100 books like Policymaking for Social Security

By Martha A. Derthick,

Here are 100 books that Policymaking for Social Security fans have personally recommended if you like Policymaking for Social Security. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

Aubrey Fox Author Of Gradual: The Case for Incremental Change in a Radical Age

From my list on how government works in practice – and when it doesn’t.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father advised me that to be a good writer, I should first learn a trade and particular subject matter from the inside out. As a working criminal justice practitioner for the last two decades, I’ve been lucky to work with some of the smartest people and best run organizations in the country. I’ve always been a big reader and someone who likes to link the sometimes brutally practical, day-to-day work of running an organization (I lead New York City’s main pretrial services agency) to larger philosophical issues. My life’s goal is to show how big ideas play themselves out in the day-to-day practice of public policy. 

Aubrey's book list on how government works in practice – and when it doesn’t

Aubrey Fox Why did Aubrey love this book?

I am a huge fan of mystery novels written by Michael Connelly featuring the detective Harry Bosch, so I was delighted to read Jill Leovy’s account of real-life homicide detectives in Los Angeles working under very difficult circumstances to provide a measure of justice to otherwise ignored crime victims and their families.

The book does a wonderful job of documenting the craft of good police work and shows how poorly functioning formal legal systems – a legacy of Jim Crow – negatively impacts Black communities.

As the fictional detective Harry Bosch likes to say, “everyone counts or no one counts.”

Leovy’s book shows what it takes for that vision of everyone counting to become a reality. 

By Jill Leovy,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Ghettoside as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, USA TODAY, AND CHICAGO TRIBUNE • A masterly work of literary journalism about a senseless murder, a relentless detective, and the great plague of homicide in America

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Economist • The Globe and Mail • BookPage • Kirkus Reviews

On a warm spring evening in South Los Angeles, a…


Book cover of Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America's Schools

Aubrey Fox Author Of Gradual: The Case for Incremental Change in a Radical Age

From my list on how government works in practice – and when it doesn’t.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father advised me that to be a good writer, I should first learn a trade and particular subject matter from the inside out. As a working criminal justice practitioner for the last two decades, I’ve been lucky to work with some of the smartest people and best run organizations in the country. I’ve always been a big reader and someone who likes to link the sometimes brutally practical, day-to-day work of running an organization (I lead New York City’s main pretrial services agency) to larger philosophical issues. My life’s goal is to show how big ideas play themselves out in the day-to-day practice of public policy. 

Aubrey's book list on how government works in practice – and when it doesn’t

Aubrey Fox Why did Aubrey love this book?

We don’t have enough books that celebrate how thoughtful and patient reform strategies can pay big dividends over time.

Journalist and Public Policy Professor David Kirp embedded himself in the community of Union City, New Jersey and documented how the school district has worked to improve educational outcomes in decidedly non-flashy ways.

As Kirp writes, all too often education reform has a “flavor of the month” and faddish quality to it, trapped in seemingly endless cycles of unrealistic big bang-style reforms and inevitable disappointments.

Improbable Scholars provides a hopeful counternarrative, showing that large-scale change is possible beyond a single stand-out school or teacher.

By David L. Kirp,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Improbable Scholars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The conventional wisdom, voiced by everyone from Bill Gates to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is that public schools are so terrible that simply reforming them won't do the trick. Instead, they must be "transformed," blown up and then rebuilt, if they're going to offer students a good education. We relish stories about electrifying teachers like Jaime Escalante, who made math whizzes out of no-hoper teenagers in East LA, or inner city charter schools like the KIPP
academies. But success in the public schools of an entire city-a poor, crowded city, with more than its share of immigrant Latino youngsters, the…


Book cover of A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles

John Iceland Author Of Why We Disagree about Inequality: Social Justice vs. Social Order

From my list on explaining political polarization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Penn State professor of sociology and demography who is interested in social inequality, demography, and public opinion. My family moved frequently when I was growing up—I lived in Colombia, Greece, and Mexico. I attended Brown University and worked at the U.S. Census Bureau as an analyst and Branch Chief for several years before returning to academia. My interest in inequality dates back to living in different countries with different cultures, politics, and standards of living. While I have long been interested in the demographics of poverty and inequality, in more recent years I’ve become interested in political polarization and why people disagree about a variety of social issues.

John's book list on explaining political polarization

John Iceland Why did John love this book?

Liberals and conservatives strongly disagree on the appropriate scope of government. No book has helped me understand why more than Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions.

He describes how the ideological difference results from disagreements about the malleability of human nature. The unconstrained vision, typically associated with liberals, sees human nature as altruistic and perfectible. The government should be used expansively to promote social justice and equality to realize this vision. 

In contrast, the constrained vision, typically associated with conservatives, sees human nature as limited, selfish, and imperfectible. The government should play a limited role in society, as elites cannot hope to restructure society without unintended destructive consequences.

By Thomas Sowell,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Conflict of Visions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this classic work, Thomas Sowell analyzes the two competing visions that shape our debates about the nature of reason, justice, equality, and power: the constrained" vision, which sees human nature as unchanging and selfish, and the unconstrained" vision, in which human nature is malleable and perfectible. He describes how these two radically opposed views have manifested themselves in the political controversies of the past two centuries, including such contemporary issues as welfare reform, social justice, and crime. Updated to include sweeping political changes since its first publication in 1987, this revised edition of A Conflict of Visions offers a…


Book cover of Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities

Aubrey Fox Author Of Gradual: The Case for Incremental Change in a Radical Age

From my list on how government works in practice – and when it doesn’t.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father advised me that to be a good writer, I should first learn a trade and particular subject matter from the inside out. As a working criminal justice practitioner for the last two decades, I’ve been lucky to work with some of the smartest people and best run organizations in the country. I’ve always been a big reader and someone who likes to link the sometimes brutally practical, day-to-day work of running an organization (I lead New York City’s main pretrial services agency) to larger philosophical issues. My life’s goal is to show how big ideas play themselves out in the day-to-day practice of public policy. 

Aubrey's book list on how government works in practice – and when it doesn’t

Aubrey Fox Why did Aubrey love this book?

This is one of the most handsomely illustrated books I’ve ever purchased – and one of the most eye-opening.

Bertaud sums up a lifetime of work in over 40 cities, showing that the preoccupation of many urban planners and architects with aesthetically pleasing design ignores the reality that cities work best when they give residents the ability to make their own decisions about where they want to live and help them access good economic opportunities.

Bertaud also chronicles how well-meaning but paternalistic land use rules (minimum lot sizes, height restrictions, excessive historic preservation regimes) have harmed cities by making them inaccessible to diverse newcomers. 

By Alain Bertaud,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Order without Design as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An argument that operational urban planning can be improved by the application of the tools of urban economics to the design of regulations and infrastructure.

Urban planning is a craft learned through practice. Planners make rapid decisions that have an immediate impact on the ground—the width of streets, the minimum size of land parcels, the heights of buildings. The language they use to describe their objectives is qualitative—“sustainable,” “livable,” “resilient”—often with no link to measurable outcomes. Urban economics, on the other hand, is a quantitative science, based on theories, models, and empirical evidence largely developed in academic settings. In this…


Book cover of Social Security Works!: Why Social Security Isn't Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All

James W. Russell Author Of The Labor Guide to Retirement Plans: For Union Organizers and Employees

From my list on retirement plans if you don’t trust Wall Street.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became fascinated with retirement plans and policy when I realized that my 401(k)-like retirement plan with a high rate of savings and investment returns would still come up way short in terms of the retirement income needed for me and my family. That led me to initiate a winning campaign to allow those of us in that plan to switch to our employer’s pension plan. In leading that struggle, I had to learn everything possible, beyond what I already knew, about retirement plans. I have a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin and have studied retirement plans in Latin America and Europe as well as the United States.

James' book list on retirement plans if you don’t trust Wall Street

James W. Russell Why did James love this book?

This is the place to start since it treats the base of our national retirement system—our national pension. I don’t think there’s anybody who knows more about Social Security than Altman and Kingson. They are the founders of the advocacy organization by the same name, Social Security Works. It is their job, and they do it well, to explain why Social Security works as well as it does despite the claims of its right-wing enemies and what we have to do to protect it from attempts to privatize it or reduce its benefits. This is not just a manifesto, it contains a ton of clearly-written information about how Social Security as a social insurance system works and what can be done to make it better.

By Nancy Altman, Eric Kingson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Social Security Works! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A growing chorus of prominent voices in Congress and elsewhere are calling for the expansion of our Social Security system. Social Security Works! amplifies these voices and offers a powerful antidote to the three-decade long, billionaire- funded campaign to make us believe that this vital institution is destined to collapse. It isn't. From the Silent Generation to Baby Boomers, from Generation X to Millennials and Generation Z, everyone now has a stake in understanding the real story about Social Security. Destined to be a game-changer, setting a strategy to benefit all.


Book cover of Social Security Pensions: Development and Reform

John A. Turner Author Of Sustaining Social Security in an Era of Population Aging

From my list on fixing social security.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an economist with a PhD from the University of Chicago, I have focused my research on fixing Social Security and pension policy. I have researched and written about these issues for the U.S. and other countries around the world, as well as consulting on these issues in a number of countries. My career has included working at policy research offices in the Social Security Administration the Department of Labor (pensions), the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland, AARP, and heading the Pension Policy Center. 

John's book list on fixing social security

John A. Turner Why did John love this book?

This book takes a broader perspective and analyzes social security policy around the world.

It surveys the social security programs in each of the major areas of the world. It argues for social security pensions based on social insurance rather than on funded individual accounts. It also discusses other issues of importance in some countries, such as contribution evasion. It proposes ways of extending Social Security coverage to more workers.

There also are Japanese and Spanish editions of this book. Including the three editions, this book is one of the most widely cited in this field.

By Colin Gillion (editor), John Turner, Clive Bailey , Denis Latulippe

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Social Security Pensions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a valuable reference for anyone concerned with reforming or establishing pension programs and for those looking to understand the practicalities and structure behind various pension schemes. By providing a balanced assessment and factual review of what various countries around the world have done, this book assists decision-makers in forming effective, viable pension policy. Discussing not only the current situation in pension schemes, the book also considers the analytical, social, and economic consequences which arise from different pension structures. In what sometimes is a heated debate, this study avoids taking sides, but instead illustrates what has worked and not…


Book cover of Saving Social Security: a Balanced Approach

John A. Turner Author Of Sustaining Social Security in an Era of Population Aging

From my list on fixing social security.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an economist with a PhD from the University of Chicago, I have focused my research on fixing Social Security and pension policy. I have researched and written about these issues for the U.S. and other countries around the world, as well as consulting on these issues in a number of countries. My career has included working at policy research offices in the Social Security Administration the Department of Labor (pensions), the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland, AARP, and heading the Pension Policy Center. 

John's book list on fixing social security

John A. Turner Why did John love this book?

This book analyzes the financial position of Social Security, presents a plan for fixing it, and argues against diverting Social Security revenue into individual accounts.

Its proposal preserves the value of Social Security in providing a basic level of benefits; it increases the value of benefits for particular low-income groups such as workers who have long careers at low pay, and widows and widowers with low benefits; and it eliminates Social Security’s long-term deficit. 

By Peter A Diamond, Peter Orszag,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Saving Social Security as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"

While everyone agrees that Social Security is a vital and necessary government program, there have been widely divergent plans for reforming it. Peter A. Diamond and Peter R. Orszag, two of the nation's foremost economists, propose a reform plan that would rescue the program both from its projected financial problems and from those who would destroy the program in order to save it. vi ng Social Security's's strategy balances benefit and revenue adjustments, following the precedent set by the last major Social Security reform in the early 1980s. The authors' proposal restores long-term balance and sustainable solvency to the…


Book cover of Downhill from Here: Retirement Insecurity in the Age of Inequality

James W. Russell Author Of The Labor Guide to Retirement Plans: For Union Organizers and Employees

From my list on retirement plans if you don’t trust Wall Street.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became fascinated with retirement plans and policy when I realized that my 401(k)-like retirement plan with a high rate of savings and investment returns would still come up way short in terms of the retirement income needed for me and my family. That led me to initiate a winning campaign to allow those of us in that plan to switch to our employer’s pension plan. In leading that struggle, I had to learn everything possible, beyond what I already knew, about retirement plans. I have a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin and have studied retirement plans in Latin America and Europe as well as the United States.

James' book list on retirement plans if you don’t trust Wall Street

James W. Russell Why did James love this book?

I like this book because it provides a sociological portrait of the retirement crisis. Newman digs deep into the impact on people of losing pensions because of corporate shenanigans. She digs into the threatened cutting of Teamster pension benefits and what happened to municipal employee retirees and near-retirees when Detroit declared bankruptcy. She marshaled her considerable sociological research skills to lay bare the human face of the retirement crisis.

By Katherine S. Newman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Downhill from Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A sharp examination of the looming financial catastrophe of retirement in America.

As millions of Baby Boomers reach their golden years, the state of retirement in America is little short of a disaster. Nearly half the households with people aged 55 and older have no retirement savings at all. The real estate crash wiped out much of the home equity that millions were counting on to support their retirement. And the typical Social Security check covers less than 40% of pre-retirement wages―a number projected to drop to under 28% within two decades. Old-age poverty, a problem we thought was solved…


Book cover of Retooling Social Security for the 21st Century: Right and Wrong Approaches to Reform

John A. Turner Author Of Sustaining Social Security in an Era of Population Aging

From my list on fixing social security.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an economist with a PhD from the University of Chicago, I have focused my research on fixing Social Security and pension policy. I have researched and written about these issues for the U.S. and other countries around the world, as well as consulting on these issues in a number of countries. My career has included working at policy research offices in the Social Security Administration the Department of Labor (pensions), the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland, AARP, and heading the Pension Policy Center. 

John's book list on fixing social security

John A. Turner Why did John love this book?

Even if Social Security were solvent, argue the authors, Social Security needs reform because health, life spans, work, and migration patterns are changing. 

It lays out principles on which to base reform. For instance, concerning horizontal equity for people at a point in time at the same income level, the lifetime earnings formula tries to provide equal net benefits relative to taxes, for those with equal lifetime earnings. The spousal and survivor benefit, on the other hand, violates horizontal equity on a wide range of fronts.  

By C. Eugene Steuerle, Jon M. Bakija,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Retooling Social Security for the 21st Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Even if solvent, Social Security needs reform because health, life spans, work, and migration patterns are changing, the authors argue. They develop a blueprint that identifies "right" reforms--those that achieve fiscal balance and increase Social Security's responsiveness to today's and tomorrow's needs.


Book cover of The People's Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan

James W. Russell Author Of The Labor Guide to Retirement Plans: For Union Organizers and Employees

From my list on retirement plans if you don’t trust Wall Street.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became fascinated with retirement plans and policy when I realized that my 401(k)-like retirement plan with a high rate of savings and investment returns would still come up way short in terms of the retirement income needed for me and my family. That led me to initiate a winning campaign to allow those of us in that plan to switch to our employer’s pension plan. In leading that struggle, I had to learn everything possible, beyond what I already knew, about retirement plans. I have a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin and have studied retirement plans in Latin America and Europe as well as the United States.

James' book list on retirement plans if you don’t trust Wall Street

James W. Russell Why did James love this book?

At first, the sheer size of this book—over eight hundred pages—intimidated me. But then as I got into it, I realized that it was well worth the time. This is the definitive account of the political struggle between the defenders and enemies of Social Security since the Reagan years. The defenders want to expand the program. Its enemies ultimately want to privatize it to benefit Wall Street or, at the least, reduce its benefits so that people have no other recourse than saving through 401(k)s. I like it because Laursen both understood what was at stake and was able to insightfully document what happened.

By Eric Laursen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The People's Pension as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Readers mystified by the yawning gulf between public opinion and current political discussion might benefit from the background provided in Eric Laursen’s magisterial history, 'The People's Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan' The book offers more than 800 pages of fascinating if gory details about the lobbying efforts and misinformation campaigns aimed at bringing the program down."—Nancy Folbre, NYTimes Economix Blog

“Laursen has given us a comprehensive account of the three decade long war against Social Security. . . . This is a fascinating history that progressives must learn, not only to protect Social Security but also…


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