About the Malcolm Wiener Center

The Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, home to the Inequality program, is the Harvard Kennedy School’s center for the advancement of ideas, research, and policy to confront social problems that are among the nation's most urgent domestic policy challenges.

Social Policy encompasses concerns of poverty and disadvantage, enduring inequalities of race, education and economic mobility, the safety net for families and children, crime and criminal justice, urban neighborhoods and inner cities, employment and labor markets, and health care.

Endowed by Malcolm Hewitt Wiener in 1988, the Center has been an influential voice for over twenty-five years in domestic policy through its work on community policing, welfare reform, youth violence, inner-city poverty, youth and the low-wage labor market, American Indian economic and social development, and medical error rates. 

Bridging the worlds of scholarship, policy, and practice

The Malcolm Wiener Center faculty bridges the worlds of scholarship, policy, and practice, striving to contribute solutions through engagement that is informed by the unique insights and knowledge made possible in each of these realms.

In 1993, Center colleagues David Ellwood and Mary Jo Bane were named to the Clinton Administration to serve in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Ellwood, now Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School and the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy, became  Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, serving as co-chair of President Clinton's Working Group on Welfare Reform, Family Support, and Independence. Mary Jo Bane, the Thornton Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Management, became Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, where she served from 1993 to 1996.

Jeffrey Liebman, the Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy, served in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) during the first two years of the Obama Administration, first as Executive Associate Director and Chief Economist, and then as Acting Deputy Director. A decade earlier, Liebman had served as Special Assistant to the President for economic policy (1998-1999) and coordinated the Clinton Administration’s Social Security reform technical working group.

The Malcolm Wiener Center faculty members who participate in the Inequality & Social Policy program are listed in the sidebar at the right.

Primary avenues of activity

The Malcolm Wiener Center pursues its mission through four core programs, in addition to the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy:

The Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, chaired by Bruce Western, conducts research and sponsors activities to promote sound policy and effective management in the administration of safety and justice. 

The Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI) at Harvard University, directed by Ronald F. Ferguson, is a university-wide initiative designed to build bridges from policy to practice in the pursuit of excellence with equity in the area of educational achievement.

The Joblessness and Urban Poverty Research Program, under the direction of William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, analyzes the effects of urban poverty and joblessness plaguing inner cities and seeks to ensure that scholarly research plays a critical role in the creation and implementation of national public policy concerning the poor.

The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (HPAIED), co-directed by Joseph Kalt (Harvard Kennedy School) and Stephen Cornell (University of Arizona), aims to understand and foster the conditions in which sustained, self-determined social and economic development is achieved among American Indian nations.


Photo credits: HKS shield in the Collins Rotunda by Kent Dayton. 
Taubman Building exterior by Pamela Metz.