The latest roundup...Ideas worth reading.
Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy at Harvard University. Part of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.



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Highlights from Inequality & Social Policy
at the Malcolm Wiener Center


Economic Mobility: Research and Ideas on Strengthening Families, Communities and the Economy

Downloadable book edited by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. (Contents) ▶

With chapters by Harvard Inequality & Social Policy faculty affiliates:
Latest issue

Wealth Inequality:
Economic & Social Dimensions

RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences. Vol 2, Issue 6 (Oct 2016).
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The 10 Best Books of 2016

~ Congratulations to Matthew Desmond 
The New York Times Book Review
December 1, 2016
The Washington Post
November 17, 2016
The Washington Post: In spare and beautiful prose, Desmond chronicles the economic and psychological devastation of substandard housing in America and the cascading misfortunes that come with losing one’s home...

In this extraordinary feat of reporting and ethnography, Desmond has made it impossible ever again to consider poverty in the United States without tackling the central role of housing.

Matthew Desmond is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University.

Insight and analysis

A Conversation with Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy
November 28, 2016
JFK Jr Forum  | Vivek H. Murthy, United States Surgeon General, joined Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, at the JFK Jr. Forum for a conversation on America's healthcare issues relating to opioid addiction, gun violence, and changes to healthcare laws under the new administration. Co-sponsored by the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.
Watch video ▶

Italy isn't quite on the verge of its own Brexit. But its Sunday referendum still matters a lot for Europe.
December 2, 2016
Vox | Features perspective from Peter A. Hall, Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies.

Donald Trump’s Electoral College Win and the Enormous Hurdles for Reversal
December 2, 2016
Wall Street Journal | Cites Alexander Keyssar, Matthew W. Stirling Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy: “The amendment process is extremely difficult,” said Keyssar...who added that it nearly happened in 1969 when the House approved a proposal to reform the electoral process, only to have it killed the next year by a Senate filibuster led by North Carolina Democrat Sam Ervin.
Impact 2016: Building Broad Prosperity
December 2, 2016
Center on Budget & Policy Priorities
Matthew Desmond talked housing policy with William Julius Wilson as the closing plenary speaker at the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities State Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. The three-day conference brought together policy experts, state leaders, and advocates to discuss policies to promote equity and prosperity.
How has immigration affected native workers? A discussion with George J. Borjas
December 2, 2016
AEI | The American Enterprise Institute hosted an event featuring George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy. 
House lawmakers passed the biggest health reform bill since the Affordable Care Act
December 1, 2016
Vox | Cites Daniel Carpenter, Allie S. Freed Professor of Government: "Carpenter, who wrote a history of the FDA, has called the bill the "19th Century Frauds Act." He continued: "The clauses on using purely observational data for drug approval and what amounts to anecdotal evidence for devices are deeply anti-scientific and would undermine the credibility of the American market for drugs and medical devices...This act would seriously undermine that credibility, and by extension the market as a whole."

See also
  • Lawmakers must ask tough questions about the 21st Century Cures Act
    November 21, 2016
    The Hill | By Gregg Gonsalves, Daniel Carpenter, and Joseph Ross: "To those of us who have watched and studied the FDA for years, this legislation is the culmination of years of quiet, subtle deregulation—death to the FDA by a thousand cuts – as this new law includes worrying provisions that deftly and severely weaken the evidentiary requirements for the approval of new drugs and medical devices."

    Daniel Carpenter is the Allie S. Freed Professor of Government at Harvard. Gregg Gonsalves and Joseph Ross are both from Yale University.

Retail Investors Often Get Biased Financial Advice, Study Finds
December 1, 2016
Institutional Investor | "A trio of finance and economics professors [Antoinette Scholar (MIT), Sendhil Mullainathan (Harvard), and Markus Noeth (University of Hamburg)] concluded in a paper published in 2012 that retail investors really do need fiduciaries to shield them from poor financial advice. They finally got some protection in the Department of Labor’s so-called fiduciary rule, set to take effect in April 2017 — but the future of that rule now hangs in the balance, just as these researchers have produced fresh findings reinforcing their original conclusions."

The potential downside of automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans
December 1, 2016
Investment News | The practice boosts employees' savings rates, but it may also be financed in some cases by increases in consumer debt, according to new research in a forthcoming report by John Beshears (Harvard Business School), David Laibson (Dept of Economics), Brigitte Madrian (Harvard Kennedy School).

High-Stakes Student Testing has Mixed Results in Texas Schools
December 1, 2016
Harvard Kennedy School | Discusses findings of new study forthcoming in the December issue of The Review of Economics and Statistics by David J. Deming (Ph.D. '10), Professor of Education and Economics, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Sarah Cohodes (Ph.D. '15), Assistant Professor of Education an Public Policy, Teachers College, Columbia University; Jennifer Jennings of New York University; and Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, Emeritus, Harvard Kennedy School. 

Jennifer Hochschild on Race in America
December 1, 2016
Social Science Bites | Interview with Jennifer Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government. 
Donald Trump has every reason to keep white people thinking about race
November 30, 2016
Vox | "There’s a growing body of research in political science and political psychology suggesting that even very mild messages or cues that touch on race can alter political opinions." Highlights work by Ryan D. Enos, Associate Professor of Government, who "sent pairs of native Spanish-speaking Latino men to ride commuter trains in Boston, surveyed their fellow riders' political views both before and after, and also surveyed riders on trains not used in the experiment as a control.

"'The results were clear,' Enos wrote in a Washington Post piece. 'After coming into contact, for just minutes each day, with two more Latinos than they would otherwise see or interact with, the riders, who were mostly white and liberal, were sharply more opposed to allowing more immigrants into the country and favored returning the children of illegal immigrants to their parents’ home country. It was a stark shift from their pre-experiment interviews, during which they expressed more neutral attitudes.'

Vox continues: "Dwell on that. Merely being in the presence of Latino people changed liberal voters’ attitudes on immigration. That’s among the most subtle cues imaginable. And this is a study conducted in the field, among real people, not in a lab."
View the research 
Harvard EdCast: The Diversity Bargain
November 30, 2016
Harvard EdCast | For her new book, The Diversity Bargain and Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities, Associate Professor Natasha Warikoo (Ph.D. '05), interviewed first-year students at Brown, Harvard, and Oxford. What she found was a disconnect between students' ideas of what a diverse campus would be and the reality. Often, says Warikoo, white students who were in favor of affirmative action during the admissions process were so because they saw a diverse campus as a benefit to their own growth and learning; they didn't consider what the experience would be for those of different backgrounds.

"The problem is that when that is the only way students make sense of affirmative action and diversity," says Warikoo, "it leads to some perverse outcomes," including reverse racial discrimination and anxiety about how others are affecting their success.

In this edition of the Harvard EdCast, Warikoo discusses the study that led to her new book, and reflects on the notions of race, merit, and privilege at elite universities.
Five Books to Change Conservatives' Minds
November 30, 2016
Bloomberg View | Cass R. Sunstein column urges progressives and conservatives to escape their respective echo chambers by reading the best of each otther's work. Here he recommends five for conservatives, including Scarcity: Why Having Less Means So Much, by Sendhil Mullainathan (Robert C. Waggoner Professor of Economics) and Eldar Shafir (Princeton University).

"Mullainathan and Shafir demonstrate that these diverse forms of scarcity have something important in common: They take over our minds, leaving us with limited “bandwidth.”...Mullainathan and Shafir show why many public policy initiatives, which impose “bandwidth taxes” (for example, by making people fill out complex forms to receive financial assistance), turn out to be unhelpful and even counterproductive." 

Stop Treating HUD Like a Second-Tier Department
November 30, 2016
FiveThirtyEight | Four reasons why HUD and housing policy matter——for poverty, homeownership and affordability, and in fighting discrimination and segregation. Cites research by Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, and notes that Desmond's work was instrumental in getting eviction-related questions added to the 2017 American Housing Survey. 

Trump Transition Continues
November 30, 2016
WGBH Greater Boston | Prof. Leah Wright Rigueur of the Harvard Kennedy School guests.

Likely Policies Under Trump
November 30, 2016
Harvard Gazette | Faculty from Harvard's Government Department—including Danielle Allen, Jennifer Hochschild, Claudine Gay—gathered for a post-election panel, "Trump's America: What's Next?," which explored what a Trump administration portends for voting rights, foreign policy, economics, and American democracy.
Hard Time Gets a Hard Look
November 29, 2016
Harvard Gazette | Bruce Western, Professor of Sociology and Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice Policy, Vincent Schiraldi, Senior Research Fellow with the Malcolm Wiener Center's Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, and Judge Nancy Gertner, Senior Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School, relate their experience with criminal justice policy in a seminar aimed at reducing the country's bloated prison population. 

Can the Sharing Economy Root Out Racism?
November 29, 2016
The Atlantic—CityLab | Draws from work by economists Ray Fisman, Boston University, and Michael Luca, Assistant Professor at Harvard Business School. Their article, "Fixing Discrimination in Online Marketplaces," featured in last month's roundup, appears in the Harvard Business Review.

The Problem with School Choice: Why Using Competition to Improve the Education Market Isn't So Simple
November 29, 2016
HGSE Usable Knowledge | With the announcement of Betsey DeVos as the President-elect's choice for U.S. Secretary of Education, Joshua S. Goodman, Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, shares his thoughts on how education diverges from the classical market model and what this means ifor public policy considerations of school choice and accountability.

Trump’s attempt to ‘drain the swamp’ will make matters worse in Washington
November 27, 2016
Los Angeles Times | By Lee Drutman (Senior Fellow, New America) and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. '16, Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs, Colubmia University). "If government doesn’t have resources of its own to develop policies, private groups with narrow interests — businesses above all — will happily do it themselves," the authors argue. "The evidence is increasingly clear: Disproportionate special interest and lobbyist influence comes from the simple fact that on many issues, these lobbyists are the only ones investing in crucial policy resources."
Two Immigrants Debate Immigration
November 26, 2016
Reason | A spirited exchange between George J. Borjas and Shikha Dalmia on the empirical claims and proposed policy prescriptions in Borjas's new book, We Wanted Workers. Borjas is the Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Dalmia is a Reason Foundation analyst.

The Hidden Costs of Immigration
November 22, 2016
Claremont Review of Books | Review of George J. Borjas's We Wanted Workers, by Christopher Caldwell. Borjas is the Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Trump's Triumph and Social Science Adrift...What is to be Done?
November 22, 2016
American Sociological Association | Essay by Michèle Lamont, President of the American Sociological Association. Lamont is the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies at Harvard.
Behind "Make America Great," the Koch Agenda Returns with a Vengeance
November 21, 2016
Talking Points Memo | By Theda Skocpol, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, and Caroline Tervo. "At first glance, the victory of Donald Trump suggests that big political money has less clout than imagined in U.S. democracy." Not so, say the authors, whose research has tracked the long-term rise and recent impact of the Koch network. Here they offer their perspective on how the Koch network helped to elect Trump and will now set the policy agenda. "Most media outlets have not noticed that the Koch network is now fusing with the emerging Trump presidency—a situation that leaves citizens in the dark about huge pending policy upheavals in federal programs most American families have long taken for granted." 

Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard. Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. '16) is now Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Caroline Tervo is a junior at Harvard College.

The Costs of Being Poor
November 21, 2016
The American Prospect | Two new books explore how difficult the housing market and criminal justice system make it to climb out of poverty. Adam D. Reich of Columbia University reviews Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciencest at Harvard, and A Pound of Flesh: Monetary Sanctions as Punishment for the Poor, by Alexis Harris, University of Washington.
Race in America After the Great Migration
November 18, 2016
The New York Times Book Review | Review of Competition in the Promised Land: Black Migrants in Northern Cities and Labor Markets, by Leah Platt Boustan (Ph.D. '06), Professor of Economics at UCLA, and Dark Ghettos: Injustice, Dissent, and Reform, by Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy at Harvard.
Donald Trump's infrastructure plan wouldn't actually fix America's infrastructure problems
November 18, 2016
Vox | Quotes Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics: "This is unlikely to do much for road and bridge maintenance...And [economists] have long believed that the highest returns are for fixing existing infrastructure.”

“If [we] only built projects that could cover their costs with user charges, we would have far fewer white elephant projects,” says Harvard’s Glaeser. “However, we would also miss good projects as well. In particular, we would miss projects that mainly serve the less advantaged. Asking buses to pay for themselves would be a mistake.”

Donald Trump's infrastructure illusion
November 16, 2016
Chicago Tribune | Cites research by Andrew Garin, Ph.D. candidate in Political Economy and Government, who examined the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on local employment growth. Using geographically-detailed data on highway construction, Garin found no effect on employment in the local of the construction site, showing that this was because the majority of contractors, selected by competitive bidding, commute from other local labor markets.
View the research

Why Surging Stocks May Not Mean the Economy Trusts Trump
November 18, 2016
The New York Times | By Sendhil Mullainathan, Robert C. Waggoner Professor of Economics."The early stock market reaction to Donald J. Trump’s election victory was overwhelmingly positive. But that doesn’t mean a Trump presidency will be good for the economy," writes Mullainathan.

Protecting and promoting the use of evidence in the regulatory process
November 17, 2016
Brookings Institution | By Nora Gordon (Ph.D. '02), Associate Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University and a Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings.

America's Surprising Views on Income Inequality
November 17, 2016
The New Yorker | Cites research by psychologists Michael Norton of Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of Duke University, which found that people "routinely underestimated existing wealth inequality."  Also quotes economist Justin Wolfers (Ph.D. '01), Professor of Economics and Public Policy, University of Michigan.
View Norton and Ariely study
'Desperate but not hopeless times'
November 16, 2016
Harvard Gazette | Coverage of the the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies’ annual Summit on the Future of Europe: Peter A. Hall, Harvard’s Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies, warned that in addition to its debt, banking, and growth crises, Europe faces a political one, with declining levels of trust in government and a shift away from mainstream politics. Hall argued that EU leaders worsened or caused the problem by seeking a “fuller fiscal or political union” in response to the Eurozone crisis, an approach that he said deprives national electorates of the sense that their governments are accountable."
View conference agenda 

Study Finds Couples' Division of Paid and Unpaid Labor Linked to Risk of Divorce
November 16, 2016
American Sociological Association | Research note discusses findings of study by Alexandra Killewald, Professor of Sociology, published in the August issue of the American Sociological Review.
View the research (ungated)
Populism and the Future of American Politics
November 10, 2016
American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Event video featuring panelists Jennifer Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government, Lawrence D. Bobo, W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences, and Charles Stewart III of MIT.
Episode 12: Breaking Down a Changing America with Maria Hinojosa and Dan Hopkins
November 16, 2016
Grapple  | Dan Hopkins (Ph.D. '07), Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, talks about  what contributes to the rise of anti-immigration politics and how it played out in the 2016 presidential election.
Audio + Interview highlights (text)]

Episode 10: Breaking Down Gentrification with Jackelyn Hwang
November 2, 2016
Grapple  | Jackelyn Hwang (Ph.D. '15) joins to discuss the causes of gentrification, the way in which race factors into the way that gentrification happens, and what happens to renters and homeowners in gentrifying neighborhoods. Hwang is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton University, and will join Stanford University's faculty as Assistant Professor of Sociology in fall 2017.
[Audio + Interview highlights (text)]

Episode 06 : Breaking Down the American Dream with Robert Putnam
October 5, 2016
Grapple | Grapple sits down with Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, to talk about why he thinks the American Dream is in crisis. In his most recent work, Putnam examines our nation’s growing income inequality and opportunity gap.
[Audio + interview highlights (text)]

Grapple is a new audio podcast, produced by Kouvenda Media and Keystone Crossroads, that seeks to “gives voice to people living and working in distressed communities.” Keystone Crossroads is a collaborative reporting project of partner public media stations WHYY, WITF, WESA and WPSU.
View all in first season ▶ 



Lawrence Bobo Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
November 30, 2016

Lawrence D. Bobo, the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, is one of five newly-elected Fellows to join the American Academy of Political and Social Science in 2017. The fellowship citation notes that Bobo's research "has quantified, qualified, and illuminated understandings about social inequality, politics, racism, and attitudes about race in America," 

Also elected 2017 Fellows:

  • Martha Minow
    Dean of Harvard Law School
  • Margaret Levi
    Stanford University
  • Timothy Smeeding
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Claude Steele
    University of California-Berkeley

Events of interest

Askwith Debates
Pass/Fail: How Test-Based Accountability Stacks Up

December 5, 2016, 6 pm
Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Mitchell Chester, Ed.M.'88, Ed.D.'91, Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Rebecca Holcombe, Ed.M.'90, Ed.D.'16, Secretary of Education, Vermont 
  • Thomas Kane, Walter H. Gale Professor of Education and Economics, HGSE
  • Daniel Koretz, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Education, HGSE
2016 CFPB Research Conference
December 15-16, 2016
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Harvard Kennedy School Prof. Brigitte Madrian will be the keynote speaker for the second CFPB research conference in Washington DC, which will bring together academic and government researchers to discuss consumer finance research that can inform policy.

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Part of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. 

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