Examining Inequality

ACADEMIA

Image Credit: Harvard Gazette

Image Credit: Harvard Gazette

The Costs of Inequality: When a Fair Shake Isn’t
by Alvin Powell
Harvard Gazette

Harvard University’s academic inquiry into the study of inequality and its root causes is nothing new. And yet, the familiar trope of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer has only become a more dramatic reality in the United States over time. “America, we believe, is a land where everyone gets a fair start and then rises or falls according to his or her own talent and industry. But if you’re poor, if you’re uneducated, if you’re black, if you’re Hispanic, if you’re a woman, there often is no fair start.” The following article in this month’s Harvard Gazette is the first in a series on what Harvard scholars are doing to identify and understand inequality as they seek solutions to one of America’s most vexing problems. 

EDUCATION

Image credit: JGI/Tom Grill via Getty Images

Image credit: JGI/Tom Grill via Getty Images

The Conversation I’m Tired of Not Having
by Nathan Bowling
Huffington Post

Nathan Bowling, the 2016 Washington state teacher of the year, shared this moving reflection on the lack of support and political will on behalf of poor people and most black people in America. He sees this issue most profoundly with educational inequality. Bowling writes: “As a nation, we're nibbling around the edges with accountability measures and other reforms, but we're ignoring the immutable core issue: much of white and wealthy America is perfectly happy with segregated schools and inequity in funding…Poor families lack competent and engaged administration (see Chicago, Detroit, etc), the levy money (locally, see Highline), capital budgets (see rural Central, WA), and the political capital wealthier families enjoy.” Bowling puts the question to his readers: So what is to be done? He focuses on teacher quality and supports organizations and people working in specific areas. What do you think? How can the U.S. demonstrate a willingness to step up and show up for all of its children in order to create a more just and equitable future? 

DATA

Image Credit: Gerard DuBois

Image Credit: Gerard DuBois

What Data Can Do to Fight Poverty
by Annie Duflo & Dean Karlan
The New York Times Sunday Review

“Hope and rhetoric are great for motivation, but not for figuring out what to do. There you need data.”

Are conventional instincts about what works in fighting poverty misleading? Data gathered by recent studiesconducted in sub-Saharan Africa by field researchers working with scholars of behavioral science in the United States and England in collaboration with the nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action seem to suggest yes. “If social scientists and policy makers have learned anything about how to help the world’s poorest people, it’s not to trust our intuitions or anecdotal evidence about what kinds of antipoverty programs are effective. Rigorous randomized evaluations of policies, however, can show us what works and what doesn’t.” The researchers have found that pairing experts in behavioral science with "on the ground" teams of researchers and field workers has yielded concrete ideas about how to address the problems of poverty. What does this research make you think about differently? Are we as a society, too conditioned to look to anecdotes about what works best to combat poverty rather than hard data?

GUERILLA ART

Image Credit: betterthanspikes.tumblr.com

Image Credit: betterthanspikes.tumblr.com

Guerrilla Artists Turn “Anti-Homeless Spikes” into Cozy Bedroom Set
by Rafi Schwartz
Good Magazine

A few years ago in London, small metal protrusions started popping up outside a number of storefronts and buildings in an effort to deter homeless people from sleeping or pan handling outside of their storefronts. Although it caused widespread outcry from homeless communities and their advocates, the trend persisted. Recently, a group of British artist-activists have responded to the “hostile architecture” by transforming an “inhospitably spiked ledge outside the former spot of London’s infamous Plastic People nightclub into a cozy bedroom, complete with a soft mattress, and an adjacent micro-library filled with books on architecture and urban planning.”