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The Sandbox Investment
The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics
David L. Kirp
Harvard University Press, 2007

Listen to a short interview with David L. KirpHost: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane

The rich have always valued early education, and for the past forty years, millions of poor kids have had Head Start. Now, more and more middle class parents have realized that a good preschool is the smartest investment they can make in their children's future in a competitive world. As The Sandbox Investment shows, their needs are key to the growing call for universal preschool.

Writing with the verve of a magazine journalist and the authority of a scholar, David L. Kirp makes the ideal guide to this quiet movement. He crouches in classrooms where committed teachers engage lively four-year-olds, and reveals the findings of an extraordinary longitudinal study that shows the life-changing impact of preschool. He talks with cutting-edge researchers from neuroscience and genetics to economics, whose findings increasingly show how powerfully early childhood shapes the arc of children's lives.

Kids-first politics is smart economics: paying for preschool now can help save us from paying for unemployment, crime, and emergency rooms later. As Kirp reports from the inside, activists and political leaders have turned this potent idea into campaigns and policies in red and blue states alike.

The Sandbox Investment is the first full story of a campaign that asks Americans to endorse a vision of society that does well by doing good. For anyone who is interested in politics or the social uses of research--for anyone who's interested in the children's futures--it's a compelling read.


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Sentencing without Guidelines
Rhys Hester
Temple University Press, 2024
Sentencing matters. Reform initiatives hope to impart more uniformity and fairness in sentencing. Tough-on-crime laws like “three strikes” and mandatory minimum provisions deprive judges of sentencing discretion. While sentencing guidelines have been adopted by approximately 20 states since the early 1980s, many judges operate without guidelines.

Sentencing without Guidelines is Rhys Hester’s deep dive into how South Carolina, which never passed sentencing guideline legislation, nonetheless created meaningful punishment reform. It achieved uniformity in sentencing with a traveling circuit of judges, informal norms among judges, and the unique phenomenon of the “Plea Judge” to manage cases.

Hester examines how prior convictions, race, and geographical differences impact sentences to explain why individuals get the criminal sentences they do. He also explores how legal reform mechanisms can influence punishment goals and policy. Sentencing without Guidelines shows the benefits and drawbacks South Carolina experienced as it met sentencing reform goals. These lessons can be translated into policy for other jurisdictions.

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Skepticism and Freedom
A Modern Case for Classical Liberalism
Richard A. Epstein
University of Chicago Press, 2003
With this book, Richard A. Epstein provides a spirited and systematic defense of classical liberalism against the critiques mounted against it over the past thirty years. One of the most distinguished and provocative legal scholars writing today, Epstein here explains his controversial ideas in what will quickly come to be considered one of his cornerstone works.

He begins by laying out his own vision of the key principles of classical liberalism: respect for the autonomy of the individual, a strong system of private property rights, the voluntary exchange of labor and possessions, and prohibitions against force or fraud. Nonetheless, he not only recognizes but insists that state coercion is crucial to safeguarding these principles of private ordering and supplying the social infrastructure on which they depend. Within this framework, Epstein then shows why limited government is much to be preferred over the modern interventionist welfare state.

Many of the modern attacks on the classical liberal system seek to undermine the moral, conceptual, cognitive, and psychological foundations on which it rests. Epstein rises to this challenge by carefully rebutting each of these objections in turn. For instance, Epstein demonstrates how our inability to judge the preferences of others means we should respect their liberty of choice regarding their own lives. And he points out the flaws in behavioral economic arguments which, overlooking strong evolutionary pressures, claim that individual preferences are unstable and that people are unable to adopt rational means to achieve their own ends. Freedom, Epstein ultimately shows, depends upon a skepticism that rightly shuns making judgments about what is best for individuals, but that also avoids the relativistic trap that all judgments about our political institutions have equal worth.

A brilliant defense of classical liberalism, Skepticism and Freedom will rightly be seen as an intellectual landmark.

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Skin Color, Power, and Politics in America
Mara Cecilia Ostfeld
Russell Sage Foundation, 2022
A person’s skin color affects their life experiences including income, educational attainment, health outcomes, exposure to discrimination, interactions with the criminal justice system and one’s sense of ethnoracial group belonging. But, do these disparate experiences affect the relationship between skin color and political views? In Skin Color, Power, and Politics in America, political scientists Mara Ostfeld and Nicole Yadon explore the relationship between skin color and political views in the U.S. among Latino, Black, and White Americans. They examine how skin color influences an individual’s politics and whether a person’s political views influence how they assess their own skin color.
Ostfeld and Yadon surveyed over 1,300 people about their political views, including party affiliation, their opinions on welfare, and the importance of speaking English in the U.S. The authors created a matrix grounded in their “Roots of Race” framework, which predicts the relationship between skin color and political attitudes for each ethnoracial group based on the blurriness of the group’s boundaries and historical levels of privilege. They draw upon three distinct measures of skin color to conceptualize the relationship between skin color and political views: “Machine-Rated Skin Color,” measured with a light-reflectance meter; “Self-Assessed Skin Color,” using the Yadon-Ostfeld Skin Color Scale; and “Skin Color Discrepancy,” the difference between one’s Machine-Rated and Self-Assessed Skin Color. 
Ostfeld and Yadon examine patterns that emerge among these measures, and their relationships with life experiences and political stances. Among Latinos, a group with relatively blurry group boundaries and low levels of historical privilege, the authors find a robust relationship between political views and Self-Assessed Skin Color. Latinos who overestimate the lightness of their skin color are more likely to hold conservative views on current racialized political issues, such as policing. Latinos who overestimate the darkness of their skin color, on the other hand, are more likely to hold liberal political views. As America’s major political parties remain divided on issues of race, this suggests that for Latinos, self-reported skin color is used as a means of aligning oneself with valued political coalitions. 
African Americans, another group with low levels of historical privilege but with more clearly defined group boundaries, demonstrated no significant relationship between skin color and political attitudes. Thus, the lived experiences associated with being African American appeared to supersede the differences in life experiences due to skin color.
Whites, a group with more historical privilege and increasingly blurry group boundaries, showed a clear relationship between machine-assessed skin color and attitudes on political issues. Those with darker Machine-Rated Skin Color are more likely to hold conservative views, suggesting that they are responding to the threat of losing their privilege in a multicultural society.
At a time when the U.S. is both more diverse and politically divided, Skin Color, Power, and Politics in Americais a timely account of the ways in which skin color and politics are intertwined.

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Social Capital in the City
Community and Civic Life in Philadelphia
edited by Richardson Dilworth
Temple University Press, 2006
Much of today's heated academic discussion about "social capital" is either theoretical in nature or revolves around national survey data, neither of which adequately explains the specific social networks that actually sustain life in cities. This is the first book about social capital that both spans a broad range of social contexts and time periods and focuses on a single city, Philadelphia. Contributors examine such subjects as voter behavior, education, neighborhood life, church participation, park advocacy, and political activism. The wide scope of the book reflects its concern for comprehending the uniqueness and diversity of urban social networks.Moving beyond typical definitions, the original essays collected here utilize case studies to demonstrate how social capital is nested in larger structures of power and cannot be appreciated without an understanding of context. Arguing that urban society is "social capital writ large," contributors complicate and deepen our knowledge of a crucial concept and its fruitful applications.

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Social Justice
Theories, Issues, and Movements (Revised and Expanded Edition)
Loretta Capeheart
Rutgers University Press, 2020
An eye for an eye, the balance of the scales – for centuries, these and other traditional concepts exemplified the public’s perception of justice. Today, popular culture, including television shows like Law and Order, informs the public’s vision. But do age-old symbols, portrayals in the media, and existing systems truly represent justice in all of its nuanced forms, or do we need to think beyond these notions? The second edition of Social Justice: Theories, Issues, and Movements responds to the need for a comprehensive introduction to these issues.
Theories of social justice are presented in an accessible fashion to encourage engagement of students, activists, and scholars with these important lines of inquiry. Issues are analyzed utilizing various theories for furthering engagement in possibilities. Struggles for justice -- from legal cases to on the ground movements -- are presented for historical context and to inform the way forward.

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Social Logic Of Politics
Personal Networs As Contexts
edited by Alan S. Zuckerman
Temple University Press, 2005
Using classic theories and methodologies, this collection maintains that individuals make political choices by taking into account the views, preferences, evaluations, and actions of other people who comprise their social networks. These include family members, friends, neighbors, and workmates, among others. The volume re-establishes the research of the Columbia School of Electoral Sociology from several decades ago, and contrasts it with rational choice theory and the Michigan School of Electoral Analysis. Written by political scientists with a range of interests, this volume returns the social logic of politics to the heart of political science.

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Social Movements and Political Power
Emerging Forms of Radicalism in the West
Carl Boggs
Temple University Press, 1989

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Social Policies and Decentralization in Cuba
Change in the Context of 21st Century Latin America
Jorge I. Domínguez
Harvard University Press

Cuba has long been a social policy pioneer in Latin America. Since the 1959 revolution, its government has developed ambitious social policies to address health care, higher education, employment, the environment, and broad social inequalities, among other priorities. Cuban strategies emphasized universal rights and benefits, provided free of financial cost to users, and implemented under centralized and unitary policy design.

Following the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, funds for these policies came under strain, although systematic efforts have been made to sustain them. Poverty rates and inequality have risen. Access to higher education has become more difficult. Access to health care has become less reliable. Environmental policies are both more salient and more difficult to sustain. The government has resisted privatization policies, but has sought to decentralize the implementation of various policies, fostering non-state cooperatives as well. At the same time, many Latin American governments have experimented with new social policies that, in this century, reduced poverty rates significantly and in some countries somewhat reduced various inequalities.

Still facing severe economic challenges, Cuba may look to learn from the policies of its Latin American neighbors, in some instances for the first time ever. This book analyzes these issues comparatively and in depth.


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Social Policy and Welfare
A Clear Guide
Tom Burden
Pluto Press, 1998

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Social Programs that Work
Jonathan Crane
Russell Sage Foundation, 1998
Many Americans seem convinced that government programs designed to help the poor have failed. Social Programs That Work shows that this is not true. Many programs have demonstrably improved the lives of people trapped at the bottom of the social and economic ladder. Social Programs That Work provides an in-depth look at some of the nation's best interventions over the past few decades, and considers their potential for national expansion. Examined here are programs designed to improve children's reading skills, curb juvenile delinquency and substance abuse, and move people off welfare into the workforce. Each contributor discusses the design and implementation of a particular program, and assesses how well particular goals were met. Among the critical issues addressed: Are good results permanent, or do they fade over time? Can they be replicated successfully under varied conditions? Are programs cost effective, and if so are the benefits seen immediately or only over the long term? How can public support be garnered for a large upfront investment whose returns may not be apparent for years? Some programs discussed in this volume were implemented only on a small, experimental scale, prompting discussion of their viability at the national level. An important concern for social policy is whether one-shot programs can lead to permanent results. Early interventions may be extremely effective at reducing future criminal behavior, as shown by the results of the High/Scope Perry preschool program. Evidence from the Life Skills Training Program suggests that a combination of initial intervention and occasional booster sessions can be an inexpensive and successful approach to reducing adolescent substance abuse. Social Programs That Work also acknowledges that simply placing welfare recipients in jobs isn't enough; they will also need long-term support to maintain those jobs. The successes and failures of social policy over the last thirty-five years have given us valuable feedback about the design of successful social policy. Social Programs That Work represents a landmark attempt to use social science criteria to identify and strengthen the programs most likely to make a real difference in addressing the nation's social ills.

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Social Trust in the Nordic World
Gert Tinggaard Svendsen and Christian Bjørnskov
University of Wisconsin Press, 2023
Study after study has shown that Scandinavia is the most trusting region in the world. Danes in particular trust other people and organizations—including strangers, businesses, governments, law enforcement, and media—more than the citizens of any other country. And countries with deep pools of social trust are populated by individuals who cooperate with each other in ways that allow public and private institutions to function more efficiently and cheaply.

Is the Nordic countries’ high level of social trust just as important for creating prosperity and happiness within a population as other, more tangible economic factors? If so, where does this stock of social trust in Scandinavia come from? Does it help to explain the development of the universal welfare states and their surprisingly high business competitiveness? Can other nations learn from the region and apply that knowledge to settings where social trust levels are low or in danger of being eroded?

Social trust has proven economic value, and Gert Tinggaard Svendsen warns that its benefits should never be taken for granted. Trust can dissolve and vanish quickly, and once gone, it is very difficult to rebuild. Governments and corporations are gradually increasing their control over people’s public and private lives, with predictably worrying results. When people feel taken advantage of or lied to, public confidence evaporates. Since strong social cohesion drives long-term prosperity, Nordic exceptionalism on maintaining and restoring trust offers valuable lessons.

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Socializing Security
Progressive-Era Economists and the Origins of American Social Policy
David A. Moss
Harvard University Press, 1996

Socializing Security examines the early movement for worker-security legislation in the United States. It focuses on a group of academic economists who became leading proponents of social insurance and protective labor legislation during the first decades of the twentieth century. These economists—including John R. Commons and Richard T. Ely—founded the American Association for Labor Legislation (AALL). As intellectuals and political activists, they theorized about the social efficiency of security legislation, proposed policies, and drafted model bills. They campaigned vigorously for industrial safety laws, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and compulsory health insurance.

The AALL reformers were successful in some of their legislative campaigns, but failed in two of their most important ones, those for unemployment insurance and health insurance. In examining the obstacles that the reformers faced, David Moss highlights a variety of political and institutional constraints, including the constitutional doctrine of federalism and gender-biased judicial decisions.

The goal of the AALL reformers, Moss demonstrates, was not to relieve the poor, but rather to prevent workers and their families from falling into poverty as a result of accidents or illness. In favoring security over relief, economists in the progressive era defined and confirmed what has remained, for some eighty years, one of the essential values of American social policy. In concluding, Moss suggests that new policies may now be necessary in an economy in which falling wages and fewer jobs, rather than industrial hazards, are increasingly to blame for the precarious situation of the American worker.


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Somalis in the Twin Cities and Columbus
Immigrant Incorporation in New Destinations
Stephanie Chambers
Temple University Press, 2017

In the early 1990s, Somali refugees arrived in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Later in the decade, an additional influx of immigrants arrived in a second destination of Columbus, Ohio. These refugees found low-skill jobs in warehouses and food processing plants and struggled as social “outsiders,” often facing discrimination based on their religious traditions, dress, and misconceptions that they are terrorists. The immigrant youth also lacked access to quality educational opportunities.

In Somalis in the Twin Cities and Columbus, Stefanie Chambers provides a cogent analysis of these refugees in Midwestern cities where new immigrant communities are growing. Her comparative study uses qualitative and quantitative data to assess the political, economic, and social variations between these urban areas. Chambers examines how culture and history influenced the incorporation of Somali immigrants in the U.S., and recommends policy changes that can advance rather than impede incorporation. 

Her robust investigation provides a better understanding of the reasons these refugees establish roots in these areas, as well as how these resettled immigrants struggle to thrive.


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Someone Has to Fail
The Zero-Sum Game of Public Schooling
David F. Labaree
Harvard University Press, 2012

What do we really want from schools? Only everything, in all its contradictions. Most of all, we want access and opportunity for all children—but all possible advantages for our own. So argues historian David Labaree in this provocative look at the way “this archetype of dysfunction works so well at what we want it to do even as it evades what we explicitly ask it to do.”

Ever since the common school movement of the nineteenth century, mass schooling has been seen as an essential solution to great social problems. Yet as wave after wave of reform movements have shown, schools are extremely difficult to change. Labaree shows how the very organization of the locally controlled, administratively limited school system makes reform difficult.

At the same time, he argues, the choices of educational consumers have always overwhelmed top-down efforts at school reform. Individual families seek to use schools for their own purposes—to pursue social opportunity, if they need it, and to preserve social advantage, if they have it. In principle, we want the best for all children. In practice, we want the best for our own.

Provocative, unflinching, wry, Someone Has to Fail looks at the way that unintended consequences of consumer choices have created an extraordinarily resilient educational system, perpetually expanding, perpetually unequal, constantly being reformed, and never changing much.


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Stable Condition
Elites' Limited Influence on Health Care Attitudes
Daniel J. Hopkins
Russell Sage Foundation, 2023
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), the sweeping health care reform enacted by the Obama Administration in 2010, continues to be a contentious policy at the center of highly polarized political debates. Both before and after the law’s passage, political elites on both sides of the issue attempted to sway public opinion through two traditional approaches: messaging and policymaking itself.  They operated under the assumption that the public’s personal experiences toward the law would make them more favorable. Yet these tried-and-true methods have had limited influence on public attitudes toward the ACA. Public opinion towards the ACA remained stable from 2010 to 2016, with more Americans opposing the law than supporting it. It was only after Donald Trump was elected in 2016 and the prospect of the law being repealed became a reality that public opinion swung in favor of the ACA. If traditional methods of influencing public opinion had little impact on attitudes towards the ACA, what did? In Stable Condition, political scientist Daniel J. Hopkins draws on survey data from 2009 to 2020 to assess how a variety of factors such as personal experience, political messaging, and partisanship did or did not affect public opinion on the ACA.
Hopkins finds that although personal experience with the ACA’s Medicaid expansion increased favorability among low-income Americans, it did not have a broader overall impact on public opinion. Personal experience with the Health Insurance Marketplace did not increase wider support for the ACA either. Due to the complex nature of the law, users of the Marketplace often did not realize they were benefiting from the ACA. Therefore, perceptions of the Marketplace were shaped by high-profile issues with the enrollment website and opposition to the individual mandate. These experiences ultimately offset one another, resulting in little discernable change in public opinion overall. Hopkins argues that political polarization was also responsible for elite’s limited influence and that public opinion on the ACA was largely determined by partisanship and political affiliation. Americans quickly aligned with their party’s stance on the law and were resistant to changing their beliefs despite the efforts of political elites. 
Stable Condition is an illuminating examination of the limits of elites’ influence and the forces that shaped public opinion about the Affordable Care Act.

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State of Translation
Turkey in Interlingual Relations
Einar Wigen
University of Michigan Press, 2018

International politics often requires two or more languages. The resulting interlingual relations mean translation, either by interpreters who are quite literally in the middle of conversations, or by bilingual statesmen who negotiate internationally in one language and then legitimize domestically in another. Since no two languages are the same, what can be argued in one language may be impossible in another. Political concepts can thus be significantly reformulated in the translation process. State of Translation examines this phenomenon using the case of how 19th-century Ottoman and later Turkish statesmen struggled to reconcile their arguments in external languages (French, then English) with those in their internal language (Ottoman, later Turkish), and in the process further entangled them. Einar Wigen shows how this process structured social relations between the Ottoman state and its interlocutors, both domestically and internationally, and shaped the dynamics of Turkish relations with Europe.


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Still a Hollow Hope
State Power and the Second Amendment
Anthony D. Cooling
University of Michigan Press, 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court increasingly matters in American political life when those across the political spectrum look at the Court for relief from policies they oppose and as another venue for advancing their own policy agendas. However, the evidence is mounting, to include this book in a big way, that courts are more of a sideshow to the culture war. While court decisions, especially Supreme Court decisions, do have importance, the decisions emanating from the Court reflect social, cultural, and political change that occurred long prior to their decision ever being made.

This book tests how much political and social change has been made primarily through Gerald Rosenberg’s framework from his seminal work, The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change, but it also utilizes Daniel Elazar’s Political Culture Theory to explain state level variations in political and social change. The findings indicate that while courts are not powerless institutions, reformers will not have success unless supported by the public and the elected branches, and most specifically, that preexisting state culture is a determining factor in the amount of change courts make. In short, federalism still matters.


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Succeeding Generations
On the Effects of Investments in Children
Robert Haveman
Russell Sage Foundation, 1994
Drawn from an extensive two-decade longitudinal survey of American families, Succeeding Generations traces a representative group of America's children from their early years through young adulthood. It evaluates the many background factors that are most influential in determining how much education children will obtain, whether or not they will become teen parents, and how economically active they will be when they reach their twenties. Succeeding Generations demonstrates how our children's future has been placed at risk by social and economic conditions such as fractured families, a troubled economy, rising poverty rates, and neighborhood erosion. The authors also pinpoint some significant causes of children's later success, emphasizing the importance of parents' education and, despite the apparent loss of time spent with children, the generally positive influence of maternal employment. Haveman and Wolfe supplement their research with a comprehensive review of the many debates among economists, sociologists, developmental psychologists, and other experts on how best to improve the lot of America's children. "A state-of-the-art investigation of the determinants of children's success in the United States....Clearly written, highly readable, and compelling."—Contemporary Sociology "Haveman and Wolfe are professors of economics who bring sophisticated statistical and econometric techniques to the analysis of the economic and educational success of children as they progress into young adulthood."—Choice "This study is one of the most comprehensive of its kind, in part because the researchers collected detailed information about a wide range of children each year for more than two decades." —Wisconsin State Journal "The research at the core of this book addresses critically important questions in social important contribution to the literature." —Robert Plotnick, University of Washington

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Suing the Tobacco and Lead Pigment Industries
Government Litigation as Public Health Prescription
Donald G. Gifford
University of Michigan Press, 2010
"The topic, how tort law evolved over time into a system that allowed, for a moment at least, a parens patriae form of massive litigation against corporations, is exceedingly interesting and important. Gifford's treatment of this topic is highly informative, engaging, insightful, very current, and wise."
---David Owen, Carolina Distinguished Professor of Law, and Director of Tort Law Studies, University of South Carolina
In Suing the Tobacco and Lead Pigment Industries, legal scholar Donald G. Gifford recounts the transformation of tort litigation in response to the challenge posed by victims of 21st-century public health crises who seek compensation from the product manufacturers. Class action litigation promised a strategy for documenting collective harm, but an increasingly conservative judicial and political climate limited this strategy. Then, in 1995, Mississippi attorney general Mike Moore initiated a parens patriae action on behalf of the state against cigarette manufacturers. Forty-five other states soon filed public product liability actions, seeking both compensation for the funds spent on public health crises and the regulation of harmful products.
Gifford finds that courts, through their refusal to expand traditional tort claims, have resisted litigation as a solution to product-caused public health problems. Even if the government were to prevail, the remedy in such litigation is unlikely to be effective. Gifford warns, furthermore, that by shifting the powers to regulate products and to remediate public health problems from the legislature to the state attorney general, parens patriae litigation raises concerns about the appropriate allocation of powers among the branches of government.
Donald G. Gifford is the Edward M. Robertson Research Professor of Law at the University of Maryland School of Law.

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