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Social Policy Reader (and listener)

I know, it is hard to stay motivated to keep up with serious social policy analysis in the current political environment. So here is a mix of current great reading and podcasts that will mostly take you to another place.

Urban renewal?

Two contrasting historical case studies of strategies for urban renewal and reconstruction can be found in important new books about Flint, Michigan, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Andrew Highsmith’s Demolition Means Progress: Flint, Michigan, and the Fate of the American Metropolis argues that a misplaced strategy of urban renewal had devastating consequences for inequality and segregation in Flint. Evan Stoddard et. al’s Transformed: Reinventing Pittsburgh’s Industrial Sites for a New Century, 1975-1995 provides an optimistic evaluation of the repurposing of steel and industrial brownfield sites for new “post-industrial” urban development.

Social Policy Podcasts

From an unlikely source, Alec Baldwin provides a very interesting and substantive conversation about the evolution of homeless policy and services in New York City. Hear Mary Brosnahan, head of the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City, on Here’s the Thing.

The Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin releases crisp and informative podcasts from top poverty scholars and analysts. Two to start with are Scott Allard, The Suburbanization of Poverty, and Steven Durlauf, Understanding Poverty and Inequality in the 21st Century.  Transcripts for these podcasts are also available.

At a completely different level, the London School of Economics (LSE) distributes many of its lectures and public events in audio format on the web. For example, Nobel Prize winner Professor Amartya Sen discusses the new edition and contemporary interpretation of his classic, Collective Choice and Social Welfare.

More Nudges

For readers who were interested in last month’s post on behavioral economics, check out these three great additions — all with an historical perspective:

Sarah Stillman, “Good Behavior,” The New Yorker, January 23rd, 2017. Stillman’s wonderful piece reviews the policy history of the field, provides some compelling applied examples (e.g., Flint Michigan), and worries about the future of behavioral policy approaches in the public sector.

Michael Lewis, The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed our Minds. Another brilliant, accessible, and captivating book by Michael Lewis. This time, it is the history of Danny Kahnemen and Amos Tversky’s unlikely collaboration that produced some of the most important insights in psychology, economics, and decision making in the twentieth century.

Richard Thaler, Misbehaving: The History of Behavioral Economics. A great complement to The Undoing Project, Thaler provides an extraordinary history of the field — including his personal relationship with Kahneman and Tverersky — and some delicious critique of the Chicago School. A great combination of substance and personal stories — some very moving — that will buoy your spirits and renew your appreciation of the power of great social science.

Federal Appointments Homework

The past is prologue. These two leaders in health policy assess Tom Price’s record and his likely approach to health reform. Shelly Glied and Richard Frank, “Care for the Vulnerable vs. Cash for the Powerful — Trump’s Pick for HHS,” New England Journal of Medicine, December 21, 2016.

To listen to the hearings themselves for key social policy appointments see C-SPAN’s archive. Especially relevant are the hearings for Tom Price, Betsy DeVos, and Ben Carson.

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