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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

What Does Immigration Actually Cost Us?

What Does Immigration Actually Cost Us?

September 29, 2016

The New York Times | Columnist Thomas Edsall explores the complexity of core findings contained in a new National Academy of Sciences report, "The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration." Cites research by George J. Borjas, one of the panel members who contributed to the report, who concludes that immigration produces substantial wage losses for native-born U.S. workers, particularly high school dropouts, as well as Lawrence Katz, whose more recent work with Claudia Goldin has convinced him "that immigration is at most a small contributor to the awful real and relative wage performance of U.S. high school dropouts," whose relative wages "fell by 40 percent compared to college graduates"' from 1980 to the early 2000s."

Trust gap: What happens when black communities call 911 less often?

Trust gap: What happens when black communities call 911 less often?

September 29, 2016

The Christian Science Monitor | "The first study of its kind found 911 calls in black Milwaukee neighborhoods dropped significantly following the beating of Frank Jude, an unarmed black man. And then crime rates rose." Examination of new study by Harvard's Matthew Desmond, Andrew Papachristos .(Yale University), and David Kirk (University of Oxford), just out in the American Sociological Review.

Police Brutality Leads to Thousands Fewer Calls to 911

Police Brutality Leads to Thousands Fewer Calls to 911

September 28, 2016

The Atlantic | Examines new study by Harvard's Matthew Desmond (John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences), Andrew Papachristos (Yale University), and David Kirk  (University of Oxford).

An Online Education Breakthrough? A Master’s Degree for a Mere $7,000

An Online Education Breakthrough? A Master’s Degree for a Mere $7,000

September 28, 2016

The New York Times | Discusses findings of new study by faculty members Joshua Goodman (Harvard Kennedy School), Julia Melkers (Georgia Tech), and Amanda Pallais (Harvard Economics), which suggest that access to high-quality, low-cost online education could make a real difference in educational options, at least among mid-career Americans.
View the research

A more inclusive Harvard

A more inclusive Harvard

September 28, 2016

Harvard Gazette | An interview with Danielle Allen, Archon Fung, and Meredith Weenick,  co-chairs of the new University-wide Presidential Task Force on Belonging and Inclusion. Danielle Allen is Professor of Government and Education and Director of the Edmond Safra Center for Ethics. Archon Fung is Academic Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School and Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship. 

911 calls fell in black Milwaukee neighborhoods after Jude beating, study finds

911 calls fell in black Milwaukee neighborhoods after Jude beating, study finds

September 28, 2016

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Coverage of new study by Harvard's Matthew Desmond, Andrew Papachristos (Yale University), and David Kirk (University of Oxford). "Desmond said he was shocked when he first saw the size of the drop...'Something like the Frank Jude case tears the fabric apart so deeply and delegitimizes the criminal justice system in the eyes of the African-American community that they stop relying on it in significant numbers,' Desmond told the Journal Sentinel in an interview."

It’s Easy for Obamacare Critics to Overlook the Merits of Medicaid Expansion

It’s Easy for Obamacare Critics to Overlook the Merits of Medicaid Expansion

September 26, 2016

The New York Times | Cites research by Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15) and co-authors showing that Medicaid in childhood makes children more likely to finish high school and college. Cohodes is Assistant Professor of Education and Public Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. The research was subsequently published in the Journal of Human Resources. View it here.

FREOPP Names Scott Winship a Visiting Fellow

FREOPP Names Scott Winship a Visiting Fellow

September 26, 2016

FREOPP | The Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, a newly-created non-profit think tank that will conduct original research on expanding economic opportunity for those  with incomes or wealth below the U.S. median, today named Scott Winship a Visiting Fellow. Winship joins FREOPP from the Manhattan Institute, where he was the Walter B. Wriston Fellow.

The 13th: Inside Ava DuVernay's Netflix prison documentary on racial inequality

The 13th: Inside Ava DuVernay's Netflix prison documentary on racial inequality

September 26, 2016

The Guardian | Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, is among the participants to appear in The 13th, Ava DuVernay's new documentary, which traces the history of racism, criminalization, and mass incarceration in the U.S. "The trailer sets up DuVernay’s documentary as a provocative a mix of archival footage and testimonies from activists, politicians and historians, including Michelle Alexander, Bryan Stevenson, Van Jones, Newt Gingrich, Angela Davis, Senator Cory Booker, Grover Norquist, Khalil Muhammad, Craig DeRoche, Shaka Senghor, Malkia Cyril and Henry Louis Gates Jr," reports the Guardian.  The film will open the New York Film Festival on Sept 30, the first documentary to ever do so, and will then release on Netflix and in a limited theater run on Oct 7.  A screening will be coming soon to the Ash Center at the Harvard Kennedy School.
View The 13th - Official trailer

Washington Center for Equitable Growth

Equitable Growth's Inaugural Grantee Conference

September 25, 2016

Washington Center for Equitable Growth | Grantees Ellora Dernoncourt (Ph.D. candidate in Economics), Beth Truesdale (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology), and Vanessa Williamson (Ph.D. '15), now a Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, were among those attending Equitable Growth's inaugural grantee conference. Also participating: Nathaniel Hendren, Assistant Professor of Economics,  and Elisabeth Jacobs (Ph.D. '08), Senior Director for Policy at Equitable Growth. View the program.

Companies That Discriminate Fail (Eventually)

Companies That Discriminate Fail (Eventually)

September 23, 2016

Bloomberg View | Highlights new study by sociologist Devah Pager, "Are Firms that Discriminate More Likely to Go Out of Business?," published in Sociological Science, which presents a new direct empirical test of Gary Becker's theory of the economics of discrimination. Pager is director of the Inequality & Social Policy program at Harvard and Professor of Sociology and Public Policy.
View the research

Science’s 1%: How income inequality is getting worse in research

Science’s 1%: How income inequality is getting worse in research

September 21, 2016

Nature | Wages for top scientists are shooting skywards, widening the wage gap between elite scientists and the rest. Interviews Richard Freeman, Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics, who suggests that these trends may be driving talented young people away from careers in academic science. 

Firms that Discriminate are More Likely to Go Bust

Firms that Discriminate are More Likely to Go Bust

September 21, 2016

Marginal Revolution | Coverage of Devah Pager's latest study, published in Sociological Science, "Are Firms that Discriminate More Likely to Go Out of Business?". Pager, who directs the Inequality & Social Policy program, is Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Harvard.

Is Political Science Too Pessimistic?

Is Political Science Too Pessimistic?

September 20, 2016

The Chronicle of Higher Education | Senior ideas reporter Marc Perry talks with Jennifer Hochschild about the themes of her American Political Science Association presidential address, which she recently delivered at the APSA 112th annual meeting. Hochschild, Harvard's Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and Professor of African and African American Studies, just completed her term as president (2015-2016).

The Best Headspace for Making Decisions: How Emotions Influence Decision-Making

The Best Headspace for Making Decisions: How Emotions Influence Decision-Making

September 19, 2016

The Atlantic | Delves into Jennifer Lerner's latest research on emotions and decision-making. Lerner, a psychologist, is a professor within the Management, Leadership, and Decision Science Area at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Co-founder of the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory.

On the role of anger in this election season, Lerner notes that anger can be beneficial during the primaries, increasing voter turnout: "Anger is the primary emotion of justice." But when it comes to the actual election, anger can...

Read more about The Best Headspace for Making Decisions: How Emotions Influence Decision-Making

Where Does the American Dream Live?

September 18, 2016

Retro Report and The New York Times | In 1976, Chicago provided vouchers to African-American families to move into predominantly white suburbs. Retro Report examines what happened, and how it influences policy today. Features Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics.

"In 2014 Katz decided to find out what happened to the children who moved as part of Moving to Opportunity. And now that the youngest children had grown up, he was seeing something that policymakers hadn't predicted: 'We're seeing them earning 30% more than a kid who didn't get the opportunity to move to a better neighborhood. We're seeing college-going rates increase dramatically. We couldn't see that when the kids weren't old enough....Neighborhoods and childhood development are long-term investments, and one has to have some patience. Most things that are investments take a while to pay off.”

On the costs of concentrated poverty, Katz says: "We're losing people who are innovators. We're losing people who could be artists. And we could have a much more vibrant society if we had much less concentration of poverty and of social problems."

Why So Many Poor Americans Don't Get Help Paying for Housing

Why So Many Poor Americans Don't Get Help Paying for Housing

September 16, 2016

FiveThirtyEight | Quotes Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences. "Desmond said that by prioritizing assistance for homeownership — which mostly benefits middle-class and wealthy families — over rental assistance for the poor, the federal government is making the nation’s poverty problem worse...Desmond argues that unaffordable housing, and the subsequent instability, is often the catalyst for a cycle of poverty. And in his book, he says that instead of focusing housing policy on increasing homeownership, we should be 'pulling housing back to the center of the poverty debate.'"

Latest awards

Matthew Clair and Alix Winter

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

April 17, 2017

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

Torben Iversen

Torben Iversen elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

April 12, 2017

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

Pulitzer Prize

Matthew Desmond wins Pulitzer Prize for 'Evicted'

April 10, 2017

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

Natasha Warikoo awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

Natasha Warikoo awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

April 7, 2017

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

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

The Tobin Project Spring 2017 Fellows: Sarah James

The Tobin Project Spring 2017 Fellows: Sarah James

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

The Tobin Project Spring 2017 fellows: James Biblarz

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

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

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

Tom Wooten awarded NSF doctoral dissertation research grant

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

'Evicted' honored with 2017 PEN New England Award

March 22, 2017

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

'Evicted' wins National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction

'Evicted' wins National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction

March 16, 2017

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

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

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

Stefanie Stantcheva wins NSF CAREER Award

Stefanie Stantcheva wins NSF CAREER Award

March 13, 2017

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

Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Teachers College Convocation 2017 Medalists Announced: Khalil Gibran Muhammad

March 6, 2017

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

2016 Discover Great New Writers Awards: Matthew Desmond

2016 Discover Great New Writers Awards: Matthew Desmond

March 1, 2017

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

Maya Sen

Maya Sen named a Stanford CASBS Fellow for 2017-2018

February 28, 2017

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

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

Danielle Allen named 2017 SSRC Democracy Fellow

Danielle Allen named 2017 SSRC Democracy Fellow

February 24, 2017

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

L.A. Times Book Prize Finalists Announced

L.A. Times Book Prize Finalists Announced

February 22, 2017

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

PEN/John Kennedy Galbraith Award for NonFiction: Matthew Desmond

PEN/John Kennedy Galbraith Award for NonFiction: Matthew Desmond

February 22, 2017

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

William Julius Wilson to receive 2017 SAGE-CASBS Award

William Julius Wilson to receive 2017 SAGE-CASBS Award

February 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

Latest commentary and analysis

The Rights and Wrongs of Economics

The Rights and Wrongs of Economics

June 7, 2017
Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast | Twenty years ago, Dani Rodrik predicted that too much globalization could lead to social disintegration and weakened democracies. Dani Rodrik is the Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School.
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.
View the research
Ronald Ferguson interview - HarvardX

Can 'The Boston Basics' Help Close the Achievement Gap?

June 5, 2017
WBUR Radio Boston | WBUR talks with Ron Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University and creator of The Boston Basics. The Boston Basics Campaign is partnering with hospitals, community health centers, childcare providers, libraries, and early learning centers across Boston to close skill gaps that emerge in early childhood, in the critical first years of brain development.
Ethnic and Racial Studies

Race, class, politics, and the disappearance of work: a rejoinder

June 5, 2017
Ethnic and Racial Studies | By William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard. For its 40th anniversary special issue, Ethnic and Racial Studies is revisiting classic articles in context, including William Julius Wilson's "When Work Disappears" (1999). Here he responds to Harvard political scientist Jennifer Hochsdhild's review essay.
Ethnic and Racial Studies

Race, class, politics, and the disappearance of work

June 5, 2017
Ethnic and Racial Studies | By Jennifer L. Hochschlld. For its 40th anniversary special issue, Ethnic and Racial Studies reexamines classic articles in context. Here Harvard political scientist Jennifer Hochschild revisits "When Work Disappears" by William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor.
Neoliberal Social Justice: From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama

Neoliberal Social Justice: From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama

May 30, 2017
SSRC items | Leah Wright Rigueur, as part of the Social Science Research Council's “Reading Racial Conflict” series, critically engages with the career and the writings of Edward Brooke in a reflection on the arguments for and limits of capitalism to uplift African Americans out of poverty. She also deploys Brooke, the first popularly elected black senator in US history who served in the 1960s and 1970s, as a window onto how Barack Obama connects racial inequalities to access to the market.
Douglas W. Elmendorf

The Republican Health Care Debacle: How Not to Make Public Policy

May 24, 2017

Foreign Affairs | By Douglas W. Elmendorf. "The development and passage of the ACHA is a case study in how not to make public policy," writes Elmendorf. Douglas Elmendorf is Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy. He served as the director of the Congressional Budget Office from January 2009 through March 2015.

Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Insitute

Opportunity & Inclusive Growth Institute Conference

May 22, 2017

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis | Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, joined the inaugural conference of the Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute, where he spoke in the opening panel on segregation and inequality. Putnam and Harvard economist Lawrence Katz both serve on the Institute's Board of Advisors.

Why Opportunity and Inclusion Matter to America's Economic Strength
Lael Brainard of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors delivered the keynote address, highlighting issues of employment, household financial health, the geography of opportunity, and affordable housing. She also drew attention to insights generated by the Boston Fed's Workng Cities Challenge.
View text of remarks
 

Earlier this spring Governor Brainard delivered the 2017 Malcolm Wiener Lecture in International Political Economy in the JFK Jr. Forum at Harvard Kennedy School.

Investigating the Causes and Consequences of Inequality

Investigating the Causes and Consequences of Inequality

May 18, 2017

Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast | Professor David Deming (PhD '10) sits down with PolicyCast host Matt Cadwallader to talk about his new Harvard Kennedy School course, The Causes and Consequences of Inequality (SUP-206). If traditional jobs like manufacturing aren’t coming back, how can the economy adapt? How can the American education system better prepare the next generation for the needs of the modern economy? Deming's research grapples with these questions.

Harvard Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging: A Discussion with the Co-Chairs

Harvard Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging: A Discussion with the Co-Chairs

May 17, 2017

Harvard Gazette | This past fall, Harvard President Drew Faust convened a University-wide task force to examine ways to help Harvard thrive as a place where all members of its increasingly diverse community feel that they truly belong. The task force is co-chaired by James Bryant Conant University Professor Danielle Allen, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics; Harvard Kennedy School Academic Dean Archon Fung, the Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship; and Vice President for Campus Services Meredith Weenick.

The task force’s co-chairs recently sat down with the Harvard Gazette to discuss this report, their first year, and what’s next for this important work.

U.S. Congress

The State of Social Capital in America

May 17, 2017

U.S. Congress Joint Economic Commitee | Professors Robert D. Putnam and Mario L. Small (PhD '01), joined by Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute and Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs, testified before the Joint Economic Committee on the potential role for social capital in addressing U.S. economic and social challenges.

Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, focused on two generational concerns: why social capital matters in narrowing the opportunity gap among today's children, and what a boomer generation "aging alone" portends for U.S. eldercare costs in the years ahead.
Read Robert Putnam testimony

Mario Small, Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology, discussed the evidence that "early education and childcare programs may be an especially effective venue to help low-income parents generate social capital,"..." that this social capital is beneficial, and that there is reason to believe that targeted interventions may help such programs maximize these benefits."
Read Mario Small testimony

How Massachusetts provides education policymakers with research insights: An interview with Carrie Conaway, Chief Strategy and Research Officer, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

How Massachusetts provides education policymakers with research insights: An interview with Carrie Conaway, Chief Strategy and Research Officer, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

May 12, 2017

Gov Innovator Podcast | Andy Feldman (PhD '07) interviews Carrie Conaway (AM '01), Chief Strategy and Research Officer for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Conaway was recently appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Board for Education Sciences. Feldman is currently a visiting fellow with the Center for Children and Families at the Brookings Institution.

The Ambition-Marriage Trade-Off Too Many Single Women Face

The Ambition-Marriage Trade-Off Too Many Single Women Face

May 8, 2017
Harvard Business Review | By Leonardo Bursztyn, Thomas Fujiwara, and Amanda Pallais. Harvard economist Amanda Pallais and co-authors discuss the findings of their latest research on marriage market incentives and labor market investments, forthcoming in the American Economic Review: "Many schooling and initial career decisions, such as whether to take advanced math in high school, major in engineering, or become an entrepreneur, occur early in life, when most women are single. These decisions can have labor market consequences with long-lasting effects," they write. 
View the research

Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Proposals for improving the U.S. Pretrial System

March 15, 2019

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Economics for Inclusive Prosperity

Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP) Launches

February 15, 2019

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

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Imagining a Future of Work That Fosters Mobility for All

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

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

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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.

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David J. Deming

The Value of Soft Skills in the Labor Market

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Can the Financial Benefit of Lobbying be Quantified?

Can the Financial Benefit of Lobbying be Quantified?

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

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

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

An inside view of credit checks in hiring

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

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

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