Uniting Harvard faculty and PhD students from sociology, political science, economics, education, government, public policy, and beyond, the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Program in Wealth Distribution, Inequality, and Social Policy supports graduate training and research on economic inequality through fellowships, research grants, a three-semester course sequence on inequality, an Inequality & Social Policy Seminar Series, the annual Stone Lecture, and other events to promote inquiries into the social, political, and economic causes and effects of inequality.


The Stone Program is housed within Harvard Kennedy School's Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. Endowed by Malcolm Hewitt Wiener in 1988, the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy has been an influential voice for over thirty years in domestic policy research, advancing ideas, research, and policy to confront social problems that are among the nation's most urgent domestic policy challenges.

In 1998, four Malcolm Wiener Center colleagues - David Elwood, Christopher Jencks, Katherine S. Newman, and William Julius Wilson - founded the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy. Since then, over 250 Harvard PhD students have received multidisciplinary training in the study of inequality through the program, and for a quarter-century, leading scholars have presented the latest research on inequality in the program's signature Inequality & Social Policy Seminar series.

The program's four original leaders embodied the multidisciplinary nature of the program: economist David Elwood served from 1993 to 1995 as Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and was co-chair of President Clinton's Working Group on Welfare Reform, Family Support and Independence. He later served as Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School from 2004 to 2015. Elwood's books include Poor Support: Poverty in the American Family (1988) and Welfare Realities: From Rhetoric to Reform (1994), co-authored with Mary Jo Bane. Katherine S. Newman is now the University of Massachusetts System Chancellor for Academic Programs, the Senior Vice President for Economic Development, and the Torrey Little Professor of Sociology at UMass Amherst.

Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy Emeritus, received the Robert M. Hauser Award for lifetime achievement from the American Sociological Association's Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility Section in 2013. The Inequality & Social Policy program held a conference, Reexamining Inequality, in his honor on the 40th anniversary of Inequality that same year. A member of the National Academy of Sciences (since 1997), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (since 1992), and the American Academy of Political and Social Science (since 2002), his books include The Academic Revolution (with David Riesman), Inequality: A Reassessment of the Effect of Family and Schooling in America (1972), Who Gets Ahead? The Determinants of Economic Success in America (1979), The Urban Underclass (with Paul Peterson), Rethinking Social Policy: Race, Poverty, and the Underclass (1992), The Homeless (1994), and The Black White Test Score Gap (with Meredith Phillips).

William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor Emeritus, was honored with a Harvard symposium celebrating his career in 2019 (video). A MacArthur Prize Fellow from 1987 to 1992, Professor Wilson was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education, the American Philosophical Society, the Institute of Medicine, and the British Academy. In 2014 he received the W.E.B. Du Bois Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award from the American Sociological Association. Wilson's books include The Declining Significance of Race (1978), The Truly Disadvantaged (1987), When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor (1996), The Bridge Over the Racial Divide: Rising Inequality and Coalition Politics (1999), and More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (2009).

In 2018, the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation provided Harvard Kennedy School with a $2.5 million gift to support the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy's research on wealth concentration and the broader problems of inequality. Since then, the generosity of James M. Stone and Cathleen D. Stone has supported many "Stone Scholars" (Harvard social science PhD students studying inequality) and created the annual Stone Lecture in Economic Inequality. On March 30, 2018, Thomas Piketty delivered the Inaugural Stone Lecture in Harvard Kennedy School’s John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum. Emmanuel Saez gave the 2019 Stone Lecture in Economic Inequality on October 28, 2019.

In 2022, the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy became the Stone Program in Wealth Distribution, Inequality, and Social Policy. On March 28, 2022, Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf announced the receipt of a $5 million gift from the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation to establish the new Stone Program, which builds on the success of the Stone PhD Scholars. The announcement of this gift coincided with the 2022 James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Lecture in Economic Inequality featuring economist and Nobel Memorial Prize recipient Joseph Stiglitz in conversation with economist David Autor.