fbpx Research Briefs: Census and citizenship, NATO at 70, capitalizing on public office, and more | Harvard Kennedy School

NATO at 70

A photo of the signing of the Paris Agreements October 23, 1954.
Signing of the Paris Agreements October 23, 1954.

SEVEN DECADES after its founding, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization remains the strongest alliance of democratic countries in the world, preserving the balance of our geopolitical landscape and ensuring the safety of citizens of the United States and Europe. Yet NATO faces more complex and divisive challenges than at any other point in its history. Nicholas Burns, the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations, and Belfer Center Senior Fellow Douglas Lute, both of whom served as U.S. ambassadors to NATO, examine 10 major challenges the organization faces—from within its own borders and beyond, now and on the horizon—and how to address them. With contributions from former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell as well as other experts, NATO at Seventy: An Alliance in Crisis offers a path forward for an organization the authors see as essential to the security and stability of our world.

Effect of Asking About Citizenship on U.S. Census

Illustration of cityscape, data on clip board, and graph using pencils.
Portrait of HKS professor Matthew Baum.
Portrait of HKS faculty member Maya Sen.

THE CENSUS BUREAU’S attempt to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census sparked controversy and concern. Aside from the fear that a citizenship question could deter some residents from participating at all, experts worried that its inclusion could cause respondents to alter or omit information. In their new paper, Estimating the Effect of Asking About Citizenship on the U.S. Census: Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial, Marvin Kalb Professor of Global Communications Matthew Baum, Professor of Public Policy Maya Sen, and their colleagues assess data from more than 9,000 respondents to a survey designed to mirror the 2020 census. They find that inclusion of a citizenship question significantly increased the percentage of questions skipped, particularly among Hispanic respondents, and made respondents less likely to report members of their household who are of Hispanic ethnicity. The results suggest that asking about citizenship would reduce the number of Hispanics reported in the United States by 6 million—more than 12 percent of the 2010 Hispanic population.

Post-political Careers

Portrait of HKS faculty member Benjamin Schneer.

PUBLIC OFFICIALS have a wide range of job options to choose from when they leave office—including positions that allow them to capitalize on their political experience and connections. Understanding the private-sector career choices of former officials is crucial to ensuring that post-political career aspirations do not influence officials’ policy decisions while in office. Assistant Professor of Public Policy Benjamin Schneer’s recent Journal of Politics article, “Postpolitical Careers: How Politicians Capitalize on Public Office” (with Maxwell Palmer of Boston University), documents the need to look beyond registered lobbying to understand the full picture of post-political careers. Their analysis shows that most former officials are more likely to join boards of public companies than to work as registered lobbyists. The article finds that changes intended to restrict lobbying have simply pushed former officials toward alternative positions that are similar to lobbying but without the same restrictions.

The Unwavering Socioeconomic Achievement Gap

Portrait of HKS professor Paul Peterson.

INCOME INEQUALITY has a staggering effect on student achievement, with the students from the lowest socioeconomic households falling some three to four years in performance behind students from the highest ones. In his recent working paper, The Unwavering SES Achievement Gap: Trends in U.S. Student Performance, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government Paul Peterson looks at data from 1954 through 2001 to measure the achievement gap between the highest and lowest socioeconomic groups of students across the United States. Importantly, Peterson finds that this gap has remained consistent over the past 50 years—suggesting a large-scale failure of the educational policies designed to narrow it. As schools devote increasing resources to closing these gaps, Peterson’s latest work is essential to understanding the socioeconomic status achievement gap, what drives it, and why it persists.

Implicit Stereotypes and Gender Bias

Portrait of HKS faculty Michela Carlana.

REGARDLESS OF THE PROGRESS schools have made toward closing and even reversing the gender performance gap over the past century, girls still lag far behind boys in mathematics. And since math performance can predict a student’s likelihood of studying and working in the STEM fields, understanding why boys outperform girls in math is essential to moving toward gender balance in STEM university programs and in the labor market. Based on research of around 1,400 teachers in Italian schools, Assistant Professor of Public Policy Michela Carlana’s Implicit Stereotypes: Evidence from Teachers’ Gender Bias uncovers a connection between teachers’ gender biases and middle school girls’ math performance, finding that teachers who believe math is more difficult for girls can unconsciously contribute to this negative performance. Addressing unconscious bias can help teachers boost girls’ confidence in math—and improve their prospects for the future.

Two Centuries of Sovereign Bonds

Photo of foreign currency.

Sovereign bonds are considered a risky asset class, vulnerable to high rates of default and limited security and enforcement as the global financial landscape shifts. Are investors justified in their attraction to these bonds? In Sovereign Bonds since Waterloo, Carmen Reinhart, Minos A. Zombanakis Professor of the International Financial System, constructs a database of more than 220,000 monthly prices of foreign-currency government bonds from 91 countries traded in London and New York between 1815 and 2016. This 200-year perspective on the history of sovereign bonds finds that regardless of foreign government default, war, and global catastrophe, sovereign bonds have consistently offered a high enough return to compensate for their risk. Reinhart assesses how markets consider and measure sovereign risk and explains investors’ beliefs about crash probabilities in emerging markets worldwide.

Portrait of HKS faculty Carmen Reinhart.

Compiled by Jessica McCann