Postdoctoral Program


  • Each fellow is expected to pursue original research and, in particular, to make substantial progress on new work that is significantly distinct from the dissertation. Fellows are expected to complete a working paper that represents a new line of research by the end of the second year. Each fellow will have an opportunity during the fellowship period to convene a manuscript workshop inviting 2-4 outside scholars to review and comment on their research in progress.
  • Fellows are expected to be in residence at Harvard for the duration of the fellowship, with the exception of the summer months.  Fellows who need to be off-site for longer than two weeks during regular term time must seek approval from the program director.
  • The fellows will co-organize a research workshop that will convene IAI affiliates on a monthly basis for the purpose of presenting and discussing work in progress. Each fellow will present in the workshop at least once per year.
  • Fellows are expected to participate in the activities of the Inequality in America Initiative, including but not limited to the research workshop.
  • Fellows may be able to extend the postdoctoral fellowship to a non-stipendiary third year, subject to approval of the program director and conditional on the fellow securing funding, potentially through teaching at Harvard.
headshot of Anthony JohnsonAnthony M. Johnson is now Assistant Professor of Sociology at Ohio State University! He completed his Ph.D. in Sociology at Northwestern University in 2018. Anthony’s research is broadly at the intersection of inequality; education; science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); and culture. His current book project, tentatively titled Becoming Study Buddies: How Inequalities Persist at Elite Colleges in an Era of Collaborative Learning, examines how undergraduate students form academic peer groups in ways that reproduce educational inequalities. Drawing on a qualitative case study of an engineering school at an elite private university, he shows that academic peer sorting is the result of the interaction between the diverse cultural, social, and economic resources students bring to college—based on social class, race/ethnicity, and gender—and the institutional practices and structures of the university. Anthony analyzes how institutionalized grading practices and the structure of extracurricular activities on campus can have the unintended consequence of concentrating learning opportunities that best align with the academic norms and expectations of the school firmly in the hands of students who already enjoy social group privilege. In the wake of the adoption of collaborative learning approaches designed to reduce persistent achievement gaps in America, Anthony’s research reveals how these innovative approaches, in fact, facilitate the reproduction of educational disparities and the reforms needed to reduce achievement gaps perpetuated through peer networks. Anthony’s research has been supported by fellowships from the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation and the National Science Foundation. headshot of Paige SweetPaige L. Sweet is now Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan! She completed her PhD in Sociology from the University of Illinois Chicago in 2018. Her research focuses on the politics of health, expert knowledge, inequalities around gender and sexuality, and social theory. Paige’s current research explores the medicalization of domestic violence and the effects of that shift on feminist politics and on domestic violence victims themselves. Drawing on archival research, interviews with domestic violence professionals, and life story interviews with domestic violence victims, Paige shows that in order to become “good survivors,” women must make themselves legible to therapeutic institutions by performing psychological wellness. Paige traces the production of what she calls the “politics of survivorhood” in the domestic violence field, revealing how anti-violence feminists made themselves into an expert field by constructing the figure of the battered woman as a psychologically suffering and recovering subject: a “survivor.” Paige then shows how women face pressure to tell narratives of psychological betterment in order to be credible survivors in court, support groups, child services, and therapy. Because performances of psychological wellness depend on material and symbolic resources, the politics of survivorhood operates to exacerbate racial, gender, and sexual inequalities in women’s experiences of help-seeking and surveillance after abuse. Paige also has ongoing interests in knowledge production, feminist and queer theory, violence against women, and science studies.

The 2021 Postdoc Program 

NOTE (updated 26 February 2021): The initital review round will be completed by early February March (reducing the pool by >90%); all applicants will be notified as to their status on a rolling basis at that time. The second review round (leading to offers and a short waitlist) will be completed in by early March.

Social and economic inequality are urgent problems for our society, with implications for a range of outcomes from economic growth and political stability to crime, public health, family wellbeing, and social trust. The Inequality in America Initiative Postdoctoral Program seeks applications from recent PhD recipients interested in joining an interdisciplinary network of Harvard researchers who are working to address the multiple challenges of inequality and uncover solutions. We are interested in all dimensions of inequality in America, and normally appoint two fellows each year. In 2021 we expect to appoint four fellows, with two positions dedicated to scholars whose work focuses specifically on issues of racial and ethnic inequality.

This postdoctoral training program is intended to seed new research directions; facilitate collaboration and mentorship across disciplines; and develop new leaders in the study of inequality who can publish at the highest level, reach the widest audience, and impact policy.

The Award

The fellowship is a two-year postdoctoral training program, with an optional third year conditional on program director approval and independent funding. The salary is $68,000/year plus fringe benefits, including health insurance eligibility.

The award will include office space[*] and up to $17,500 for research expenses across the two years, including computer equipment and travel[*]. We also provide up to $3000 toward relocation expenses (total includes withheld taxes, per US law) and $3000 toward a manuscript workshop in the second year.

The program director will pair each fellow with two Harvard faculty mentors, including one from outside the fellow’s primary discipline. Over 50 Harvard faculty are affiliated with the initiative, participating in one or more of five major research clusters:

  • America Inequality, Globally
  • Governance, Citizenship, and Social Justice
  • Mobility and Migration
  • Science, Technology, Education, and Health
  • Work, Family, and Opportunity

Applicants should indicate on their applications the research cluster that seems most relevant to their work, as this will aid us in identifying appropriate mentors. (Applicants do not need to identify mentors themselves.) Fellows will have ample opportunity and encouragement to make connections with faculty from across the initiative.

Application Process and Eligibility

Applicants to the 2021-22 program must have received a doctorate or terminal degree in April 2018 or later; those applicants without a doctorate or terminal degree must demonstrate that they will receive such a degree no later than August 2021.

The application must include the following:

  1. A CV
  2. A 2- to 4-page (<2000 words) research statement that includes a brief description of your dissertation research and a more detailed proposal for the project you will pursue during the fellowship, including an explanation of its importance and potential impact and how it connects with the goals of the program and your own long-term plans.
  3. One chapter- or article-length writing sample (no more than 25 pages). The writing sample may be published or unpublished, but should relate to your proposed topic and be clearly identified (i.e., please provide full citation information).
  4. Names and contact information of three referees, who will be asked by a system-generated email to upload a letter of recommendation once the candidate’s application has been submitted. Three letters of recommendation are required, so the application is considered complete only when three letters have been received.

Applicants must submit their materials by [2022 deadline TBD]. The deadline for receipt of letters of recommendation is [TBD]. All materials must be submitted at [link removed/posting on hold]; recommenders should upload their letters at the link provided in the reference requests that were emailed when the application was submitted.

Harvard candidates: Those who received terminal degrees from Harvard and postdocs currently working at Harvard are eligible for the fellowship provided their research plans take them in new directions that are significantly distinct from their PhD research and forge new connections within the University. Harvard candidates should not propose to continue to work with the same professors or lab groups with whom they are currently associated. No candidate should propose to work extensively with his or her thesis advisor.

We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy and pregnancy related conditions, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, veteran status, disability unrelated to job requirements, genetic information, military service, or other protected status. Minorities and women are especially encouraged to apply.

Letters of Recommendation

Please give your reference providers plenty of advance notice of the letter deadline--you do not want them to have to scramble to write and upload their letters within a short time window. They will not be able to upload their letters until you have submitted your application, at which point they will receive a system-generated email message with instructions. (If you submit your application on 11/20, your recommenders will have only 2 weeks, including the Thanksgiving holidays, to upload their letters.)

Please make sure you have supplied current and accurate email addresses for your recommenders, and please monitor your application to make sure the letters have been submitted. Due to the volume of applications we receive, we simply do not have time to track down missing letters.

You may use Interfolio instead. Interfolio provides you with a unique email address for each letter of recommendation. You need to obtain that address from Interfolio and enter it in the section of your application that requests your reference provider's email address. (Once again, please double-check the Interfolio email address for accuracy.) Complete instructions are available at  the Interfolio Help Center.


Please read our FAQs first. See also the application portal help page. Otherwise, contact Jennifer Shephard (; 1.617.495.7906) with questions.


[*] Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harvard is operating primarily remotely, and most personnel work from home and do not have access to their offices; furthermore, Harvard currently prohibits most business travel. We do not know when normal operations will resume, but benefits such as office space and a travel budget will be available only at that time.

Michael Aguirre in front of "old wall" of the Calexico-Mexicali borderMichael D. Aguirre completed his Ph.D. in History at the University of Washington, Seattle, in 2019. His research examines class formations, labor activisms, and the dialectical relationship between economic powerbrokers, the state, and working peoples in the construction of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands from the 1930s to the late 1970s. Centered in Imperial County, California, and Mexicali, Baja California Norte, Mexico, Michael explores the longstanding desire by agricultural and industrial interests to manufacture a borderless landscape invested in furthering the racialization of Mexican and Latina/o peoples. At the same time, he reveals the degree to which workers’ identities were in flux and how organized labor on both sides of the border struggled to negotiate what he calls an “emancipatory imaginary of transborder politics” that mirrored and challenged the international growth and power of capitalism. By interpreting the borderlands as a space of movement with disparate meanings, Michael shows how racial and national borders were felt, resisted, and coopted for different needs. Driving his analysis is an engagement with labor, migration, border, and Chicana/o studies.

Miao QianMiao Qian completed her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at the University of Toronto in 2019. Miao’s research focuses on the early development of racial biases (e.g., prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination), as well as interventions to reduce those biases. Miao has developed an innovative, child-friendly unconscious bias measurement and found that racial bias emerges early at preschool-age, much earlier than previously thought. Her research directly points to the urgent need for early interventions. Miao is currently developing evidence-based intervention programs to reduce young children’s implicit racial biases. One of the interventions, referred to as individuation training, involves training young children to perceive members of racial outgroups as unique individuals. This training has effectively led to short- and long-term reductions in racial bias. Miao also conducts cross-cultural research in China and Cameroon, aiming to fill the big gap of non-WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) population in the field of psychology and science in general!

Q: Do I need to submit a cover letter?

A: No.

Q: Should I identify particular faculty with whom I would like to work?

A: No; the program director will select appropriate mentors.

Q: Should I reach out to any of the faculty affiliated with the initiative to discuss my application? 

A: No; due to the volume of applicants, faculty cannot meet with anyone during the application process.

Q: Does the work I propose have to be related to inequality in America specifically, or may I propose to study inequality globally, or in another country?

A: Because the focus of the initiative is inequality in America, your proposed research must address that topic. However, cross-cultural comparative research will be considered, as will research on American inequality within a global context.

Q: Does "inequality in America" mean inequality anywhere on the continents of North and South America, or is this short-hand for the "United States of America"?

A: We mean the United States, but again, comparative studies or research looking at the USA in a global context, are also of interest.

Q: Can I propose more than project in my research statement?

A: Sure; if you plan to carry out multiple projects to address your research goals, please describe them.  Your research statement should outline what you hope to accomplish in the two years of your postdoc; ambitious is fine, but stay realistic!

Q: What kind of writing sample are you looking for?

A: Something that demonstrates your research and analytical skills, as well as your ability to communicate clearly and concisely; preferably a document of which you are the solo (or at least, first) author. It is better, for example, to submit a writing sample that clearly reflects your own skills rather than submitting an article published in a prestigous journal where you are just one of many authors. (After all, the prestigous article will be listed on your CV!) The writing sample does not have to be a published work, but please explain what it is, and list any co-authors.

Q: Do citations/references count as part of the word/page limit for the research statement and/or writing sample?

A: References are not counted as part of the page/word limit--that is, they can spill over onto additional pages. (However, keep in mind that your goal is not simply to submit the longest statement/writing sample possible! A concise, well-written argument can be very persuasive.)

Q: Do you require a specific format for references (e.g., APA, MLA, etc.)?

A: No; you can use any style.

Q: Do you accept applications from foreign nationals?

A: Yes, provided that your research experience and interests are relevant to the topic of inequality in America. However, any appointment at Harvard is contingent upon obtaining appropriate visa status, and the US government is the final arbiter of all immigration-related cases. The Harvard International Office, as regulations permit, is available to help individuals obtain temporary visa status (usually J-1 Scholar) to work at Harvard.

Q: Do I need to identify a faculty host for the purpose of visa sponsorship?

A: No. For the purpose of visa sponsorship the program director serves as faculty host.

Q: Who should I contact about technical difficulties with my application?

A: First, visit the Aries help page. If none of the information there applies, please email Please include as much information as possible about the issue you are having, including your computer's operating system and version (e.g., "Windows 10 Enterprise, version 1809, build 17763.737"), and your browser and version (e.g., "Google Chrome Version 76.0.3809.132 (Official Build) (64-bit)"), as well as what you were doing just prior to the issue occurring, and the text (or a screenshot) of any error messages.

Q: How competitive is this fellowship?

A: In prior years we have averaged nearly 330 applications for just 2 positions, and our committee struggles to make difficult decisions among many highly qualified candidates.

Q: Can I get feedback on why I was not selected as a finalist, or how to improve my application for next year?

A: Unfortunately, due to the volume of applications, we cannot offer specific feedback or advice to candidates.

Q: What is the timeline for decisions?

A: We typically make our first-round decisions (to narrow the pool to a long 'short list') in January, and at that time we notify all applicants of their status. The committee meets to select finalists (initial offerees and short waitlist) in February, and again, we notify all remaining applicants at that time. The hiring process can extend into late March, as this involves back and forth discussions with candidates.

Q. How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting Harvard's operations?

A: As of this writing (fall 2020), the global pandemic has affected Harvard operations in various ways, some of which are listed below. We do not know how the situation will evolve over the course of the coming year (and thus cannot be sure that we will have returned to 'normal' operations by next fall).

  1. Most personnel are working remotely (i.e., from home).
  2. Meetings, workshops, conferences, and other events are all online; we are not hosting any in-person meetings in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences this fall.
  3. Travel on Harvard business is generally prohibited (and personal travel discouraged).
  4. Most undergraduates are not living on campus, and all of their courses are taught online.

b&w headshot of Irene JacqzIrene Jacqz completed her PhD in Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 2020, where she concentrated in environmental economics. Her work explores the causes and consequences of environmental inequality, and in particular the role of air pollution as a frequent correlate of other forms of placed-based disadvantage. Her focus on the developmental effects of exposure to airborne toxic releases in early childhood is motivated by evidence that the very first years of life are a critical period for development, and correspondingly for policy interventions that mitigate the effects of environmental harm. She also studies the firm side of environmental justice, aiming to understand more directly the role of firm behavior in the generation of spatial inequities in pollution exposure.

color headshot of Chris HerringChris Herring completed his PhD in Sociology at the University of California - Berkeley in 2020. His research focuses on poverty, housing, and homelessness in US cities, and he embraces the ideals of public sociology. He has collaborated on three major studies and publications with the National Coalition on Homelessness and San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, the latter where he continues to organize as a member of their Human Rights Workgroup. He has also collaborated on research with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, the Western Regional Advocacy Project, and ACORN. Chris regularly consults with think-tanks, county governments, and legal aid groups. He is an editor and co-founder of the new Berkeley Journal of Sociology: an online-first graduate run publication of public scholarship aimed at broadening the interpretive range and prospective application of social research to political struggles, emerging cultural trends, and alternative futures.