All publications by year

Greenberg, Claire, Marc Meredith, and Michael Morse. 2016. “The Growing and Broad Nature of Legal Financial Obligations: Evidence from Court Records in Alabama.” Connecticut Law Review 48 (4): 1079-1120. Abstract

In 2010, Harriet Cleveland was imprisoned in Montgomery, Alabama for failing to pay thousands of dollars in fines and fees stemming from routine traffic violations. More than thirty years after a series of Supreme Court rulings outlawed debtor's prisons, Ms. Cleveland's case brought national attention to both the sheer amount of lega lfinancial obligations (LFOs) that could be accrued, even in cases without a criminal conviction, and the potential consequences of non-payment. But it has been nearly impossible to know how common Ms. Cleveland's experience is because of a general lack of individual-level data on the incidence and payback of LFOs, particularly for non-felonies. 

In this vein, we gather about two hundred thousand court records from Alabama over the last two decades to perform the most comprehensive exploration of the assessments and payback of LFOs to date across an entire state. Consistent with conventional wisdom, we demonstrate that the median LFOs attached to a case with a felony conviction nearly doubled between 1995 and 2005, after which it has remained roughly steady. But a felony-centric view of criminal justice underestimates the extent of increasing LFOs in the United States. Our systematic comparison of LFOs in felony, misdemeanor, and traffic cases across Alabama demonstrates how the signficant debt Ms. Cleveland accumulated for a series of minor traffic offenses is not such an aberration. We show that only a minority of LFOs are assessed in cases where someone was convicted of a felony and incarcerated. Rather, most LFOs are assessed in cases without an imposed sentence, in cases with a misdemeanor or traffic violation, or even in cases that did not result in a conviction at all. These case records also reveal substantial heterogeneity in the assessment of LFOs-both within and across local judicial districts-even in cases in which defendants were convicted on exactly the same charge.


Creative Destruction and Subjective Wellbeing
Aghion, Philippe, Ufuk Akcigit, Angus Deaton, and Alexandra Roulet. 2016. “Creative Destruction and Subjective Wellbeing.” American Economic Review 106 (12): 3869-97. Abstract

In this paper we analyze the relationship between turnover-driven growth and subjective wellbeing. Our model of innovation-led growth and unemployment predicts that: (i) the effect of creative destruction on expected individual welfare should be unambiguously positive if we control for unemployment, less so if we do not; (ii) job creation has a positive and job destruction has a negative impact on wellbeing; (iii) job destruction has a less negative impact in US Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) within states with more generous unemployment insurance policies; (iv) job creation has a more positive effect on individuals that are more forward-looking. The empirical analysis using cross-sectional MSA-level and individual-level data provide empirical support to these predictions. 

Children of the Great Recession
Wimer, Christopher. 2016. Children of the Great Recession. Edited by Irwin Garfinkel and Sara McLanahan. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 248. Abstract

Many working families continue to struggle in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the deepest and longest economic downturn since the Great Depression. In Children of the Great Recession, a group of leading scholars draw from a unique study of nearly 5,000 economically and ethnically diverse families in twenty cities to analyze the effects of the Great Recession on parents and young children. By exploring the discrepancies in outcomes between these families—particularly between those headed by parents with college degrees and those without—this timely book shows how the most disadvantaged families have continued to suffer as a result of the Great Recession.

Several contributors examine the recession’s impact on the economic well-being of families, including changes to income, poverty levels, and economic insecurity. Irwin Garfinkel and Natasha Pilkauskas find that in cities with high unemployment rates during the recession, incomes for families with a college-educated mother fell by only about 5 percent, whereas families without college degrees experienced income losses three to four times greater. Garfinkel and Pilkauskas also show that the number of non-college-educated families enrolled in federal safety net programs—including Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or food stamps)—grew rapidly in response to the Great Recession.

Other researchers examine how parents’ physical and emotional health, relationship stability, and parenting behavior changed over the course of the recession. Janet Currie and Valentina Duque find that while mothers and fathers across all education groups experienced more health problems as a result of the downturn, health disparities by education widened. Daniel Schneider, Sara McLanahan and Kristin Harknett find decreases in marriage and cohabitation rates among less-educated families, and Ronald Mincy and Elia de la Cruz-Toledo show that as unemployment rates increased, nonresident fathers’ child support payments decreased. William Schneider, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, and Jane Waldfogel show that fluctuations in unemployment rates negatively affected parenting quality and child well-being, particularly for families where the mother did not have a four-year college degree.

Although the recession affected most Americans, Children of the Great Recession reveals how vulnerable parents and children paid a higher price. The research in this volume suggests that policies that boost college access and reinforce the safety net could help protect disadvantaged families in times of economic crisis.

Competition in the Promised Land: Black Migrants in Northern Cities and Labor Markets
Boustan, Leah Platt. 2016. Competition in the Promised Land: Black Migrants in Northern Cities and Labor Markets. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 216. Abstract

From 1940 to 1970, nearly four million black migrants left the American rural South to settle in the industrial cities of the North and West. Competition in the Promised Land provides a comprehensive account of the long-lasting effects of the influx of black workers on labor markets and urban space in receiving areas.

Traditionally, the Great Black Migration has been lauded as a path to general black economic progress. Leah Boustan challenges this view, arguing instead that the migration produced winners and losers within the black community. Boustan shows that migrants themselves gained tremendously, more than doubling their earnings by moving North. But these new arrivals competed with existing black workers, limiting black–white wage convergence in Northern labor markets and slowing black economic growth. Furthermore, many white households responded to the black migration by relocating to the suburbs. White flight was motivated not only by neighborhood racial change but also by the desire on the part of white residents to avoid participating in the local public services and fiscal obligations of increasingly diverse cities.

Employing historical census data and state-of-the-art econometric methods, Competition in the Promised Land revises our understanding of the Great Black Migration and its role in the transformation of American society.

Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel
Lamont, Michèle, Graziella Moraes Silva, Jessica S. Welburn, Joshua Guetzkow, Nissim Mizrachi, Hanna Herzog, and Elisa Reis. 2016. Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Abstract

Racism is a common occurrence for members of marginalized groups around the world. Getting Respect illuminates their experiences by comparing three countries with enduring group boundaries: the United States, Brazil and Israel. The authors delve into what kinds of stigmatizing or discriminatory incidents individuals encounter in each country, how they respond to these occurrences, and what they view as the best strategy—whether individually, collectively, through confrontation, or through self-improvement—for dealing with such events.

This deeply collaborative and integrated study draws on more than four hundred in-depth interviews with middle- and working-class men and women residing in and around multiethnic cities—New York City, Rio de Janeiro, and Tel Aviv—to compare the discriminatory experiences of African Americans, black Brazilians, and Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as Israeli Ethiopian Jews and Mizrahi (Sephardic) Jews. Detailed analysis reveals significant differences in group behavior: Arab Palestinians frequently remain silent due to resignation and cynicism while black Brazilians see more stigmatization by class than by race, and African Americans confront situations with less hesitation than do Ethiopian Jews and Mizrahim, who tend to downplay their exclusion. The authors account for these patterns by considering the extent to which each group is actually a group, the sociohistorical context of intergroup conflict, and the national ideologies and other cultural repertoires that group members rely on.

Getting Respect is a rich and daring book that opens many new perspectives into, and sets a new global agenda for, the comparative analysis of race and ethnicity.

The Diversity Bargain: And Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities

We’ve heard plenty from politicians and experts on affirmative action and higher education, about how universities should intervene—if at all—to ensure a diverse but deserving student population. But what about those for whom these issues matter the most? In this book, Natasha K. Warikoo deeply explores how students themselves think about merit and race at a uniquely pivotal moment: after they have just won the most competitive game of their lives and gained admittance to one of the world’s top universities.
What Warikoo uncovers—talking with both white students and students of color at Harvard, Brown, and Oxford—is absolutely illuminating; and some of it is positively shocking. As she shows, many elite white students understand the value of diversity abstractly, but they ignore the real problems that racial inequality causes and that diversity programs are meant to solve. They stand in fear of being labeled a racist, but they are quick to call foul should a diversity program appear at all to hamper their own chances for advancement. The most troubling result of this ambivalence is what she calls the “diversity bargain,” in which white students reluctantly agree with affirmative action as long as it benefits them by providing a diverse learning environment—racial diversity, in this way, is a commodity, a selling point on a brochure. And as Warikoo shows, universities play a big part in creating these situations. The way they talk about race on campus and the kinds of diversity programs they offer have a huge impact on student attitudes, shaping them either toward ambivalence or, in better cases, toward more productive and considerate understandings of racial difference.
Ultimately, this book demonstrates just how slippery the notions of race, merit, and privilege can be. In doing so, it asks important questions not just about college admissions but what the elite students who have succeeded at it—who will be the world’s future leaders—will do with the social inequalities of the wider world.  

Network Effects in Mexico—U.S. Migration: Disentangling the Underlying Social Mechanisms
Garip, Filiz, and Asad L. Asad. 2016. “Network Effects in Mexico—U.S. Migration: Disentangling the Underlying Social Mechanisms.” American Behavioral Scientist 60 (10): 1168-1193. Abstract

Scholars have long noted how migration streams, once initiated, obtain a self-feeding character. Studies have connected this phenomenon, called the cumulative causation of migration, to expanding social networks that link migrants in destination to individuals in origin. While extant research has established a positive association between individuals’ ties to prior migrants and their migration propensities, seldom have researchers interrogated how multiple social mechanisms—as well as exposure to common environmental factors—might account for these interdependencies. This article uses a mixed-methods strategy to identify the social mechanisms underlying the network effects in Mexico–U.S. migration. Three types of social mechanisms are identified, which all lead to network effects: (a) social facilitation, which is at work when network peers such as family or community members provide useful information or help that reduces the costs or increases the benefits of migration; (b) normative influence, which operates when network peers offer social rewards or impose sanctions to encourage or discourage migration; and (c) network externalities, which are at work when prior migrants generate a pool of common resources that increase the value or reduce the costs of migration for potential migrants. The authors first use large-sample survey data from the Mexican Migration Project to establish the presence of network effects and then rely on 138 in-depth interviews with migrants and their family members in Mexico to identify the social mechanisms underlying these network effects. The authors thus provide a deeper understanding of migration as a social process, which they argue is crucial for anticipating and responding to future flows.

Getting 'What Works' working: Building blocks for the integration of experimental and improvement science
Peterson, Amelia. 2016. “Getting 'What Works' working: Building blocks for the integration of experimental and improvement science.” International Journal of Research and Method in Education 39 (3): 299-313. Abstract

As a systemic approach to improving educational practice through research, ‘What Works’ has come under repeated challenge from alternative approaches, most recently that of improvement science. While ‘What Works’ remains a dominant paradigm for centralized knowledge-building efforts, there is need to understand why this alternative has gained support, and what it can contribute. I set out how the core elements of experimental and improvement science can be combined into a strategy to raise educational achievement with the support of evidence from randomized experiments. Central to this combined effort is a focus on identifying and testing mechanisms for improving teaching and learning, as applications of principles from the learning sciences. This article builds on current efforts to strengthen approaches to evidence-based practice and policy in a range of international contexts. It provides a foundation for those who aim to avoid another paradigm war and to accelerate international discussions on the design of systemic education research infrastructure and funding.

Intergroup Behavioral Strategies as Contextually Determined: Experimental Evidence from Israel

Why are the negative effects of social diversity more pronounced in some places than in others? What are the mechanisms underlying the relationship between diversity and discriminatory behaviors and why do they vary in prevalence and strength across locations? Experimental research has made advances in examining these questions by testing for differences in behavior when interacting with individuals from different groups. At the same time, research in American and comparative politics has demonstrated that attitudes toward other groups are a function of context. Uniting these two lines of research, we show that discriminatory behaviors are strongly conditioned by the ways in which groups are organized in space. We examine this claim in the context of intra-Jewish conflict in Israel, using original data compiled through multi-site lab-in-the-field experiments and survey responses collected across 20 locations.

Sticker Shock: How Information Affects Citizen Support for Increased Public School Funding
Schueler, Beth, and Martin R West. 2016. “Sticker Shock: How Information Affects Citizen Support for Increased Public School Funding.” Public Opinion Quarterly 80 (1): 90-113. Abstract

This study examines the role of information in shaping public opinion in the context of support for education spending. While there is broad public support for increasing government funding for public schools, Americans tend to underestimate what is currently spent. We embed a series of experiments in a nationally representative survey administered in 2012 (n= 2,993) to examine whether informing citizens about current levels of education spending alters public opinion about whether funding should increase. Providing information on per-pupil spending in a respondent’s local school district reduces the probability that he or she will express support for increasing spending by 22 percentage points on average. Informing respondents about state-average teacher salaries similarly depresses support for salary increases. These effects are larger among respondents who underestimate per-pupil spending and teacher salaries by a greater amount, consistent with the idea that the observed changes in opinion are driven, at least in part, by informational effects, as opposed to priming alone.

Beyond the Culture of Poverty: Meaning-Making Among Low-Income Populations Around Family, Neighborhood, and Work
Bell, Monica, Nathan Fosse, Michèle Lamont, and Eva Rosen. 2016. “Beyond the Culture of Poverty: Meaning-Making Among Low-Income Populations Around Family, Neighborhood, and Work.” Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism. Wiley-Blackwell. Abstract

Understanding social life requires attending to the cultural dimension of reality. Yet, when it comes to the study of low-income populations, factoring in culture has often been a contentious project. This is because explaining poverty through culture has been equated with blaming the poor for their predicaments. Scholars have moved the debate forward by making a case for integrating culture in explanations of poverty. This requires drawing on analytical devices such as frames, narratives, institutions, repertoires, and boundaries that capture intersubjective definitions of reality. These concepts have been useful for identifying a diversity of frameworks through which low-income populations understand their reality and develop paths for mobility. This entry builds on these contributions by exploring the place of culture in studies of American low-income populations in three important areas of social life: family, neighborhood, and work.

Teaching to the Student: Charter School Effectiveness in Spite of Perverse Incentives

Recent work has shown that Boston charter schools raise standardized test scores more than their traditional school counterparts. Critics of charter schools argue that charter schools create those achievement gains by focusing exclusively on test preparation, at the expense of deeper learning. In this paper, I test that critique by estimating the impact of charter school attendance on subscales of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System and examining them for evidence of score inflation. If charter schools are teaching to the test to a greater extent than their counterparts, one would expect to see higher scores on commonly tested standards, higher-stakes subjects, and frequently tested topics. Despite incentives to reallocate effort away from less frequently tested content to highly tested content, and to coach to item type, I find no evidence of this type of test preparation. Boston charter middle schools perform consistently across all standardized test subscales.

Unhappy Cities
Glaeser, Edward L., Joshua D. Gottlieb, and Oren Ziv. 2016. “Unhappy Cities.” Journal of Labor Economics 34 (S2). Abstract

There are persistent differences in self-reported subjective well-being across US metropolitan areas, and residents of declining cities appear less happy than others. Yet some people continue to move to these areas, and newer residents appear to be as unhappy as longer-term residents. While historical data on happiness are limited, the available facts suggest that cities that are now declining were also unhappy in their more prosperous past. These facts support the view that individuals do not maximize happiness alone but include it in the utility function along with other arguments. People may trade off happiness against other competing objectives.

Compounded Deprivation in the Transition to Adulthood: The Intersection of Racial and Economic Inequality Among Chicagoans, 1995–2013

This paper investigates acute, compounded, and persistent deprivation in a representative sample of Chicago adolescents transitioning to young adulthood. Our investigation, based on four waves of longitudinal data from 1995 to 2013, is motivated by three goals. First, we document the prevalence of individual and neighborhood poverty over time, especially among whites, blacks, and Latinos. Second, we explore compounded deprivation, describing the extent to which study participants are simultaneously exposed to individual and contextual forms of deprivation—including material deprivation (such as poverty) and social-organizational deprivation (for example, low collective efficacy)—for multiple phases of the life course from adolescence up to age thirty-two. Third, we isolate the characteristics that predict transitions out of compounded and persistent poverty. The results provide new evidence on the crosscutting adversities that were exacerbated by the Great Recession and on the deep connection of race to persistent and compounded deprivation in the transition to adulthood.

Asymmetric Interest Group Mobilization and Party Coalitions in U.S. Tax Politics
Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander, and Theda Skocpol. 2015. “Asymmetric Interest Group Mobilization and Party Coalitions in U.S. Tax Politics.” Studies in American Political Development 29 (2): 235-249. Abstract

Arguments about national tax policy have taken center stage in U.S. politics in recent times, creating acute dilemmas for Democrats. With Republicans locked into antitax agendas for some time, Democrats have recently begun to push back, arguing for maintaining or even increasing taxes on the very wealthy in the name of deficit reduction and the need to sustain funding for public programs. But the Democratic Party as a whole has not been able to find a consistent voice on tax issues. It experienced key defections when large, upward-tilting tax cuts were enacted under President George W. Bush, and the Democratic Party could not control the agenda on debates over continuing those tax cuts even when it enjoyed unified control in Washington, DC, in 2009 and 2010. To explain these cleavages among Democrats, we examine growing pressures from small business owners, a key antitax constituency. We show that organizations claiming to speak for small business have become more active in tax politics in recent decades, and we track the ways in which constituency pressures have been enhanced by feedbacks from federal tax rules that encourage individuals to pass high incomes through legal preferences for the self-employed. Comparing debates over the inception and renewal of the Bush tax cuts, we show how small business organizations and constituencies have divided Democrats on tax issues. Our findings pinpoint the mechanisms that have propelled tax resistance in contemporary U.S. politics, and our analysis contributes to theoretical understandings of the ways in which political parties are influenced by policy feedbacks and by coalitions of policy-driven organized economic interests.

Toward a Multidimensional Understanding of Culture for Health Interventions
Asad, Asad L., and Tamara Kay. 2015. “Toward a Multidimensional Understanding of Culture for Health Interventions.” Social Science & Medicine 144: 79-87. Publisher's Version Abstract

Although a substantial literature examines the relationship between culture and health in myriad individual contexts, a lack of comparative data across settings has resulted in disparate and imprecise conceptualizations of the concept for scholars and practitioners alike. This article examines scholars and practitioners’ understandings of culture in relation to health interventions. Drawing on 169 interviews with officials from three different nongovernmental organizations working on health issues in multiple countries—Partners in Health, Oxfam America, and Sesame Workshop—we examine how these respondents’ interpretations of culture converge or diverge with recent developments in the study of the concept, as well as how these understandings influence health interventions at three different stages—design, implementation, and evaluation—of a project. Based on these analyses, a tripartite definition of culture is built—as knowledge, practice, and change—and these distinct conceptualizations are linked to the success or failure of a project at each stage of an intervention. In so doing, the study provides a descriptive and analytical starting point for scholars interested in understanding the theoretical and empirical relevance of culture for health interventions, and sets forth concrete recommendations for practitioners working to achieve robust improvements in health outcomes.

How Legislators Respond to Localized Economic Shocks: Evidence from Chinese Import Competition
Feigenbaum, James J., and Andrew B. Hall. 2015. “How Legislators Respond to Localized Economic Shocks: Evidence from Chinese Import Competition.” Journal of Politics 77 (4): 1012-1030. Abstract

We explore the effects of localized economic shocks from trade on roll-call behavior and electoral outcomes in the US House, 1990–2010. We demonstrate that economic shocks from Chinese import competition—first studied by Autor, Dorn, and Hanson—cause legislators to vote in a more protectionist direction on trade bills but cause no change in their voting on all other bills. At the same time, these shocks have no effect on the reelection rates of incumbents, the probability an incumbent faces a primary challenge, or the partisan control of the district. Though changes in economic conditions are likely to cause electoral turnover in many cases, incumbents exposed to negative economic shocks from trade appear able to fend off these effects in equilibrium by taking strategic positions on foreign-trade bills. In line with this view, we find that the effect on roll-call voting is strongest in districts where incumbents are most threatened electorally. Taken together, these results paint a picture of responsive incumbents who tailor their roll-call positions on trade bills to the economic conditions in their districts.

Desmond, Matthew, Carl Gershenson, and Barbara Kiviat. 2015. “Forced Relocation and Residential Instability among Urban Renters.” Social Service Review 89. The University of Chicago Press: pp. 227-262. Publisher's Version Abstract

Abstract Residential instability often brings about other forms of instability in families, schools, and communities that compromise the life chances of adults and children. Social scientists have found that low-income families move frequently without fully understanding why. Drawing on novel data of more than 1,000 Milwaukee renters, this article explores the relationship between forced relocation and residential instability. It finds that low incomes are associated with higher rates of mobility due to poorer renters’ greater exposure to forced displacement. Not only do higher rates of formal and informal eviction, landlord foreclosure, and building condemnation directly increase the mobility of poorer renters, but forced displacement also increases subsequent unforced mobility. A forced move often compels renters to accept substandard housing, which drives them to soon move again. This article reveals mechanisms of residential mobility among low-income renters, identifies previously undocumented consequences of forced displacement, and develops a more comprehensive model of residential instability and urban inequality.

Racial and Spatial Targeting: Segregation and Subprime Lending within and across Metropolitan Areas
Hwang, Jackelyn, Michael Hankinson, and Kreg Steven Brown. 2015. “Racial and Spatial Targeting: Segregation and Subprime Lending within and across Metropolitan Areas.” Social Forces 93 (3): 1081-1108. Abstract

Recent studies find that high levels of black-white segregation increased rates of foreclosures and subprime lending across US metropolitan areas during the housing crisis. These studies speculate that segregation created distinct geographic markets that enabled subprime lenders and brokers to leverage the spatial proximity of minorities to disproportionately target minority neighborhoods. Yet, the studies do not explicitly test whether the concentration of subprime loans in minority neighborhoods varied by segregation levels. We address this shortcoming by integrating neighborhood-level data and spatial measures of segregation to examine the relationship between segregation and subprime lending across the 100 largest US metropolitan areas. Controlling for alternative explanations of the housing crisis, we find that segregation is strongly associated with higher concentrations of subprime loans in clusters of minority census tracts but find no evidence of unequal lending patterns when we examine minority census tracts in an aspatial way. Moreover, residents of minority census tracts in segregated metropolitan areas had higher likelihoods of receiving subprime loans than their counterparts in less segregated metropolitan areas. Our findings demonstrate that segregation played a pivotal role in the housing crisis by creating relatively larger areas of concentrated minorities into which subprime loans could be efficiently and effectively channeled. These results are consistent with existing but untested theories on the relationship between segregation and the housing crisis in metropolitan areas.

Complex Tax Incentives
Abeler, Johannes, and Simon Jäger. 2015. “Complex Tax Incentives.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 7 (3): 1-28. Author's version Abstract

How does tax complexity affect people’s reaction to tax changes? To answer this question, we conduct an experiment in which subjects work for a piece rate and face taxes. One treatment features a simple, the other a complex tax system. The payoff-maximizing output level and the incentives around this optimum are, however, identical across treatments. We introduce the same sequence of additional taxes in both treatments. Subjects in the complex treatment underreact to new taxes; some ignore new taxes entirely. The underreaction is stronger for subjects with lower cognitive ability. Contrary to predictions from models of rational inattention, subjects are equally likely to ignore large or small incentive changes.