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.



News roundup

Highlights from Inequality & Social Policy
at the Malcolm Wiener Center

No Racial Barrier Left to Break (Except All of Them)

The New York Times
January 14, 2017

By Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.
Photo: Bob Adelman, via Library of Congress

Preparing for a Next Generation Economy
January 11, 2017

Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast | A policy roundtable with Douglas Elmendorf, Brigitte Madrian, and David Ellwood. Second in a three-part series with Harvard Kennedy School experts on the challenges facing President-elect Trump. Look for an edited version of their discussion to appear in the winter issue of the Harvard Kennedy School Magazine.

Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, led the Congressional Budget Office for six years before becoming Dean in 2016. Brigitte Madrian is a behavioral economist whose work focuses on household savings and investment behavior. David Ellwood is a leading expert on poverty and welfare in the United States. He served as Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School from 2004-2015, and is now focused on issues of inequality and mobility as Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

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Remembering Tony Atkinson

A Tribute to Sir Tony Atkinson
January 3, 2017
Canberra Times | By Andrew Leigh (Ph.D. '04).
If you've ever referred to "the 1 per cent", you're using the work of Tony Atkinson. Tony, who died on January 1, aged 72, contributed as much as any modern economist to the study of poverty and inequality...(more)

Andrew Leigh met Tony Atkinson as an Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellow in 2002, when Atkinson was invited to Harvard to present his work in the Inequality Seminar Series. As part of his visit, Atkinson also joined our proseminar workshop for doctoral fellows, where he served as a discussant for Andrew's research paper. Atkinson and Leigh subsequently went on to co-author a set of papers together examining inequality trends in Australia and New Zealand.

Andrew Leigh is now shadow assistant treasurer (Australia), and a former professor of economics at the Australian National University.
Tony Atkinson was an extraordinary human being. He was an economist by trade, who did more than anyone else to keep the study of income inequality alive from the 1960s to the mid-1990s, when most of his colleagues were either ignoring the subject or denying its importance.

He seemed to treat everyone he encountered, from the grandees of his profession to young graduate students, with decency and respect, and devoted thousands of hours to advancing other people's projects.

But he also cared deeply about persuading us all that rich countries could achieve low levels of economic inequality without suffering large reductions in economic efficiency or growth. Anyone who who has not read his last book, (Inequality: What Can Be Done?) should do so. 

Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, Emeritus

Tony Atkinson's own selections
At his personal website,Tony Atkinson selected what he thought was his most important work—a collection of papers spanning 15 topical areas.

Anthony B. Atkinson, Economist Who Pioneered Study of Inequality, Dies at 72
The New York Times

Anthony Atkinson, a British economist and expert on inequality
The Economist

Tony Atkinson homepage
Tony Atkinson's colleagues have gathered many more tributes and remembrances at his website.

Insight and analysis

What employers can do to encourage their workers to retrain
January 14, 2017
The Economist | Cites research by David Deming (Ph.D. '10), Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education, on "The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market."
​​​​​​​View the research

Established education providers v. new contenders
January 14, 2017
The Economist | Cites research by Joshua Goodman (HKS), Julia Melkers (Georgia Institute of Technology), and Amanda Pallais (Harvard Economics). A summary of their study, "Can Online Delivery Increase Access to Education?", can be found in NBER Digest.
View the research

Evidence that Minorities Perform Worse Under Biased Managers
January 13, 2017
Harvard Business Review | By Amanda Pallais, Paul Sack Associate Professor of Political Economy and Social Studies. Findings from her research with Dylan Glover (Sciences Po) and William Pariente (Université Catholique de Louvain), forthcoming in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.
View the research

Do Markets Work in Health Care?
January 13, 2017
The New York Times | David Brooks column cites research by Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy (joint with Amy Finkelstein of MIT, Adam Sacarny of Columbia, and Chad Syverson of Chicago Booth), summarized in their recent piece in Harvard Business Review, "Perhaps Market Forces Do Work in Health Care After All."

Yet, as Chandra pointed out, in other work, he and colleagues also found that people struggle to be good 'consumers'  with high-deductible health plans, contrary to his expectation before conducting the research. That study (joint with Zarek Brot-Goldberg, Benjamin Handel, and Jonathan Holstad, all of UC Berkeley) was the subject of Margot Sanger-Katz column in The New York Times last year.
J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative Convening [Video]
January 12, 2017
J-PAL North America | Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allen Professor of Economics, and Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, were among the speakers and panelists for the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative Year 1 Convening. Panels included Evidence in Crime and Violence Prevention; Improving Outcomes for Mothers and Children; and Interventions to Improve Housing Mobility. View agenda

Katz serves as Scientific Director for J-PAL North America, along with MIT economist Amy Finkelstein.

Amazon to Add 100,000 Jobs as Bricks-and-Mortar Retail Crumbles
January 12, 2017
The New York Times | "The rise of automation...has prompted an intense debate among economists and some policy makers about just what society and especially government owes these workers. One place to start, [Harvard economist] Lawrence Katz said, would be for the government to provide more funding for retraining and also develop a wage insurance program to cover differences in salaries as workers migrate to new, lower-paid jobs from disappearing, higher-paid ones."

Is affordable health care a basic right? Believe it or not, Republicans think so.
January 12, 2017
Washington Post | By Danielle Allen,James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.
Why Most Economists Are So Worried About Trump
January 11, 2017
The New York Times | By Justin Wolfers (Ph.D. '01), Professor of Economics and Public Policy, University of Michigan.
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.

Senior scholars on the full list include Inequality & Social Policy affiliates 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 full list

Higher Minimum Wages May Have Losers
January 10, 2017
The New York Times | Discusses several new papers presented at the annual meeting of the American Economics Association, including an online minimum wage experiment by John J. Horton (Ph.D. '11), Assistant Professor at NYU Stern School of Business, and a study by Michael Luca of HBS (joint with Dara Luca of Mathematica Policy Research), which examined the impact of the minimum wage on restaurant exit.

In Today’s Supreme Court Case, Freedom Of Speech Meets Your Wallet
January 10, 2017
FiveThirtyEight | Features Todd Rogers, Associate Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Brigitte Madrian, Aetna Professor of Public Policy and Corporate Management, who are parties to an amicus brief to the Supreme Court concerning a New York state law banning surcharges on credit card purchases while permitting discounts for cash transactions—and whether and how the law should take into account the insights of behavioral economics.

Trump’s Defective Industrial Policy
January 10, 2017
Project Syndicate | By Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard Kennedy School.
From bridges to education: Best bets for public investment
January 9, 2017
Brookings Institution | A forum examining questions of public investment—in both physical infrastructure and human capital—opened with keynote remarks by Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus of Harvard University, and discussion from Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics. (Summers provides a summary of his key points from the presentation and discussion in the Washington Post's Wonkblog)

Subsequent speakers turned to human capital investment, including Richard Murnane, Juliana W. and William Foss Thompson Research Professor of Education and Society at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Video, transcripts, and presentation materials from the day's events available at the Brookings site.

US tax reform is vital but Donald Trump’s plan is flawed
January 8, 2017
Financial Times | By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus, Harvard University. This column also ran in the Washington Post.

A Globetrotting Filmmaker, Seeking Answers About Our Urban Future
January 6, 2017
The Atlantic—CityLab | Oscar Boyson’s documentary, The Future of Cities, is a jet-setting look at problems and solutions in cities centers across the world. The 18-minute film, which features Harvard's Edward L. Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, accompanies the article.
Does It Matter Where You Get Your Two-Year Degree?
January 6, 2017
IRP Poverty Research & Policy Podcast | IRP National Poverty Fellow Nicole Deterding (Ph.D. '15) talks about research she and colleague David Pedulla of Stanford University conducted that examined employers' responses to degrees from for-profit versus non-profit two-year colleges in the early phases of the hiring process. [audio +  transcript]

The National Poverty Fellows program is an academic and government partnership between the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) at the US Department of Health and Human Services. Learn more about Nicole Deterding's work:

A guide to rebuilding the Democratic Party, from the ground up
January 5, 2017
Vox | By Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology. 
Urban sustainability in an age of enduring inequalities
January 5, 2017
PNAS | By Robert J. Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences. A special feature perspective, available open access in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

How Do Mayors Think About Inequality?
January 5, 2017
The Atlantic—CityLab | Features recent study of 72 U.S. mayors by Katherine Levine Einstein (Ph.D. '12) and David Glick, both Assistant Professors of Political Science at Boston University. Their article, "Mayors, Partisanship, and Redistribution," appears in Urban Affairs Review.
View the research (full text access)
ASSA 2017
ASSA Annual Meeting 2017
January 6-8, 2017, Chicago.

AEA Distinguished Fellow: Richard Freeman
Richard B. Freeman, Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics at Harvard, was one of four economist honored with the American Economics Association Distinguished Fellow award for lifetime distinguished research contributions. Also named Distinguished Fellows: Glenn Loury of Brown University, Julio Rotemberg of Harvard Business School, and Isabel Sawhill of The Brookings Institution. 

IZA Prize in Labor Economics: Claudia Goldin
The Institute of Labor Economics (IZA) in Bonn awarded Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economic at Harvard, its 2016 IZA Prize 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." Goldin is pictured with Hilmar Schneider, CEO of IZA, and Daniel Hamermesh, chief coordinator of the IZA Network.

ASSA 2017 Annual Meeting Webcasts
View webcasts of selected sessions, courtesy of the American Economics Association. Among the highlights:
What We Can Make of the Election of 2016: An Interview with Khalil Gibran Muhammad
January 5, 2017
History News Network | Video interview with Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, conducted at the 2017 convention of the American Historical Association. Muhammad spoke earlier in the evening at a plenary session on "The First Hundred Days: Priorities for a New US President." The session, recorded by C-SPAN, will be available within a few weeks.

See also
  • Historians in the Age of Trump
    January 9, 2017
    Inside Higher Ed | Reporting from the American Historical Association's 131st annual meeting in Denver, January 5-8. Quoted: Professors Khalil Gibran Muhammad and Leah Wright Rigueur of the Harvard Kennedy School. 

The Obameter: Rrescue and Recovery: Economy Stronger on Obama's Watch
January 6, 2017
Politifact | Edward L. Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, is interviewed on the economy for Politifact's Obameter series, which tracks the record of President Barack Obama.

The Obameter: Obama took some steps to help ex-offenders find jobs
January 5, 2017
Politifact | Devah Pager, Professor of Sociology and Public Policy and Director of the Inequality & Social Policy program, is interviewed on prison-to-work programs for Politifact's Obameter series.

Manufacturing In America: Fact And Fiction
January 5, 2017
NPR On Point | With Alicia Sasser Modestino (Ph.D. '01), Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Economics, Northeastern University, and Associate Director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.

Federal Education Policy Under the Trump Administration
January 4, 2017
Brookings Institution | Martin West (Ph.D. '06), Associate Professor of Education, hosted a Brookings Institution forum with Arne Duncan (U.S. Secretary of Education, 2009-2015), Lindsay Fryer of the Penn Hill Group, and Gerard Robinson of the American Enterprise Institute. [Video and transcript available]

Why Men Don’t Want the Jobs Done Mostly by Women
January 4, 2017
The New York Times | "Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard, has a term for this: 'retrospective wait unemployment,' or looking for the job you used to have. 'It’s not a skill mismatch, but an identity mismatch,' he said." 

Cicero used to be boring. With Trump around, he’s breathtaking.
January 4, 2017
Washington Post
By Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

Happy New Year
January 4, 2017
Vox—The Weeds Podcast | Vox's Sarah Kliff and Matt Yglesias delve into early work by Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, to offer tax wonk tips about when to time your child's birth [begins 41:40 mark].

Prospective parents can check out the research, "Taxes and the Timing of Birth" (joint with Stacy Dickert‐Conlin), in the Journal of Political Economy (1999). 
View the research
Harvard’s George J. Borjas
January 2, 2017
The American Conservative | Profile of George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.

Fixing 401(k)s: What’s Being Done to Improve Access, Limit Early Withdrawals
January 2, 2017
Wall Street Journal | Cites Harvard Kennedy School Professor Brigitte Madrian, who notes that in the aggregate, 401(k) participants under the age of 55 withdraw 30 to 40 cents from their retirement accounts for every dollar contributed. One reason: Many 401(k) participants liquidate their accounts when they switch employers, paying income taxes and a 10% penalty in many cases. Discusses proposed policy remedies.
How the rich wanting the best for their kids is segregating our neighborhoods
December 22, 2016
LSE USAPP | By Ann Owens (Ph.D. '12), Assistant Professor of Sociology and Spatial Sciences at the University of Southern California. This essay is based on her article, ‘Inequality in Children’s Contexts’, in the American Sociological Review.
View the research (complimentary full-text)
America's Obsession with Powerful Handguns is Giving Criminals Deadlier Tools
December 5, 2016
The Trace | Cites David Hureau (Ph.D. '16), Assistant Professor in the School of Criminal Justice at SUNY Albany and an affiliate of the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Hureau, whose research focuses on the relationship between violent crime and social inequality, has studied the market for illegal guns.
Predictive Analytics: Better than human intuition?
December 7, 2016
GovEx | GovEx, the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, talks with Elizabeth Linos (Ph.D. '16), Vice President and Head of Research and Evaluation at Behavioral Insights Team North America, to explore the future of algorithms and their use in cities.
The Importance of Middle Skill Jobs
October 25, 2016
National Academy of Sciences—Issues in Science and Technology | By Alicia Sasser Modestino (Ph.D. '01). Middle-skill jobs are key for the nation and its workforce. Here is where things stand today and projections for future improvements. 

Alicia Sasser Modestino is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Economics at Northeastern University, and Associate Director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.


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. Conaway has helped put Massachusetts on its path of research-driven, educational excellence," noted Susan Dynarski, Professor of Public Policy, Education, and Economics at the University of Michigan, commenting on the appointment on Twitter.

Conaway is Associate Commissioner of Planning and Research for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
PEN America Literary Award Finalists: 'Evicted' by Matthew Desmond
January 18, 2017

Matthew Desmond's Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City has been selected as a finalist for the John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction. Winners will be announced February 22.

Finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards: 'Evicted' by Matthew Desmond
January 17, 2017
Washington Post
Matthew Desmond's Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City has been named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards. Desmond, a sociologist, is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

Michèle Lamont awarded University of Amsterdam honorary doctorate for role in bridging European and American sociology
January 9, 2017

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.

Michèle Lamont delivers Vilhelm Auberts Memorial Lecture
January 6, 2017
Institute for Social Research (Oslo)

Michèle Lamont 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.)
21 intriguing new ideas and trailblazing people
January 4, 2017
The Boston Globe

Harvard sociologist and MacArthur Fellow Matthew Desmond is recognized for his "on the ground observations of the daily lives of the American poor."

Upcoming events

Harvard Inequality & Social Policy Seminar 
January 30, 2017
12:00-1:45 pm
Harvard Kennedy School Allison Dining Room.

The spring 2017 series kicks off January 30th. Look for announcement of the spring lineup next week.

On our booklist

A Case Study

By David A. Moss, Paul Whiton Cherington Professor at Harvard Business School and founder of The Tobin Project.

Harvard University Press, February 2017.

After Piketty:
The Agenda for Economics and Inequality

Edited by Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong, and Marshall Steinbaum.

Harvard University Press, April 2017.

Table of Contents
Among the contributors, Inequality doctoral fellow Ellora Derenoncourt, Ph.D. candidate in Economics.

“Piketty’s work did what decades of rising disparities couldn’t do: it reminded macro-economists that inequality matters. More starkly, it laid bare just how ill-equipped our existing frameworks are for understanding, predicting, and changing inequality.

"This extraordinary collection shows that our most nimble social scientists are responding to the challenge, collecting ideas about capital, technology, power, gender, race, and privilege that might help inform a broader understanding.” —Justin Wolfers (Ph.D. '01), University of Michigan

"The essays in After Piketty offer new findings and admirably lay out an agenda that will influence future research on inequality, opportunity, and measurement for years to come.”—Miles Corak, University of Ottawa

Data resource

Launching of The Source for Global Inequality Data
January 9, 2017

The World Wealth and Income Database ( announced today the launch of a new website and database to track global inequality trends.

To learn more, see paper and slides by Facundo Alvaredo, Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman, presented at the ASSA 2017 annual meeting in Chicago.

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Part of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. 

Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy
Harvard Kennedy School
Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy
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