Blue States vs. Red States: The Sources and Resources I Used

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OCTOBER 17, 2012

Blue States vs. Red States: The Sources and Resources I Used

When you’re writing a book or academic paper, giving credit is easy: You cite your sources with endnotes and a bibliography. It’s not so easy when you’re writing an piece of journalism. Conventions vary, from genre to genre and from publication to publication. My own practice, similar to that of many others, is to cite sources that provided specific pieces of information—and, when possible, to quote by name anybody who spent a lot of time helping me to understand an issue. The citations in this article—particularly to Sarah Bruch, John Hennenberger, Marcia Meyers, Luke Shaefer, and Curtis Skinner—are examples of that. I couldn't have written this article without them.

But this article covered an awful lot of ground—from the history of colonial America to the fine details of housing policy in Massachusetts. And I couldn’t have understood it all without the insights, and generosity, of many other people. Prominent among them were David Greenberg, longtime TNR contributor and professor of history at Rutgers; Harold Pollack, another TNR contributor and professor of social service administration at the University of Chicago; and Theda Skocpol, the political scientist and sociologist at Harvard. Skocpol’s book, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers, remains the seminal text on the history of America’s welfare state—and a must-read for anybody who wants to do more research on this subject.

Gilbert Cuthbertson, of Rice University, taught me about the political history of Texas. Maurice Cunningham and James Green, both from the University of Massachusetts at Boston, offered a wonderful overview of the history of New England. (Cunningham also helps to run masspoliticsprofs.com – a terrific blog on Massachusetts politics.) Historian Billy Smith is a professor at Montana State University. But he happens to know a lot about both New England and the south—and the rest of the country. His insights were also invaluable.

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The National Center on Children in Poverty is a terrific resource for data on low-income programs. So are the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Urban Institute. For health care policy, including Medicaid, nobody has more information—or more credibility—than the Kaiser Family Foundation, where I was once a media fellow. 

To learn more about policy specifics in Massachusetts, I spoke with a number of people who deal with the safety net every day, on the job—among them, Brenda Clement from the Citizens Housing and Planning Association, Lewis Finfer of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network, and Maureen Fitzgerald of the Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts. To learn more about policy specifics in Texas, I was lucky to come across Martha Macris and her staff at the Memorial Assistance Ministries in Houston. For a national view, I got help from Hannah Matthews and Elizabeth Lower-Basch from the Center for Law and Social Policy.

One other scholar who helped me was Janet Gornick, who is director of Luxembourg Income Study Center at the CUNY-Graduate Center. A past collaborator with Meyers, Gornick's recent work has focused on work-family issues—in particular, the spread of paid family medical leave. Her latest research appears as a chapter in For Love and Money, a new book from the Russell Sage Foundation. I hope to have more to say on that subject soon. 

I’m sure I’m missing a few people and resources. I will add them as I remember. But if you want to learn more about these issues, you could do worse than to check out some of the links above.

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posted in: billy smith, curtis skinner, john hennenberger, luke shaefer, marcia meyers, sarah bruch, massachusetts, massachusetts, texas

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