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Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy at Harvard University


News roundup

Highlights from Inequality & Social Policy
at the Malcolm Wiener Center

Takeover to Turnaround: What States and Schools Can Learn from the Massachusetts Takeover of Lawrence Public Schools
January 28, 2016
HGSE Usable Knowledge | Spotlights new research by Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellow Beth Schueler (Ed.D. candidate), Joshua Goodman (Associate Professor, Harvard Kennedy School), and David Deming (Ph.D. '10 and Associate Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education), which found achievement gains from state takeover and district-level turnaround of Lawrence public schools that may serve as a blueprint for other districts and states.
Ed.D. candidate's study on Massachusetts' Lawrence Public Schools shows improvements for turnaround district.
January 26, 2016
Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellow Beth Schueler elaborates on the significance of her research findings: “While researchers can point to several successful efforts to improve individual schools serving primarily low-income students, examples of district-wide turnaround have been frustratingly few and far between. Lawrence is an exciting case because it provides an encouraging proof point that accountability-driven improvement of a chronically low-performing school district is indeed possible.”
Can States Take Over and Turn Around School Districts?
January 28, 2016
Harvard EdCast [audio: 10:33 min]
David Deming (Ph.D. '10 and faculty) and Beth Schueler (Ed.D. candidate) reflect on lessons learned from the state's successful school takeover in Lawrence, MA.

Read the research by Beth Schueler, Joshua S. Goodman (HKS faculty), and David Deming (HGSE faculty) in their just released NBER Working Paper.
Forced Out: For many poor Americans, eviction never ends.
February 1, 2016
The New Yorker | By Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard. His book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City will be published next month.
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Insight and analysis

The costs of inequality: When a Fair Shake Isn't Enough
February 1, 2016
Harvard Gazette | First in a series on what Harvard scholars are doing to deepen our understanding of inequality—its causes, consequences, and policies to address one of America’s most vexing problems. Features Inequality & Social Policy faculty participants Jennifer Hochschild, Archon Fung, Lawrence Katz, and Bruce Western, along with Michael Norton of HBS, who is scheduled to speak in the Inequality & Social Policy Seminar Series on March 28. This article also appeared online at U.S. News and World Report. 

The Inequality Problem
February 4, 2016
London Review of Books | Essay by Ed Miliband, MP and former leader of the Labour Party, draws from Robert Putnam's Our Kids to argue that inequality is a defining issue for progressives in the UK, that Labour's renewal must be built on ideas and a determination to tackle inequality.
Billionaire Ideologues, Unruly Voters, and the Future of the Republican Party
February 3, 2016
Dissent | By Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology, on Jane Mayer's Dark Money—and what it misses about today's political right.

Sanders Beats Clinton 49-49: The Real Story Behind the Iowa Numbers
February 3, 2016
The Root | By Lawrence D. Bobo, W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences and chair of the Department of African and African American Studies: "Americans, especially African Americans, interested in finding a successful, progressive successor to Barack Obama, need to think very carefully about the choices and decisions and all-important votes that lie ahead. Because things that may have seemed obvious six months ago are no longer obvious today."

Do Snow Days Hurt Student Learning?
February 3, 2016
EdNext Podcast [audio] | Marty West, Associate Professor of Education, talks with Josh Goodman, Associate Professor of Public Policy.
Finding Common Political Ground on Poverty
February 2, 2016
The New York Times | Economic Scene column by Eduardo Porter examines the AEI-Brookings plan for reducing poverty and enhancing mobility, which David T. Ellwood, the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy and a participant of the working group that crafted the plan, presented at a Washington Press Club event in December.

The plan is a coherent approach, writes Porter, that "raises a tantalizing prospect. Is it possible that combating America’s entrenched poverty — the deepest among advanced industrialized nations— may have finally become salient enough for the left and right to break through the ideological gridlock?"
Changing Neighborhoods for Better or Worse
February 2, 2016
No Jargon [Podcast—Ep. 19] | Jackelyn Hwang (Ph.D. '15, now a postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton University) discusses gentrification in America—how race and class influence who moves where and when, and how can decision-makers encourage investment that protects long-time residents? No Jargon presents interviews with top university scholars on the politics, policy problems, and social issues facing the nation. Subscribe  in iTunes, or listen to individual episodes at the SSN website.

The narrowed gender gap amounts to progress—now let's tackle the part-time penalty
February 2, 2016
Financial Times | Discusses research by Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, on jobs that impose a wage penalty on employees who want to work fewer or more flexible work hours.
Event video: The American Dream in Crisis: Can Education Restore Social Mobility?
February 1, 2016
HGSE Askwith Forum | Robert D. Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, shares insights from Our Kids, his examination of how the American Dream of equal opportunity is in crisis. He is joined by Roland G. Fryer, Jr., Henry Lee Professor of Economics and Professor of Education, and Meira Levinson, Professor of Education, who consider what educators can do. The research of doctoral fellow Anthony Abraham Jack, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, gets a shout-out at the 1:09:23 mark.

Black America and the Class Divide
February 1, 2016
The New York Times | Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. draws on William Julius Wilson's observations on the significance of income inequality within the black community, noting the growing share of black Americans reaching upper-middle income prosperity in recent decades on one hand, and the relatively enduring share of black Americans living on incomes of less than $15,000 on the other. 

We asked six political scientists who is more electable: Trump or Cruz?
February 1, 2016
Vox | Features Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology.

Work-life balance in Japan leans in one direction
January 30, 2016
The Japan Times | Opinion essay draws on findings of Mary Brinton, Reischauer Institute Professor of Sociology and Department Chair, and Eunmi Mun (Amherst College) in their article, "Between state and family: managers’ implementation and evaluation of parental leave policies in Japan." 
Read the research

The striking power of poverty to turn young boys into jobless men
January 29, 2016
Washington Post | Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, offers a possible explanation for why boys in today's economy seem to be particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of growing up in poor neighborhoods.

Why ‘Nudges’ to Help Students Succeed Are Catching On
January 29, 2016
The Chronicle of Higher Education | Highlights research by Judith Scott-Clayton (Ph.D. '09, now Columbia University Teachers College) illustrating how insights from behavioral economics are influencing education research and policy: "Higher education presents a 'perfect storm for the frailties of human reasoning,' Andrew P. Kelly says. 'The system often seems set up to frustrate people.' That’s especially true for the least-advantaged students, as Judith Scott-Clayton showed in 'The Shapeless River,' a paper describing the unstructured environment that community-college students must navigate."

Conservatism And Y Combinator's Proposed Basic Income Research
January 28, 2016
Forbes | By Scott Winship (Ph.D. '09, now Walter B. Wriston Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research).

Ross Parker: Lead Poisoning in Flint Can Affect Future Crime Levels
January 28, 2016
Deadline Detroit | Column by former head of the U.S. Attorney's Office criminal division in Detroit highlights research by economist Jessica Wolpaw Reyes (Ph.D. '02, now Amherst College) on the long-term effects of childhood lead exposure. View Reyes's research on environmental toxins and behavior.

After Common Core, States Set Rigorous Standards
January 27, 2016
Education Next | By Paul E. Peterson (Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government), Samuel Barrows (Ph.'14, now a postdoctoral fellow in the Program in Educational Policy and Governance at Harvard), and Thomas Gift (also a postdoctoral fellow).
Fed Chair Janet Yellen to Receive Radcliffe Medal
January 27, 2016
Harvard Magazine | Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School,  and Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, are among the participants in a Radcliffe Day event on May 27 honoring Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair and this year's Radcliffe Medalist. The day will open with the panel "Building an Economy for Prosperity and Equality," featuring Elmendorf and Goldin. As the article notes,"Yellen has been outspoken on the subject of inequality, and last year defended the Fed’s interest in reducing the nation’s wealth gap."

Other Radcliffe Day participants include former Fed Chair Ben S. Bernanke; economics professor Gregory Mankiw of Harvard; Cecilia Rouse, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs at Princeton University; economics professor David Autor of MIT, and Louise Sheiner of the Brookings Institution. The day's events will be webcast live.
For more information ►
If Only Rich Men Like Bloomberg Can Save Us, It's Not a Democracy
January 26, 2016
The New York Times | By Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor, Harvard Kennedy School, and faculty affiliate, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.  Part of the Room for Debate forum, "Can Bloomberg and His Millions Save Us from Ourselves?"

New Koch: Rebranding the Koch Brothers
January 25, 2016
The New Yorker | Highlights new, data-rich study by Theda Skocpol (Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology) and Alex Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy) on grassroots mobilizations by the Koch Network. 

Drug Addiction Gets New Treatment on Campaign Trail
January 21, 2016
NPR OnPoint with Tom Ashbrook | With guest Leah Wright Rigueur, Harvard Kennedy School faculty and Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

The Great Immigration-Data Debate
January 19, 2016
The Atlantic | Discusses latest analysis by George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, in an ongoing debate among economists on the wage impact of the Mariel boatlift on Miami workers. Read Borjas's NBER paper, "The Wage Impact of the Marielitos: Additional Evidence" (January 2016). Links to Borjas's earlier papers and further discussion of these issues in his recently revived blog may be found at his faculty website.

Clinton v. Sanders: New Democrats or the New Deal?
January 19, 2016
Brookings Institution | By Vanessa Williamson (Ph.D. '15, now a Fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings).
How Colleges Fail Poor Students
January 18, 2016
Minnesota Public Radio—MPR News with Kerri Miller | Anthony Abraham Jack (Ph.D. candidate in Sociology) guests to discuss what his dissertation research shows [audio 40 min].

Legal hurdles to the Affordable Care Act
January 17, 2016
Oxford University Press Blog | By Lawrence R. Jacobs (University of Minnesota) and Theda Skocpol (Victor S. Thompson Professor of Government &  Sociology). Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, it has withstood—and overcome—a storm of legal hurdles in the past five and a half years. Lawrence Jacobs and Theda Skocpol, authors of the newly-published third edition of Health Care Reform and American Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know, provide insight into the legal challenges it faced, including the Supreme Court ruling in 2015.

Why the poor do better on these simple tests of financial common sense
January 16, 2016
Chicago Tribune | Discusses research by psychologists Anuj K. Shah (University of Chicago), Eldar Shafir (Princeton), and economist Sendhil Mullainathan, Robert C. Waggoner Professor of Economics at Harvard. The work was presented earlier this month at the American Economic Association annual meeting.
Read the research
All Hollowed Out: The lonely poverty of America's white working class
January 16, 2016
The Atlantic | By Victor Tan Chen (Ph.D. '12, now Virginia Commonwealth University). His new book, Cut Loose: Jobless and Hopeless in an Unfair Economy, was published by University of California Press in 2015.

Those Were the Days
January 15, 2016
Wall Street Journal | Edward L. Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, reviews the new book, The Rise and Fall of Economic Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War, by Robert J. Gordon.
Lunch with the FT: Roland Fryer
January 15, 2016
Financial Times | Roland Fryer, Henry Lee Professor of Economics. Over steak and fries, the US economist says that the best way to combat police violence and poor schools is through data, not personal experience.

How to Bridge that Stubborn Pay Gap
January 15, 2016
The New York Times | Cites research by Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, on the gender pay gap.

Will taxes be a stumbling block or an opportunity in the Democratic debate?
January 15, 2016
Brookings Institution | By Vanessa S. Williamson (Ph.D. '15, now a Fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings).

Calling on States to Close Youth Prisons
January 14, 2016
Gov Innovator's Podcast | Andy Feldman (Ph.D. '07, now Special Advisor for Evidence-Based Policy in the Office of the Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education) interviews Patrick McCarthy, President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
What Do Unions Do for the Middle Class?
January 13, 2016
Center for American Progress | New research by Richard B. Freeman and collaborators suggests that about one-third of the decline in the share of middle class workers is directly tied to the decreasing share of workers in unions. "The big question this research raises for Americans troubled by the decline of the middle class is whether the growth and level of inequality can be reduced without a strong labor movement,” said Freeman, Herbert Anchorman Professor of Economics at Harvard.
Get the research report
Are Conservative Groups Better Than Their Liberal Equivalents At Shaping Legislation?
January 13, 2016
Wisconsin Public Radio—The Kathleen Dunn Show | Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. candidate in Government & Social Policy) guests [audio: 50 min].
Learn more about Alex Hertel-Fernandez’s research at his homepage.

Can a new victims advocacy movement break cycles of violence?
January 13, 2016
Aljazeera America | Cites study by Bruce Western, Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center and Professor of Sociology and the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice Policy, on the prevalence of childhood exposure to violence among former prisoners interviewed for the Boston Reentry Study. View the original research in RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences.



Roland Fryer: 2015 John Bates Clark Medalist
February 3, 2016
Journal of Economic Perspectives
By Lawrence F. Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics: "Roland Fryer is an extraordinary applied microeconomist whose research output related to racial inequality, the US racial achievement gap, and the design and evaluation of educational policies make him a worthy recipient of the 2015 John Bates Clark Medal. I will divide this survey of Roland's research into five categories..."
ESSA Accountability Design Competition: The Contenders
January 28, 2016
Thomas B. Fordham Institute | Ronald F. Ferguson of the Harvard Kennedy School is one of ten finalists in the Fordham Institute's ESSA Accountability Design Competition. Under the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states now face the challenge of creating school accountability systems that can vastly improve upon the model required by No Child Left Behind. To help spur creative thinking about how they might do so, and to inform the Department of Education as it develops its ESSA regulations, the Fordham Institute is sponsoring this competition. The ten finalists will pitch their work on the Fordham stage to a live audience and a panel of judges on February 2.

Events of interest

Inequality Seminar

New addition

Get updated schedule
We are pleased to announce the addition of 
Mary C. WatersM.E. Zukerman Professor of Sociology, Harvard University, to the seminar schedule on March 7. 

Her talk is titled, "The War on Crime and the War on Immigrants: Legal Discrimination in the 21st Century."

Center for American Political Studies

Friday, Feb 12

The Koch Effect: The Impact of a Cadre-Led Network on American Politics

Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology, Harvard University.

Alex Hertel-Fernandez, Ph.D. candidate in Government and Social Policy and Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellow, Harvard University.

In Washington, DC and the states, Republicans push unpopular policies – and sometimes also oppose legislation favored by prominent business groups. Why is that? New research highlights resource shifts on the U.S. right and the growing influence of the Koch network, a coordinated set of big donors, lobbying groups, and constituency organizations that now rivals America’s political parties.
View the paper 

Capitol Hill Briefing

Friday, Feb 12
Washington , D.C.

The American Working Class: Mobility, Family Change, and Child Well-Being

A forum with four of the nation's leading experts on family policy and child well-being. 

Andrew Cherlin (Johns Hopkins University)

Ron Haskins (Brookings Institution)

Sara McLanahan (Princeton University)

Robert Putnam (Harvard University)

Co-sponsored by the American Academy of Political and Social Science and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Center for American Political Studies

Wednesday, Feb 17

Tocqueville Lecture with Bruce Western, in conversation with Stephen Tourlentes

Bruce Western, Professor of Sociology and Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice Policy, Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, and Faculty Chair of the Program in Criminal Justice at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Stephen Tourlentes is a Boston-based award-winning artist who has exhibited both locally and nationally.

Of Lengths and Measures: Prison and the American Landscape, an exhibition of Tourlentes' photographs of prisons shot at night, from across the United States, is currently installed in the CAPS spaces on the 4th floor of the CGIS Knafel Building. 

Race and American Politics Seminar

Wednesday, Feb 17

Black Politics and Gun Violence

Martha Biondi, Chair of the Department of African American Studies and Professor of African American Studies and History, Northwestern University.

Sponsored by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

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.

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Part of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. 

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