Meet our fellows

Fellows and alumni

Each year 8-12 new Doctoral Fellows are selected from Harvard's Ph.D. programs in the social sciences.
Meet the 2016-2017 fellows ▶

Over 165 Inequality doctoral fellows have earned their Ph.D.'s.
See where they are now ▶

Alumni spotlight

New fellowship opportunities

for Harvard Ph.D. students 

The Inequality and Wealth Concentration Ph.D. Scholars
The Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Ph.D. Scholars in Poverty and Justice

Fellowship awards
$32,000 dissertation stipend + $5,000 research funds

New lines of research
Top-end income inequality and wealth concentration

A distinctive new component will be a coordinated endeavor to advance new lines of research on top-end inequality and wealth concentration, the main drivers of U.S. economic inequality in recent decades.

With designated resources for Ph.D. students pursuing empirical research that will contribute to our understanding the nature of trends at the top of the distribution and their economic, political, social, and policy consequences.

Deadline for 2016-2017 Ph.D. Scholars has now passed.
Look for 2017-2018 application materials in March 2017.

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Get application materials

Seminar and events


View all upcoming seminars.

Co-sponsored event

2017 Feb 27

Sean Reardon: 200 million test scores and what do we know? Income, race, and the geography of educational opportunity in the U.S.

4:15pm to 5:45pm


HGSE Larsen 203

PIER Public Seminar Series
(Learn more)

Sean ReardonProfessor of Poverty and Inequality in Education, Stanford University.

Sponsored by the Partnering in Education Research (PIER) doctoral fellowship program, part of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University. Co-sponsored by the Inequality & Social Policy program.

View all upcoming events


Michele Lamont

Erasmus Prize 2017 awarded to Michèle Lamont

February 20, 2017

Awardee | Michèle Lamont is the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Erasmus Prize, awarded annually by the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation to the person or institution who has made "an exceptional contribution to the humanities or the arts, in Europe and beyond." Lamont receives the prize "for her devoted contribution to social science research into the relationship between knowledge, power and diversity." 

Lamont is a Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies, the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, and Director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard.

The Erasmus Prize will be presented in Amsterdam in November 2017, and a varied program of activities arranged in conjunction with the event. Learn more:
Former Laureates
Prize and Adornments

Lamont wins Erasmus Prize

Lamont wins Erasmus Prize

February 20, 2017

Harvard Gazette
“I’m deeply moved to have been chosen for this award. I have tremendous admiration for the past recipients who have defined the social sciences of the 20th century,” said Michèle Lamont, Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, and Director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard.

“Erasmus believed that knowledge would help improve understanding among people,” she said. “Particularly in our challenging times, I hope that in its own way, my research could perhaps help us in a similar direction.”

Police tape

The fallacy of Trump’s “send in the Feds” fix for Chicago

February 20, 2017

Vox | Cites recent study by Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, Andrew V. Papachristos of Yale University, and David S. Kirk at University of Oxford, published in the American Sociological Review, which looked at the effects of highly publicized incidents of police brutality on 911 calls in Milwaukee.
​​​​​​​View the research

Robert Sampson

To advance sustainability, fight inequality, researcher says

February 17, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Unless social and economic inequalities are addressed, sustainability efforts in urban centers will likely stall or never take hold, according to a new Harvard study by Robert J. Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences. 

San Francisco Chronicle

Trump’s storm keeps Democrats busy on many fronts

February 17, 2017

San Francisco Chronicle | Quoted: Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology.

Midterm elections such as 2018 favor opposition parties, which makes House Democrats “well positioned” as a fulcrum of the Trump resistance, said Theda Skocpol, a Harvard University sociologist. “That’s the place where Democrats will be able to make gains, if they can pick up support from a broader array of people,” Skocpol said. “That and the governors races are the really critical turning points.”

Scientific American

Triumph of the City: Engines of Innovation

February 16, 2017

Scientific American | By Edward L. Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics. "In fact, the crush of people living in close quarters fosters the kind of collaborative creativity that has produced some of humanity's best ideas, including the industrial revolution and the digital age. In the years ahead such collaborations can be expected to help solve the world's most pressing problems—poverty, energy shortages, climate change—and to promote fundamental political transitions," writes Glaeser. 


Bakeries are booming, but bakers are in short supply

February 15, 2017

Boston Globe | Why are Boston bakeries struggling to find skilled bakers? Alicia Sasser Modestino (Ph.D. '01) discusses the labor market. Modestino is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Economics at Northeastern University, and Associate Director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.


Monopolies Are Worse Than We Thought

February 15, 2017

Bloomberg View | New research suggests that growing market concentration may partly explain labor's declining share of national income, but what accounts for this growing market concentration? A new paper by  David Autor (MIT), David Dorn (University of Zurich), Lawrence Katz (Harvard), Christina Patterson (MIT), and John Van Reenen (MIT) suggests a technological explanation driving the rise of "superstar firms" in "winner take most' markets. This paper is forthcoming in American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings.
View the research

ACA alternatives in the JFK Jr Forum

The confused future of health care

February 14, 2017

Harvard Gazette | Coverage of the JFK Jr. Forum event, "Alternatives to the Affordable Care Act," with panelists Katherine Baicker, C. Boyden Gray Professor of Health Economics at Harvard; Jonathan Gruber, Ford Professor of Economics at MIT; Avik Roy, co-founder and president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity; and Gail R. Wilensky, senior fellow at Project HOPE and former director of Medicare and Medicaid. Moderated by Amitabh Chandra, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy. Co-sponsored by the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.
View event video

Chicago Tribune building

Welcome to the 'Great Divergence'

February 14, 2017

The Atlantic—CityLab | "Before 1980, places in America with lower average incomes grew faster than their richer counterparts, so that incomes converged. Today, that’s no longer the case." Richard Florida delves into a recent study by economists Peter Ganong, Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago Harris School, and Daniel Shoag (Ph.'11), Associate Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.
View the research

The most important phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance

The most important phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance

February 13, 2017

Washington Post | By Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard. "We need a Cleisthenic moment," is the thought on Allen's mind, referring to the faltering and then recovery of Athenian democracy in ancient Greece as Athenians rose up against the tyrant Peisistratos. The takeaway from Cleisthenic moment? "The Athenians reorganized their political institutions to ensure connections among rural, urban and coastal populations," an essential task if America is to secure liberty and justice for all, Allen writes.

More news


Jurors' Subjective Experiences of Deliberations in Criminal Cases
Winter, Alix S., and Matthew Clair. Forthcoming. “Jurors' Subjective Experiences of Deliberations in Criminal Cases.” Law & Social Inquiry.Abstract

Research on jury deliberations has largely focused on the implications of deliberations for criminal defendants' outcomes. In contrast, this article considers jurors' outcomes by integrating subjective experience into the study of deliberations. We examine whether jurors' feelings that they had enough time to express themselves vary by jurors' gender, race, or education. Drawing on status characteristics theory and a survey of more than 3,000 real-world jurors, we find that the majority of jurors feel that they had enough time to express themselves. However, blacks and Hispanics, and especially blacks and Hispanics with less education, are less likely to feel so. Jurors' verdict preferences do not account for these findings. Our findings have implications for status characteristics theory and for legal cynicism among members of lower-status social groups.

Labor Unions as Activist Organizations: A Union Power Approach to Estimating Union Wage Effects
Wilmers, Nathan. Forthcoming. “Labor Unions as Activist Organizations: A Union Power Approach to Estimating Union Wage Effects.” Social Forces.Abstract

Amid the long decline of US unions, research on union wage effects has struggled with selection problems and inadequate theory. I draw on the sociology of labor to argue that unions use non-market sources of power to pressure companies into raising wages. This theory of union power implies a new test of union wage effects: does union activism have an effect on wages that is not reducible to workers’ market position? Two institutional determinants of union activity are used to empirically isolate the wage effect of union activism from labor market conditions: increased union revenue from investment shocks and increased union activity leading up to union officer elections. Instrumental variable analysis of panel data from the Department of Labor shows that a 1 percent increase in union spending increases a proxy for union members’ wages between 0.15 percent and 0.30 percent. These wage effects are larger in years of active collective bargaining, and when unions increase spending in ways that could pressure companies. The results indicate that non-market sources of union power can affect workers’ wages and that even in a period of labor weakness unions still play a role in setting wages for their members.

Can States Take Over and Turn Around School Districts? Evidence From Lawrence, Massachusetts
Beth E. Schueler,, Joshua S. Goodman, and David J. Deming. Forthcoming. “Can States Take Over and Turn Around School Districts? Evidence From Lawrence, Massachusetts.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis .Abstract

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to identify and turn around struggling schools, with federal school improvement money required to fund evidence-based policies. Most research on turnarounds has focused on individual schools, whereas studies of district-wide turnarounds have come from relatively exceptional settings and interventions. We study a district-wide turnaround of a type that may become more common under ESSA, an accountability-driven state takeover of Massachusetts’s Lawrence Public Schools (LPS). A differences-in-differences framework comparing LPS to demographically similar districts not subject to state takeover shows that the turnaround’s first 2 years produced sizable achievement gains in math and modest gains in reading. We also find no evidence that the turnaround resulted in slippage on nontest score outcomes and suggestive evidence of positive effects on grade progression among high school students. Intensive small-group instruction over vacation breaks may have led to particularly large achievement gains for participating students.

Derenoncourt, Ellora. Forthcoming. “TBA.” After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality, edited by Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong, and Marshall Steinbaum. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Voting But For the Law: Evidence from Virginia on Photo Identification Requirements
Hopkins, Daniel J., Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, Sarah Smith, and Jesse Yonder. Forthcoming. “Voting But For the Law: Evidence from Virginia on Photo Identification Requirements.” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.Abstract

One contentious question in contemporary election administration is the impact of voter identification requirements. We study a Virginia law which allows us to isolate the impact of requiring voters to show photo identification. Using novel, precinct-level data, we find that the percentage of registered voters without a driver's license and over age 85 are both positively associated with the number of provisional ballots cast due to lacking a photo ID. To examine the law's impact on turnout, we associate precinct-level demographics with the change in turnout between the 2013 gubernatorial and 2014 midterm elections. All else equal, turnout was higher in places where more active registered voters lacked a driver's license. This unexpected relationship might be explained by a targeted Department of Elections mailing, suggesting that the initial impact of voter ID laws may hinge on efforts to notify voters likely to be affected.

Greenberg, Claire, Marc Meredith, and Michael Morse. Forthcoming. “The Growing and Broad Nature of Legal Financial Obligations: Evidence from Court Records in Alabama.” Connecticut Law Review 48 (4).Abstract

In 2010, Harriet Cleveland was imprisoned in Montgomery, Alabama for failing to pay thousands of dollars in fines and fees stemming from routine traffic violations. More than thirty years after a series of Supreme Court rulings outlawed debtor's prisons, Ms. Cleveland's case brought national attention to both the sheer amount of lega lfinancial obligations (LFOs) that could be accrued, even in cases without a criminal conviction, and the potential consequences of non-payment. But it has been nearly impossible to know how common Ms. Cleveland's experience is because of a general lack of individual-level data on the incidence and payback of LFOs, particularly for non-felonies. 

In this vein, we gather about two hundred thousand court records from Alabama over the last two decades to perform the most comprehensive exploration of the assessments and payback of LFOs to date across an entire state. Consistent with conventional wisdom, we demonstrate that the median LFOs attached to a case with a felony conviction nearly doubled between 1995 and 2005, after which it has remained roughly steady. But a felony-centric view of criminal justice underestimates the extent of increasing LFOs in the United States. Our systematic comparison of LFOs in felony, misdemeanor, and traffic cases across Alabama demonstrates how the signficant debt Ms. Cleveland accumulated for a series of minor traffic offenses is not such an aberration. We show that only a minority of LFOs are assessed in cases where someone was convicted of a felony and incarcerated. Rather, most LFOs are assessed in cases without an imposed sentence, in cases with a misdemeanor or traffic violation, or even in cases that did not result in a conviction at all. These case records also reveal substantial heterogeneity in the assessment of LFOs-both within and across local judicial districts-even in cases in which defendants were convicted on exactly the same charge.


Surprising Ripple Effects: How Changing the SAT Score-Sending Policy for Low-Income Students Impacts College Access and Success
Hurwitz, Michael, Preeya P. Mbekeani, Margaret M. Nipson, and Lindsay C. Page. Forthcoming. “Surprising Ripple Effects: How Changing the SAT Score-Sending Policy for Low-Income Students Impacts College Access and Success.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.Abstract

Subtle policy adjustments can induce relatively large “ripple effects.” We evaluate a College Board initiative that increased the number of free SAT score reports available to low-income students and changed the time horizon for using these score reports. Using a difference-in-differences analytic strategy, we estimate that targeted students were roughly 10 percentage points more likely to send eight or more reports. The policy improved on-time college attendance and 6-year bachelor’s completion by about 2 percentage points. Impacts were realized primarily by students who were competitive candidates for 4-year college admission. The bachelor’s completion impacts are larger than would be expected based on the number of students driven by the policy change to enroll in college and to shift into more selective colleges. The unexplained portion of the completion effects may result from improvements in nonacademic fit between students and the postsecondary institutions in which they enroll.

Cities as Lobbyists
Goldstein, Rebecca, and Hye Young You. Forthcoming. “Cities as Lobbyists.” American Journal of Political Science.Abstract

Individual cities are active interest groups in lobbying the federal government, and yet the dynamics of this intergovernmental lobbying are poorly understood. We argue that preference incongruence between city and its parent state government leads to under-provision of public goods, and cities need to appeal to the federal government for additional resources. We provide evidence for this theory using a dataset of over 13,800 lobbying disclosures filed by cities with populations over 25,000 between 1999 and 2012. Income inequality and ethnic fragmentation are also highly related to federal lobbying activities. Using an instrumental variables analysis of earmark and Recovery Act grant data, we show that each dollar a city spends on lobbying generates substantial returns.

Effects of a Summer Mathematics Intervention for Low-Income Children: A Randomized Experiment
Lynch, Kathleen, and James S. Kim. Forthcoming. “Effects of a Summer Mathematics Intervention for Low-Income Children: A Randomized Experiment.” Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis.Abstract

Prior research suggests that summer learning loss among low-income children contributes to income-based gaps in achievement and educational attainment. We present results from a randomized experiment of a summer mathematics program conducted in a large, high-poverty urban public school district. Children in the third to ninth grade (N = 263) were randomly assigned to an offer of an online summer mathematics program, the same program plus a free laptop computer, or the control group. Being randomly assigned to the program plus laptop condition caused children to experience significantly higher reported levels of summer home mathematics engagement relative to their peers in the control group. Treatment and control children performed similarly on distal measures of academic achievement. We discuss implications for future research.