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Latest Inequality & Social Policy In the News

Inspiring Memoirs Tell Journey From Child Farm Worker to Academic

Inspiring Memoirs Tell Journey From Child Farm Worker to Academic

December 7, 2015

NBC News | Tomás Jiménez (Ph.D. '05, now Stanford University),  talks about his father's influence on his childhood and his own scholarly work in this feature profile of his father, Professor Francisco Jiménez of Santa Clara University. Francisco Jiménez has recently published a fourth volume in an award-winning series of memoirs for young readers.

Can America Learn from Australia's Gun Laws?

Can America Learn from Australia's Gun Laws?

December 5, 2015

BBC World Service [transcript] | Andrew Leigh (Ph.D. '04) guests. Leigh analyzed the effects of Australia's gun laws in a 2010 paper, written when he was a professor of economics at Australian National University. He's now a member of the Australian Parliament.

The window tax—an open and shut case

The window tax—an open and shut case

December 4, 2015

Financial Times | Andrew Leigh (Ph.D. '04) research on Australia's "baby bonus" noted in an article about the ways in which people adjust behavior to avoid taxes.

How a Conservative-Led Australia Ended Mass Killings

How a Conservative-Led Australia Ended Mass Killings

December 4, 2015

The New York Times | Delves into 2010 study by Andrew Leigh (Ph.D. '04), which estimated that gun suicides per 100,000 people fell 65 percent, and the rate of gun homicides 59 percent, in the decade following Australia's adoption of a national gun control agreement. At the time of the study, Leigh was a professor of economics at Australian National University. He is now a Labor MP in Australia's Parliament.

Opportunity, responsibility, and security: A consensus plan for reducing poverty and restoring the American Dream

Opportunity, responsibility, and security: A consensus plan for reducing poverty and restoring the American Dream

December 3, 2015

A joint AEI-Brookings event | David T. Ellwood, a member of the working group that developed the plan, outlined three fundamental ideas that drove their work at a launch event held at the National Press Club. The proposal grew out a shared belief that poverty and economic mobility are urgent issues for the nation's future, and that if the U.S. is to move forward in reducing poverty and increasing opportunity, those on the political left and right must find a way to overcome the political polarization that threatens prospects for progress.

AEI and Brookings, with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Ford Foundation, convened a group of 15 poverty experts, reflecting diverse ideological and intellectual perspectives, who worked over 14 months to identify core areas of agreement and to craft a comprehensive plan based on strong empirical evidence.
View the plan (PDF)
View event video ▶

Standardized testing works, depending on where you went to school

Standardized testing works, depending on where you went to school

December 2, 2015

Boston Globe | David Deming (Ph.D. '10, now faculty) discusses results from a new study, , which presents the first evidence of the influence of test-based accountability measures on long-term student outcomes. Co-authored with Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15, now Columbia TC), Jennifer Jennings (NYU), and Christopher Jencks, the study appears in the winter 2016 issue of Education Next.

The steep cost of incarceration on women of color

The steep cost of incarceration on women of color

November 29, 2015

CNN Money | Bruce Western draws attention to "how profoundly gendered the whole incarceration story is," the ways in which the financial and caretaking burdens of incarceration fall heavily on females when loved ones are incarcerated.

Why the Economic Fates of America's Cities Diverged

Why the Economic Fates of America's Cities Diverged

November 28, 2015

The Atlantic | Highlights research by Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11, now Harvard Kennedy School faculty) and Peter Ganong (Harvard Ph.D. candidate in Economics) on the importance of regional income convergence in reducing U.S. wage inequality between 1940-1980 and explanations for declining convergence in recent decades.

Why White House Economists Worry About Land-Use Regulations

Why White House Economists Worry About Land-Use Regulations

November 20, 2015

Wall Street Journal | Delves into papers by Raven Molloy (Ph.D. '05, now Federal Reserve Board of Governors) and by Peter Ganong (a Harvard Ph.D. candidate in Economics) and Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11, now HKS faculty), which CEA Chair Jason Furman highlighted in a recent address on the links between land-use regulations, wages, inequality, and intergenerational mobility.

Electing to Ignore the Poorest of the Poor

Electing to Ignore the Poorest of the Poor

November 17, 2015

The New York Times | Quotes William Julius Wilson, Matthew Desmond, Robert Sampson, and Kristin Perkins (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy). 

Also highlights the launch of a new peer-reviewed, open-access journal, The Russell Sage Foundation Journal in the Social Sciences, which leads with a two-volume issue, 'Severe Deprivation in America', edited by Matthew Desmond and featuring articles by Inequality & Social Policy affiliates Christopher Wimer (Ph.D. '07), Kristin L. Perkins and Robert J. Sampson, Bruce Western, and David J. Harding (Ph.D. '05).
Severe Deprivation in America: Issue 1 ▶
Severe Deprivation in America: Issue 2 ▶

What's past is prologue

What's past is prologue

November 13, 2015

Harvard Gazette | MacArthur Fellow and best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates (center) joined a conversation with Bruce Western, Kathryn Edin (Johns Hopkins), and William Julius Wilson at the JFK Jr. Forum. 
See the video here ▶

Latest awards

Announcing the 2017 Sloan Research Fellows: Amanda Pallais

Announcing the 2017 Sloan Research Fellows: Amanda Pallais

February 21, 2017

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation | Harvard economics professor Amanda Pallais, the Paul Sack Associate Professor of Political Economy and Social Studies, has been awarded a 2017 Sloan Research Fellowship.

Sloan Research Fellows are early-career scholars who "represent the most promising scientific researchers working today....Since 1955, Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win 43 Nobel Prizes, 16 Fields Medals, 69 National Medals of Science, 16 John Bates Clark Medals, and numerous other distinguished awards."

Learn more about Amanda Pallais's work:
scholar.harvard.edu/pallais

Erasmus Prize 2017 awarded to Michèle Lamont

Erasmus Prize 2017 awarded to Michèle Lamont

February 20, 2017

Awardee | Michèle Lamont is the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Erasmus Prize, awarded annually by the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation to the person or institution who has made "an exceptional contribution to the humanities or the arts, in Europe and beyond." Lamont receives the prize "for her devoted contribution to social science research into the relationship between knowledge, power and diversity." 

Lamont is a Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies, the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, and Director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard.

The Erasmus Prize will be presented in Amsterdam in November 2017, and a varied program of activities arranged in conjunction with the event. Learn more:
Former Laureates
Prize and Adornments

Michele Lamont

Michèle Lamont wins Erasmus Prize

February 20, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Harvard Professor Michèle Lamont has been named winner of the 2017 Erasmus Prize, which recognizes individual or group contributions to European culture, society, or social science.

Daniel Prinz

Daniel Prinz: Mark A. Satterthwaite Award for Outstanding Research in Healthcare Markets

January 21, 2017

Kellogg School of Management| Stone PhD Scholar Daniel Prinz (PhD candidate in Health Policy), Michael Geruso (Assistant Professor of Economics, UT Austin), and Timothy J. Layton (Assistant Professor of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School) have been awarded the 2017 Mark A. Satterthwaite Award for Outstanding Research in Health Care Markets for their paper, "Screening in Contract Design: Evidence from the ACA Health Insurance Exchanges,” subsequently published in American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 2019 11(2): 64–107.

View the research ►

Carrie Conaway

President Obama announces appointment of Carrie Conaway to National Board of Education Sciences

January 13, 2017

President Barack Obama announced the appointment of alumna Carrie Conaway to the 15-member National Board for Education Sciences. "This is fabulous news," wrote Susan Dynarski, Professor of Public Policy, Education, and Economics at the University of Michigan, commenting on the appointment on Twitter. "Conaway has helped put Massachusetts on its path of research-driven, educational excellence."

Conaway is Associate Commissioner of Planning and Research for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Who are the 2017 RHSU Edu-Scholar Rising Stars?

Who are the 2017 RHSU Edu-Scholar Rising Stars?

January 11, 2017

Education Week | Education Week released its annual RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence  Rankings, which "recognize those university-based scholars in the U.S. who are doing the most to influence educational policy and practice."

Of the top 10 junior scholars on its "rising star" list, all are Harvard faculty members, doctoral alumni, or both—including Inequality & Social Policy affiliates Martin West (Ph.D. and faculty), Jal Mehta (Ph.D. and faculty), Joshua Goodman (faculty), and Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15, now Columbia University Teachers College). HGSE professor Roberto G. Gonzales, author of   Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America (University of California Press, 2015), led the list, which also included HGSE professor Stephanie M. Jones.

Among the Inequality & Social Policy affiliates on the full list of 200 are senior scholars Paul Peterson (Harvard Government), Richard Murnane (HGSE), Roland Fryer (Harvard Economics), Nora Gordon (Ph.D. alum, now Georgetown Public Policy), Jonah Rockoff (Ph.D. alum, now Columbia Business School), Judith Scott-Clayton (Ph.D. alum, now Columbia TC), Ronald Ferguson (HKS), and David Deming (Ph.D. alum and faculty).
View 2017 full list

Michèle Lamont awarded University of Amsterdam honorary doctorate for role in bridging European and American sociology

Michèle Lamont awarded University of Amsterdam honorary doctorate for role in bridging European and American sociology

January 9, 2017

Awardee | MIchèle Lamont received an honorary doctorate from the University of Amsterdam in recognition of her  "important theoretical and empirical contribution to the social sciences, particularly cultural sociology, and her important role in linking American and European social sciences." Lamont is Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies at Harvard.

IZA Prize in Labor Economics awarded to Claudia Goldin at ASSA Meeting in Chicago

IZA Prize in Labor Economics awarded to Claudia Goldin at ASSA Meeting in Chicago

January 6, 2017

IZA Institute of Labor Economics | The 15th IZA Prize in Labor Economics was formally conferred to Harvard's Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics,during the traditional IZA Reception at the annual meeting of the Allied Social Science Associations in Chicago. Goldin was recognized for "her career-long work on the economic history of women in education and the labor market."

Michèle Lamont delivers Vilhelm Auberts Memorial Lecture

Michèle Lamont delivers Vilhelm Auberts Memorial Lecture

January 6, 2017

Institute for Social Research (Oslo) | Michèle Lamont, Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies, and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies at Harvard, delivered the 2016 Vilhelm Auberts Memorial Lecture in Oslo. Her lecture addressed the themes of her new book, Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel (Princeton University Press, 2016.)

The best books of 2016, according to two best-selling authors

The best books of 2016, according to two best-selling authors

December 27, 2016

PBS NewsHour |Jeffrey Brown sat down recently with best-selling authors Jacqueline Woodson, a 2016 National Book Award finalist for fiction, and Daniel Pink, at Politics and Prose, a popular bookstore in Washington, D.C. First up: Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

The Best Books of 2016

The Best Books of 2016

December 21, 2016

Chicago Tribune | Ten selections, including Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences.

The Carnegie Interviews: Matthew Desmond

The Carnegie Interviews: Matthew Desmond

December 21, 2016

The Booklist Reader | One in a series of interviews with each of the finalists for the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

The Year in Reading

The Year in Reading

December 19, 2016

The New York Times Book Review
Poets, musicians, diplomats, filmmakers, novelists, actors, and artists share the books that accompanied them through 2016. "There was a lot of great nonfiction in 2016," writes novelist Ann Patchett, "but there are four books that I recommend with a sense of urgency"—among them, Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences.

Former U.S. Representative Barney Frank notes two pieces of conventional wisdom—one domestic; the other international—that have structured our national debates for deades. Subjecting the received wisdom to close examintion: The Globalization Paradox, by Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of Political Economy at the Harvard Kennedy School, 

The Books We Loved in 2016

The Books We Loved in 2016

December 13, 2016

The New Yorker | Among them, Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences.

'Evicted' Selected to 2017 PEN Literary Awards Longlist

'Evicted' Selected to 2017 PEN Literary Awards Longlist

December 9, 2016

PEN America | Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, is one of 10 books on the 2017 PEN America longlist in nonfiction for the John Kenneth Galbraith award. Finalists for this biennial award will be announced on January 18, 2017. The winner will be announced on February 22, 2017 and honored at the 2017 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on March 27, 2017. Desmond is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Social Science at Harvard.

Latest commentary and analysis

Gentrification and its Discontents

Gentrification and its Discontents

May 5, 2017
Wall Street Journal | By Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics. Cities attract the rich with amenities and the poor with services. But they are failing the middle class. Edward Glaeser reviews “The New Urban Crisis” by Richard Florida.
Declaration of Independence

Thanks to this agency, we identified an unknown copy of the Declaration of Independence

May 3, 2017
Washington Post | By Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard. "In the middle of the 20th century, this research project would have consumed at least a lifetime, and possibly several. Without [these] digital resources...it is highly unlikely that a researcher would have been able to assemble the vast body of evidence necessary to make the identification that we have made."
Brookings Institution - Universal Child Allowance

Should the U.S. enact a universal child allowance?

May 1, 2017
Brookings Institution | The Center on Children and Families at Brookings hosted an event with leading experts to discuss the current safety net and potential benefits and costs of a Universal Child Allowance. Among the participants, Chris Wimer (PhD '07), Co-Director of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, presented a proposal for a universal child allowance to reduce poverty and income instability among children. Scott Winship (PhD '09), Project Director with the U.S. Joint Economic Committee, participated as a panelist. 
What the Press Still Doesn't Get About Trump

What the Press Still Doesn't Get About Trump

April 28, 2017

Politico | Politco surveys a range of experts—among them, historian Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor at Harvard Kennedy School. Says Rigueur: We need to take Trump's tweets more seriously.

Op-Ed: How Boston Basics helps our children

Op-Ed: How Boston Basics helps our children

April 28, 2017

Jamaica Plain Gazette (and others) | By Mayor Martin Walsh and Ron Ferguson, Faculty Director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University.

As the science tells us, 80 percent of a child’s brain growth happens during the first three years of life. Racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic skill gaps can become apparent by the age of two. How we engage our babies and toddlers in those first years are critical. We must foster stimulating learning environments across all households and neighborhoods in our city.

"That purpose is what brought organizations like the Black Philanthropy Fund, Boston Children’s Museum, the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard, Boston Medical Center, WGBH, and the City of Boston together to launch the Boston Basics campaign.

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.

Reforming land use regulations

Reforming land use regulations

April 24, 2017
Brookings Institution | By Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard. "Land use controls that limit the growth of...successful cities mean that Americans increasingly live in places that make it easy to build, not in places with higher levels of productivity," writes Glaeser.
Edward Glaeser

Two Takes on the Fate of Future Cities

April 21, 2017
The Atlantic—CityLab | A conversation between Ed Glaeser and Richard Florida on what urban policy needs to work towards in an uncertain future. Edward Glaeser is Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard.
Ronald Ferguson interview - HarvardX

Family Engagement in Education: The Boston Basics - Supporting Child Development

April 19, 2017

HarvardX | Listen as Professor Ron Ferguson, from the Harvard Kennedy School, discusses the Boston Basics — five actions a parent or any caregiver can take to help young children thrive. [video: 2 minutes]

"The nugget for me [that most influenced our emphasis in Boston Basics] was 4 or 5 years ago looking at the early childhood longitudinal survey and seeing that racial and socioeconomic differences are not very apparent around the first birthday, but they are stark by the second birthday."

Jeffrey Liebman at Council on Foreign Relations

Behavioral Insights into Policymaking

April 18, 2017

Council on Foreign Relations | Part I of the Robert Menschel Economics Symposium: A conversation with psychologist Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel prize in economic sciences. Part II: A discussion on behavioral insights into policymaking with Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School; Maya Shankar, founder and Chair of the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) under President Obama; and Elspeth Kirkman, senior vice president with The Behavioral Insights Team, North America. (Video + transcript)
View Part I: Daniel Kahneman

Latest books—By doctoral fellows and alumni

The Border Within: The Economics of Immigration in an Age of Fear
Watson, Tara, and Kalee Thompson. 2022. The Border Within: The Economics of Immigration in an Age of Fear. University of Chicago Press, 304. Abstract
An eye-opening analysis of the costs and effects of immigration and immigration policy, both on American life and on new Americans.

For decades, immigration has been one of the most divisive, contentious topics in American politics. And for decades, urgent calls for its policy reform have gone mostly unanswered. As the discord surrounding the modern immigration debate has intensified, border enforcement has tightened. Crossing harsher, less porous borders makes unauthorized entry to the United States a permanent, costly undertaking. And the challenges don’t end on the other side.

At once enlightening and devastating, The Border Within examines the costs and ends of America’s interior enforcement—the policies and agencies, including ICE, aimed at removing immigrants already living in the country. Economist Tara Watson and journalist Kalee Thompson pair rigorous analysis with deeply personal stories from immigrants and their families to assess immigration’s effects on every aspect of American life, from the labor force to social welfare programs to tax revenue. What emerges is a critical, utterly complete examination of what non-native Americans bring to the country, including immigration’s tendency to elevate the wages and skills of those who are native-born.

News coverage has prompted many to question the humanity of American immigration policies; The Border Within opens a conversation of whether it is effective. The United States spends billions each year on detention and deportation, all without economic gain and at a great human cost. With depth and discipline, the authors dissect the shock-and-awe policies that make up a broken, often cruel system, while illuminating the lives caught in the chaos. It is an essential work with far-reaching implications for immigrants and non-immigrants alike.
What's the Worst That Could Happen? Existential Risk and Extreme Politics

Why catastrophic risks are more dangerous than you think, and how populism makes them worse.

Did you know that you're more likely to die from a catastrophe than in a car crash? The odds that a typical US resident will die from a catastrophic event—for example, nuclear war, bioterrorism, or out-of-control artificial intelligence—have been estimated at 1 in 6. That's fifteen times more likely than a fatal car crash and thirty-one times more likely than being murdered. In What's the Worst That Could Happen?, Andrew Leigh looks at catastrophic risks and how to mitigate them, arguing provocatively that the rise of populist politics makes catastrophe more likely. 

Leigh explains that pervasive short-term thinking leaves us unprepared for long-term risks. Politicians sweat the small stuff—granular policy details of legislation and regulation—but rarely devote much attention to reducing long-term risks. Populist movements thrive on short termism because they focus on their followers' immediate grievances. Leigh argues that we should be long-termers: lengthen our thinking and give big threats the attention and resources they need. 

Leigh outlines the biggest existential risks facing humanity and suggests remedies for them. He discusses pandemics, considering the possibility that the next virus will be more deadly than COVID-19; warns that unchecked climate change could render large swaths of the earth inhabitable; describes the metamorphosis of the arms race from a fight into a chaotic brawl; and examines the dangers of runaway superintelligence. Moreover, Leigh points out, populism (and its crony, totalitarianism) not only exacerbates other dangers, but is also a risk factor in itself, undermining the institutions of democracy as we watch.

The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power
Hacker, Jacob S., Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Paul Pierson, and Kathleen Thelen, ed. 2021. The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power. Cambridge University Press. Abstract

This volume brings together leading political scientists to explore the distinctive features of the American political economy. The introductory chapter provides a comparatively informed framework for analyzing the interplay of markets and politics in the United States, focusing on three key factors: uniquely fragmented and decentralized political institutions; an interest group landscape characterized by weak labor organizations and powerful, parochial business groups; and an entrenched legacy of ethno-racial divisions embedded in both government and markets. Subsequent chapters look at the fundamental dynamics that result, including the place of the courts in multi-venue politics, the political economy of labor, sectional conflict within and across cities and regions, the consolidation of financial markets and corporate monopoly and monopsony power, and the ongoing rise of the knowledge economy. Together, the chapters provide a revealing new map of the politics of democratic capitalism in the United States.

  • Provides a comprehensive analysis of the American political economy in comparative perspective
  • Develops a theoretical framework that emphasizes how distinctive features of the US political economy have interacted with one another over time to produce unique patterns of inequality, power, and precarity
  • Sheds new light on under-examined institutions, actors, and arenas of conflict, generating insights for the study of both American politics and comparative politics
Constructing Community: Urban Governance, Development, and Inequality in Boston
Levine, Jeremy R. 2021. Constructing Community: Urban Governance, Development, and Inequality in Boston . Princeton University Press, 280. Abstract

Who makes decisions that shape the housing, policies, and social programs in urban neighborhoods? Who, in other words, governs? Constructing Community offers a rich ethnographic portrait of the individuals who implement community development projects in the Fairmount Corridor, one of Boston’s poorest areas. Jeremy Levine uncovers a network of nonprofits and philanthropic foundations making governance decisions alongside public officials—a public-private structure that has implications for democratic representation and neighborhood inequality.

Levine spent four years following key players in Boston’s community development field. While state senators and city councilors are often the public face of new projects, and residents seem empowered through opportunities to participate in public meetings, Levine found a shadow government of nonprofit leaders and philanthropic funders, nonelected neighborhood representatives with their own particular objectives, working behind the scenes. Tying this system together were political performances of “community”—government and nonprofit leaders, all claiming to value the community. Levine provocatively argues that there is no such thing as a singular community voice, meaning any claim of community representation is, by definition, illusory. He shows how community development is as much about constructing the idea of community as it is about the construction of physical buildings in poor neighborhoods.

Constructing Community demonstrates how the nonprofit sector has become integral to urban policymaking, and the tensions and trade-offs that emerge when private nonprofits take on the work of public service provision.

Breaking the Social Media Prism: How to Make Our Platforms Less Polarizing

In an era of increasing social isolation, platforms like Facebook and Twitter are among the most important tools we have to understand each other. We use social media as a mirror to decipher our place in society but, as Chris Bail explains, it functions more like a prism that distorts our identities, empowers status-seeking extremists, and renders moderates all but invisible. Breaking the Social Media Prism challenges common myths about echo chambers, foreign misinformation campaigns, and radicalizing algorithms, revealing that the solution to political tribalism lies deep inside ourselves.

Drawing on innovative online experiments and in-depth interviews with social media users from across the political spectrum, this book explains why stepping outside of our echo chambers can make us more polarized, not less. Bail takes you inside the minds of online extremists through vivid narratives that trace their lives on the platforms and off—detailing how they dominate public discourse at the expense of the moderate majority. Wherever you stand on the spectrum of user behavior and political opinion, he offers fresh solutions to counter political tribalism from the bottom up and the top down. He introduces new apps and bots to help readers avoid misperceptions and engage in better conversations with the other side. Finally, he explores what the virtual public square might look like if we could hit “reset” and redesign social media from scratch through a first-of-its-kind experiment on a new social media platform built for scientific research.

Providing data-driven recommendations for strengthening our social media connections, Breaking the Social Media Prism shows how to combat online polarization without deleting our accounts.

Organizational Imaginaries
Chen, Victor Tan. 2021. Organizational Imaginaries. Edited by Katherine K. Chen. Emerald Publishing Limited. Abstract

Our everyday lives are structured by the rhythms, values, and practices of various organizations, including schools, workplaces, and government agencies. These experiences shape common-sense understandings of how “best” to organize and connect with others. Today, for-profit managerial firms dominate society, even though their practices often curtail information-sharing and experimentation, engender exploitation, and exclude the interests of stakeholders, particularly workers and the general public.

This Research in the Sociology of Organizations volume explores an expansive array of organizational imaginaries, or conceptions of organizational possibilities, with a focus on collectivist-democratic organizations that operate in capitalist markets but place more authority and ownership in the hands of stakeholders other than shareholders. These include worker and consumer cooperatives and other enterprises that, to varying degrees:

  • Emphasize social values over profit
  • Are owned not by shareholders but by workers, consumers, or other stakeholders
  • Employ democratic forms of managing their operations
  • Have social ties to the organization based on moral and emotional commitments

Organizational Imaginaries explores how these enterprises generate solidarity among members, network with other organizations and communities, contend with market pressures, and enhance their larger organizational ecosystems. By ensuring that organizations ultimately support and serve broader communities, collectivist-democratic organizing can move societies closer to hopeful “what if” and “if only” futures.

This volume is essential for researchers and students seeking innovative and egalitarian approaches to business and management.

Thrive: The Purpose of Schools in a Changing World
Hannon, Valerie, and Amelia Peterson. 2021. Thrive: The Purpose of Schools in a Changing World. Cambridge University Press. Abstract
Every generation faces challenges, but never before have young people been so aware of theirs. Whether due to school strikes for climate change, civil war, or pandemic lockdowns, almost every child in the world has experienced the interruption of their schooling by outside forces. When the world we have taken for granted proves so unstable, it gives rise to the question: what is schooling for? Thrive advocates a new purpose for education, in a rapidly changing world, and analyses the reasons why change is urgently needed in our education systems. The book identifies four levels of thriving: global – our place in the planet; societal – localities, communities, economies; interpersonal – our relationships; intrapersonal – the self. Chapters provide research-based theoretical evidence for each area, followed by practical international case studies showing how individual schools are addressing these considerable challenges. Humanity's challenges are shifting fast: schools need to be a part of the response.
American Affective Polarization in Comparative Perspective
Gidron, Noam, James Adams, and Will Horne. 2020. American Affective Polarization in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge University Press. Abstract
American political observers express increasing concern about affective polarization, i.e., partisans' resentment toward political opponents. We advance debates about America's partisan divisions by comparing affective polarization in the US over the past 25 years with affective polarization in 19 other western publics. We conclude that American affective polarization is not extreme in comparative perspective, although Americans' dislike of partisan opponents has increased more rapidly since the mid-1990s than in most other Western publics. We then show that affective polarization is more intense when unemployment and inequality are high; when political elites clash over cultural issues such as immigration and national identity; and in countries with majoritarian electoral institutions. Our findings situate American partisan resentment and hostility in comparative perspective, and illuminate correlates of affective polarization that are difficult to detect when examining the American case in isolation.
Reconnected: A Community Builder's Handbook
Leigh, Andrew, and Nick Terrell. 2020. Reconnected: A Community Builder's Handbook. La Trobe University Press, 288. Abstract

We're all in this together.

Strong social connections make communities more resilient. But today Australians have fewer close friends and local connections than in the past, and more of us say we have no-one to turn to in tough times. How can we turn this trend around?

In Reconnected, Andrew Leigh and Nick Terrell look at some of the most successful community organisations and initiatives – from conversation groups to community gardens, from parkrun to Pub Choir – to discover what really works. They explore ways to encourage philanthropy and volunteering, describe how technology can be used effectively, and introduce us to remarkable and inspirational leaders.

Reconnected is an essential guide for anyone interested in strengthening social ties.

After PrisonNavigating Adulthood in the Shadow of the Justice System
Harding, David J., and Heather M. Harris. 2020. After PrisonNavigating Adulthood in the Shadow of the Justice System. Russell Sage Foundation, 304. Abstract

The incarceration rate in the United States is the highest of any developed nation, with a prison population of approximately 2.3 million in 2016. Over 700,000 prisoners are released each year, and most face significant educational, economic, and social disadvantages. In After Prison, sociologist David Harding and criminologist Heather Harris provide a comprehensive account of young men’s experiences of reentry and reintegration in the era of mass incarceration. They focus on the unique challenges faced by 1,300 black and white youth aged 18 to 25 who were released from Michigan prisons in 2003, investigating the lives of those who achieved some measure of success after leaving prison as well as those who struggled with the challenges of creating new lives for themselves.

The transition to young adulthood typically includes school completion, full-time employment, leaving the childhood home, marriage, and childbearing, events that are disrupted by incarceration. While one quarter of the young men who participated in the study successfully transitioned into adulthood—achieving employment and residential independence and avoiding arrest and incarceration—the same number of young men remained deeply involved with the criminal justice system, spending on average four out of the seven years after their initial release re-incarcerated. Not surprisingly, whites are more likely to experience success after prison. The authors attribute this racial disparity to the increased stigma of criminal records for blacks, racial discrimination, and differing levels of social network support that connect whites to higher quality jobs. Black men earn less than white men, are more concentrated in industries characterized by low wages and job insecurity, and are less likely to remain employed once they have a job.

The authors demonstrate that families, social networks, neighborhoods, and labor market, educational, and criminal justice institutions can have a profound impact on young people’s lives. Their research indicates that residential stability is key to the transition to adulthood. Harding and Harris make the case for helping families, municipalities, and non-profit organizations provide formerly incarcerated young people access to long-term supportive housing and public housing. A remarkably large number of men in this study eventually enrolled in college, reflecting the growing recognition of college as a gateway to living wage work. But the young men in the study spent only brief spells in college, and the majority failed to earn degrees. They were most likely to enroll in community colleges, trade schools, and for-profit institutions, suggesting that interventions focused on these kinds of schools are more likely to be effective. The authors suggest that, in addition to helping students find employment, educational institutions can aid reentry efforts for the formerly incarcerated by providing supports like childcare and paid apprenticeships.

After Prison offers a set of targeted policy interventions to improve these young people’s chances: lifting restrictions on federal financial aid for education, encouraging criminal record sealing and expungement, and reducing the use of incarceration in response to technical parole violations. This book will be an important contribution to the fields of scholarly work on the criminal justice system and disconnected youth.

Measuring Culture
Mohr, John W., Christopher A. Bail, Margaret Frye, Jennifer C. Lena, Omar Lizardo, Terence E. McDonnell, Ann Mische, Iddo Tavory, and Frederick F. Wherry. 2020. Measuring Culture . Columbia University Press, 256. Abstract
Social scientists seek to develop systematic ways to understand how people make meaning and how the meanings they make shape them and the world in which they live. But how do we measure such processes? Measuring Culture is an essential point of entry for both those new to the field and those who are deeply immersed in the measurement of meaning. Written collectively by a team of leading qualitative and quantitative sociologists of culture, the book considers three common subjects of measurement—people, objects, and relationships—and then discusses how to pivot effectively between subjects and methods. Measuring Culturetakes the reader on a tour of the state of the art in measuring meaning, from discussions of neuroscience to computational social science. It provides both the definitive introduction to the sociological literature on culture as well as a critical set of case studies for methods courses across the social sciences.
Common-Sense Evidence: The Education Leader’s Guide to Using Data and Research
Gordon, Nora, and Carrie Conaway. 2020. Common-Sense Evidence: The Education Leader’s Guide to Using Data and Research. Harvard Education Publishing Group, 240. Abstract

Written by two leading experts in education research and policy, Common-Sense Evidence is a concise, accessible guide that helps education leaders find and interpret data and research, and then put that knowledge into action. 

In the book, Nora Gordon and Carrie Conaway empower educators to address the federal Every Student Succeeds Act mandate that schools use evidence-based improvement strategies.

The authors walk readers through the processes for determining whether research is relevant and convincing; explain useful statistical concepts; and show how to quickly search for and scan research studies for the necessary information.

The book directs readers through case studies of typical scenarios including a superintendent trying to reduce chronic absenteeism; a middle school math department chair trying to improve student performance on exams; and a chief state school officer attempting to recruit teachers for rural schools.

Common-Sense Evidence helps education leaders build capacity for evidence-based practice in their schools and

Confronting inequality: How policies and practices shape children's opportunities
Tach, Laura, Rachel Dunifon, and Douglas L. Miller, ed. 2020. Confronting inequality: How policies and practices shape children's opportunities. American Psychological Association. Abstract

All children deserve the best possible future. But in this era of increasing economic and social inequality, more and more children are being denied their fair chance at life.

This book examines the impact of inequality on children’s health and education, and offers a blueprint for addressing the impact of inequality among children in economic, sociological, and psychological domains.

Chapters examine a wide range of studies including exposure to stress and its biological consequences; the impact of federal programs offering access to nutrition for mothers and children; the impact of parental decision-making and child support systems; the effects of poverty on child care and quality of education, parental engagement with schools, parent-child interactions, friendship networks, and more.

The book concludes with commentaries from leading scholars about the state of the field, and efforts to help mitigate the effects of inequality for children in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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Latest academic articles — By doctoral fellows

The Future of Felon Disenfranchisement Reform: Evidence from the Campaign to Restore Voting Rights in Florida
This Article offers an empirical account of felon disenfranchisement and legal financial obligations in the era of mass incarceration. It focuses on a 2018 ballot initiative, known as Amendment 4, which sought to end lifetime disenfranchisement in Florida. At the time, the Republican-controlled state accounted for more than a quarter of the six million citizens disenfranchised across the United States. Marshaling hundreds of public information requests, the Article analyzes the petitions collected to qualify the initiative for the ballot, the ballots cast for its remarkable bipartisan victory, the voter registration records of people whose voting rights were restored, and the outstanding fines and fees that still prevent most people with felony convictions from voting. Part I offers a history of the campaign and the tradeoffs it made to win Republican support, including its decisions to deemphasize race and limit the scope of reform. Part II validates the campaign’s effort to depoliticize disenfranchisement by demonstrating the limited partisan consequences of restoring the right to vote to people with felony convictions. Finally, Part III shows how unpaid fines and fees undermined the campaign’s attempt to dismantle disenfranchisement. Despite Amendment 4, Florida continues to disenfranchise more citizens than any other state. 
Using Interviews to Understand Why: Challenges and Strategies in the Study of Motivated Action
Small, Mario L., and Jenna M. Cook. Forthcoming. “Using Interviews to Understand Why: Challenges and Strategies in the Study of Motivated Action.” Sociological Methods & Research. Abstract

This article examines an important and thorny problem in interview research: How to assess whether what people say motivated their actions actually did so? We ask three questions: What specific challenges are at play? How have researchers addressed them? And how should those strategies be evaluated? We argue that such research faces at least five challenges—deceptionrecall errorreasonableness biasintentionality bias, and single-motive bias—that more than a dozen strategies have been deployed to address them; that the strategies have been externalinternal, or interactional in nature; and that each class of strategies demands distinct evaluation criteria. Researchers will likely fail to uncover motivation if they ignore the possibility of each challenge, conflate one challenge with another, or deploy strategies unmatched to the challenge at hand. Our work helps systematize the evaluation of interview-based studies of motivated action and strengthen the scientific foundations of in-depth interview research.

 

Public Money Talks Too: How Public Campaign Financing Degrades Representation
Kilborn, Mitchell, and Arjun Vishwanath. Forthcoming. “Public Money Talks Too: How Public Campaign Financing Degrades Representation.” American Journal of Political Science. Abstract
Does public campaign financing improve representation by reducing politicians’ re-liance on wealthy donors as advocates claim, or does it worsen representation by ex-panding the candidate marketplace to give extreme and non-representative candidatesan electoral boost? We conduct a novel analysis of public financing programs in Ari-zona, Connecticut, and Maine to causally identify the effect of a legislator’s fundingstatus on how closely she represents constituent preferences. Using multiple identifica-tion strategies, we show that candidates who exclusively use public campaign financingare more extreme and less representative of their districts than non-publicly financedcandidates. Our findings add new evidence to the electoral reform debate by demon-strating how replacing private campaign donations with public financing can actuallydamage substantive representation. We also advance the scholarship on how institu-tions affect substantive representation and candidate positioning as they respond tonew campaign financing structures.
The Liquidity Sensitivity of Healthcare Consumption: Evidence from Social Security Payments
Gross, Tal, Timothy J. Layton, and Daniel Prinz. Forthcoming. “The Liquidity Sensitivity of Healthcare Consumption: Evidence from Social Security Payments.” American Economic Review: Insights. Abstract
Insurance is typically viewed as a mechanism for transferring resources from good to bad states. Insurance, however, may also transfer resources from high-liquidity periods to low-liquidity periods. We test for this type of transfer from health insurance by studying the distribution of Social Security checks among Medicare recipients. When Social Security checks are distributed, prescription fills increase by 6–12 percent among recipients who pay small copayments. We find no such pattern among recipients who face no copayments. The results demonstrate that more-complete insurance allows recipients to consume healthcare when they need it rather than only when they have cash.
Life expectancy inequalities in Hungary over 25 years: The role of avoidable deaths
Bíró, Anikó, Tamás Hajdu, Gábor Kertesi, and Dániel Prinz. Forthcoming. “Life expectancy inequalities in Hungary over 25 years: The role of avoidable deaths.” Population Studies. Abstract
Using mortality registers and administrative data on income and population, we develop new evidence on the magnitude of life expectancy inequality in Hungary and the scope for health policy in mitigating this. We document considerable inequalities in life expectancy at age 45 across settlement-level income groups, and show that these inequalities have increased between 1991–96 and 2011–16 for both men and women. We show that avoidable deaths play a large role in life expectancy inequality. Income-related inequalities in health behaviours, access to care, and healthcare use are all closely linked to the inequality in life expectancy.
Hoping for the Worst? A Paradoxical Preference for Bad News
Barasz, Kate, and Serena F. Hagerty. Forthcoming. “Hoping for the Worst? A Paradoxical Preference for Bad News.” Journal of Consumer Research. Abstract
Nine studies investigate when and why people may paradoxically prefer bad news—for example, hoping for an objectively worse injury or a higher-risk diagnosis over explicitly better alternatives. Using a combination of field surveys and randomized experiments, the research demonstrates that people may hope for relatively worse (vs. better) news in an effort to preemptively avoid subjectively difficult decisions (studies 1 and 2). This is because when worse news avoids a choice (study 3A)—for example, by “forcing one’s hand” or creating one dominant option that circumvents a fraught decision (study 3B)—it can relieve the decision-maker’s experience of personal responsibility (study 3C). However, because not all decisions warrant avoidance, not all decisions will elicit a preference for worse news; fewer people hope for worse news when facing subjectively easier (vs. harder) choices (studies 4A and B). Finally, this preference for worse news is not without consequence and may create perverse incentives for decision-makers, such as the tendency to forgo opportunities for improvement (studies 5A and B). The work contributes to the literature on decision avoidance and elucidates another strategy people use to circumvent difficult decisions: a propensity to hope for the worst.
Redistribution under general decision rules
Parameswaran, Girl, and Hunter Rendleman. Forthcoming. “Redistribution under general decision rules.” Journal of Public Economic Theory. Abstract

We study the political economy of redistribution over a broad class of decision rules. Since the core is generically non-unique, we suggest a simple and elegant procedure to select a robust equilibrium. Our selected policy depends on the full income profile, and in particular, on the preferences of two decisive voters. The effect of increasing inequality on redistribution depends on the decision rule and the shape of the income distribution; redistribution will increase if both decisive voters are 'relatively poor', and decrease if at least one is sufficiently 'rich'. Additionally, redistribution decreases as the polity adopts increasingly stringent super-majority rules.

Immigration Policies and Access to the Justice System: The Effect of Enforcement Escalations on Undocumented Immigrants and Their Communities

Does intensifying immigrationenforcement lead to under-reporting of crime among undocumented immigrants and their communities? We empirically test the claims of activists and legal advocates that the escalation of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities in 2017 negatively impacted the willingness of undocumented immigrants and Hispanic communities to report crime. We hypothesize that ICE cooperation with local law enforcement, in particular, discourages undocumented immigrants and their Hispanic community members from reporting crime. Using a difference-in-difference approach and FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data at the county level, we find that total reported crime fell from 2016 to 2017 in counties with higher shares of Hispanic individuals and in counties where local law enforcement had more cooperation with ICE. Using the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), we show that these declines in the measured crime rate are driven by decreased crime reporting by Hispanic communities rather than by decreased crime commission or victimization. Finally, we replicate these results in a second case study by leveraging the staggered roll-out of the 2008–2014 Secure Communities program across US counties. Taken together, our findings add to a growing body of literature demonstrating how immigration enforcement reduces vulnerable populations’ access to state services, including the criminal justice system.

Childhood exposure to polluted neighborhood environments and intergenerational income mobility, teenage birth, and incarceration in the USA

This paper joins a growing body of research linking measures of the physical environment to population well-being, with a focus on neighborhood toxins. Extending a national database on the social mobility of American children growing up in over 70,000 Census tracts, we explore the association between childhood exposure to two forms of pollutants and three socioeconomic outcomes for African Americans, whites, and Latinos. We find that children who grew up in Census tracts with higher levels of traffic-related air pollution and housing-derived lead risk experienced lower adult incomes on average relative to their parents and higher likelihoods of being incarcerated as an adult or having children as teenagers, after controlling for standard socio-demographic characteristics and metropolitan-level effects. The spatial distribution of these two pollutants is surprisingly different, however, with air pollution varying mostly between regions of the country while lead risk varies dramatically between neighborhoods within the same city. Yet, each pollutant predicts the three aspects of social mobility similarly, and we show important disparities in exposure by race. Differential exposure to environmental toxins in childhood may be a contributor to racial inequality in socioeconomic outcomes among adults.

 

The racial burden of voter list maintenance errors: Evidence from Wisconsin’s supplemental movers poll books
Huber, Gregory A., Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, and Katie Steele. 2021. “The racial burden of voter list maintenance errors: Evidence from Wisconsin’s supplemental movers poll books.” Science Advances 7 (7). Abstract
Administrative records are increasingly used to identify registered voters who may have moved, with potential movers then sent postcards asking them to confirm their address of registration. It is important to understand how often these registrants did not move, and how often such an error is not corrected by the postcard confirmation process, because uncorrected errors make it more difficult for a registrant to subsequently vote. While federal privacy protections generally prevent researchers from observing the data necessary to estimate these quantities, we are able to study this process in Wisconsin because special poll books, available via public records requests, listed those registrants who were identified as potential movers and did not respond to a subsequent postcard. At least 4% of these registrants cast a ballot at their address of registration, with minority registrants twice as likely as white registrants to do so.
Who Votes Without Identification? Using Individual-Level Administrative Data to Measure the Burden of Strict Voter Identification Laws
Henninger, Phoebe, Marc Meredith, and Michael Morse. 2021. “Who Votes Without Identification? Using Individual-Level Administrative Data to Measure the Burden of Strict Voter Identification Laws.” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 18: 256-286. Abstract
Legal disputes over laws that require certain forms of identification (ID) to vote mostly focus on the burden placed on people who do not possess ID. We contend that this singular focus ignores the burden imposed on people who do possess ID, but nonetheless cannot access it when voting. To measure this alternative conception of burden, we focus on Michigan, which allows anyone who lacks access to ID to vote after signing an affidavit. A sample of affidavits filed in the 2016 presidential election from a random set of precincts reveals that about 0.45 percent of voters lacked access to ID. Consistent with our broader conception of the burden of voter ID laws, nearly all voters who filed an affidavit were previously issued a still-active state ID. Importantly, we show minority voters were about five times more likely to lack access to ID than white voters. We also present survey evidence suggesting that people who live in states where voters are asked to show ID, as in Michigan, are more likely to incorrectly believe that access to ID is required to vote than are people who live in states that do not ask voters to show ID.
The spatial structure of US metropolitan employment: New insights from administrative data
Manduca, Robert. 2021. “The spatial structure of US metropolitan employment: New insights from administrative data.” Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science 48 (5): 1357-1372. Abstract

Urban researchers have long debated the extent to which metropolitan employment is monocentric, polycentric, or diffuse. In this paper I use high-resolution data based on unemployment insurance records to show that employment in US metropolitan areas is not centralized but is spatially concentrated. Unlike residents, who form a continuous surface covering most parts of each metropolitan area, jobs have a bimodal spatial distribution, with most blocks containing no jobs whatsoever and a small number having extremely high employment densities. Across the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas, about 75% of jobs are located on the 6.5% of built land in Census blocks with at least twice as many jobs as people. These relative proportions are extremely consistent across cities, even though they vary greatly in the physical density at which they are constructed. Motivated by these empirical regularities, I introduce an algorithm to identify contiguous business districts and classify them into four major types. Based solely on the relative densities of employment and population, this algorithm is both simpler to implement and more flexible than current approaches, requiring no metro-specific tuning parameters and no assumptions about urban spatial layout.

Which Data Fairly Differentiate? American Views on the Use of Personal Data in Two Market Settings
Corporations increasingly use personal data to offer individuals different products and prices. I present first-of-its-kind evidence about how U.S. consumers assess the fairness of companies using personal information in this way. Drawing on a nationally representative survey that asks respondents to rate how fair or unfair it is for car insurers and lenders to use various sorts of information—from credit scores to web browser history to residential moves—I find that everyday Americans make strong moral distinctions among types of data, even when they are told data predict consumer behavior (insurance claims and loan defaults, respectively). Open-ended responses show that people adjudicate fairness by drawing on shared understandings of whether data are logically related to the predicted outcome and whether the categories companies use conflate morally distinct individuals. These findings demonstrate how dynamics long studied by economic sociologists manifest in legitimating a new and important mode of market allocation.
Physical Health Symptoms and Hurricane Katrina: Individual Trajectories of Development and Recovery More Than a Decade After the Storm
Zacher, Meghan, Ethan J. Raker, Mariana C. Arcaya, Sarah R. Lowe, Jean Rhodes, and Mary C. Waters. 2021. “Physical Health Symptoms and Hurricane Katrina: Individual Trajectories of Development and Recovery More Than a Decade After the Storm.” American Journal of Public Health 111: 127–135. Abstract

Objectives. To examine how physical health symptoms developed and resolved in response to Hurricane Katrina.

Methods. We used data from a 2003 to 2018 study of young, low-income mothers who were living in New Orleans, Louisiana, when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 (n = 276). We fit logistic regressions to model the odds of first reporting or “developing” headaches or migraines, back problems, and digestive problems, and of experiencing remission or “recovery” from previously reported symptoms, across surveys.

Results. The prevalence of each symptom increased after Hurricane Katrina, but the odds of developing symptoms shortly before versus after the storm were comparable. The number of traumatic experiences endured during Hurricane Katrina increased the odds of developing back and digestive problems just after the hurricane. Headaches or migraines and back problems that developed shortly after Hurricane Katrina were more likely to resolve than those that developed just before the storm.

Conclusions. While traumatic experiences endured in disasters such as Hurricane Katrina appear to prompt the development of new physical symptoms, disaster-induced symptoms may be less likely to persist or become chronic than those emerging for other reasons.

 

Loyalists and Switchers: Characterizing Voters’ Responses to Donald Trump’s Campaign and Presidency
Dost, Meredith, Ryan Enos, and Jennifer Hochschild. 2021. “Loyalists and Switchers: Characterizing Voters’ Responses to Donald Trump’s Campaign and Presidency.” Political Science Quarterly 136 (1): 81-103. Abstract

Meredith Dost, Ryan Enos, and Jennifer Hochschild look at the crucial segment of American voters who have changed their views about Donald Trump since the 2016 presidential election. Using two original surveys, they find that attitudes on race and immigration, populism and authoritarianism, and the nation’s and their own economic well-being are all associated with loyalty to and switching from this divisive president.

 

Locked Out of College: When Admissions Bureaucrats Do and Do Not Discriminate
Brown, Jacob R., and Hanno Hilbig. 2021. “Locked Out of College: When Admissions Bureaucrats Do and Do Not Discriminate.” British Journal of Political Science, 1-11. Abstract

How does an individual's criminal record shape interactions with the state and society? This article presents evidence from a nationwide field experiment in the United States, which shows that prospective applicants with criminal records are about 5 percentage points less likely to receive information from college admission offices. However, this bias does not extend to race: there is no difference in response rates to Black and White applicants. The authors further show that bias is all but absent in public bureaucracies, as discrimination against formerly incarcerated applicants is driven by private schools. Examining why bias is stronger for private colleges, the study demonstrates that the private–public difference persists even after accounting for college selectivity, socio-economic composition and school finances. Moving beyond the measurement of bias, an intervention designed to reduce discrimination is evaluated: whether an email from an advocate mitigates bias associated with a criminal record. No evidence is found that advocate endorsements decrease bureaucratic bias.

 

The measurement of partisan sorting for 180 million voters
Brown, Jacob R., and Ryan D. Enos. 2021. “The measurement of partisan sorting for 180 million voters.” Nature Human Behavior. Abstract

Segregation across social groups is an enduring feature of nearly all human societies and is associated with numerous social maladies. In many countries, reports of growing geographic political polarization raise concerns about the stability of democratic governance. Here, using advances in spatial data computation, we measure individual partisan segregation by calculating the local residential segregation of every registered voter in the United States, creating a spatially weighted measure for more than 180 million individuals. With these data, we present evidence of extensive partisan segregation in the country. A large proportion of voters live with virtually no exposure to voters from the other party in their residential environment. Such high levels of partisan isolation can be found across a range of places and densities and are distinct from racial and ethnic segregation. Moreover, Democrats and Republicans living in the same city, or even the same neighbourhood, are segregated by party.

 

Childhood cross-ethnic exposure predicts political behavior seven decades later: Evidence from linked administrative data
Brown, Jacob R., Ryan D. Enos, James Feigenbaum, and Soumyajit Mazumder. 2021. “Childhood cross-ethnic exposure predicts political behavior seven decades later: Evidence from linked administrative data.” Science Advances 7 (24). Abstract
Does contact across social groups influence sociopolitical behavior? This question is among the most studied in the social sciences with deep implications for the harmony of diverse societies. Yet, despite a voluminous body of scholarship, evidence around this question is limited to cross-sectional surveys that only measure short-term consequences of contact or to panel surveys with small samples covering short time periods. Using advances in machine learning that enable large-scale linkages across datasets, we examine the long-term determinants of sociopolitical behavior through an unprecedented individual-level analysis linking contemporary political records to the 1940 U.S. Census. These linked data allow us to measure the exact residential context of nearly every person in the United States in 1940 and, for men, connect this with the political behavior of those still alive over 70 years later. We find that, among white Americans, early-life exposure to black neighbors predicts Democratic partisanship over 70 years later.
Getting Eyes in the Home: Child Protective Services Investigations and State Surveillance of Family Life

Each year, U.S. child protection authorities investigate millions of families, disproportionately poor families and families of color. These investigations involve multiple home visits to collect information across numerous personal domains. How does the state gain such widespread entrée into the intimate, domestic lives of marginalized families? Predominant theories of surveillance offer little insight into this process and its implications. Analyzing observations of child maltreatment investigations in Connecticut and interviews with professionals reporting maltreatment, state investigators, and investigated mothers, this article argues that coupling assistance with coercive authority—a hallmark of contemporary poverty governance—generates an expansive surveillance of U.S. families by attracting referrals from adjacent systems. Educational, medical, and other professionals invite investigations of families far beyond those ultimately deemed maltreating, with the hope that child protection authorities’ dual therapeutic and coercive capacities can rehabilitate families, especially marginalized families. Yet even when investigations close, this arrangement, in which service systems channel families to an entity with coercive power, fosters apprehension among families and thwarts their institutional engagement. These findings demonstrate how, in an era of welfare retrenchment, rehabilitative poverty governance renders marginalized populations hyper-visible to the state in ways that may reinforce inequality and marginality.

 

Picking Prosecutors
Hessick, Carissa Byrne, and Michael Morse. 2020. “Picking Prosecutors.” Iowa Law Review 105 (4): 1537-1590. Abstract
The conventional academic wisdom is that elections for local prosecutor are little more than empty exercises. Using the results of a new, national survey of local prosecutor elections––the first of its kind––this Article offers a more complete account of the legal and empirical landscape. It confirms that incumbent prosecutors rarely face challengers and almost always win. But it moves beyond extant work to consider the nature of local political conflict, including how often local prosecutors face a contested election or any degree of competition. It also demonstrates a significant difference in the degree of incumbent entrenchment based on time in office. Most importantly, it reveals a stark divide between rural and urban prosecution. Urban areas are more likely to hold a contested election than rural areas. Rural areas, in which very few lawyers live, rarely hold contested elections and sometimes are not able to field even a single candidate for a prosecutor election. The results suggest that the nascent movement to use prosecutor elections as a source of criminal justice reform may have success, at least in the short term. But elections are, as of now, not a likely source of reform in rural areas—the very areas where incarceration rates continue to rise.
One Person, One Vote: Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections
Goel, Sharad, Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, David Rothschild, and Houshmand Shirani-Mehr. 2020. “One Person, One Vote: Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections.” American Political Science Review 114 (2): 456–469. Abstract
Beliefs about the incidence of voter fraud inform how people view the trade-off between electoral integrity and voter accessibility. To better inform such beliefs about the rate of double voting, we develop and apply a method to estimate how many people voted twice in the 2012 presidential election. We estimate that about one in 4,000 voters cast two ballots, although an audit suggests that the true rate may be lower due to small errors in electronic vote records. We corroborate our estimates and extend our analysis using data from a subset of states that share social security numbers, making it easier to quantify who may have voted twice. For this subset of states, we find that one suggested strategy to reduce double voting—removing the registration with an earlier registration date when two share the same name and birthdate—could impede approximately 300 legitimate votes for each double vote prevented.
How Do Low-Income People Form Survival Networks? Routine Organizations as Brokers
Small, Mario L., and Leah E. Gose. 2020. “How Do Low-Income People Form Survival Networks? Routine Organizations as Brokers.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 689 (1): 89-109. Abstract
While supportive social ties help to buffer against the consequences of poverty, few researchers have examined how people form such ties. New ties are often formed in routine organizations such as businesses, churches, and childcare centers, which, beyond being places to work, shop, or receive services, are institutionally governed spaces of social interaction. Based on the notion of organizational brokerage, we introduce a perspective that specifies when routine organizations contribute to tie formation and use it to reexamine data from existing qualitative studies of such organizations among the poor. We argue that successful brokerage will depend on the degree to which an organization’s institutional norms render interaction among participants frequent, long-lasting, focused on others, and centered on joint tasks; and that the ensuing networks may differ from other supportive ties in the sense of belonging they may cultivate, the form of generalized exchange they may engender, and the organizational connections they may create.
Mitigating Health Disparities After Natural Disasters: Lessons From The RISK Project
Raker, Ethan J., Mariana C. Arcaya, Sarah R. Lowe, Meghan Zacher, Jean Rhodes, and Mary C. Waters. 2020. “Mitigating Health Disparities After Natural Disasters: Lessons From The RISK Project.” Health Affairs 39 (12): 2128-2135 . Abstract

Climate change exacerbates the severity of natural disasters, which disproportionately affect vulnerable populations. Mitigating disasters’ health consequences is critical to promoting health equity, but few studies have isolated the short- and long-term effects of disasters on vulnerable groups. We filled this gap by conducting a fifteen-year (2003–2018) prospective study of low-income, predominantly Black parents who experienced Hurricane Katrina: the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina (RISK) Project. Here we describe this project and synthesize lessons from work that has resulted from it. Our findings can guide policy makers, service providers, and health officials in disaster planning and response. We synthesize them into an organizational schema of five priorities: Primary efforts should be aimed at preventing exposure to trauma through investments in climate resilience and by eliminating impediments to evacuation, health care policies should promote uninterrupted and expanded access to care, social services should integrate and strive to reduce the administrative burden on survivors, programs should aid survivors in forging or strengthening connections to their communities, and policy makers should fund targeted long-term services for highly affected survivors.

 

A Life-Course Model of Trauma Exposure and Mental Health Among Low-Income Survivors of Hurricane Katrina
Lowe, Sarah R., Ethan J. Raker, Mariana C. Arcaya, Meghan L. Zacher, Mary C. Waters, and Jean E. Rhodes. 2020. “A Life-Course Model of Trauma Exposure and Mental Health Among Low-Income Survivors of Hurricane Katrina.” Journal of Traumatic Stress 33: 950-961. Abstract
Prior research has provided robust evidence that exposure to potentially traumatic events (PTEs) during a disaster is predictive of adverse postdisaster mental health outcomes, including posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and nonspecific psychological distress (PD). However, few studies have explored the role of exposure to other PTEs over the life-course in shaping postdisaster mental health. Based on the broader literature on trauma exposure and mental health, we hypothesized a path analytic model linking predisaster PTEs to long-term postdisaster PTSS and PD via predisaster PD, short-term postdisaster symptoms, and disaster-related and postdisaster PTEs. We tested this model using data from the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina study, a longitudinal study of low-income, primarily non-Hispanic Black mothers exposed to Hurricane Katrina and assessed before the disaster and at time points 1, 4, and 12 years thereafter. The models evidenced a good fit with the data, RMSEA < .01–.04, CFIs > .99. In addition, 44.1%–67.4% of the effect of predisaster PTEs on long-term postdisaster symptoms was indirect. Descriptive differences were observed across models that included PTSS versus PD, as well as models that included all pre- and postdisaster PTEs versus only those that involved assaultive violence. The results suggest the importance of incorporating disaster preparedness in clinical work with trauma survivors and the value in attending to other lifetime PTEs when working in postdisaster contexts.
Lessons from Hurricane Katrina for predicting the indirect health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic
Raker, Ethan J., Meghan Zacher, and Sarah R. Lowe. 2020. “Lessons from Hurricane Katrina for predicting the indirect health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117 (23): 12595-12597. Abstract

Beyond their immediate effects on mortality, disasters have widespread, indirect impacts on mental and physical well-being by exposing survivors to stress and potential trauma. Identifying the disaster-related stressors that predict health adversity will help officials prepare for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Using data from a prospective study of young, low-income mothers who survived Hurricane Katrina, we find that bereavement, fearing for loved ones’ well-being, and lacking access to medical care and medications predict adverse mental and physical health 1 y postdisaster, and some effects persist 12 y later. Adjusting for preexisting health and socioeconomic conditions attenuates, but does not eliminate, these associations. The findings, while drawn from a demographically unique sample, suggest that, to mitigate the indirect effects of COVID-19, lapses in medical care and medication use must be minimized, and public health resources should be directed to those with preexisting medical conditions, their social networks, and the bereaved.

 

De-gendered Processes, Gendered Outcomes: How Egalitarian Couples Make Sense of Non-egalitarian Household Practices
Despite widespread support for gender-egalitarianism, men’s and women’s household labor contributions remain strikingly unequal. This article extends prior research on barriers to equality by closely examining how couples negotiate contradictions between their egalitarian ideals and admittedly non-egalitarian practices. Data from 64 in-depth interviews with members of 32 different-sex, college-educated couples show that respondents distinguish between labor allocation processes and outcomes. When they understand the processes as gender-neutral, they can write off gendered outcomes as the incidental result of necessary compromises made among competing values. Respondents “de-gender” their allocation process, or decouple it from gender ideology and gendered social forces, by narrowing their temporal horizon to the present moment and deploying an adaptable understanding of constraint that obscures alternative paths. This de-gendering helps prevent spousal conflict, but it may also facilitate behavioral stasis by directing attention away from the inequalities that continue to shape domestic life.
The Declining Worker Power Hypothesis
Stansbury, Anna, and Lawrence H. Summers. 2020. “The Declining Worker Power Hypothesis.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity. Abstract

Rising profitability and market valuations of U.S. businesses, sluggish wage growth and a declining labor share of income, and reduced unemployment and inflation have defined the macroeconomic environment of the last generation. This paper offers a unified explanation for these phenomena based on reduced worker power. Using individual, industry, and state-level data, we demonstrate that measures of reduced worker power are associated with lower wage levels, higher profit shares, and reductions in measures of the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment (NAIRU). We argue that the declining worker power hypothesis is more compelling as an explanation for observed changes than increases in firms’ market power, both because it can simultaneously explain a falling labor share and a reduced NAIRU and because it is more directly supported by the data. 

 

Disentangling policy effects using proxy data: Which shutdown policies affected unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We use high-frequency Google search data, combined with data on the announcement dates of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) during the COVID-19 pandemic in U.S. states, to disentangle the short-run direct impacts of multiple different state-level NPIs in an event study framework. Exploiting differential timing in the announcements of restaurant and bar limitations, non-essential business closures, stay-at-home orders, large-gatherings bans, school closures, and emergency declarations, we leverage the high-frequency search data to separately identify the effects of multiple NPIs that were introduced around the same time. We then describe a set of assumptions under which proxy outcomes can be used to estimate a causal parameter of interest when data on the outcome of interest are limited. Using this method, we quantify the share of overall growth in unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic that was directly due to each of these state-level NPIs. We find that between March 14 and 28, restaurant and bar limitations and non-essential business closures can explain 6.0% and 6.4% of UI claims respectively, while the other NPIs did not directly increase own-state UI claims. This suggests that most of the short-run increase in UI claims during the pandemic was likely due to other factors, including declines in consumer demand, local policies, and policies implemented by private firms and institutions.
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Latest policy, research briefs, and expert testimony

Michael Luca

Lessons from Yelp's Empirical Approach to Diversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the government can help simplify personal financial decision-making

August 29, 2017

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

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

August 3, 2017

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

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Education Next

2017 EdNext Poll on School Reform released

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

Natural Disasters by Location: Rich Leave and Poor Get Poorer

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

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

June 17, 2017

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

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

Microeconomic insights

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

June 8, 2017

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

How “the community” undermines the goals of participatory democracy

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

How tax rates influence the migration of superstar inventors

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

Does union activism increase workers’ wages?

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

Wealth Inequality and Accumulation

May 12, 2017

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