Experts on Economic Mobility Win 2016 Moynihan Prize

Isabel Sawhill and Ron Haskins
Isabel Sawhill and Ron Haskins

Social policy experts Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill have been named the 2016 winners of the 2016 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize by the American Academy of Political and Social Science. “Their commitment to creating strong public policy despite political differences and to encouraging civility and scientific partnership,” said AAPSS President Ken Prewitt, “make Belle and Ron most worthy recipients of this award. Senator Moynihan spent a great deal of his career in public service working for evidence-based policies that support child development and strong families; the careers of Sawhill and Haskins are proof of that ideal continuing in public life today.”

Haskins and Sawhill were jointly nominated, making this the first time two awardees have been chosen to receive the prize. Their collaboration began in 2001 when they worked on the effects of welfare reform legislation with a shared goal of creating opportunity for children and families. Their collaboration led to the establishment of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution.

Their lengthy partnership is especially notable given their ostensible political differences. Sawhill served in the Clinton administration in the Office of Management and Budget at the same time that Haskins worked for the Republican majority on the House Ways and Means Committee. Haskin later served as senior adviser for welfare policy in the second administration of President George W. Bush.

“What they’ve done together at the Brookings Institution is remarkable in two ways,” said Jason DeParle, a reporter at The New York Times who has covered welfare and other issues. “First, they’ve kept honest, data-rich analysis at the heart of highly ideological poverty debates, whether in books, briefs, op-eds or congressional testimony. Second, they’ve managed to bridge — even transcend — partisan divides. As other Washington institutions grew more ideologically entrenched, they modeled a partnership that defied labels other than ‘indispensable.'”

Together they have been influential in reframing the debate about poverty and inequality, focusing on the issues of opportunity and intergenerational social mobility. Their co-authored work on this topic includes Getting Ahead or Losing Ground: Economic Mobility in America (with Julia Isaacs) and Creating an Opportunity Society.

Their most recent books also are concerned with the ways in which evidence can be mustered in support of sound family policy. Haskins’ Show Me the Evidence is a history of the Obama Administration’s attempt to improve social policy through evidence-based initiatives. Generation Unbound, by Sawhill, focuses on the explosion of births to adults in the U.S. that occur outside of marriage, the consequences of this trend and how family policy might adapt.

Haskins and Sawhill jointly edit The Future of Children, a journal on policy issues that affect children and families, where they have taken leadership roles in keeping the issue of the family on the national agenda and encouraged continued research on these issues. They also co-direct the Budgeting for National Priorities project at Brookings. Haskins is the current president — and Sawhill a past president — of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Each year, the Moynihan Prize is given to a leading policy-maker, social scientist or public intellectual whose career demonstrates the value of using social science evidence to advance the public good. Previous Moynihan Prize recipients include Rebecca Blank, Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce; Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve; Alice Rivlin, former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget and the first director of the Congressional Budget Office; David Ellwood, former Dean and the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy at the Harvard Kennedy School; Robert Greenstein, founder and executive director of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities; Diane Ravitch, a prominent historian of education and former assistant U.S. Secretary of Education; William Julius Wilson, a Harvard sociologist and a recipient of the National Medal of Science, and the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz.

The Moynihan Prize winners will give a public lecture on May 12 on Capitol Hill. Specific location and details will be forthcoming.

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American Academy of Political and Social Science

The American Academy of Political and Social Science, one of the nation’s oldest learned societies, is dedicated to the use of social science to address important social problems. For over a century, our flagship journal, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, has brought together public officials and scholars from across the disciplines to tackle issues ranging from racial inequality and intractable poverty to the threat of nuclear terrorism. Today, through conferences and symposia, podcast interviews with leading social scientists, and the annual induction of Academy Fellows and presentation of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize, the Academy is dedicated to bridging the gap between academic research and the formation of public policy.

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