’s Largest Employers

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

January 12, 2018
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Should Policymakers Care Whether Inequality is Helpful or Harmful for Growth?

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