Penn Arts and Sciences

Summer Institute on Inequality

ALTHOUGH NOT AN EVENT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, Penn SSPF is proud to host our Summer Institute on Inequality each year.  This program furthers SSPF’s mission of fostering policy-relevant scholarship at every stage of development by helping ten graduate students in the predissertation phase of their work to discover new topics and refine their research goals. Admission to the summer institute is competitive: we look for a diverse cohort of talented students from different disciplines. About ten percent of applicants are selected on the basis of their scholarly interests, academic record, and openness to interdisciplinary dialogue. Fellows meet with some of the world's leading scholars doing research on inequality and share their research interests with each other in lively workshops.

Inequality was chosen as the subject of the Summer Institute both because it has been central to each year's SSPF themes--the Global Economic Crisis, Immigration and Citizenship, and Poverty and Opportunity. Indeed it is a highly relevant topic in good times and bad, and there is such a rich body of interdisciplinary scholarship to draw from. The program will provide a mix of visiting speakers, seminars, and workshops featuring cutting-edge qualitative and quantitative research on a variety of topics related to inequality, including poverty, labor force participation, income and wealth disparities, the impact of race and ethnicity, spatial dynamics, educational gaps, and social and economic policies that address inequalities.

2013 Faculty and Students

2014 Faculty and Students

2015 Faculty
2015 Students

2015 Faculty

Thomas J. Sugrue
David Boies Professor of History and Sociology and Director of Penn SSPF, University of Pennsylvania

A specialist in twentieth-century American politics, urban history, civil rights, and race, Sugrue was educated at Columbia; King's College, Cambridge; and Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1992. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and past president of both the Urban History Association and the Social Science History Association. Sugrue has been a fellow at the Brookings Institution and the Institute for Advanced Study. 

He is author of several books, including Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race (Princeton University Press, 2010); Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (Random House, 2008), a Main Selection of the History Book Club and a finalist for the 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and The Origins of the Urban Crisis (Princeton, 2014), winner of the Bancroft and several other prizes. He has published more than three dozen scholarly articles in such places as the Journal of American History, the Journal of Urban History, and the American Behavioral Scientist, and his op-eds and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and in many other newspapers and magazines.

John D. Skrentny
Professor of Sociology  and Director, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, University of California, San Diego

John Skrentny received a Ph.D. in Sociology from Harvard University and a BA in Sociology and Philosophy from Indiana University. His research focuses on public policy, law and inequality, especially as they relate to immigration, civil rights, jobs and opportunity. Skrentny is Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies (CCIS) at UC-San Diego.

His research has sought to bring a cultural approach to the fields of historical institutionalism and American political development. Starting with the premise that no policy is developed without the decisions of policy makers, Skrentny has focused his research on the worldviews and actions of policy-making elites, situating them in their historical, local and global contexts.

Skrentny's books have included After Civil Rights: Racial Realism in the New American Workplace (2014), which examines the meaning of race in the workplace and the relevance, or lack of relevance, of civil rights law in regulating equal opportunity in employment; The Minority Rights Revolution (2002), which won the Distinguished Book Award from the Political Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association and was a finalist for the Liberty Legacy Foundation Award of the Organization of American Historians; and The Ironies of Affirmative Action: Politics, Culture and Justice in America (1996), a study of the development and politics of affirmative action in employment for African Americans.

Martha Farah
Walter H. Annenberg Professor in Natural Sciences,
University of Pennsylvania

Martha Farah is a cognitive neuroscientist who works on problems at the interface of neuroscience and society.  These include the effects of childhood poverty on brain development; the expanding use of neuropsychiatric medications by healthy people for brain enhancement; novel uses of brain imaging, in legal, diagnostic and educational contexts; and the many ways in which neuroscience is changing the way we think of ourselves as physical, mental, moral and spiritual beings. Her current work, with Daniel Hackman, Gwen Lawson, and others, is aimed at testing the neuroendocrine and structural brain correlates of early experience, including childhood socioeconomic status (SES) and associated differences in cognitive stimulation and parenting (Lawson et al in press). Other labs have begun to apply cognitive neuroscience to the study of SES, and there is an emerging literature that offers new clues and constraints for theories of human development in socioeconomic context, a literature recently synthesized in a TiCS review (Hackman  & Farah, 2009).  In addition to research and writing on these issues, she also teaches, advises graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and directs the Center for Neuroscience & Society.  Her publications include Neuroethics in Practice: Medicine, Mind and Society (ed., with A. Chatterjee, 2013) and Neuroethics: An Introduction with Readings (ed., 2010).

Paul Frymer
Associate Professor in the Department of Politics, Princeton University

Paul Frymer writes and teaches about democratic representation in the United States with particular interests in the historical place of political institutions such as courts and parties in responding to racial and class inequality. He is the author of Black and Blue: African Americans, the Labor Movement, and the Decline of the Democratic Party; and Uneasy Alliances: Race and Party Competition in America, as well as articles on topics ranging from race theory and affirmative action, to lawyers and workplace discrimination, to electoral politics and social movements. In 2009-2010, and again in 2013-2014, he was the Acting Director of the Law and Public Affairs Program at Princeton. He is also affiliated with Princeton’s American Studies Program and the Center for African American Studies. He is currently working to complete a book-length manuscript on the politics and historical beginnings of American expansion and empire. He has published some initial pieces of the project, including “‘A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours’: Territorial Expansion, Land Policy, and U.S. State Formation,” Perspectives on Politics 12 (Spring 2014) and “Building an American Empire: Territorial Expansion in the Antebellum Era,” UC Irvine Law Review 1:913 (Fall 2011).

Tomás Jiménez
Director of Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies, Associate Professor of Sociology and Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford University

Tomás Jiménez’s research and writing focus on immigration, assimilation, social mobility, and ethnic and racial identity. His book, Replenished Ethnicity: Mexican Americans, Immigration, and Identity (University of California Press, 2010) draws on interviews and participant observation to understand how uninterrupted Mexican immigration influences the ethnic identity of later-generation Mexican Americans. The book was awarded the American Sociological Association’s Sociology of Latinos/as Section Distinguished Book Award. Professor Jiménez has also published this research in the American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, International Migration Review, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Social Science Quarterly, DuBois Review, and the Annual Review of Sociology.

He is currently working on three projects. The first, examining how host-society individuals (US-born of US-born parents) participate in the assimilation process, draws on in-depth interviews with host-society individuals and observations in three distinct sub-regions in the Silicon Valley: East Palo Alto, Cupertino, and Berryessa. A second project, with Stanford Ph.D. Candidate, Lorena Castro, examining how immigration becomes part of American national identity, studies a sample of high school US history textbooks from 1930-2005. A third project, with social psychologist John Dovidio (Yale), political scientist Deborah Schildkraut (Tufts), and social psychologist Yuen Ho (UCLA), uses lab experiments, survey data, and in-depth interviews to understand how contextual factors shape support for immigration policies among immigrants and host-society members in the United States. 

Glenn C. Loury
Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics, Brown University

As an academic economist, Glenn Loury has published mainly in the areas of applied microeconomic theory, game theory, industrial organization, natural resource economics, and the economics of race and inequality. He has been elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Econometric Society, Member of the American Philosophical Society, Vice President of the American Economics Association, and President of the Eastern Economics Association. In 2005 he won the John von Neumann Award, given annually by the Budapest University of Economic Science and Public Administration to "an outstanding economist whose research has exerted a major influence on students of the College over an extended period of time.” As a prominent social critic and public intellectual, writing mainly on the themes of racial inequality and social policy, Professor Loury has published over 200 essays and reviews in journals of public affairs in the U.S. and abroad. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, is a contributing editor at The Boston Review, and was for many years a contributing editor at The New Republic. Professor Loury’s books include One by One, From the Inside Out: Essays and Reviews on Race and Responsibility in America (1995); The Anatomy of Racial Inequality (2002); Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy: Comparing the US and the UK (ed., 2005); and Race, Incarceration and American Values (2008).  

Mark S. Mizruchi
Robert Cooley Angell Collegiate Professor of Sociology, Barger Family Professor of Organizational Studies, and Professor of Business Administration, University of Michigan

Mark Mizruchi's research has focused on the economic and political behavior of large American corporations, using the methods of social network analysis. His primary current project is a study of the changing nature of the American corporate elite. He is also studying the globalization of American banking, the determinants of corporate lobbying activities, and the estimation bias in the network autocorrelation model (an approach for measuring the effects of social network ties). His publications include four books, The Fracturing of the American Corporate Elite (2013), The Structure of Corporate Political Action (1992), Intercorporate Relations (co-edited, with Michael Schwartz, 1987), and The American Corporate Network, 1904-1974 (1982), and more than 100 articles and reviews. Among Mizruchi's awards are 21 research grants, election to two honorary societies, a fellowship to the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and two excellence-in-teaching awards from the University of Michigan. In 1988 he became one of the first two sociologists to receive a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation, and in 2011 he received a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Heather Ann Thompson
Professor of History in the Department of Afro-American Studies, The Residential College, and The Department of History, University of Michigan

Heather Ann Thompson has emerged as one of the leading scholars of the carceral state, prisons, and racial justice. A member of the National Academy of Sciences Commitee on the Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration, she contributed to its landmark study, published this year. Thompson has written extensively on the current crisis of mass incarceration, with articles including “Why Mass Incarceration Matters: Rethinking Crisis, Decline and Transformation in Postwar American History,” Journal of American History (2010); “Downsizing the Carceral State: The Policy Implications of Prisoner Guard Unions” (Criminology and Public Policy, August 2011);  “The Prison Industrial Complex: A Growth Industry in a Shrinking Economy“ (New Labor Forum, Fall 2012); “Rethinking Working Class Struggle through the Lens of the Carceral State: Toward a Labor History of Inmates and Guards (Labor: Working Class Studies of the Americas, Fall 2011); “Criminalizing Kids: The Overlooked Reason for Failing Schools” (Dissent, October 2011); and “How Prisons Have Changed the Balance of Power in America” (The Atlantic, October 2013).

She is currently writing the first comprehensive history of the Attica Prison Rebellion of 1971 and its legacy for Pantheon Books. To recover this story Thompson has immersed herself in legal, state, federal, prison, and personal records related to the Attica uprising and its aftermath (some never-before-seen) located in archives, governmental institutions, and various individual collections around the country and the world. Her other books include, Whose Detroit: Politics, Labor and Race in a Modern American City (2001) and an edited collection, Speaking Out: Protest and Activism in the 1960s and 1970s (2009). 

2015 Students [Top]

Jasmine Benjamin
American Politics, University of Chicago

A New Orleans native, Jasmine Benjamin earned her B.A. in Politics and Justice Studies from Claflin University in Orangeberg, South Carolina. Her general research interests include race and politics, social movements, political alienation, and cultural trauma. Her current research project focuses on how incidents of highly publicized violence against unarmed African Americans – such as the deaths of Michael Brown among others – affect feelings of political alienation among African Americans. Previously, Jasmine was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, and she has interned on the floor of the US House of Representatives.

Gregg Colburn
Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

Gregg Colburn’s broad research interests include the welfare state, housing policy, and the role of markets in the delivery of welfare. Gregg plans a research agenda in which he seeks to understand the increased commodification of welfare policy in the United States over the last half century. This study will identify the historical causes for this change and consider its societal consequences. He has also conducted research on the academic achievement gap, industrial support for the minimum wage, usage patterns at family homeless shelters, and changes in rent burden since the Great Recession. Prior to pursuing his doctorate, Gregg was an investment professional for seventeen years in New York, Chicago, and Minneapolis. He earned a B.A. in economics from Albion College, an M.B.A. from Northwestern University and an M.S.W. from the University of Minnesota.

LesLeigh D. Ford
Sociology, Duke University

LesLeigh D. Ford, a Dean’s Graduate Fellow at Duke, focuses in her research on race, class, family structure and processes, mental health, and educational inequality. LesLeigh’s current project examines the association between social class origin, academic achievement, and income determination. The study aims to determine whether student achievement offset the advantages or disadvantages associated with social class of origin. LesLeigh holds a B.A. in English and Political Science from the University of Michigan and a M.Ed. in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to starting the doctoral program, LesLeigh was an elementary and middle school teacher in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan. Her experience as a student and teacher in the public school system was formative in developing her research agenda.

Robert D. Francis
Sociology, Johns Hopkins University

Robert D. Francis’s broad interests are poverty and inequality in the United States, and his particular research focus is on men who are marginally attached to the labor force. He is also interested in rural communities, religion, and public policy. Before coming to Hopkins, Bob worked in Washington, DC for 8 years in various public policy and advocacy roles, most recently serving for over 3 years as the Director of Advocacy and Policy for Lutheran Services in America (LSA). Originally from rural western Pennsylvania, Bob spent many of his formative post-college years in Chicago, where he worked many jobs, including as a high school teacher, case manager, and server of Chicago-style pizza. He holds a B.A. in Sociology and Theological Studies from Wheaton College and an M.A. in Social Science from the University of Chicago. Bob is a compulsive list maker, a proud resident of Steeler/Pirate/Penguin Nation, and an (occasionally) avid runner. Bob lives with his wife and young son in Arlington, Virginia.

Hope Harvey
Sociology and Social Policy, Harvard University

Hope Harvey’s primary research interests include poverty, families, and housing. Her current work uses in-depth interviews to explore what life is like for parents and children living doubled-up, or in a shared home. Hope works with Professors Kathryn Edin and Stefanie DeLuca of Johns Hopkins on a study of parents’ residential decisions. She is also working on a quantitative study that applies Inverse Probability Treatment Weighting, a method that accounts for dynamic selection into treatment statuses, to the study of family structure and educational attainment. Hope is originally from southern Indiana, and she received her BA from Carleton College. After college, she spent a year in AmeriCorps working as a case manager for people facing homelessness. She received her Master of Public Affairs from the La Follette School at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, where she worked with Professors Donald Moynihan and Pamela Herd on a study of administrative burden in the Wisconsin Medicaid program.

Marisela Martinez-Cola
Sociology, Emory University

Marisela Martinez-Cola graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Psychology and African American Studies. She went on to earn her law degree from the Loyola University Chicago School of Law. While she loved the study of law, the practice of it left her feeling flat. After one year in law, she transitioned to a career in higher education administration as Director of Multicultural Affairs at various institutions around the country, including George Washington University and the University of Georgia. After eight years, she decided to pursue a PhD in Sociology. Her research focuses on the varied construction of race, class, and gender in school desegregation efforts, with comparative case studies of Mexican Americans, Chinese Americans, and Native Americans.

Philip McHarris
Sociology and African American Studies, Yale University

Philip Mcharris’s research explores the intersection of race/ethnicity, urban sociology, inequality, and the criminal justice system. He is currently working on a research project that examines the origins and consequences of police militarization in the United States. In addition, he is presently working on a collaborative project with Dr. Robert Vargas (University of Wisconsin-Madison) that examines the causes of the growth in police expenditures in U.S. cities and suburbs. Philip is a recipient of the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. He holds a B.A. in sociology from Boston College.  

Rayven Plaza
School of Social Work, Columbia University

Rayven Plaza seeks to discover the reasons people often choose to avoid social and medical services that might aid them in living longer, healthier lives. She currently works with the Columbia Population Research Center on a study of the composition and drivers of deep poverty in New York City, and with Dr. Courtney Cogburn on developing a measure of racism in mass media. She received a BA in anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MA in sociocultural anthropology from Columbia. Long ago, she worked as a special education teacher in a public high school in NYC.

Pedro A. Regalado
American Studies, Yale University

As a scholar of twentieth-century U.S. urban history, Pedro Regalado investigates how underprivileged, non-white populations have been affected by structural racism and inequality in the nation’s post-industrial cities. Pedro's current work seeks to uncover the hemispheric origins of particular riots in New York City during the 1990's and the effects of these riots on New York City politics and social life into the 21st century. Pedro was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York City. Prior to entering graduate school, he earned his B.A. magna cum laude in History from Loyola University Chicago. Since then, he has presented work at Columbia University's Race, Ethnicity and Migration Graduate Conference and has published an article on fair housing in The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.

Carla Salazar Gonzalez
Sociology, UCLA

Carla Salazar Gonzalez, a Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellow and National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, studies social stratification, demography, race and ethnicity, international migration, and family change. More specifically, she is interested in how divorce or separation and international migration affect children’s educational outcomes and family’s subsequent decisions and living arrangements. Her current work examines the effects of parental divorce and migration on children’s educational transitions in Mexico. Prior to pursuing a doctoral degree, Carla was a Fulbright Research Fellow at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, Mexico. She holds a B.A. in Sociology (with honors) and an M.A. in Demographic and Social Analysis from the University of California, Irvine.

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