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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

Why the Very Poor Have Become Poorer
May 19, 2016
The New York Review of Books
By Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy. Jencks digs into the data to review $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer. Jencks examines the evidence for how the poor and the poorest of the poor have fared since the late 1960s, concluding that since 1999 "inequality has risen even among the poor."
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Insight and analysis

William Julius Wilson speaks at National Museum of African American History and Culture event
May 20, 2016
William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, spoke at "The Future of the African American Past," a three-day event sponsored by the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture and the American Historical Association. View video ▶

Can Sanders do for income inequality what Clinton did for healthcare?
May 23, 2016
Brookings Institution | By Vanessa Williamson (Ph.D. '15), a fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings.

Neighborhoods Can Shape Success—Down to the Level of a City Block
May 23, 2016
The Atlantic | A small but intriguing study done in West Philadelphia points to the importance of what researchers call microenvironments.  Features Laura Tach (Ph. '10) of Cornell University, lead author of the study. Also cites work of  Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren and Lawrence Katz.

Not Leaving, Just Changing Jobs
May 23, 2016
Education Next | By Paul E. Peterson, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government. With this issue, Peterson passes leadership of Education Next to Martin West (Ph.D. 06), Associate Professor of Education, who will now serve as editor-in-chief. Peterson will continue to serve as senior editor for the journal, which he and collaborators launched 17-years ago.

How judges understand, try to address racial disparities in the criminal court process
May 23, 2016
Journalist's Resource | Write-up of key findings from recently-published article in Criminology by Matthew Clair (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology) and Alix Winter (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy), "How Judges Think About Racial Disparities: Situational Decision-Making in the Criminal Justice System" (view it here).  Also cites related research by Maya Sen, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, "Is Justice Really Blind? Race and Reversal in U.S. Courts,” Journal of Legal Studies, 2015 (view it here).
2nd Annual New Frontiers in Poverty Research Conference, Columbia University

Big Picture Directions for Future Research and Policy on the Problem of Poverty
May 20, 2016
Keynote discussion by Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Sheldon Danziger, President of the Russell Sage Foundation. 

Harnessing the Robin Hood Poverty Tracker to Understand Dimensions of Poverty in New York City
May 20, 2016
Christopher Wimer (Ph.D. '07), Co-Director of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia's Population Research Center, presented his latest work with Columbia colleagues. Learn more about the Robin Hood Poverty Tracker at its interactive website.

View video (Conference begins at 12:35 minute mark. Jencks's session begins at 3:26 hour mark).

  • Researchers Find Surprising Results After Testing A New Way To Measure Poverty
    May 19, 2016
    NPR Morning Edition (Audio and transcript)
    Interviews Christopher Wimer (Ph.D. '07), Co-Director of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, who is working with colleagues on a better way to measure poverty in New York City. Scott Winship (Ph.D. '09), Walter B. Wriston Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, agrees that the research reveals some useful findings but expresses reservations about the measures, arguing that they may misdirect attention and public resources from those who really are struggling.
Here's how Labor wants to tackle inequality and competition in modern markets
May 20, 2016
Business Insider - Australia | By Andrew Leigh (Ph.D. '04), Member of Parliament, Australia, Shadow Assistant Treasurer, and Shadow Minister for Competition. This is an edited extract of his Freebairn Lecture, "Markets, Monopolies, and Moguls: The Relationship between Inequality and Competition," delivered at Melbourne University on May 19.

When Landlords Discriminate
May 19, 2016
Talk Poverty | By Philip ME Garboden and Eva Rosen (Ph.D. '14). Rosen is a  Postdoctoral Fellow in Sociology at Johns Hopkins University, in their Poverty and Inequality Research Lab. Garboden is a graduate student at Johns Hopkins.

The Complex Relationship between Data and Cities
May 18, 2016
The Atlantic – CityLab | Checking in on the latest advancements and the challenges that remain. Highlights work by faculty affiliate Robert Sampson and Jackelyn Hwang (Ph.D. '15, now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Princeton University), and a recent NBER paper by faculty affiliates Edward L. Glaeser and Michael Luca (with colleagues Scott Duke Kominers and Nikhil Naik), which uses computer visioning to better understand geographic differences in income and housing prices.
Effects of Moving to Opportunity: Both Statistically and Socially Significant
May 18, 2016
NYU Furman Center | By Nathaniel Hendren, Assistant Professor of Economics. Part of a Furman Center online debate: "Public Housing and Deconcentrating Poverty."

ESSA Implementation: Perspectives from Education Stakeholders
May 18, 2016
Congressional Testimony | Testimony of Nora Gordon (Ph.D. '02), Associate Professor at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Gordon explains how the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) "changes the definition of 'supplement not supplant', how the Department of Education proposes to regulate it, and the potential for that regulation to cause serious adverse consequences" that could make poor students worse off.
View written testimony.
Russell Lee / Library of Congress
May 17, 2016
The Atlantic | By Patrick Sharkey (Ph.D. '07), New York University. Less visible than the rise of economic inequality is the way it has altered America's urban neighborhoods. Two books—Evicted by Harvard's Matthew Desmond, and Ghetto by Mitchell Duneier (Princeton)—should help change that, writes Sharkey.

Women in Elite Jobs Face Stubborn Pay Gap
May 17, 2016
Wall Street Journal | With insights from Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics. Article includes interactive data visualization showing pay gaps by occupation.

The Kochs are retreating from national elections. Here's what we should learn.
May 17, 2016
Vox | Cites recent research by Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and of Sociology, and Alex Hertel-Fernandez, Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy, which has documented the impact the Koch network is exerting in state-level politics and advocacy.
For the poor in the Ivy League, a full ride isn't always what they imagined
May 16, 2016
Washington Post | Article featuring Anthony Abraham Jack, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, and his dissertation research on the experience of low-income students at elite colleges and universities.
A conversation: Matthew Desmond and Alex Kotlowitz
May 15, 2016
Chicago Humanities Festival | Professor Matthew Desmond, a 2015 MacArthur Fellow and author of Evicted, joins author and journalist Alex Kotlowitz in conversation. Kotlowitz is the author of There Are No Children Here. The conversation was part of Our Cities, a day-long event presented by the Chicago Humanities Festival in collaboration with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in honor of the 35th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellows Program.
View video (21 minutes).

When Mass Shootings Lead to Looser Gun Restrictions
May 12, 2016
Harvard Business School: Working Knowledge | Reviews key findings in the study “The Impact of Mass Shootings on Gun Policy,” co-authored by Michael Luca, Assistant Professor at Harvard Business School, and colleagues Deepak Malhotra and Christopher Poliquin.

Related A big Obamacare policy could help fight the heroin epidemic. Politics is holding it back.
May 12, 2016
Vox | Quotes Brendan Saloner (Ph.D. '12), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Final Word On How Not To Improve Income Trend Estimates
May 12, 2016
Forbes | By Scott Winship (Ph.D. By'09), Walter B. Wriston fellow at the Manhattan Institute. A response to John Komlos, whose NBER Working Paper, "Growth of income and welfare in the U.S., 1979-2011," Winship first critiqued in a column in Forbes. View the original Winship column and Komlos's response.

White gloves, aluminum cans, and plasma
May 11, 2016
Marketplace – The Uncertain Hour | A look back at how families have fared in the two decades since welfare reform, with perspectives from David Ellwood, Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School and Chair of the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty [audio: 34 minutes].
The one thing rich parents do for their kids that makes all the difference
May 10, 2016
Washington Post | The biggest investment rich parents make in their kids? Where they live. Delves into research by Ann Owens (Ph.D. '12) of University of Southern California showing that growing income segregation since 1990 has been driven almost entirely by what is happening among families with children and why this matters. View the study in the American Sociological Review.
Policy Debate: Aiming High: How to Help Boys and Young Men of Color Achieve Academic Success
May 11, 2016
Urban Institute | Leading experts weigh in, with Ronald Ferguson, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy and faculty director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University. Ferguson is the author of a new research report, Aiming Higher Together: Strategizing Better Educational Outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color, which is the focus of discussion.
  • What Young Men of Color Can Teach Us about the Achievement Gap
    May 11, 2016
    National Public Radio | Q & A  with Professor Ronald Ferguson of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, author of  a new report, Aiming Higher Together: Strategizing Better Educational Outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color. Ferguson identifies the biggest challenges to conventional wisdom revealed in the this study and insights that educators can bring to the classroom.
  • Aiming Higher Together: Strategizing Better Educational Outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color
    May 10, 2016
    By Ronald F. Ferguson, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. Boys and young men of color remain over-represented among those who do not excel academically and face home, school, peer-group, and societal disadvantages relative to their white peers. This report proposes strategies to achieve a person-environment fit that can change dynamics and lead to better educational outcomes for these students.
Government Must Play a Role Again in Job Creation
May 10, 2016
The New York Times | Eduardo Porter Economic Scene column quotes Lawrence F. Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics.

Deeper learning: More crucial than ever, and yet too rare
May 10, 2016
Seattle Times | Article featuring Jal Mehta (Ph.D. '06), Associate Professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, who explains what it means to be in search of deeper learning and why it has become more urgent in today's economy.

How To Teach Ethics To Algorithms
May 10, 2016
Radio Boston | Michael Luca, Assistant Professor at Harvard Business School, argues algorithms need managers. He joins Radio Boston to explain how and why. [Audio: 10 minutes]

The End of the Bush-Obama Regulatory Approach to School Reform
May 10, 2016
Education Next | By Paul Peterson, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government.

Will Party Loyalty Trump Fears About Donald Trump for Black Republicans?
May 10, 2016
The Root | By Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor of Public Policy.
The Rehabilitation Paradox
May 9, 2016
The New Yorker | By Bruce Western, Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice Policy and Professor of Sociology. A new study reveals the struggles of prisoners who want to turn their lives around, but are too mentally and physically troubled to do so.

​Americans with criminal records may outperform on the job
May 9, 2016
CBS Money Watch  | Features new research by Devah Pager, Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, and collaborators Jennifer Lundquist and  Eiko Strader (both of UMass Amherst).
Forum: What Is Education For?
May 9, 2016
Boston Review | Danielle Allen, Professor of Government and of Education, opens the debate. Reducing inequality, Allen argues, requires more than the dissemination of technical skills. "The civic conception of education...begins with the recognition that fair economic outcomes are aided by a robust democratic process and, therefore, by genuine political equality." We should aspire to "educate for civic participation, and not merely work."

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
May 9, 2016
Commonweal | Frank Pasquale reviews Matthew Desmond's Evicted: "One cannot read Evicted and conclude that a few technocratic tweaks, embedded in some meliorist plan for improving the housing market, will suitably address the growing crisis of unstable and inadequate housing."

Forging a Path for Native Studies
May 6, 2016
Harvard Crimson | Features Blythe George, Ph.D. student in Sociology & Social Policy.



David Ellwood named Director of Harvard Kennedy School's Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy
David T. Ellwood, Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy, has been named director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf announced.

Ellwood, who begins his appointment on July 1, served as the eighth dean of Harvard Kennedy School from July 2004 through June 2015. Earlier this year, Ellwood was named Chair of the U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, a collaborative initiative of the Urban Institute and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation designed to identify ladders of upward mobility for the poor.
IZA Prize goes to Claudia Goldin
May 17, 2016
Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, is the winner of the 2016 IZA Prize in Labor Economics, awarded by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn. The prize is awarded for outstanding academic achievement in labor economics, intended to stimulate research that seeks "answers to the important labor market policy questions of our time."

Read a profile of Claudia Goldin in the The University of Chicago Magazine, where Goldin earned her Ph.D., and Goldin's interview in Econ Focus, magazine of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond (Q4:2014). Learn more about her latest work at her Harvard Economics homepage.
Deming Named Professor of Education
May 19, 2016
Associate Professor David Deming (Ph.D. '10) has been promoted to full professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Deming is an economist interested in educational inequality and the impact of education policies on long-term outcomes.

“David’s scholarship addresses fundamentally important questions in exceptionally innovative ways. The rigor and relevance of his work — on subjects ranging from the long-term benefits of the Head Start program, the value of degrees from for-profit colleges, and the effects of racial segregation on academic achievement and life outcomes — make his findings absolutely essential reading for academics and policymakers alike,” said HGSE Dean James Ryan.
Asad L. Asad named a Radcliffe Institute Graduate Student Fellow
May 13, 2016
Asad L. Asad, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, is one of three Harvard University doctoral students selected to be a Graduate Student Fellow in the 2016-2017 class of Radcliffe Fellows at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Asad will spend the year completing his dissertation, Living in the Shadows? Reconsidering How Immigrants Experience Enforcement Policy, with a Radcliffe Institute Dissertation Completion Fellowship. Learn more about Asad's work at his homepage.
Announcing New Radcliffe Institute Fellows: Jal Mehta
May 13, 2016
Jal Mehta (Ph.D. '06), Associate Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has been selected to be the Evelyn Green Davis Fellow in the 2016-2017 class of fellows at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Mehta will be working on a book, The Chastened Dream: Social Science, Social Policy, and Social Progress across the Twentieth Century.
Funding the future: Star Family Challenge supports cutting-edge research projects
May 10, 2016
Harvard Gazette
Edward L. Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, is one of five recipients of this year's Star Family Challenge grant, awarded annually to "high-risk, high-return research efforts." Glaeser and colleagues are working to extend a machine-learning algorithm based on street-level images that they developed in Boston and New York to aid in the collection of urban data in developing countries. 
Theda Skocpol delivers 2016 Ramsay Murray Lecture, University of Cambridge
Theda Skocpol, Harvard University's Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology, was selected to deliver the 2016 Ramsay Murray Lecture at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge. Skocpol's address, "The Obama Impact," drew a standing room-only audience of over 300 and a huge ovation.
View video

Event of interest

Radcliffe Day 2016
May 27, 2016 
Live webcast begins at 10:30 am.
This year the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study honors Federal Reserve Chair Janet L. Yellen with the Radcliffe Medal, presented annually to an individual who has made a transformative impact on society.

The day will open with the panel "Building an Economy for Prosperity and Equality," featuring Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, David Autor, Professor of Economics at MIT, Louise Sheiner of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, and moderated by Cecilia Rouse, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Beginning at 12:30 pm, the Radcliffe Day luncheon will feature reflections by Ben S. Bernanke, a distinguished fellow in residence at the Brookings Institution and former chair of the Federal Reserve, followed by a conversation with Janet Yellen and Gregory Mankiw, Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard.

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The Inequality and Wealth Concentration Ph.D. Scholars
The Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Ph.D. Scholars in Poverty and Justice

Open to Harvard Ph.D. students now completing their 1st or 2nd year of doctoral study at Harvard.

New lines of research
Top-end income inequality and wealth concentration

Application deadline
Thursday, May 26, 2016

View brochure
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Part of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. 

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Harvard Kennedy School
Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy
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