William J. Wilson

Harvard University


Primary Section: 53, Social and Political Sciences
Membership Type: Member (elected 1991)

Research Interests

Professor Wilson's major areas of study are poverty; inner-city school to work transition; racial tensions in urban neighborhoods; and the effects of poor neighborhoods on the social outcomes of adolescents. His current research focuses on the increasing concentration of poverty in many large central cities. Wilson's recent studies in Chicago have examined this "new urban poverty" from a broad perspective that considers the causative role of macro-economic conditions, culture, social welfare policy, and historical circumstances. His research also addresses the impact of inequality and poverty concentration on racial and ethnic relations, family structure, and joblessness, as well as the role of public policies in both alleviating and exacerbating these problems. At present, in collaboration with Linda Burton at Pennsylvania State University, Lindsay Chase-Lansdale at the University of Chicago, Andrew Cherlin and Robert Moffitt at Johns Hopkins University, and Ron Angel at the University of Texas at Austin, Wilson is conducting a multi-city, four-year study of the effects of the Welfare Reform Law on working and nonworking poor families, with a special emphasis on the well-being of children.

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