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.
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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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Seminar and events


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Jared Schachner

Minority Neighborhoods at the Bottom of L.A.'s Economic Ladder Tend to Stay There

March 17, 2017

L.A. Weekly | Jared Schachner, Ph.D. student in Sociology & Social Policy, discusses findings of a new study co-authored with Harvard's Robert J. Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, and Robert D. Mare of UCLA. Their article, "Urban Income Inequality and the Great Recession in Sunbelt Form," appears in a new RSF Journal issue on  "Spatial Foundations of Inequality."
View the research

'Evicted' honored with  2017 PEN New England Award

'Evicted' honored with 2017 PEN New England Award

March 22, 2017

PEN New England | Sociologist Matthew Desmond's Evicted has won the 2017 PEN New England Award for Nonfiction. Earlier thiis year, Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, was named the recipient of PEN America's John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction.

Douglas Elmendorf via Bloomberg

Trump's Budget isn't Going Anywhere, says Ex-CBO Director

March 17, 2017

Bloomberg | Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, joins to discussTrump's budget proposal and look at growth potential for the U.S. economy. (video: 6 minutes)

Carrie Conaway

Carrie Conaway elected president of AEFP

March 17, 2017

Association for Education Finance and Policy | Alumna Carrie Conaway was elected president of AEFP at its 42nd annual conference in Washington, D.C. Conaway is the chief strategy and research officer for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She was recently appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Board for Education Sciences.

Financial aid complexity

Navigating Our Shameful, Maddeningly Complex Student Aid System

March 17, 2017

The New York Times | Quotes and cites research by Judith Scott-Clayton (Ph.D. '09), Associate Professor of Economics and Education at Columbia University Teachers College, and Susan Dynarski (University of Michigan) showing that lower-income students suffer disproportionately from inefficient complexity in financial aid.
View the research

What if Sociologists Had as Much Influence as Economists?

What if Sociologists Had as Much Influence as Economists?

March 17, 2017

The New York Times | "Another academic discipline may not have the ear of presidents but may actually do a better job of explaining what has gone wrong in large swaths of the United States and other advanced nations in recent years," argues Economic View columnist Neil Irwin. Features Harvard sociologist Michèle Lamont and highlights the lessons about poverty that Matthew Desmond's Evicted has illuminated. 

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Racialized legal status as a social determinant of health
Asad, Asad L., and Matthew Clair. Forthcoming. “Racialized legal status as a social determinant of health.” Social Science & Medicine.Abstract

This article advances the concept of racialized legal status (RLS) as an overlooked dimension of social stratification with implications for racial/ethnic health disparities. We define RLS as a social position based on an ostensibly race-neutral legal classification that becomes colored through its disparate impact on racial/ethnic minorities. To illustrate the implications of RLS for health and health disparities in the United States, we spotlight existing research on two cases: criminal status and immigration status. We offer a conceptual framework that outlines how RLS shapes disparities through (1) direct effects on those who hold a legal status and (2) spillover effects on racial/ethnic in-group members, regardless of these individuals' own legal status. Direct effects of RLS operate by marking an individual for material and symbolic exclusion. Spillover effects result from the vicarious experiences of those with social proximity to marked individuals, as well as the discredited meanings that RLS constructs around racial/ethnic group members. We conclude by suggesting multiple avenues for future research that considers RLS as a mechanism of social inequality with fundamental effects on health.

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 Joshua S. Goodman. 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.