Postdoctoral Program

The next application deadline will be posted in Fall 2018.

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.

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

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 $65,000/year plus fringe benefits, including health insurance eligibility.

The award will include appropriate office space; a one-time grant of $2500 for the purchase of computer equipment; a $10,000 research account to support research-related expenses; and up to $2500 per year reimbursement for research-related travel.

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:

Applicants should indicate on their applications the research cluster that seems most relevant to their work, as this will aid in identifying appropriate mentors. The fellows will have ample opportunity and encouragement, however, to make connections with faculty from across the initiative.

Application Process and Eligibility

Applicants to the 2018-19 program must have received a doctorate or terminal degree in May 2015 or later; those applicants without a doctorate or terminal degree must demonstrate that they will receive such a degree no later than August 2018.

The application must include the following:

  1. A cover letter that identifies the primary research cluster(s) with whom the applicant would like to work.
  2. A CV
  3. A 2-4-page statement of research interests. The statement should explain the importance and potential impact of this research, and how it connects with the goals of the program.
  4. Up to three writing samples.
  5. Two letters of recommendation.

The completed application, including letters of recommendation, must be received by January 16, 2018. All materials must be submitted at [TBD] In order to give referees time to provide their letters, applicants are encouraged to submit their applications by January 2, 2018, at latest. We will announce decisions in late March.

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, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions or any other characteristic protected by law. Minorities and women are especially encouraged to apply.

Contact Jennifer Shephard (; 1.617.495.7906) with questions.

  • 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.
  • Each fellow will be paired with two Harvard faculty mentors, including one from outside the fellow’s primary discipline, selected from the IAI faculty affiliates in consultation with the fellow and the program director.
  • 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 with the fellowship program director 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.

Meet our first cohort!

headshot of Anthony JohnsonAnthony M. Johnson will complete his Ph.D. in Sociology at Northwestern University in June 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 recently completed her PhD in Sociology from the University of Illinois Chicago. 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.