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Harvard Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy. Part of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

News roundup

Prof. Matthew Desmond

Highlights from Inequality & Social Policy
at the Malcolm Wiener Center

Congratulations to Matthew Desmond, named a 2015 MacArthur Fellow last week! 

An urban sociologist and John L. Loeb Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, Desmond was recognized for his research on the impact of eviction on poor families and the role of housing policy in sustaining poverty and racial inequality in large American cities

Scroll down to catch up on the latest insight and analysis, in-the-news, and noteworthy developments from the Inequality & Social Policy program.

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Insight & analysis

What the Privileged Poor Can Teach Us
The New York Times
September 12, 2015
By Anthony Abraham Jack, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology.
(Enlarge image) ►
Addressing Economic Challenges in an Evolving Health Care Market 
October 7, 2015
The Hamilton Project [Videotaped event, with papers and presentation slides also available]
Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, participated in a policy forum addressing economic challenges in an evolving health care market, with a focus on three new papers released in conjunction with the event. The event, held at The Brookings Institution, featured opening remarks by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, and framing remarks by CEA Chairman Jason Furman. 

Correcting Signals for Innovation in Health Care
October 7, 2015
The Hamilton Project | By Nicholas Bagley (University of Michigan Law School), Amtabh Chandra, and Austin Frakt (U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs and Boston University).

Three-Point Plan to Improve Health Care in the U.S.
October 6, 2015
Harvard Kennedy School | Q&A with Amitabh Chandra

Josh Goodman on the College Scorecard
October 6, 2015
Harvard Kennedy School | Q&A with Joshua S. Goodman

Beyond Criminal Justice Reform
October 5, 2015
Dissent | By Michael Javen Fortner (Ph.D. '10).

Using behavioral insights to improve government performance
October 4, 2015
Gov Innovator Podcast | Andy Feldman (Ph.D. '07) interviews Maya Shankar, Chair of the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team.

Why 21 year-old offenders should be tried in family court
October 2, 2015
Washington Post | By Vincent Schiraldi and Bruce Western, senior research fellow and chair, respectively, of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at the Malcolm Wiener Center.

Behind the Rise in Mass Incarceration
October 2, 2015
The New York Times | By Jeremy Travis (John Jay College of Criminal Justice) and Bruce Western. Letter to the Editor in response to David Brooks's Sep 29 column, "The Prison Problem."

101 economists defend the 'Cadillac tax'
October 1, 2015
Letter to Congress | A group of prominent health economists and policy analysts issued a statement urging that Congress take no action to weaken the Cadillac tax "unless and until it enacts an alternative tax change that would more effectively curtail cost growth." Signatories include Amitabh Chandra, David Cutler, David Ellwood, Douglas Elmendorf, Lawrence Katz, Tom Vogl (Ph.D. '11), and Justin Wolfers (Ph.D. '01).

Weather, sharks, and the world economy: the luck of the political cycle
September 30, 2015
Inside Story | By Andrew Leigh (Ph.D. '04). A former Professor of Economics at the Australian National University, Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and a Member of Parliament for the district of Fraser. This is an edited extract from his new book, The Luck of Politics, published earlier this month by Black Inc.

The Real Roots of '70s Drug Laws
September 28, 2015
The New York Times | By Michael Javen Fortner (Ph.D. '10)

Understanding Health Care's Short-Termism Problem
September 28, 2015
Harvard Business Review | By Amitabh Chandra and Dana Goldman (USC)

How the Right Trounced Liberals in the States
September 25, 2015
Democracy | By Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy) and Theda Skocpol

A Better Government, One Tweak at a Time
September 25, 2015
The New York Times | By Justin Wolfers (Ph.D. '01)

Boston on the Rebound
September 23, 2015
Harvard Kennedy School | Interview with Edward Glaeser: "America as a whole has done terribly at providing good jobs for people with less education. To me, reversing this long run trend may be the most pressing economic issue facing America today."

National Academy of Sciences releases report: The Integration of Immigrants into American Society
September 21, 2015
National Academy of Sciences | Mary C. Waters chaired the national panel of experts who wrote the 520-page report, which is to be published by The National Academies Press. Download the full report (430 pp) or view the Report in Brief (6 pp) ► 

Federal policies for graying America
September 17, 2015
Brookings Institution | By Douglas W. Elmendorf, who begins his term as dean of the Harvard Kennedy School in January 2016.

How to Help Millennials Buy Homes in New England
September 17, 2015
WBUR Radio Boston | Ethan Fosse (Ph.D. '15) and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raymond guest.

Putting the new U.S. Census data on income and poverty in context
September 16, 2015
Washington Center for Equitable Growth | By Elisabeth Jacobs (Ph.D. '08)

Wage Growth, Job Growth, and the Ongoing Unemployment Puzzle
September 15, 2015
On Point with Tom Ashbrook (NPR) | Alicia Sasser Modestino (Ph.D. '01), Heather Boushey (Center for American Progress), and Harry Holzer (Brookings Institution and Georgetown University) guest.

Innovative paper overcomes data limitations to shed light on student debt 'crisis'
September 11, 2015
Brookings Institution—Brown Center Chalkboard | Discusses new BPEA paper by Adam Looney (Ph.D. '04, now U.S. Treasury Dept) and Constantine Yannelis (Stanford University), just released as part of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (BPEA) fall 2015 conference. 

Growing economic segregation among districts and schools
September 10, 2015
Brookings Institution—Brown Center Chalkboard | By Ann Owens (Ph.D. '12, now Assistant Professor of Sociology at USC)

What explains Ben Carson? The Long Tradition of Black Conservatism
September 10, 2015
Washington Post | By Leah Wright Rigueur

Bargaining for the American Dream: What Unions Do for Mobility
September 9, 2015
Center for American Progress [event video] | Harvard economist Richard B. Freeman and former U.S. Treasury Secretary, currently Charles W. Eliot University Professor, Lawrence H. Summers discuss the role of unions in the economy and society. (Read the the New York Times article about this).

$2.00 a Day
September 2, 2015
The New York Times Book Review | By William Julius Wilson. "This essential book [by Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Schaefer] is a call to action, and one hopes...[will] arouse both the nation’s consciousness and conscience about the plight of a growing number of invisible citizens."

Democrats and labor unions are doomed without each other—and so are we
September 1, 2015
The Hill | By Daniel Schlozman (Ph.D. '11)

Understanding the Sources of Inequality 
August 11, 2015
National Bureau of Economic Research [video] | Roland Fryer talks about the economics of inequality and the central questions that drive his research in this NBER video chat (4 minutes).


In the news

The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration
October 2015 issue
The Atlantic | Features work by (in order of appearance) Bruce Western, Devah Pager, Robert Sampson, William Julius Wilson, and Christopher Muller (Ph.D. '14).

Also cites forthcoming article by Robert J. Sampson and Kristin L. Perkins (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy), "Compounded Deprivation in the Transition to Adulthood,” in the first issue of the Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences.

Mass Incarceration, Visualized
September 11, 2015
The Atlantic | In this animated-infographic interview, sociologist Bruce Western explains the current inevitability of prison for certain demographics of young black men and how it's become a normal life event.

Body Count
September 7, 2015
The New Yorker | Michael Javen Fortner's (Ph.D. '10) new book, Black Silent Majority, is discussed in relation to the arguments of Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, and Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow.
Flat Wages Add to Allure of the 'Anti-Politician' in Reliably Red States
October 10, 2015
The New York Times | Theda Skocpol quoted.

What Critics of California's Fair Pay Act are Missing
October 9, 2015
Fortune | Claudia Goldin comments on California's Fair Pay Act.

New Findings from War on Poverty: Just Give Cash
October 9, 2015
Bloomberg View | Mentions Sendhil Mullainathan's work as part of an emerging program of research on the science of scarcity——the ways in which poverty affect decision-making and behavior.

How California's Fair Pay Act Will Help Women
October 7, 2015
The New Yorker | Discusses Claudia Goldin's research on gender wage gaps and gets her perspective on the Fair Pay Act.

The Hon. Andrew Leigh to give IPR Distinguished Public Policy Lecture
October 6, 2015
Institute for Policy Research | Andrew Leigh (Ph.D. '04), Member of Parliament, Australia; Shadow Assistant Treasurer; and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences, will give IPR's 2015 Distinguished Public Policy Lecture at Northwestern University: "Humans Need Not Apply: Will the Robot Economy Pit Entrepreneurship Against Equality?"

New Study Measures Impact of the Mariel Boat Lift on Low-Educated Workers
October 5, 2015
Harvard Kennedy School | Discusses George Borjas's reappraisal of a classic study in labor economics. View Borjas paper: "The Wage Impact of the Marielitos: A Reappraisal,"

U.A.W. Contract Vote at Fiat Chrysler Takes a Populist Tone
October 1, 2015
The New York Times | Theda Skocpol comments on the nature of populist revolts on the political right and left.

The biggest ideas underpinning the anti-immigration movement aren't backed up by data
October 1, 2015
Washington Post | Highlights findings of National Academy of Sciences panel chaired by Mary C. Waters.

Offering too many choices can hurt community colleges and their students
October 1, 2015
Washington Post | Judith Scott-Clayton (Ph.D. '09)

Investing in Teachers Instead of Prisons
September 30, 2015
Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education [Speech] | Highlights work of psychologist Phillip Atiba Goff, Visiting Scholar in the Malcolm Wiener Center, with police departments and school districts to increase awareness of implicit biases and how they can be addressed.  Speech at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C

'Genius grant' winner made in Madison, Milwaukee
September 30, 2015
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Matthew Desmond

How to keep robots from taking your job
September 29, 2015
Boston Globe | Discusses new paper by David Deming (Faculty and Ph.D. '10), "The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market," presented in our Oct 5th Inequality seminar.

The Black Activists Who Helped Launch the Drug War
September 27, 2015
New York Magazine | Delves into Michael Javen Fortner's (Ph.D. '10) new book, Black Silent Majority, just published by Harvard University Press.

This is the skill that determines your child's future employability
September 26, 2015
Quartz | Notes new paper by David Deming (Faculty and Ph.D. '10), "The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market," presented in the Inequality & Social Policy Seminar, Oct 5, 2015.

Europe's crisis of conscience
September 24, 2015
Harvard Gazette | Michèle Lamont was among the panelists gathered to discuss the historical antecedents and contemporary challenges of Europe's mass migration of refugees, part of a two-day Harvard summit on the future of Europe.

Newest Immigrants Assimilating as Fast as Previous Ones, Report Says
September 22, 2015
The New York Times | Mary C. Waters

Measuring assimilation
September 21, 2015
Harvard Gazette | Mary C. Waters——National Academy of Sciences study led by Harvard sociologist explores immigrant life in the U.S.

In Boston, low-wage jobs make up majority of jobs added since recession
September 22, 2015
Boston Globe | Edward Glaeser

Why Some Policy Experts Question Clinton's Plan to Contain Drug Costs
September 22, 2015
The New York Times | Amitabh Chandra

Time for Principled Conservatives to Speak Up
September 22, 2015
Wall Street Journal | Op-ed urging more welcoming GOP stance on immigration acknowledges George Borjas's recent reappraisal of the adverse effects of the 1980 Mariel boatlift on wages of low-skilled workers.

'Black Silent Majority,' by Michael Javen Fortner
September 21, 2015
The New York Times Book Review | Khalil Gibran Muhammad reviews Michael Javen Fortner's (Ph.D. '10) book, just published by Harvard University Press.  See also Fortner's response (Letters to the Editor [letter no. 2], Sept 30. The book appears as an Editor's Choice selection in the Oct 4 print edition.

The typical male U.S. worker earned less in 2014 than in 1973
September 18, 2015
Wall Street Journal |  Column by David Wessel of Brookings draws out Lawrence Katz's perspective on the sources of stagnation in male earnings.

'Nudge' your way to better government management
September 17, 2015
FCW—The Lectern | Highlights striking study by Elizabeth Linos, Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy, in which a simple message intervention improved performance of minority applicants for jobs with the British police.

Structural problems hold Mexico back
September 17, 2015
Financial Times | Viridiana Rios (Ph.D. '13)

How Unions Boost Democratic Partcipation
September 16, 2015
The American Prospect | Cites research by James Feigenbaum, Ph.D. candidate in Economics, on impact of union membership on voting activity, and earlier estimates by Richard Freeman.

Faculty Call for Increased U.S. Aid in Refugee Crisis
September 16, 2015
Harvard Crimson | Peter A. Hall

Neighborhoods Matter for a City's Overall Health
September 12, 2015
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Robert J. Sampson

Study questions 'broken windows' theory of policing
September 11, 2015
Boston Globe | Robert J. Sampson

Judging 50 Years of HUD Policies
September 10, 2015
The Atlantic—CityLab | Highlights Patrick Sharkey's (Ph.D. '07) book, Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress Toward Racial Equality (University of Chicago Press, 2013).

New Data Give Clearer Picture of Student Debt
September 10, 2015
The New York Times | Discusses new study by Adam Looney (Ph.D. '04, now U.S. Treasury Dept) and Constantine Yannelis (Stanford University), which shows how changes in the characteristics of student loan borrowers and the institutions they attended contributed to rising loan defaults.

These are the schools driving America's student loan crisis
September 10, 2015
Washington Post | Adam Looney (Ph.D. '04)

How an Area's Union Membership Can Predict Children's Advancement
September 9, 2015
The New York Times | Delves into new study by Richard Freeman, Eunice Han (Wellesley College), and David Madland and Brendan Duke (both Center for American Progress). Scott Winship (Ph.D. '09) comments. View the original report ►

Mayor Walsh and Police Commissioner Evans Announce Additional Steps to Curb Gun Violence
September 9, 2015
City of Boston—Mayor's Office | Highlights findings of Anthony Braga (Rutgers) and David M. Hureau (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy) in their report, "The Sources of Boston Crime Guns."  This work is also the basis of their article, "Strong Gun Laws Are Not Enough: The Need for Improved Enforcement of Secondhand Gun Transfer Laws in Massachusetts," forthcoming in Preventative Medicine.

Can the Democratic Party Retain its Hold on Black Voters?
September 7, 2015
The Atlantic | Features research by Claudine Gay, Jennifer Hochschild, and Ariel R. White (Ph.D. candidate in Government) and by Jennifer Hochschild and Vesla M. Weaver (Ph.D. '07) of Yale University.

Still believing in the American Dream
September 6, 2015
CBS Sunday Morning | Robert Putnam. Video ►

Does 5.1 percent = full employment?
September 4, 2015
Marketplace | Lawrence Katz

The Payoff of People Skills
September 3, 2015
HGSE Usable Knowledge | David Deming

Limited housing, poor economy plagues reservation
September 2, 2015
National Catholic Reporter | Blythe George, Ph.D. student in Sociology & Social Policy who studies poverty on Native American reservations, provides perspective on extreme poverty often seen in rural Native communities.


Michael Hankinson awarded TESS and JCHS grants to investigate political behavior in the context of the housing affordability crisis
September 24, 2015
Awardee | Michael Hankinson, Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy.
ISA Medal of Science
October 6, 2015
Awardee | Robert D. Putnam to receive the Institute for Advanced Studies' (University of Bologna) highest honor for scientific excellence and international acclaim.

Dan Zuberi named to the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists
September 25, 2015
Awardee | Dan Zuberi (Ph.D. '04) has been named to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) College, which represents "the emerging generation of scholarly, scientific and artistic leadership in Canada." Zuberi, now RBC chair and Associate Professor of Social Policy at the University of Toronto's School of Public Policy and Governance, was recognized for his innovative social policy research on vulnerable and disadvantaged populations in Canada and the U.S.

Viridiana Rios will be a visiting fellow at Wilson Center
September 18, 2015
Viridiana Rios (Ph.D. '13) will be a visiting fellow this fall at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, where she will be working on a project titled, "Economic Policy for Crime Deterrence in Mexico."

Daniel Hopkins serves as fellow with White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team
September 15, 2015
Daniel Hopkins (Ph.D. '07) 

Michèle Lamont elected to the Royal Society of Canada
September 13, 2015
Awardee | Michèle Lamont. Canada's highest honor a scholar can achieve in the Arts, Humanities, and Sciences.

Robert Putnam named to The Politico 50
September 10, 2015
Politico Magazine | Robert Putnam recognized as one of fifty "thinkers, doers, and visionaries transforming American politics in 2015."

Daniel Hopkins wins APSA awards in Urban Politics and Political Methodology
September 4, 2015
Awardee | Daniel Hopkins (Ph.D. '07)

Behavioral Exchange Award for Outstanding Research
September 3, 2015
Awardee | Sendhil Mullainathan and co-authors Anandi Mani (University of Warwick), Eldar Shafir (Princeton), and Jiaying Zhao (University of British Columbia) recognized for their article, "Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function," Science 341 (6149): 976-980.

Deirdre Bloome wins ASA award for work on racial inequality and intergenerational transmission
August 24, 2015
Awardee | Deirdre Bloome (Ph.D. '14)

Ph.D. fellows on the job market

Hire an Inequality & Social Policy fellow
Harvard Ph.D. candidates in Economics, Education, Government, Sociology, and Social Policy now on the academic job market.

New academic publications

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez* and Theda Skocpol. Forthcoming. “Asymmetric Interest Group Mobilization and Party Coalitions in U.S. Tax Politics." Studies in American Political Development.

Asad L. Asad* and Tamara Kay. 2015. “Toward a Multidimensional Understanding of Culture for Health Interventions.Social Science & Medicine 144: 79-87.

Doctoral fellow

Upcoming events

Give us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America
October 22, 2015
Race in American Politics Seminar Series
Ash Center with co-sponsorship by the Malcolm Wiener Center.

With Ari Berman, author of Give Us the Ballot, Lani Guinier (Harvard Law School), and Leah Wright Rigueur (Harvard Kennedy School). With moderator Alex Keyssar.
October 29, 2015
A Scholars Strategy Network Forum at Harvard University
Co-sponsored by the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

Theda Skocpol and Alex Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy) will participate in this public forum on the influence of money in American politics.

What Changes in Business Organization Mean for American Democracy
  • Jacob Hacker, Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science, Yale University

Thwarting the Majority: Unequal Voice and Gridlock in American Democracy
  • Martin I. Gilens, Professor of Politics, Princeton University
  • Benjamin I. Page, Gordon Scott Fulcher Professor of Decision Making, Northwestern University

The Hard Right Tilt -- Roots, Results, and Remedies
  • Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology, Harvard University; Co-founder and Director of the Scholars Strategy Network
  • Alex Hertel-Fernandez, Ph.D. candidate in Government and Social Policy, Harvard University

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Part of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. 

Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy
Harvard Kennedy School
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