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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

Equitable Growth Announces Third Annual Class of Grantees
July 20, 2016
Washington Center for Equitable Growth

Harvard Inequality & Social Policy affiliates Ellora Derenoncourt, Blythe George, Christopher Jencks, and Beth Truesdale are among the 19 new grantees whose academic research on inequality will be supported by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. 

Scroll down to learn more about their research plans.
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Social Preferences at Work: Evidence from Online Lab Experiments and Job-to-Job Mobility in the LEHD Dataset
Ellora Derenoncourt, Ph.D. candidate in Economics, will use online lab experiments and employee-employer matched data to test for individual social preferences over payoff distributions. 

"This project is offers a novel twist on intra-firm mobility and job-to-job transitions by using decisions to look at labor market preferences and not simply tax preferences," the award citation notes. Equitable Growth has worked with Derenoncourt before—she is a contributor to its forthcoming edited volume on Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century—"and this project is an example of her ability to engage with traditional economic literature and push it in interesting and useful new directions."

Those Jobs Ain’t Coming Back: The Consequences of an Industry Collapse on Two Tribal Reservations
Blythe George, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology and Social Policy, will use qualitative data to explore the mechanisms that link the decline of employment options and life outcomes for males on two Native American tribal reservations, the Yurok and Hoopa Valley Reservations, located in California’s northwest.

"A member of the Yurok tribe herself, the researcher’s data provide a unique contribution... [with] useful insights on the consequences of declining male labor force participation, particularly in non-urban settings." The award citation highlights that "From a policy engagement perspective, the rich[ness of] this qualitative work will help provide the narrative and texture that is necessary for capturing policy attention."

The Effects of Income Inequality on Health Disparities in the United States
Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, and Beth Truesdale, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, will examine the relationship between inequality and health outcomes using a variety of measures of health and income inequality taken from several independent data sets. Jencks and Truesdale hypothesize that some of the correlation is causal, running from inequality to health, and will seek to identify the causal mechanisms.

"Uncovering the causal channels between inequality and health would be an important contribution," the award citation notes, "particularly in light of recent research examining the relationship between income and life expectancy."

This research is co-funded by the Russell Sage Foundation.

Insight and analysis

Don’t Blame Divorce on Money. Ask: Did the Husband Have a Job?
July 28, 2016
Bloomberg | A new study by Alexandra Killewald, Professor of Sociology, suggests that neither financial strains nor women's increased ability to get out of an unhappy marriage is predictive of divorce. Killewald's research, "Money, Work, and Marital Stability: Assessing Change in the Gendered Determinants of Divorce," appears in the current issue of the American Sociological Review.
View the research in ASR (ungated)

See also
The Last Hurrah of the "Silent Majority"?
July 29, 2016
Democracy Journal | By Michael Javen Fortner (Ph.D. '10), Assistant Professor and Academic Director of Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute, CUNY. Fortner is the author of Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment (Harvard University Press, 2015).

Russia's War on Drugs is Hurting America
July 28, 2016
Washington Post | By Danielle Allen, Professor of Government.
When It Comes to Empathy, Your Gut May Be Failing You
July 26, 2016—Science of Us | Delves into new study by psychologist Jennifer Lerner of the Harvard Kennedy School (co-authored by Christine Ma-Kellams of the University of La Verne) and its implications for policy and practice. Lerner is Professor of Public Policy and Management and co-founder of the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory.
View the research

Who is Delrawn Small? Why Some Police Shootings Get Little Media Attention
July 26, 2016
NPR Code Switch | Quotes Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, on the media's tendency to report through the lens of the police instead of the victim, and the persistence of the police narrative even when it turns out to be wrong.

Why are debt collections so prevalent in black and Latino neighborhoods?
July 25, 2016
Urban Institute | By Steven Brown, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology and an affiliated scholar with the Urban Institute.

On the costs and benefits of international labor mobility: Interview with George Borjas
July 25, 2016
IZA Newsroom | Interview with George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and program director of IZA’s Labor Mobility research area.

But seriously — What can Omarosa really do to help Trump win black voters?
July 25, 2016
Vox | Features insights of Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Information asymmetry: Secrets and agents
July 23, 2016
The Economist | First in a series on seminal economic ideas, The Economist delves into George Akerlof's 1970 paper, "The Market for Lemons.” The discussion highlights Daniel Shoag's research (joint with Robert Clifford, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston) as illustrative of the insights from information economics that Akerlof's work has spurred. Shoag and Clifford examine the effect of credit check bans in employment and find that contrary to the bans' intent, prohibiting the use of credit scores in hiring led to relatively worse outcomes for black and young job-seekers. Shoag (Ph.D. '11) is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
View the research

Wages of Mariel
July 23, 2016
The Economist | New study by George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, counters the findings of a classic paper in immigration economics. Borjas reexamines the impact of the 1980 Mariel boatlift on Miami-area wages by focusing on high school dropouts, the group, he argues, most comparable to the Marielitos, over 60% of whom were high school dropouts. The paper is forthcoming in Industrial and Labor Relations Review.
View the research

Inaugural Convening of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking
July 22, 2016
The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking—on which Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy, serves—convened its first public meeting on July 22. The Commission was established under the bipartisan Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-140), jointly sponsored by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2016. 
View the agenda
View meeting materials and presentation slides

A Third Way: Lessons on the Politics of School District Turnaround from Lawrence, Massachusetts
July 21, 2016
Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy | By Beth Schueler (Ph.D. '16). Schueler is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School.

New Study: Specialization may Trump Volume as Predictor of Surgical Success
July 21, 2016
Harvard Kennedy School | Highlights new research by Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy.
Background to Brexit: Populism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Resentment
July 21, 2016
Weatherhead Center—Epicenter | By Bart Bonikowski, Associate Professor of Sociology. Harvard sociologist Bart Bonikowski explains why Brexit has two important lessons for political analysis on both sides of the Atlantic.

White people think racism is getting worse. Against white people.
July 21, 2016
Washington Post | By Samuel Sommers (Tufts) and Michael Norton (Harvard Business School). "Our research found whites think anti-white bias is more of a problem than anti-black bias. Our research also suggests that among whites, there’s a lingering view that the American Dream is a 'fixed pie,' such that the advancement of one group of citizens must come at the expense of all the other groups."
View the research

Trump and the GOP have snuffed out the party of Lincoln
July 20, 2016
Washington Post | By Danielle Allen, Professor of Government and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard.

Former Attorney General Will Work with Airbnb to Address Discrimination
July 20, 2016
NPR | Details study by Michael Luca and colleagues Benjamin Edelman and Daniel Svirsky of Harvard Business School, which found widespread pattern of racial discrimination on Airbnb.
View the research
How Changing Rent Subsidies Could Impact D.C.
July 20, 2016
WAMU—The Kojo Nnamdi Show | Guests Eva Rosen (Ph.D. '14) and Adrianne Todman, Executive Director of the D.C. Housing Authority, discuss how a proposed change to HUD's method of calculating housing subsidies to better reflect local housing costs could affect neighborhoods and upward mobility for families in the D.C. area. Rosen is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Poverty and Inequality Research Lab at Johns Hopkins University. Read more about Rosen's work at

Wage inequality: The spatial dimension
July 18, 2016
Vox EU | By Erling Barth, Alex Bryson, James Davis, Richard B. Freeman (Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics at Harvard). Shifting the focus to where people work to understand the rise in inequality in recent decades. Drawn from their research, recently published in the Journal of Labor Economics.
View the research
African American Women in the Republican Party
July 17, 2016
C-SPAN—American History TV | Interview with historian Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. The interview took place at the 2016 meeting of the Organization of American Historians in April. Rigueur is the author of The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power, now out in paperback from Princeton University Press.

Quora question: Why Don't Workers Have More Mobility Around the U.S.?
July 17, 2016
Newsweek | Explainer by economist Alex Tabarrok cites "important paper" by Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag (Ph.D. '11), Associate Professor at Harvard Kennedy School.
View the research

Quantifying Black Lives Matter
July 16, 2016
The Economist | Details new NBER paper by Roland Fryer, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, examining racial differences in police use of force.
View the research

See also
  • Inside Obama's radical experiment in national reconciliation
    July 14, 2016
    Washington Post | Quotes Roland Fryer, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, one of 33 invited participants who attended the White House Convening on Building Community Trust, July 13, 2016. Fryer spoke of how incomplete many police departments' records are concerning incidents between police and civilians.
Symposium: Why Political Scientists Should Study Organized Philanthropy
July 15, 2016
PS: Political Science and Politics | By Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology. "Subsidized philanthropy is literally at the heart of American public policy," argues Skocpol. "...The time has come for more robust research on [its] political roots and consequences."

Also featured, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (Ph.D. '16) of Columbia SIPA, "Explaining Liberal Policy Woes in the States: The Role of Donors." (All pieces in this symposium are open access).

From Lincoln to Trump: The Long Evolution of the Republican Party
July 15, 2016
ABC Radio National (Australia) | Historian Leah Wright Rigueur is interviewed for this print article. You may also listen to the full program [29 minutes] or read the transcript. Rigueur is an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Politics in a 'post-truth' age
July 14, 2016
Harvard Gazette | In this topsy-turvy presidential campaign, the old laws may no longer apply. Harvard analysts weigh in on norms and culture of democracy—including Jennifer Hochschild, the Henry LaBarre Jayne professor of Government, and political theorist Danielle Allen, who directs the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard.
How the 2% lives
July 14, 2016
The Economist | How do growing numbers of temp workers, now over 2% of the U.S. workforce, affect temporary and staff workers alike? Quotes Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allen Professor of Economics, who estimates that temps face a 15% earnings penalty even after controlling for age, education, and other demographic variables, and cites his earlier work with Alan Krueger, which found that  states with a higher share of temporary employment in the late 1980s experienced lower wage growth in the 1990s. 
Khalil Gibran Muhammad on Our Crisis of Racial Justice
July 8, 2016
Moyers & Company | Bill Moyers talks with Khalil Gibran Muhammad, who recently joined the Harvard Kennedy School as Professor of History, Race and Public Policy. [Audio and transcript]

The audio interview was edited for length, but a video of the full conversation is available on the Schomburg Center’s livestream page.
View video
Intelligent Machines Can Craft Smarter Policies
June 30, 2016
Aspen Ideas Festival 2016 | Aspen lecture by Sendhil Mullainathan, Robert C. Waggoner Professor of Economics. Algorithms can now identify faces, drive cars, translate text, and even write news stories. This same technology, used wisely, can help us tackle some of the most pressing social problems of our time—from inequality to mass incarceration. Harvard economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan illustrates intuitively how these technologies work and why he thinks they can be useful in social policy.



Robert Sampson elected to the British Academy
July 15, 2016
Robert J. Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, has been elected a Fellow of the British Academy. The Academy elected 42 distinguished UK academics and 20 scholars from overseas institutions in recognition of their outstanding contributions to research. Learn more about Robert Sampson's work at his homepage.
New Russell Sage Foundation grant: Natasha Warikoo
July 13, 2016
Natasha Kumar Warikoo (Ph.D. '05), Associate Professor of Education at Harvard University, has been awarded  a Russell Sage Foundation grant to study "Asian Americans in Suburban America: Academic Competition, Youth Culture, and Racial Change."

Warikoo will examine academic competition in two wealthy suburbs that differ in their Asian populations, exploring how group boundaries, beliefs about success, youth culture, and conceptions of race change when upwardly-mobile Asian Americans enter the public school system in these higher-income, predominantly white communities.

Learn more about Natasha Warikoo's work:
Judith Scott-Clayton wins Robert P. Huff Golden Quill Award
July 12, 2016
Judith Scott-Clayton (Ph.D. '09) is the recipient of the Robert P. Huff Golden Quill Award from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA).

Scott-Clayton, Associate Professor of Economics and Education at Columbia University Teachers College, was recognized for her “many contributions to the literature on financial aid." The award citation specifically singled out her article, "On money and motivation: A quasi-experimental analysis of financial incentives for college achievement," which it called "a careful quasi-experimental study [examining] the impact of the West Virginia Promise program on college completion outcomes for qualifying students.”

New academic publications by Ph.D. fellows

Cao, Jack, and Mahzarin R. Banaji. 2016. “The base rate principle and the fairness principle in social judgment.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113 (27).

Event of interest

2016 Hutchins Forum: Race and the Race to the White House

Thurs, Aug 18, 2016
Tickets (free)

Old Whaling Church, 89 Main Street, Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, MA

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Harvard University

Charlayne Hunter-Gault
PBS Newshour

Charles M. Blow
The New York Times

Donna Brazile
Democratic National Committee

Armstrong Williams
The Right Side with Armstrong Williams

Leah Wright Rigueur
Harvard Kennedy School

Additional remarks
Lawrence D. Bobo
Harvard University

New & forthcoming books

Education and Equality

By Danielle Allen, Professor of Government and of Education

Published by University of Chicago Press (Jun 2016)
Urban Citizenship and American Democracy

Edited by Amy Bridges & Michael Javen Fortner (Ph.D. '10). 

Published by SUNY Press (Jun 2016). Full text also available at Project Muse
Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel

By Michèle Lamont, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies; Graziella Moraes Silva (Ph.D. '10), Jessica S. Welburn (Ph.D. '11), Joshua Guetzkow, Nissim Mizrachi, Hanna Herzog, and Elisa Reis.

Forthcoming from Princeton University Press (Sept 2016).
The Diversity Bargain
and Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities

By Natasha K. Warikoo (Ph.D. '05), Associate Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Forthcoming from University of Chicago Press (Oct 2016).
We Wanted Workers: Unraveling the Immigration Narrative

By George J. Borjas, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.

Forthcoming from W.W. Norton & Company
(Oct 2016).
Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College? 

By Alexander Keyssar, Matthew W. Stirling, Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.

Forthcoming from
Harvard University Press (Jan 2017)

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Part of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. 

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Harvard Kennedy School
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