h o m e i d e a s p h. d   t r a i n i n g p e o p l e s e m i n a r s u m m e r e u r o p e a n  n e t w o r k  o n  i n e q u a l i t y n e w s
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Research domains

The training program is structured around eight major research domains, which are meant to be broadly illustrative of the scope of the program, rather than exhaustive or mutually exclusive categories.

The research program is problem-driven in the sense that participants--often with different theoretical perspectives--are commonly motivated by a shared set of empirical research questions. At its most ambitious level, the program aims to provide a graduate training experience that engages the intellectual resources of the University in thinking about problems of poverty, disadvantage, and enduring inequality, and that fosters the development of new solutions to important social problems using the best social science methods.

1. Work, wages, and markets. What are the primary forces widening the distribution of wages? How have changing demographics, skill-based technological change, globalization, labor market institutions, and government policy on issues like education, immigration, the minimum wage, and EITC affected wage dispersion? How do the causes and labor market responses to economic inequality differ cross-nationally?

2. Urban poverty and residential segregation. Economic and racial segregation concentrate poor families in certain neighborhoods. When national poverty rates increase, the impact is felt in neighborhoods that are already disproportionately poor. How does the neighborhood in which children grow up affect their life outcomes? What role can transportation policy, housing mobility programs, and economic development efforts play in alleviating the effects of urban poverty?

3. Family structure and parental roles. What are the magnitudes, causes, and consequences of changes in U.S. family structure? How much of this change in family patterns can be traced to economic factors? As employers' claims on mothers increase, what has been the impact on families and children? How have firms changed their approaches toward work organization to accommodate family demands? Why do women in some countries appear to do better than in others?

4. Racial disparities, immigration, and bridging racial/ethnic divides. What are the fats of racial inequality in various domains--in income and employment, in health, in crime and punishment, in housing and credit markets? What are the causes and consequences of racial disparities? For many years the American story appeared to center on a black/white divide. For some time now, however, immigration has complicated this picture. Similarly in Western Europe, an increasing flow of immigrants has begun to challenge the cultural dominance of the traditional population. Muslims in France, Germany, and Belgium increasingly find themselves in segregated settings, with limited occupational opportunity. Yet the social policy regimes that greet them are quite different than those in the US. How do these immigration flows affect native workers and what determines different nations’ success or failure in improving educational and economic opportunities for the children of immigrants?

5. Educational access and quality. Most explanations of increasing inequality focus attention on formal education at all levels as the most powerful mobility device in the United States. Problems of school quality, segregation, parental involvement, and school governance all contribute to unequal access to the educational credentials important for advancement in the labor market. A multidisciplinary focus on changing patterns of access to higher education, institutional inequality (reflected in funding formulas, student/teacher ratios, and teacher qualifications), school dropouts, urban school governance, and the problematic nature of the school-to-work transition presents several possible research agendas.

6. Crime, criminal justice and inequality. The growth in police strength and incarceration rates over the last 20 years has deepened the involvement of the criminal justice system in poor urban communities in much of the world. In the United States, prison time has now become a normal life event for young black men with little schooling. Do the risks of arrest and incarceration simply reflect patterns of criminal offending? Has the criminal justice system now become a significant source of social and economic inequality? What is the effect of the criminal justice system on those in its penumbra: the families of the incarcerated, the people who work in police and corrections agencies, victims of crime and violence, and whole communities now saturated with criminal justice supervision?

7. Political inequalities, participation, and social capital. The political consequences of inequality represent another research agenda. How and when do the consequences of inequality crystallize into political issues? What are the consequences of economic inequality for political engagement? How are economic and social inequalities related to problems of social trust, governance, or the emergence of social movements?

8. Institutions, policy, and the comparative welfare state analysis. Social and economic policies have changed fundamentally over time and vary cross-nationally in important respects as well. Macro-level institutional and comparative analysis provide important tools for illuminating the forces reshaping the welfare state and giving rise to distinct national configurations or varieties of capitalism. Micro-level institutional approaches can help illuminate the political-economic incentives underlying the adoption of particular policies, as well as the intended and unintended effects of specific policies on individual behavior.

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J o h n  F.  K e n n e d y   S c h o o l  o f  G o v e r n m e n t H a r v a r d  U n i v e r s i t y John F. Kennedy School of Government Harvard University