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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Trump Supporters Appear to be Misinformed, Not Uninformed

Trump Supporters Appear to be Misinformed, Not Uninformed

January 7, 2016

FiveThirtyEight | Analysis of why Donald Trump's support has proved to be so durable draws on findings of Jennifer Hochschild (Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government) and Katherine Levine Einstein (Ph.D. '12, now Boston University) showing that there are incentives for politicians to keep citizens both misinformed and politically active.

The Most Anticipated Books of 2016

The Most Anticipated Books of 2016

January 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews | Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor in the Social Sciences, is named one of the most anticipated books of 2016: "This stunning, remarkable book—a scholar’s 21st-century How the Other Half Lives—demands a wide audience."

William Julius Wilson, Scholar of Race and Class, Looks Ahead

William Julius Wilson, Scholar of Race and Class, Looks Ahead

December 28, 2015

Associated Press | William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, spoke with The Associated Press about his decades of thinking and writing about race, class, education, and poverty and about how his ideas echo through today’s news stories, whether on income inequality or the Black Lives Matter movement.

Wilson is now embarking on a new project with colleagues at Harvard, "Multidimensional Inequality in the 21st Century: The Project on Race and Cumulative Adversity." The project will examine the intersection of race and poverty in the United States across domains ranging from labor markets to criminal justice. This article appeared in dozens of news outlets including The New York TimesWashington Post, and ABC News.

The Rise of Urban Public Boarding Schools

The Rise of Urban Public Boarding Schools

December 26, 2015

The Atlantic | Cites research by Roland Fryer, Henry Lee Professor of Economics: "The Potential of Urban Boarding Schools for the Poor: Evidence from Seed."

Oregon company makes a point of hiring ex-convicts

Oregon company makes a point of hiring ex-convicts

December 25, 2015

Marketplace | Devah Pager, Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, discusses her current research, which examines the job performance of those with criminal records in the military. Pager finds that "those with serious criminal pasts perform just as well if not better than their counterparts with no criminal records."

A New Investment Opportunity: Helping Ex-Convicts

A New Investment Opportunity: Helping Ex-Convicts

December 21, 2015

The Atlantic | Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy, explains how Pay for Success programs can provide real-time data to learn more rapidly what works in connecting those leaving prison with jobs and reducing recidivism.

Human Science

Human Science

December 14, 2015

Inside Higher Ed | Michèle Lamont discusses her new article, co-authored with Veronica Boix Mansilla (HGSE) and Kyoko Sato (Stanford), which explores the determinants of successful interdisciplinary collaboration in the social, natural, and computational sciences: "One takeaway from our paper is that we must pay heed to the way interactions and emotions shape the production of knowledge -- rather than limiting our perspective by focusing solely on the cognitive when we measure success.”

The American Middle Class Meltdown

The American Middle Class Meltdown

December 14, 2015

NPR's On Point | Elisabeth Jacobs (Ph.D. '08, now Washington Center for Equitable Growth) guests, along with Rakesh Kochhar (Pew Research Center), Tyler Cowen (George Mason), and Jacob Hacker (Yale University).

Who will be able to afford college in a decade?

Who will be able to afford college in a decade?

December 10, 2015

Washington Post | Highlights growing gaps in college attainment by family income and new  work by Lindsay C. Page (University of Pittsburgh) and Judith Scott Clayton (Ph.D. '09, now Columbia TC) on improving college access.

Latest commentary and analysis

Mario Luis Small: Spencer Lecture 2019

How can social science improve the public discourse in a polarized society?

April 6, 2019

2019 Spencer Lecture | Widespread deficits in qualitative literacy--the ability to use and interpret data collected from interviews, observations, and similar methods--has contributed to a polarized public discourse, argued Mario Small, Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, in his 2019 Spencer Lecture at the AERA Annual Meeting in Toronto.

While there have been considerable gains in quantitative literacy in recent years, Small argued, there has been no commensurate improvement in the public's qualitative literacy. As a result, both producers and consumers of news struggle to identify or produce empirically sound  journalism and commentary. "This paucity is part of the reason that the election of Trump caught many unaware, that the rise of white supremacist movements seemed to many to come out of nowhere, and that our debates about everything from conditions in poor neighborhoods to the motivations of working class people have been stagnant," Small asserted. 

Small maintained that the “habits of thought” practiced by skilled qualitative researchers can provide a path forward, and he outlined three indicators that researchers, journalists, pundits, and all those who strive to inform and influence the public should meet.

View video, slides, written remarks ▶

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Jal Mehta

High School Doesn't Have to Be Boring

March 30, 2019

The New York Times | By Jal Mehta PhD 2006 and Sarah Fine. Debate, drama and other extracurriculars provide the excitement many classrooms lack. And they can help overhaul the system, Mehta and Fine argue. The authors spent six years traveling the country studying high schools for their book, In Search of Deeper Learning, just published by Harvard University Press. Mehta is Associate Professor of Education at Harvard. Fine runs a teacher preparation program at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education in San Diego.

A letter to the class of 2023

A letter to the class of 2023

March 29, 2019

New York Daily News | By Natasha Warikoo PhD 2005. Warikoo is Associate Professor of Education at Harvard and the author of The Diversity Bargain.

Robert Manduca

To Fix Regional Inequality, Target the One Percent

March 25, 2019

Washington Monthly | By Robert Manduca, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy. Because some places are doing well while others are not, we tend to assume that disparities are largely a local problem, writes Robert Manduca. But if national income inequality in the US is largely responsible for the growing economic dispartity between its regions, as Manduca's research suggests, fixing struggling regions will require a different set of policies.

... View the research ▶

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Boston Review

Economics After Neoliberalism

February 15, 2019

Boston Review | By Suresh Naidu (Columbia University), Dani Rodrik (Harvard Kennedy School), and Gabriel Zucman (University of California Berkeley). Contemporary economics is finally breaking free from its market fetishism, offering plenty of tools we can use to make society more inclusive, the authors argue.

The Philanthropy Con

The Philanthropy Con

January 10, 2019

Dissent | By Vanessa Williamson PhD 2015, Senior Fellow in Governance Studies, Brookings Institution. In a democracy, taxes are better than charity, argues Williamson.

Why elite colleges should use a lottery to admit students

Why elite colleges should use a lottery to admit students

January 8, 2019

The Conversation | By Natasha Warikoo PhD 2005, Associate Professor of Education, Harvard University. Reprinted in Times Higher Education, Quartz, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. Selected for Five Best Ideas of the Day by The Aspen Institute.

Time Traveler: Claudia Goldin

Time Traveler: Claudia Goldin

December 14, 2018
IMF Finance and Development | People in Economics interview with Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard. By Peter J. Walker.
I voted sticker

Why letting ex-felons vote probably won’t swing Florida

November 2, 2018

Vox | By Marc Meredith and Michael Morse. We analyzed ex-felons with voting rights. Their party affiliation is more mixed than you might think. Michael Morse is a JD candidate at Yale Law School and a PhD candidate in Government at Harvard. Marc Meredith is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Andrew Leigh

The End of the Australian Miracle?

October 9, 2018

The New York Times | By Andrew Leigh (PhD 2004). The country needs to find ways to share prosperity with workers, writes Andrew Leigh, a Labor Party member of the Australian Parliament.

Protesters march in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014 after the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

What happens to police departments that collect more fines? They solve fewer crimes.

September 24, 2018

Washington Post | By Rebecca Goldstein, Michael Sances, and Hye Young You PhD 2014. Based on the authors' research, "Exploitative Revenues, Law Enforcement, and the Quality of Government Service," forthcoming in Urban Affairs Review.

Rebecca Goldstein is a PhD candidate in Government and a Malcolm Hewitt Wiener PhD Scholar in Poverty and Justice. Hye Young You received her PhD in Political Economy and Government from Harvard and is now Assistant Professor in the Wilf Family Department of Politics at New York University.

...
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JAMA Pediatrics

A Social Justice Framework for Lead Policy

August 27, 2018

JAMA Pediatrics | By Jessica Wolpaw Reyes PhD '02, Professor of Economics, Amherst College. How, given scarce resources, should society best address the threats that lead poses?

Anthony Abraham Jack

It's Hard to Be Hungry on Spring Break

March 17, 2018

The New York Times | By Anthony Abraham Jack, PhD '16. It is one thing to extend coveted invitations to poor students in recruiting them, writes Jack. it's another to really prepare for their arrival. Jack is a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Putting a Face to Anti-Trump Voters

Putting a Face to Anti-Trump Voters

March 10, 2018
NPR Weekend Edition | Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol discusses what she has found in talking to members of the resistance movemet in eight counties in North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

Sosnaud, Benjamin, David Brady, and Steven M Frenk. 2013. “Class in Name Only: Subjective Class Identity, Objective Class Position, and Vote Choice in American Presidential Elections.” Social Problems 60. University of California Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of Social Problems: pp. 81-99. Publisher's Version Abstract
Partly because of the widespread tendency for Americans to think of themselves as “middle class,” subjective class identity often does not correspond to objective class position. This study evaluates the extent to which American voters' subjective class identities differ from their objective class positions. We then evaluate the implications of such differences for voting behavior using American National Election Studies data from eight recent presidential elections. Coding respondents according to whether subjective class identity is higher or lower than objective class position, we construct a novel schema of inflated, deflated, and concordant class perceptions. We find that there are substantial differences between Americans' subjective and objective social class: over two-thirds of the upper-middle class have a deflated perception of their class position, only half of the middle class have concordant perceptions, and more than a third of the working class have inflated perceptions. We also find that this divergence varies depending on sociodemographic factors, and especially race and education. The analyses initially show a pattern that those with inflated class perceptions are more likely to vote Republican. However, this relationship is not significant once we control for race and income.
Beckfield, Jason, Sigrun Olafsdottir, and Benjamin Sosnaud. 2013. “Healthcare Systems in Comparative Perspective: Classification, Convergence, Institutions, Inequalities, and Five Missed Turns.” Annual Review of Sociology 39: 127-146. Publisher's Version Abstract
This article reviews and evaluates recent comparative social science scholarship on healthcare systems. We focus on four of the strongest themes in current research: (a) the development of typologies of healthcare systems, (b) assessment of convergence among healthcare systems, (c) problematization of the shifting boundaries of healthcare systems, and (d) the relationship between healthcare systems and social inequalities. Our discussion seeks to highlight the central debates that animate current scholarship and identify unresolved questions and new opportunities for research. We also identify five currents in contemporary sociology that have not been incorporated as deeply as they might into research on healthcare systems. These five missed turns include emphases on social relations, culture, postnational theory, institutions, and causal mechanisms. We conclude by highlighting some key challenges for comparative research on healthcare systems.

Scholars have long noted how migration streams, once initiated, obtain a self-feeding character. Studies have attributed this phenomenon – the cumulative causation of migration – to expanding social networks that connect migrants in destination to individuals in origin. Studies however, often disagree on how social networks influence migration decisions. While many establish a positive association between individuals’ ties to prior migrants and their migration propensities, only few acknowledge that multiple social mechanisms might account for these interdependencies. To address this issue, we adopt a typology developed by DiMaggio and Garip (2012) and consider three mechanisms by which social ties may influence individuals’ migration choices. We study the prevalence of these mechanisms in the Mexico-US migration context using a mixed methods approach. First, analyzing data from more than 90,000 individuals surveyed by the Mexican Migration Project (MMP) we establish the presence of network effects in migration and test how prior migrants in the family or community increase individuals’ migration propensities, and whether prior migrants reduce the effect of economic or political indicators on migration propensities. Second, we analyze qualitative data from 120 in-depth interviews to determine the different mechanisms that lead to interdependencies in individuals’ migration choices. We thus provide a deeper understanding of migration as a social process, which we contend is crucial for anticipating future flows and policy responses.

Linos, Elizabeth. 2013. “Do Conditional Cash Transfers Shift Votes? Evidence from the Honduran PRAF.” Electoral Studies 32: 864-874. Abstract
How do national social programs influence local voting? This study utilizes the experimental set up of a conditional cash transfer program to show that small, targeted cash transfers can have large electoral effects. The Honduran PRAF program allocated an average of $18 per capita per year to poor households within municipalities that were randomly assigned to receive the program. Although the program was administered at the national level, the program increased an incumbent mayor’s re-election probabilities by 39%, without significantly influencing voting behavior in presidential elections. Moreover, the evidence suggests that transferring cash to poor households were more effective at increasing political support than interventions providing public goods for poor villages.
Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander. 2013. “Dismantling Policy through Fiscal Constriction: Examining the Erosion in State Unemployment Insurance Finances.” Social Service Review 87. The University of Chicago Press: pp. 438-476. Publisher's Version Abstract
Abstract A common proposition in welfare state research is that programs financed through dedicated payroll taxes tend to be more durable. This article examines American unemployment insurance (UI) as an exception to this proposition. UI is a self-financed social insurance program whose benefits have been dismantled over time because of an inability to maintain a constant revenue base. The study first examines the long-run decline in UI finances and concludes that changes in UI taxes are associated with the largest declines in state finances. It then examines why more states have not pursued reforms to strengthen UI finances and finds that opponents of more generous UI benefits have generally succeeded in preventing such measures, thus constricting UI finances and gradually retrenching benefits. These findings have implications for those seeking to improve UI solvency, as well as for the study of welfare state retrenchment more generally.
Huang, Wei, and Yi Zhou. 2013. “Effects of Education on Cognition at Older Ages: Evidence from China’s Great Famine.” Social Science & Medicine 98: 54-62. Publisher's Version Abstract

This paper explores whether educational attainment has a cognitive reserve capacity in elder life. Using pilot data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS), we examined the impact of education on cognitive abilities at old ages. OLS results showed that respondents who completed primary school obtained 18.2 percent higher scores on cognitive tests than those who did not. We then constructed an instrumental variable (IV) by leveraging China’s Great Famine of 1959e1961 as a natural experiment to estimate the causal effect of education on cognition. Two-stage least squares (2SLS) results provided sound evidence that completing primary school significantly increases cognition scores, especially in episode memory, by almost 20 percent on average. Moreover, Regression Discontinuity (RD) analysis provides further evidence for the causal interpretation, and shows that the effects are different for the different measures of cognition we explored. Our results also show that the Great Famine can result in long-term health consequences through the pathway of losing educational opportunities other than through the pathway of nutrition deprivation.

Huang, Wei, Xiaoyan Lei, John Strauss, Geert Ridder, and Yaohui Zhao. 2013. “Health, Height, Height Shrinkage, and SES at Older Ages: Evidence from China.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 5: 86-121. Publisher's Version Abstract

In this paper, we build on the literature that examines associations between height and health outcomes of the elderly. We investigate the associations of height shrinkage at older ages with socioeconomic status, finding that height shrinkage for both men and women is negatively associated with better schooling, current urban residence, and household per capita expenditures. We then investigate the relationships between pre-shrinkage height, height shrinkage, and a rich set of health outcomes of older respondents, finding that height shrinkage is positively associated with poor health outcomes across a variety of outcomes, being especially strong for cognition outcomes.

Feigenbaum, James J, and Cameron A Shelton. 2013. “The Vicious Cycle: Fundraising and Perceived Viability in US Presidential Primaries.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 8 (1): 1-40. Publisher's Version Abstract
Scholars of presidential primaries have long posited a dynamic positive feedback loop between fundraising and electoral success. Yet existing work on both directions of this feedback remains inconclusive and is often explicitly cross-sectional, ignoring the dynamic aspect of the hypothesis. Pairing high-frequency FEC data on contributions and expenditures with Iowa Electronic Markets data on perceived probability of victory, we examine the bidirectional feedback between contributions and viability. We find robust, significant positive feedback in both directions. This might suggest multiple equilibria: a candidate initially anointed as the front-runner able to sustain such status solely by the fundraising advantage conferred despite possessing no advantage in quality. However, simulations suggest the feedback loop cannot, by itself, sustain advantage. Given the observed durability of front-runners, it would thus seem there is either some other feedback at work and/or the process by which the initial front-runner is identified is informative of candidate quality.
Papachristos, Andrew V, David M Hureau, and Anthony A Braga. 2013. “The Corner and the Crew: The Influence of Geography and Social Networks on Gang Violence.” American Sociological Review 78 (3): 417-447. Abstract

Nearly a century of empirical research examines how neighborhood properties influence a host of phenomena such as crime, poverty, health, civic engagement, immigration, and economic inequality. Theoretically bundled within these neighborhood effects are institutions’ and actors’ social networks that are the foundation of other neighborhood-level processes such as social control, mobilization, and cultural assimilation. Yet, despite such long-standing theoretical links between neighborhoods and social networks, empirical research rarely considers or measures dimensions of geography and social network mechanisms simultaneously. The present study seeks to fill this gap by analyzing how both geography and social networks influence an important social problem in urban America: gang violence. Using detailed data on fatal and non-fatal shootings, we examine effects of geographic proximity, organizational memory, and additional group processes (e.g., reciprocity, transitivity, and status seeking) on gang violence in Chicago and Boston. Results show adjacency of gang turf and prior conflict between gangs are strong predictors of subsequent gang violence. Furthermore, important network processes, including reciprocity and status seeking, also contribute to observed patterns of gang violence. In fact, we find that these spatial and network processes mediate racial effects, suggesting the primacy of place and the group in generating gang violence.

Eldik, Yaseen, and Monica C Bell. 2012. “The Establishment Clause and Public Education in an Islamophobic Era.” Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 8: 245-258. Abstract
The public education system has often been considered a critically important site for inter-ethnic dialogue designed to root out the prejudice that leads to discrimination against ethnic minorities. However, the prohibition of certain religious practices in schools has placed the "celebration" of religious diversity in a more precarious position than the promotion of racial diversity in ways that have deleterious effects for Muslim Americans. This Essay argues that Supreme Court jurisprudence on religious establishment in public schools has contributed to public education’s inefficacy as a tool to dismantle fear and prejudice against Muslims. We explore judicial, political, and practical approaches to bringing constitutionally permissible religious education and interfaith dialogue into public schools.
Western, Bruce, Deirdre Bloome, Benjamin Sosnaud, and Laura Tach. 2012. “Economic Insecurity and Social Stratification.” Annual Review of Sociology 38: 341-359. Publisher's Version Abstract
Economic insecurity describes the risk of economic loss faced by workers and households as they encounter the unpredictable events of social life. Our review suggests a four-part framework for studying the distribution and trends in these economic risks. First, a focus on households rather than workers captures the microlevel risk pooling that can smooth income flows and stabilize economic well-being. Second, insecurity is related to income volatility and the risk of downward mobility into poverty. Third, adverse events such as unemployment, family dissolution, or poor health commonly trigger income losses. Fourth, the effects of adverse events are mitigated by insurance relationships provided by government programs, employer benefits, and the informal support of families. Empirical research in these areas reveals high levels of economic insecurity among low-income households and suggests an increase in economic insecurity with the growth in economic inequality in the United States.
Hirsch, Nicole Arlette, and Anthony Abraham Jack. 2012. “What We Face: Framing Problems in the Black Community.” Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race 9: 133-148. Abstract
While many sociological studies analyze the causes, conditions, and mechanisms perpetuating American racial inequality, the literature on how African Americans understand and explain these inequalities is less developed. Drawing on 150 interviews with middle-class and working-class African American men and women, this paper analyzes inductively how respondents define and conceptualize the most pressing obstacles facing their group when probed on this question. We find that middle- and working-class respondents alike identify the problem of racism as the most salient obstacle facing African Americans. Class differences appear with respect to what other obstacles are singled out as salient: while middle-class respondents focus on lack of racial solidarity among Blacks and economic problems (in this order), working-class respondents are more concerned with the fragility of the Black family followed by the lack of racial solidarity. This analysis discusses the relevance of considering how groups make sense of obstacles, and of racism and discrimination in particular, for the study of destigmatization and antiracist strategies of stigmatized minorities.
Papachristos, Andrew, Anthony Braga, and David Hureau. 2012. “Social Networks and the Risk of Gunshot Injury.” Journal of Urban Health 89 (6). Boston: 992-1003. Abstract

Direct and indirect exposure to gun violence have considerable consequences on individual health and well-being. However, no study has considered the effects of one’s social network on gunshot injury. This study investigates the relationship between an individual’s position in a high-risk social network and the probability of being a victim of a fatal or non-fatal gunshot wound by combining observational data from the police with records of fatal and non-fatal gunshot injuries among 763 individuals in Boston’s Cape Verdean community. A logistic regression approach is used to analyze the probability of being the victim of a fatal or non-fatal gunshot wound and whether such injury is related to age, gender, race, prior criminal activity, exposure to street gangs and other gunshot victims, density of one’s peer network, and the social distance to other gunshot victims. The findings demonstrate that 85 % all of the gunshot injuries in the sample occur within a single social network. Probability of gunshot victimization is related to one’s network distance to other gunshot victims: each network association removed from another gunshot victim reduces the odds of gunshot victimization by 25 % (odds ratio = 0.75

Braga, Anthony A, David M Hureau, and Andrew V Papachristos. 2011. “An Ex Post Facto Evaluation Framework for Place-Based Police Interventions.” Evaluation Review 35 (6): 592-626. Abstract

Background: A small but growing body of research evidence suggests that place-based police interventions generate significant crime control gains. While place-based policing strategies have been adopted by a majority of U.S. police departments, very few agencies make a priori commitments to rigorous evaluations. Objective: Recent methodological developments were applied to conduct a rigorous ex post facto evaluation of the Boston Police Department’s Safe Street Team (SST) hot spots policing program. Research Design: A nonrandomized quasi-experimental design was used to evaluate the violent crime control benefits of the SST program at treated street segments and intersections relative to untreated street segments and intersections. Propensity score matching techniques were used to identify comparison places in Boston. Growth curve regression models were used to analyze violent crime trends at treatment places relative to control places. Units of Analysis: Using computerized mapping and database software, a micro-level place database of violent index crimes at all street segments and intersections in Boston was created. Measures: Yearly counts of violent index crimes between 2000 and 2009 at the treatment and comparison street segments and intersections served as the key outcome measure. Results: The SST program was associated with a statistically significant reduction in violent index crimes at the treatment places relative to the comparison places without displacing crime into proximate areas. Conclusions: To overcome the challenges of evaluation in real-world settings, evaluators need to continuously develop innovative approaches that take advantage of new theoretical and methodological approaches.

Robbery, and the fear it inspires, has a profound effect on the quality of life in certain urban neighborhoods. Recent advances in criminological research suggest that there is significant clustering of crime in micro places, or "hot spots," that generate a disproportionate amount of criminal events in a city. In this article, the authors use growth curve regression models to uncover distinctive developmental trends in robbery incidents at street segments and intersections in Boston over a 29-year period. The authors find that robberies are highly concentrated at a small number of street segments and intersections rather than spread evenly across the urban landscape over the study time period. Roughly 1 percent and 8 percent of street segments and intersections in Boston are responsible for nearly 50 percent of all commercial robberies and 66 percent of all street robberies, respectively, between 1980 and 2008. Our findings suggest that citywide robbery trends may be best understood by examining micro-level trends at a relatively small number of places in urban environments.

Braga, Anthony A, Anne M Piehl, and David Hureau. 2009. “Controlling Violent Offenders Released to the Community: An Evaluation of the Boston Reentry Initiative.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 46 (4): 411-436. Abstract

Despite the high level of funding and policy interest in prisoner reentry, there is still little rigorous scientific evidence to guide jurisdictions in developing reentry programs to enhance public safety, particularly for managing those who pose the greatest safety risks. The Boston Reentry Initiative (BRI) is an interagency initiative to help transition violent adult offenders released from the local jail back to their Boston neighborhoods through mentoring, social service assistance, and vocational development.This study uses a quasi-experimental design and survival analyses to evaluate the effects of the BRI on the subsequent recidivism of program participants relative to an equivalent control group. The authors find that the BRI was associated with significant reductions—on the order of 30 percent—in the overall and violent arrest failure rates.

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Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Undergraduate Financial Aid

Toward a New Understanding of Financial Aid: Analysis from the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education

May 11, 2017
American Academy of Arts and Sciences | The Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a new publication: Undergraduate Financial Aid in the United States, authored by Judith Scott-Clayton (PhD '09), Associate Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.
View the publication
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. 
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Lessons from the end of free college in England

Lessons from the end of free college in England

April 27, 2017
Brookings Institution | By Richard J. Murphy, Judith Scott-Clayton, and Gillian Wyness. Judith Scott-Clayton (PhD '09) is Associate Professor of Economics and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University.
The Hamilton Project

Leveling the Playing Field: Policy Options to Improve Postsecondary Education and Career Outcomes

April 26, 2017

The Hamilton Project | A policy forum held at the Brookings Institution. The forum began with introductory remarks by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, followed by three roundtable discussions. Papers by David J. Deming (PhD '10) and by Tara E. Watson (PhD '03) and Adam Looney (PhD'04) were the focus of two of the roundtables. View event video and dowload papers, full transcript, and presentation slides from the event webpage.

David Deming is Professor of Education and Economics at HGSE and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Tara Watson is Associate Professor of Economics at Williams College and served in the U.S. Treasury Department from 2015-2016 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Microeconomic Analysis. Adam Looney is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings and served in the U.S. Treasury Department from 2013-2017 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Analysis.

The Hamilton Project

A Risk Sharing Proposal for Student Loans

April 26, 2017

The Hamilton Project | A policy proposal by Tiffany Chou, Adam Looney, and Tara Watson. Adam Looney (PhD '04) is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings and served in the U.S. Treasury Department from 2013-2017 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Analysis. Tara Watson (PhD '03) is Associate Professor of Economics at Williams College and served in the U.S. Treasury Department from 2015-2016 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Microeconomic Analysis.

Science

Documenting decline in U.S. economic mobility

April 24, 2017

Science | By Lawrence F. Katz and Alan B. Krueger. A discussion of the Chetty et. al. study in this issue of Science. Katz is the Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard.

Economic Mobility: State-of-the-Art

Economic Mobility: A State-of-the-Art Primer

April 3, 2017

Archbridge Institute | By Scott Winship (Ph.D. '09), now project director with the U.S. Joint Economic Committee, Office of Vice Chairman Senator Mike Lee. Winship is an honorary advisor to the Archbridge Institute.

Early Childhood Development

Early Childhood Development: Statewide Policy Forum

March 30, 2017

Judge Baker Children's Center | Julie Boatight Wilson, Harry Kahn Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, joined a panel of experts today for a Statewide Policy Forum on Early Childhood Development, hosted by Judge Baker Children's Center, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School. Wilson also co-authored a companion policy brief, "Early Childhood Development: Implications for Policy, Systems, and Practice," by Robert P. Franks, Matthew Pecoraro, Jayne Singer, Sarah Swenson, and Julie Boatright Wilson.
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The Impact of the House ACA Repeal Bill on Enrollees’ Costs

The Impact of the House ACA Repeal Bill on Enrollees’ Costs

March 16, 2017

Center for American Progress | By David Cutler, Topher Spiro, and Emily Gee. David Cutler is the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics at Harvard University. Topher Spiro is the Vice President for Health Policy at the Center for American Progress. Emily Gee is a Health Economist at the Center for American Progress.

Crystal S. Yang

The economy and the odds of criminal recidivism

March 7, 2017

Journalists' Resource | Reviews new study by economist Crystal Yang (Ph.D. '13), Assistant Professor at Harvard Law School, which appears in the March 2017 issue of the Journal of Public Economics. 

In the study, "Local Labor Markets and Criminal Recidivism," Yang finds "that being released to a county with higher low-skilled wages significantly decreases the risk of recidivism," with the impact of favorable labor market conditions greater for black and first-time offenders. "Overall," Yang writes, "the findings suggest that the release of a large number of ex-offenders during the Great Recession likely had substantial consequences for recidivism," increasing the risk of recidivism by 5.5 to 9.6 percent.
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Research: Lawyering and Lobbying: Why Banks Shape Rules

Research: Lawyering and Lobbying: Why Banks Shape Rules

March 3, 2017
Stigler Center at Chicago Booth | Brian Libgober, PhD candidate in Government, and Daniel Carpenter, Allie S. Freed Professor of Government and Director of Social Sciences at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, presented their research, Lawyering and Lobbying: Why Banks Shape Rules, at a jointly organized  conference hosted by the Stigler Center. The conference, How Incomplete is the Theory of the Firm?,  was jointly organized by Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, David Moss and Rebecca Henderson of Harvard Business School, and Karthik Ramanna of Oxford University.
Capitol Building

Washington must reduce policy uncertainty for small businesses

February 23, 2017

The Hill | Op-ed by Stan Veuger cites joint research with Daniel Shoag, Associate Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, which found that increased local policy uncertainty contributed to the severity of the Great Recession. Their article, "Uncertainty and the Geography of the Great Recession," appears in the Journal of Monetary Economics (December 2016).
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When Do Renters Behave Like Homeowners? High Rent, Price Anxiety, and NIMBYism

When Do Renters Behave Like Homeowners? High Rent, Price Anxiety, and NIMBYism

February 7, 2017

JCHS Housing Perspectives | By Michael Hankinson, Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy. Hankinson's findings, "based on new national-level experimental data and city-specific behavioral data....help explain why it is so hard to build new housing in expensive cities even when there is citywide support for that housing."  Read the full paper in the Joint Center for Housing Studies Working Paper series, and learn more about Hankinson's work at his website.
mhankinson.com

Dropbox logo

Open letter from political scientists clarifies evidence concerning Trump claim that millions of non-citizens voted in 2016 election

January 30, 2017

An open letter signed by nearly 200 professional political scientists and scholars of political behavior, including Harvard professor Ryan Enos and Inequality & Social Policy alumni Bernard Fraga PhD'13 (Indiana University), Alex Hertel-Fernandez PhD'16 (Columbia University), Jeremy Levine PhD'16 (University of Michigan), Daniel Schlozman PhD'11 (Johns Hopkins University), Ariel White PhD'16 (MIT), and Vanessa Williamson PhD'15 (Brookings Institution).

EconoFact

Will Manufacturing Jobs Come Back?

January 20, 2017

EconoFact | By David Deming (Ph.D '10), Professor at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education.