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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Police will aid early-childhood campaign in Mattapan

Police will aid early-childhood campaign in Mattapan

April 25, 2017

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

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

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

School classroom

The Privilege of School Choice

April 25, 2017

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

Cracking the Mystery of Labor's Falling Share of GDP

Cracking the Mystery of Labor's Falling Share of GDP

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

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

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

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

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

Can Love Close the Achievement Gap?

April 17, 2017

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

Democracy: A Case Study

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

April 17, 2017

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

Donald Trump

A riveting relationship: Donald Trump woos the unions

April 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

April 7, 2017

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

Bernie Sanders

Despair is Not an Option: Bernie Sanders in Conversation

April 4, 2017

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

Tax policy Alvin Cheng

These 4 questions could change your views on tax fairness

March 29, 2017

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

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

Seattle

What Works Cities: Tackling Homelessness in Seattle [video]

March 28, 2017

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

Latest awards

Asad L. Asad

Asad L. Asad awarded RSF Presidential Authority grant

February 18, 2020

Russell Sage Foundation | Asad L. Asad PhD 2017 has been awarded a Russell Sage Foundation Presidential Authority grant for a study titled, "Precarious Citizenship: Judicial Decisions in U.S. Denaturalization Cases." Asad is now Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stanford University.

Lawrence Katz

The 2020 IZA Prize in Labor Economics goes to Lawrence Katz

January 16, 2020

IZA - Institute of Labor Economics | Lawrence F. Katz, the Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard, will receive the 2020 IZA Prize in Labor Economics for his 35 years of research documenting changes in earnings inequality and showing the role of the expansion of educational opportunity in increasing living standards. The IZA Prize is regarded as the most prestigious science award in the field. 

“Lawrence Katz is universally recognized in the world of economics as a remarkably imaginative and productive scholar, who combines profound economic research with an interest in current basic and specific issues of public policy. Most important, the same recognition is given to his decency in dealing with other economists, especially junior researchers," read the award statement.

Lawrence Katz has advised more than 200 Harvard PhD students to date—among them, over 40 faculty and alumni of the Inequality & Social Policy program.

View the list ►

Marcella Alsan and Marianne Wanamaker

Marcella Alsan receives Arrow Award for "Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men"

January 3, 2020

Awardee | Harvard Kennedy School Professor Marcella Alsan and co-author Marianne Wanamaker of the University of Tennesee accepted the 27th Kenneth J. Arrow Award for best paper in health economics at this week's Allied Social Sciences Association meetings in San Diego. The award, given by International Health Economics Association, recognized their paper, "Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men," published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 2018.

"The Arrow Award Committee is proud to acknowledge the authors of this innovative and informative paper, which examines the extent to which the infamous Tuskegee Study of untreated syphilis in black males reduced trust in the medical system and ultimately impeded the progress in reducing mortality for this group...The results provide robust evidence that disclosure of the Tuskegee Study undermined trust in the medical system with the strongest effects for those black males for whom the study was most salient. This led to reductions in the use of medical care and increases in mortality for the most affected group. Specifically, the estimates imply that life expectancy for 45-year old black men fell by up to 1.5 years, an amount sufficient to explain approximately one-third of the racial gap in life expectancy in 1980. We congratulate the authors on the publication of this important paper."

View the research ► 

Jal Mehta

Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine win Grawemeyer Education Award

December 5, 2019

Awardee | Harvard Professor of Education Jal Mehta PhD 2006 and collaborator Sarah Fine EdD 2017  have won the 2020 Grawemeyer Award in Education for ideas set forth in their book, In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School (Harvard University Press, 2019). 

The Grawemeyer Awards, based at the University of Louisville, pay tribute to the power of creative ideas, emphasizing the impact that a single idea can have on the world. Five awards are given annually to reward outstanding ideas in music composition, world order, psychology, education, and religion, each carrying a prize of $100,000. The 2020 winners will visit Louisville in April to accept their awards and give free talks on their winning ideas.

Sarah James

Sarah James receives Inaugural Sidney Verba Award for Teaching Excellence and Inaugural Peer Mentoring Award

December 2, 2019

Awardee | Sarah E. James, PhD candidate in Government & Social Policy, has been recognized by the Harvard Government Department with two teaching awards: Sarah is one of four recipients of the inaugural Sidney Verba Award for Teaching Excellence and the inaugural recipient of the department's Peer Mentoring Award. Learn more about Sarah James's work:

sarahejames.com ►
Cierra Robson

Cierra Robson: 2020 Assembly Student Fellow

November 30, 2019

Berkman Klein Center | Cierra Robson, a PhD student in Sociology and Social Policy, has been selected as a 2020 Assembly Student Fellow by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. The Assembly Student Fellowship program brings together a cohort of Harvard students from a range of disciplines and schools to participate in problem-oriented seminars led by Harvard faculty and collaborate on student-led projects aimed at tackling real-world problems. This year, Assembly is taking up disinformation in the digital public sphere from a cybersecurity perspective.

Broadly, Cierra is interested in how technological advancements both reinforce and revolutionize the American racial order, as well as how public-private collaborations both solidify and make profitable existing power hierarchies. She aims to use her research to conceptualize what meaningful regulation of Big Tech looks like.

Stefanie Stantcheva

Les 50 Français les plus influents du monde en 2019

November 20, 2019

Vanity Fair | Stefanie Stantcheva, Professor of Economics at Harvard, is featured as one of this year's 50 most influential French people in the world. Also selected: MIT economist and 2019 Nobel Prize winner Esther Duflo.

Alumni awarded RSF Presidential Authority grants

Alumni awarded RSF Presidential Authority grants

November 14, 2019

Russell Sage Foundation | Alumni Michael Hankinson (PhD in Government & Social Policy, 2017), Sarah Halpern-Meekin (PhD in Sociology & Social Policy, 2019), and Nathan Wilmers (PhD in Sociology, 2018) are among the fall 2019 recipients of RSF Presidential Authority grants in the area of Social, Political, and Economic Inequality.

Andrew Keefe

Winners of the 2018-2019 ABLConnect Teaching Innovator Prize Announced

November 6, 2019

Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning | Andrew Keefe, JD/PhD student in  Sociology and Social Policy, is a recipient—together with Harvard College Lecturer Shai M. Dromi and Sociology PhD student Kwan Woo Kim—of a 2018-19 ABLConnect Teaching Innovator Prize for their work in Dr. Dromi's course, "Visualizing Humanitarian Crises and Interventions." 

ABLConnect is an online database of active learning exercises developed by Harvard instructors and used in Harvard classrooms. The competitive Teaching Innovator Prize recognizes instructors from across Harvard institutions for their use of active learning.

Ron Ferguson

Celebrating Dr. Ron Ferguson with the 2019 Social Justice Award

October 29, 2019

Awardee | Ronald Ferguson, Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and faculty director of the university-wide Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI), was honored for his work in founding Boston Basics by Join Us for Good, Eastern Bank's charitable foundation. The Boston Basics Campaign was inspired by the fact that 80% of brain growth happens in the first three years of life and is now spreading to other cities in a Basics National Network.

Boston Basics ▶
Martin West

Martin West Named Bloomberg Chair

October 7, 2019

Harvard Graduate School of Education | Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Martin West PhD 2006 has been named the William Henry Bloomberg Professor at Harvard.  The professorship supports a rotating series of scholars and practitioners who teach and conduct research in the fields of philanthropic policy and practice, public service and volunteerism, and the effective leadership and management of nonprofit and public institutions.

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.

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).
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.

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.

Latest commentary and analysis

Stefanie Stantcheva

Mobility: Real and Perceived

December 31, 2019

City Journal | By Alberto Alesina and Stefanie Stantcheva. Americans continue to regard their economic prospects more optimistically than Europeans, who fear that the poor are stuck in poverty. Alesina is the Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economy at Harvard. Stantcheva is a Professor of Economics.

Leah Gose

‘The Resistance’ built grass-roots groups across the U.S. Will the Democratic Party put that energy to work in 2020?

December 31, 2019

The Washington Post | By Leah E. Gose, PhD student in Sociology and Malcolm Hewitt Wiener PhD Scholar in Poverty and Justice. Leah is a contributor to the forthcoming volume, Upending American Politics: Polarizing Parties, Ideological Elites, and Citizen Activists from the Tea Party to the Anti-Trump Resistance, Theda Skocpol and Caroline Tervo, eds. (Oxford University Press, 2020).

Amitabh Chandra

We need a national conversation about our health care priorities

December 23, 2019

Boston Globe | By Katherine Baicker and Amitabh Chandra. Amitabh Chandra is the Ethel Zimmerman Wiener Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and the Henry and Allison McCance Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Katherine Baicker is Dean of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

Edward Glaeser

City Slicker

December 15, 2019

IMF Finance and Development | Chris Wellisz profiles Harvard’s Edward Glaeser, who sees urbanization as a path to prosperity. Edward Glaeser is the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics.

Benjamin Schneer

Drawing the Line on Gerrymandering

December 10, 2019

HKS PolicyCast | With the 2020 census looming, Assistant Professor of Public Policy Benjamin Schneer says redistricting can be made more democratic—even in deeply partisan states [Audio + transcript].

Dani Rodrik

Tackling Inequality from the Middle

December 10, 2019

Project Syndicate | By Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy. The rise of populist movements and street protests from Chile to France has made inequality a high priority for politicians of all stripes in the world's rich democracies. But a fundamental question has received relatively little attention: What type of inequality should policymakers tackle?

Christina Cross

The Myth of the Two-Parent Home

December 9, 2019

The New York Times | By Christina Cross, Postdoctoral Fellow (2019-2021) and Assistant Professor of Sociology (beginning 2021). New research indicates that access to resources, more than family structure, matters for black kids’ success. "If this is the case, Cross argues, "then what deserves policy attention is not black families’ deviation from the two-parent family model but rather structural barriers such as housing segregation and employment discrimination that produce and maintain racialized inequalities in family life."

Boston Review

Selling Keynesianism

December 9, 2019

Boston Review | By Robert Manduca, PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Policy. In the 1940s and '50s, the general public understood and agreed upon Keynesian economic principles. Today, we can learn a lot from the popularizing efforts that led to that consensus and long-lasting economic success, Robert Manduca argues.

Mainstream conservative parties paved the way for far-right nationalism

Mainstream conservative parties paved the way for far-right nationalism

December 2, 2019

Washington Post | By Bart Bonikowski (Associate Professor of Sociology) and Daniel Ziblatt (Eaton Professor of the Science of Government). First in a six-article series edited by Bonikowski and Ziblatt. Inspired by a 2018 academic conference on populism and the future of democracy organized by Harvard Univesity's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs in Talloires, France.

Cresa Pugh

Can the International Community Save the Rohingya?

November 26, 2019

The Globe Post | By Cresa Pugh, PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Policy. Her research interests include the social legacies of imperialism, ethnic and religious conflict in Southeast Asia, and the role of collective memory and identity in shaping peacebuilding efforts in post-conflict societies.

Dani Rodrik

We Have the Tools to Reverse the Rise in Inequality

November 20, 2019

PIIE | By Olivier Blanchard and Dani Rodrik. What the authors learned from the Combating Inequality conference, held Oct 17-18 at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Olivier Blanchard is the C. Fred Bergsten Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Dani Rodrik is the Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School.

View conference ►
DACA rally

DACA has changed lives – and the country – for the better. It must be preserved

November 12, 2019

The Guardian | By Roberto G. Gonzales and Kristina Brant. As the supreme court considers Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, our research shows multiple benefits for individuals, families and communities.

Roberto Gonzales is professor of education at Harvard University and author of Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America. Kristina Brant is a PhD candidate in Sociology and an Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellow. Learn more about the report, co-authored with Sayil Camacho and Carlos Aguilar:

View the report ▶
The Immigration Initiative at Harvard ▶
Alex Keyssar

Why Voter Turnout is So Low in the United States

October 17, 2019

Jacobin | An interview with Alexander Keyssar, Matthew W. Stirling, Jr Professor of History and Social Policy and the author of The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States.

David J. Deming

Engineers Spring Ahead, but Don't Underestimate the Poets

September 20, 2019

The New York Times | By David Deming, Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Drawing on research with Stone PhD Scholar Kadeem Noray, a PhD candidate in Public Policy, Deming notes that STEM majors earn more right out of college, but liberal marts majors gradually catch up, and by age 40 there is little or no earnings difference between them. Deming argues we should avoid the impulse to make college curricula narrowly career-focused and focus instead on preparing students "for the next 40 years of working life, and a future that none of us can imagine." 

View the research ►

Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence

Beginning in the mid-1990s, American cities experienced an astonishing drop in violent crime. By 2014, the United States was safer than it had been in sixty years. Sociologist Patrick Sharkey gathered data from across the country to understand why this happened, and how it changed the nature of urban inequality. He shows that the decline of violence is one of the most important public health breakthroughs of the past several decades, that it has made schools safer places to learn and increased the chances of poor children rising into the middle class. Yet there have been costs, in the abuses and high incarceration rates generated by aggressive policing.

Sharkey puts forth an entirely new approach to confronting violence and urban poverty. At a time when inequality, complacency, and conflict all threaten a new rise in violent crime, and the old methods of policing are unacceptable, the ideas in this book are indispensable.

The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life
Jiménez, Tomás R. 2017. The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 296. Abstract

The immigration patterns of the last three decades have profoundly changed nearly every aspect of life in the United States. What do those changes mean for the most established Americans—those whose families have been in the country for multiple generations?
 
The Other Side of Assimilation shows that assimilation is not a one-way street. Jiménez explains how established Americans undergo their own assimilation in response to profound immigration-driven ethnic, racial, political, economic, and cultural shifts. Drawing on interviews with a race and class spectrum of established Americans in three different Silicon Valley cities, The Other Side of Assimilation illuminates how established Americans make sense of their experiences in immigrant-rich environments, in work, school, public interactions, romantic life, and leisure activities. With lucid prose, Jiménez reveals how immigration not only changes the American cityscape but also reshapes the United States by altering the outlooks and identities of its most established citizens. 

 

(Re)Generating Inclusive Cities: Poverty and Planning in Urban North America
Zuberi, Dan, and Ariel Judith Taylor. 2017. (Re)Generating Inclusive Cities: Poverty and Planning in Urban North America. Routledge, 144. Abstract

As suburban expansion declines, cities have become essential economic, cultural and social hubs of global connectivity. This book is about urban revitalization across North America, in cities including San Francisco, Toronto, Boston, Vancouver, New York and Seattle. Infrastructure projects including the High Line and Big Dig are explored alongside urban neighborhood creation and regeneration projects such as Hunters Point in San Francisco and Regent Park in Toronto. Today, these urban regeneration projects have evolved in the context of unprecedented neoliberal public policy and soaring real estate prices. Consequently, they make a complex contribution to urban inequality and poverty trends in many of these cities, including the suburbanization of immigrant settlement and rising inequality. 

(Re)Generating Inclusive Cities wrestles with challenging but important questions of urban planning, including who benefits and who loses with these urban regeneration schemes, and what policy tools can be used to mitigate harm? We propose a new way forward for understanding and promoting better urban design practices in order to build more socially just and inclusive cities and to ultimately improve the quality of urban life for all.

Someone To Talk To
Small, Mario Luis. 2017. Someone To Talk To. Oxford University Press, 288. Abstract

When people are facing difficulties, they often feel the need for a confidant-a person to vent to or a sympathetic ear with whom to talk things through. How do they decide on whom to rely? In theory, the answer seems obvious: if the matter is personal, they will turn to a spouse, a family member, or someone close. In practice, what people actually do often belies these expectations. 

In Someone To Talk To, Mario L. Small follows a group of graduate students as they cope with stress, overwork, self-doubt, failure, relationships, children, health care, and poverty. He unravels how they decide whom to turn to for support. And he then confirms his findings based on representative national data on adult Americans. 

Small shows that rather than consistently rely on their "strong ties," Americans often take pains to avoid close friends and family, as these relationships are both complex and fraught with expectations. In contrast, they often confide in "weak ties," as the need for understanding or empathy trumps their fear of misplaced trust. In fact, people may find themselves confiding in acquaintances and even strangers unexpectedly, without having reflected on the consequences. 

Someone To Talk To reveals the often counter-intuitive nature of social support, helping us understand questions as varied as why a doctor may hide her depression from friends, how a teacher may come out of the closet unintentionally, why people may willingly share with others their struggle to pay the rent, and why even competitors can be among a person's best confidants.

Amid a growing wave of big data and large-scale network analysis, Small returns to the basic questions of who we connect with, how, and why, upending decades of conventional wisdom on how we should think about and analyze social networks.

Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes
Williamson, Vanessa S. 2017. Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 304. Abstract

Conventional wisdom holds that Americans hate taxes. But the conventional wisdom is wrong. Bringing together national survey data with in-depth interviews, Read My Lips presents a surprising picture of tax attitudes in the United States. Vanessa Williamson demonstrates that Americans view taxpaying as a civic responsibility and a moral obligation. But they worry that others are shirking their duties, in part because the experience of taxpaying misleads Americans about who pays taxes and how much. Perceived "loopholes" convince many income tax filers that a flat tax might actually raise taxes on the rich, and the relative invisibility of the sales and payroll taxes encourages many to underestimate the sizable tax contributions made by poor and working people.

Americans see being a taxpayer as a role worthy of pride and respect, a sign that one is a contributing member of the community and the nation. For this reason, the belief that many Americans are not paying their share is deeply corrosive to the social fabric. The widespread misperception that immigrants, the poor, and working-class families pay little or no taxes substantially reduces public support for progressive spending programs and undercuts the political standing of low-income people. At the same time, the belief that the wealthy pay less than their share diminishes confidence that the political process represents most people.

Upending the idea of Americans as knee-jerk opponents of taxes, Read My Lips examines American taxpaying as an act of political faith. Ironically, the depth of the American civic commitment to taxpaying makes the failures of the tax system, perceived and real, especially potent frustrations.

 

Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Michael Luca

Lessons from Yelp's Empirical Approach to Diversity

September 20, 2017
Harvard Business Review | By Rachel Williams, Gauri Subramani, Michael Luca, and Geoff Donaker. Michael Luca is the Lee J. Styslinger III Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.
The Gains of Greater Granularity: The Presence and Persistence of Problem Properties in Urban Neighborhoods

The Gains of Greater Granularity: The Presence and Persistence of Problem Properties in Urban Neighborhoods

September 5, 2017
Boston Area Research Initiative | In a recent paper, BARI Co-Directors Dan O’Brien and Chris Winship demonstrated the presence and persistence of ‘‘problem properties’’ with elevated levels of crime and disorder in Boston. Importantly, they find that this additional geographic detail offers a wealth of information beyond the traditional focus on at-risk neighborhoods, and even the more recent attention to hotspot street segments. (Continue reading)

Chris Winship is the Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology at Harvard University and a member of the faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School. The paper was published in a special issue of the Journal of Quantitative Criminology on the Law of Concentration of Crime. 
View the research
Jeff Liebman

Using Data to Make More Rapid Progress in Addressing U.S. Social Problems

August 30, 2017
By Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy.

From the Government Performance Lab at Harvard Kennedy School:  In a new piece forthcoming in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (Jan 2018), Professor Jeffrey Liebman describes how high frequency use of data can move agencies from static evaluation of programs to real-time improvement in outcomes and to solutions to challenging social problems.... Read more about Using Data to Make More Rapid Progress in Addressing U.S. Social Problems
How the government can help simplify personal financial decision-making

How the government can help simplify personal financial decision-making

August 29, 2017

Harvard Kennedy School | "Low incomes, limited financial literacy, fraud, and deception are just a few of the many intractable economic and social factors that contribute to the financial difficulties that households face today...But poor financial outcomes also result from systematic psychological tendencies," some of which may be countered with government interventions that are both low-cost and scalable," Harvard Kennedy School Professor Brigitte Madrian and co-authors write in the latest issue of Behavioral Science & Policy. Their article outlines a set of interventions that the federal government "could feasibly test or implement to improve household nancial outcomes in a variety of domains: retirement, short-term savings, debt management, the take-up of government benefits, and tax optimization." 
View the research

Carola Frydman

Why Has CEO Pay Grown So Much Faster Than the Average Worker’s?

August 3, 2017

Kellogg Insight | Based on the research of Carola Frydman (PhD 2006) and Dimitris Papanikolaou. Carola Frydman is Associate Professor of Finance in the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. View the research: “In Search of Ideas: Technological Innovation and Executive Pay Inequality.” Journal of Financial Economics (Oct 2018).

View the research ►
Education Next

2017 EdNext Poll on School Reform released

August 1, 2017
Education Next | By Martin R. West, Michael B. Henderson, Paul E. Peterson, and Samuel Barrows. This article appears in print in the Winter 2018 issue of Education Next.
Scientific American

Natural Disasters by Location: Rich Leave and Poor Get Poorer

July 2, 2017
Scientific American | Each big catastrophe like a hurricane increases a U.S. county's poverty by 1 percent,  90 years of data show. By Leah Platt Boustan (PhD '06), Maria Lucia Yanguas, Matthew Kahn, and Paul W. Rhode, based on the authors' research. Leah Platt Boustan is a Professor of Economics at Princeton University.
Carlos Lastra-Anadon

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

June 17, 2017

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

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

Microeconomic insights

A most egalitarian profession: pharmacy and the evolution of a family-friendly occupation

June 8, 2017

Microeconomic Insights | By Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz. "How much of the earnings gap between men and women is because the latter choose jobs and occupations that enable flexibility in their work, predictability in their hours and bounds on their work schedule?," ask Harvard economics professors Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz. Here they summarize their recent article by the same title, pubilshed in 2016 in the Journal of Labor Economics.
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How “the community” undermines the goals of participatory democracy

How “the community” undermines the goals of participatory democracy

June 5, 2017
Work in Progress | By Jeremy R. Levine (PhD '16), Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies, University of Michigan. Discusses the findings of his academic research, "The Paradox of Community Power: Cultural Processes and Elite Authority in Participatory Governance, published earlier this spring in Social Forces. 'Work in Progress' is a public blog of the American Sociological Association (ASA) for 'short-form sociology' on the economy, work, and inequality.
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How tax rates influence the migration of superstar inventors

How tax rates influence the migration of superstar inventors

May 24, 2017
Microeconomic Insights | By Ufak Akcigit (University of Chicago), Salome Baslandze (Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance), and Stefanie Stantcheva (Harvard University). The authors summarize the findings from their recent American Economic Review article, "Taxation and the International Mobility of Inventors." Stantcheva is Associate Professor of Economics (effective 7/1) at Harvard.
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International Ladies Garment Workers Union

Does union activism increase workers’ wages?

May 22, 2017
Work in Progress | By Nathan Wilmers, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology. Research findings from his recently-published article in Social Forces. Work in Progress is the American Sociological Association's blog for 'short-form sociology' on the economy, work, and inequality. 
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Annual Review of Sociology

Wealth Inequality and Accumulation

May 12, 2017

Annual Review of Sociology | By Alexandra Killewald, Fabian T. Pfeffer, and Jared Schachner. Alexandra Killewald is Professor of Sociology at Harvard. Jared Schachner is a PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Policy.