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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

The Shifting Nature of Gender Norms

The Shifting Nature of Gender Norms

July 28, 2016

Pacific Standard | A new study suggests expectations are changing faster for women than for men. Coverage of Alexandra Killewald's research, "Money, Work, and Marital Stability: Assessing Change in the Gendered Determinants of Divorce," published in the current issue of the American Sociological Review.
View the research (ungated) 

Turns Out That the Husband’s Employment Status Is Probably the Best Predictor of Divorce

Turns Out That the Husband’s Employment Status Is Probably the Best Predictor of Divorce

July 28, 2016

NY Magazine—The Science of US | "In a new study published in the American Sociological Review, Harvard sociologist Alexandra Achen Killewald has found that the things that increase the probability of divorce — as they relate to work, at least — have changed over the past couple decades. It turns out that the amount of money that either the husband or wife makes isn’t that important: For contemporary couples, the biggest determinant is whether the husband is working full-time."
View the research (ungated)

Don’t Blame Divorce on Money. Ask: Did the Husband Have a Job?

Don’t Blame Divorce on Money. Ask: Did the Husband Have a Job?

July 28, 2016

Bloomberg | A new study by Alexandra Killewald, Professor of Sociology, suggests that neither financial strains nor women's increased ability to get out of an unhappy marriage is predictive of divorce. Killewald's research, "Money, Work, and Marital Stability: Assessing Change in the Gendered Determinants of Divorce," appears in the current issue of the American Sociological Review.
View the ASR article (ungated)

Information asymmetry: Secrets and agents

Information asymmetry: Secrets and agents

July 23, 2016

The Economist | First in a series on seminal economic ideas delves into George Akerlof's 1970 paper, "The Market for Lemons"—and highlights how Daniel Shoag's findings (joint with Robert Clifford, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston) on the impact of credit check bans on employment draw insight from the field of information economics that Akerlof's work spurred. Shoag (Ph.D. '11), Associate Professor at Harvard Kennedy School, and Clifford find that, contrary to the bans' intent, prohibiting the use of credit scores in hiring led to relatively worse outcomes for black and young job-seekers. 
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Wages of Mariel

Wages of Mariel

July 23, 2016

The Economist | New study by George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, counters the findings of a classic paper in immigration economics. Borjas reexamines the impact of the 1980 Mariel boatlift on Miami-area wages by focusing on high school dropouts, the group most comparable to the Marielitos, he argues, over 60% of whom were high school dropouts. The paper is forthcoming in Industrial and Labor Relations Review.
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Inaugural Convening of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking

Inaugural Convening of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking

July 22, 2016

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking—on which Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy, serves—convened its first public meeting on July 22. The Commission was established under the bipartisan Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-140), jointly sponsored by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2016. The Commission is charged with examining aspects of how to increase the availability and use of data in order to build evidence about government programs, while protecting privacy and confidentiality.
View the agenda
View meeting materials and slides

Politics in a 'post-truth' age

Politics in a 'post-truth' age

July 14, 2016

Harvard Gazette | In this topsy-turvy presidential campaign, the old laws may no longer apply. Harvard analysts weigh in on norms and culture of democracy—including Jennifer Hochschild, the Henry LaBarre Jayne professor of Government, and political theorist Danielle Allen, who directs the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard.

How the 2% lives

How the 2% lives

July 14, 2016

The Economist | How do growing numbers of temp workers, now over 2% of the U.S. workforce, affect temporary and staff workers alike? Quotes Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allen Professor of Economics, who estimates that temps face a 15% earnings penalty even after controlling for age, education, and other demographic variables, and cites his earlier work with Alan Krueger, which found that  states with a higher share of temporary employment in the late 1980s experienced lower wage growth in the 1990s. 

Obama's hopes for the future of health care

Obama's hopes for the future of health care

July 12, 2016

Marketplace | Features Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy. "The name of the act is the Affordable Care Act," Chandra said. "But I think American health care is still largely unaffordable to many, many people." To truly build on Obama’s legacy, he said policymakers must tackle the problem of drugs and procedures that are expensive but really don't offer much value.

Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings

Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings

July 11, 2016

The New York Times | Coverage of new NBER working paper by Roland Fryer, Henry Lee Professor of Economics: "A new study confirms that black men and women are treated differently in the hands of law enforcement. They are more likely to be touched, handcuffed, pushed to the ground or pepper-sprayed by a police officer, even after accounting for how, where, and when they encounter the police. But when it comes to the most lethal form of force — police shootings — the study finds no racial bias."
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When Urbanization Doesn't Help

When Urbanization Doesn't Help

July 10, 2016

The Atlantic—CityLabWhile some nations have seen rapid urbanization lead to economic progress, others have fallen behind. Discusses new study by Edward Glaeser and colleagues that compares the process of urbanization in three of the world’s largest emerging economies—Brazil, China, and India—to that of the United States. Glaeser is the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard.
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Latest commentary and analysis

Right-to-Work Laws Have Devastated Unions — and Democrats

Right-to-Work Laws Have Devastated Unions — and Democrats

March 8, 2018

The New York Times | By James Feigenbaum PhD 2016, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez PhD 2016,  and Vanessa Williamson PhD 2015. Based on the authors' NBER paper, "From the Bargaining Table to the Ballot Box: Downstream Effects of Right to Work Laws."

James Feigenbaum received his PhD in Economics from Harvard and is now Assistant Professor of Economics at Boston University. Alexander Hertel-Fernandez received his PhD in Government and Social Policy from Harvard and is now Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Vanessa Williams received her PhD in Government and Social Policy from Harvard and is now a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

View the research ►

Unions

Right-to-Work Laws Have Devastated Unions — and Democrats

March 8, 2018

The New York Times | By James Feigenbaum (PhD '16), Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (PhD '16), and Vanessa Williamson (PhD '15). James Feigenbaum, Assistant Professor of Economics at Boston University; Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Asssistant Professor of Public Affairs at Columbia University; and Vanessa Williamson, a Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, are members of the Scholars Strategy Network.

Based on the authors' research, "From the Bargaining Table to the Ballot Box: Political Effects of Right to Work Laws," recently released as an NBER Working Paper.
View the research

Roberto Gonzales

A Harvard discussion series highlights the concerns of DACA students

February 23, 2018
Harvard Gazette | Interview with HGSE Professor Roberto Gonzales, one of the organizers of the DACA seminar at Harvard, a series of events exploring questions about the termination of DACA and TPS, deportations, and the current state of immigration policy.
Boston Review

The Almost Inevitable Failure of Justice

February 22, 2018

Boston Review | By Thad Williamson (PhD '04). Today it is hard not to fear that the persistence of racial injustice and U.S. poverty is anything but a permanent feature of our democracy, writes Williamson, in his review essay of Tommie Shelby's Dark Ghettos. "The lopsided distribution of wealth characteristic of U.S. capitalism must be on the table in any discussion about realizing social justice—including the discussion of ghetto poverty."

Thad Williamson is Associate Professor of Leadership Studies and Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law at the University of Richmond and co-editor of Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond. In 2014-2016, Williamson served as the first director of the City of Richmond's Office of Community Wealth Building while on leave from the University of Richmond.

Middle America Reboots Democracy

Middle America Reboots Democracy

February 20, 2018
Democracy Journal | By Lara Putnam and Theda Skocpol. We spent months talking with anti-Trump forces—and they’re not who pundits say they are. Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government at Harvard. Lara Putnam is Professor and Chair of History at the University of Pittsburgh.
Fragments Were What I Had Available to Me: Talking to Danielle Allen

Fragments Were What I Had Available to Me: Talking to Danielle Allen

January 26, 2018
Los Angeles Review of Books |Interivew with Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard. How to address in catalyzing prose the policy ramifications of your family’s most intimate personal struggles? How (and why) to construct a poetics of prison reform? When I want to ask such questions, I pose them to Danielle Allen. This conversation, transcribed by Phoebe Kaufman, focuses on Allen’s Cuz, a kaleidoscopic account of her cousin Michael’s life before, during, and after incarceration. Read more>>
Jason Furman

‘Repeal and Replace’ the Trump Tax Cuts

January 25, 2018
Wall Street Journal | By Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. We need to repeal and replace the tax cuts with something more sustainable, efficient, simple and better for American families, Furman argues.
Jason Furman

The Right Question about Inequality and Growth

January 19, 2018
Project Syndicate | By Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. Whether inequality is good or bad for growth should and will continue to concern social scientists, Furman writes. But policymakers would do better, he urges, to focus on how policies impact average incomes and other welfare indicators
How the Alt-Right Uses Social Science to Make Racism Respectable

How the Alt-Right Uses Social Science to Make Racism Respectable

January 15, 2018
The Nation | By Khalil Gibran Muhammad. "By focusing their opprobrium on the Nazi next door, white liberals are missing the very real threat posed by a growing white nationalism," Muhammad writes. Muhammad is Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, Suzanne Young Murray professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America.
Anthony Jack

Increasing Opportunity and Harnessing Talent—What Works?

January 11, 2018
Brookings Institution | Anthony Abraham Jack (PhD '16) joined Raj Chetty (Stanford University), Reshma Saujani (Founder and CEO, Girls Who Code), and Richard V. Reeves (Brookings Institution) for a panel on how to harness America's underutilized talent. Anthony Jack is a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows and Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Ryan D. Enos

'The Space Between Us'

January 9, 2018
Harvard Gazette | Ryan Enos, Associate Professor of Government, talks about his new book The Space Between Us (Cambridge University Press), in which he explores how geography shapes politics and how members of racial, ethnic, and religious groups think about each other.
How tax cuts for the wealthy became Republican orthodoxy

How tax cuts for the wealthy became Republican orthodoxy

December 21, 2017
Washington Post | By Vanessa Williamson (PhD '15). Vanessa Williamson is a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and author of Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes (Princeton University Press, 2017).
Evidence-Based Health Policy

Evidence-Based Health Policy

December 21, 2017
The New England Journal of Medicine | By Katherine Baicker and Amitabh Chandra. "Having a clear framework for characterizing what is, and isn’t, evidence-based health policy (EBHP) is a prerequisite for a rational approach to making policy choices," Baicker and Chandra argue, "and it may even help focus the debate on the most promising approaches."

Katherine Baicker is Dean of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. Amitabh Chandra is Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.
Danielle Allen

In ‘Cuz,’ the story of a cousin’s tragic fate and justice system in crisis

December 19, 2017
PBS NewsHour | In her new book “Cuz,” Danielle Allen looks to her own family tragedy for a deeper understanding of gangs, American drug policy and the consequences of mass incarceration, predominantly for young, African-American men. The author sits down for an interview. [Video and transcript]
Jason Furman

How to Get American Men Back into the Workforce

December 17, 2017
Wall Street Journal | By Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. Rethink unemployment insurance and increase public investment in improving skills, Furman argues.

Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

Disconnected
Leigh, Andrew. 2010. Disconnected. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. Abstract

As Australians, we traditionally see ourselves as friendly, relaxed and connected people. But the data from our census and countless other surveys show that Australian society is shifting rapidly. These days, chances are you never quite get around to talking to your neighbours. You're always too busy to give blood. You might find that you've become disconnected

The casualty gap : the causes and consequences of American wartime inequalities
Kriner, Douglas L, and Francis X Shen. 2010. The casualty gap : the causes and consequences of American wartime inequalities. New York: Oxford University Press. Abstract

"The Casualty Gap shows how the most important cost of American military campaigns - the loss of human life - has been paid disproportionately by poorer and less-educated communities since the 1950s. Drawing on a rich array of evidence, including National Archives data on the hometowns of more than 400,000 American soldiers killed in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, this book is the most ambitious inquiry to date into the distribution of American wartime casualties across the nation, the forces causing such inequalities to emerge, and their consequences for politics and democratic governance." "Although the most immediate costs of military sacrifice are borne by service members and their families, The Casualty Gap traces how wartime deaths also affect entire communities. Americans who see the high price war exacts on friends and neighbors are more likely to oppose a war and its leaders than residents of low-casualty communities. Moreover, extensive empirical evidence connects higher community casualty rates in Korea and Vietnam to lower levels of trust in government, interest in politics, and electoral and non-electoral participation. A series of original survey experiments finds that Americans informed of the casualty gap's existence will accept substantially fewer casualties that those who are not told about inequality in sacrifice." "By presenting a wealth of evidence and analysis, this book seeks both to bolster public awareness of casualty inequalities and to spur critical dialogue about the nation's policy response. The Casualty Gap should be read by all who care about the future of America's military and the effects of war on society and democracy."–Jacket.

Sprawl, justice, and citizenship : the civic costs of the American way of life
Williamson, Thad. 2010. Sprawl, justice, and citizenship : the civic costs of the American way of life. New York: Oxford University Press. Abstract

"Must the strip mall and the eight-lane highway define 21st century American life?" That is a central question posed by critics of suburban and exurban living in America. Yet despite the ubiquity of the critique, it never sticks–Americans by the scores of millions have willingly moved into sprawling developments over the past few decades. Americans find many of the more substantial criticisms of sprawl easy to ignore because they often come across as snobbish in tone. Yet as Thad Williamson explains, sprawl does create real, measurable social problems. Williamson's work is unique in two important ways. First, while he highlights the deleterious effects of sprawl on civic life in America, he is also evenhanded. He does not dismiss the pastoral, homeowning ideal that is at the root of sprawl, and is sympathetic to the vast numbers of Americans who very clearly prefer it. Secondly, his critique is neither aesthetic nor moralistic in tone, but based on social science. Utilizing a landmark 30,000-person survey, he shows that sprawl fosters civic disengagement, accentuates inequality, and negatively impacts the environment. Sprawl, Justice, and Citizenship will not only be the most comprehensive work in print on the subject, it will be the first to offer a empirically rigorous critique of the most popular form of living in America today."–Publisher description.

Who cares? : Public ambivalence and government activism from the New Deal to the second gilded age
Newman, Katherine S, and Elisabeth S Jacobs. 2010. Who cares? : Public ambivalence and government activism from the New Deal to the second gilded age. Princeton, N.J. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2010. Abstract

"Americans like to think that they look after their own, especially in times of hardship. Particularly for the Great Depression and the Great Society eras, the collective memory is one of solidarity and compassion for the less fortunate. Who Cares? challenges this story by examining opinion polls and letters to presidents from average citizens. This evidence, some of it little known, reveals a much darker, more impatient attitude toward the poor, the unemployed, and the dispossessed during the 1930s and 1960s. Katherine Newman and Elisabeth Jacobs show that some of the social policies that Americans take for granted today suffered from declining public support just a few years after their inception. Yet Americans have been equally unenthusiastic abotu efforts to dismantle social programs once their are established. Again contrary to popular belief, conservative Republicans had little public support in the 1980s and 1990s for their efforts to unravel the progressive heritage of the New Deal and the Great Society. Whether creating or rolling back such programs, leaders like Roosevelt, Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan often found themselves working against public opposition, and they left lasting legacies only by persevering despite it.""Timely and surprising, Who Cares? demonstrates not that Americans are callous but that they are frequently ambivalent about public support for the poor. It also suggests that presidential leadership requires bold action, regardless of opinion polls."--Jacket.

Includes bibliographical references (p. [203]-210) and index.

Unanticipated gains : origins of network inequality in everyday life
Small, Mario Luis. 2009. Unanticipated gains : origins of network inequality in everyday life. Origins of network inequality in everyday life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Abstract

"Social capital theorists have shown that some people do better than others in part because they enjoy larger, more supportive, or otherwise more useful networks. But why do some people have better networks than others? Unanticipated Gains argues that the practice and structure of the churches, colleges, firms, gyms, childcare centers, and schools in which people happen to participate routinely matter more than their deliberate "networking." Exploring the experiences of New York City mothers whose children were enrolled in childcare centers, this book examines why a great deal of these mothers, after enrolling their children, dramatically expanded both the size and usefulness of their personal networks. Whether, how, and how much the mother's networks were altered–and how useful these networks were–depended on the apparently trivial, but remarkably consequential, practices and regulations of the centers. The structure of parent-teacher organizations, the frequency of fieldtrips, and the rules regarding drop-off and pick-up times all affected the mothers' networks. Relying on scores of in-depth interviews with mothers, quantitative data on both mothers and centers, and detailed case studies of other routine organizations, Small shows that how much people gain from their connections depends substantially on institutional conditions they often do not control, and through everyday processes they may not even be aware of."–Jacket.

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Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Harvard Business School Research Brief

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

August 30, 2020

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

Our Common Purpose

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

June 11, 2020

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

View the report ►
View launch event and discussion ►

Economics After Neoliberalism: Introducing the EfIP Project

Economics After Neoliberalism: Introducing the EfIP Project

January 23, 2020

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

Alix S. Winter

Is Lead Exposure a Form of Housing Inequality?

January 2, 2020

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

Michael Luca

2019 in Research Highlights

December 27, 2019

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

Benjamin Schneer

Family past as political prologue

December 13, 2019

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

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DACA report

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

November 7, 2019

Immigration Initiative at Harvard
Findings from the National UnDACAmented Research Project (NURP). By Roberto G. Gonzales, Sayil Camacho, Kristina Brant, and Carlos Aguilar. Roberto G. Gonzales is Professor of Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Kristina Brant is a PhD candidate in Sociology and an Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellow.

The Inflation Gap

The Inflation Gap

November 5, 2019

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

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

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

Michael Hankinson

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

October 18, 2019

LSE American Politics and Policy | A look at Michael Hankinson's American Political Science Review article, co-authored with Justin de Benedictis-Kessner (Boston University), on self-interest, NIMBYism, and the opioids crisis. Michael Hankinson received his PhD in Government & Social Policy in 2017. Their research appears in the Nov 2019 issue of APSR.

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Allison Daminger

How Couples Share “Cognitive Labor” and Why it Matters

September 19, 2019

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

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Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP) logo

The Economics of Free College

June 1, 2019

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

Stefanie Stantcheva VOX CEPR video

Where does innovation come from?

March 28, 2019

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

View the research ►

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