Why does social policy matter?


Through data-driven research, hands-on training, and collaborative public engagement, the Malcolm Wiener Center is advancing policy initiatives that empower people to solve the most urgent social challenges and questions of our times.

Our Mission

The mission of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy (MWC) is to increase social and economic wellbeing, equity, and opportunity, and to advance the cause of social justice and effective social programs.

The MWC serves this mission by cultivating and disseminating new ideas via three mechanisms: (1) data-driven research, (2) hands-on teaching and training, and (3) collaborative public engagement and policy initiatives that empower people to solve the most urgent social policy problems of our time. Key concerns include poverty and social exclusion; inequalities in education, income, and wealth; racism, sexism, and other barriers to social mobility; unstable employment and labor-market opportunities; crime and the criminal legal system; health and healthcare institutions; and safety nets for families and children.  

1. Data-driven Research 

To advance its research mission, the MWC generates novel insights into the patterns, causes, consequences, and lived experiences of economic, social, and political inequalities—including inequalities in health, wealth, income, employment, education, families, and the criminal legal system—and how to disrupt these inequalities to increase mobility, opportunity, and wellbeing for people from all social groups. The MWC's insights break barriers—barriers between academic fields (including criminology, demography, economics, education, sociology, political science, and public health), barriers between research methods (including qualitative and quantitative approaches), and barriers between scholars and practitioners (including many diverse voices and forms of expertise)—to elicit ideas that help us understand and improve society.

2. Hands-on Teaching and Training 

To advance its teaching mission, the MWC sponsors Stone PhD Scholars and Wiener PhD Scholars and provides them with interdisciplinary training that pushes them to the forefront of the next generation of researchers identifying and answering the most important problems in the areas of inequality, wealth concentration, mobility, and social policy. Stone Postdoctoral Fellows and Visiting Scholars further benefit from and contribute to the interdisciplinary training effort. The MWC also supports Kennedy School master's students through formal courses taught by MWC faculty, informal career mentorship, and both individualized and group research opportunities. MWC faculty guide master's students as they conduct their own research projects, helping with everything from financial support, initial topic and client selection, and final professional presentation. MWC faculty also regularly hire master's students to work on major group research projects, exposing students to advanced research methods and revealing how research enhances our understanding of complex social challenges and potential policy options. Pre-doctoral research assistants also benefit from the training provided by working on MWC faculty research projects.

3. Collaborative Public Engagement and Policy initiatives 

To advance its public engagement mission, the MWC brings social scientists together with policy practitioners to turn thought into action. Scholar-practitioner interactions help inform the rigorous empirical analyses that MWC faculty conduct and help ensure that research products shape real-world outcomes. These interactions come in many forms—including extended roundtables, executive sessions, and public panels and lecture series—to push for policies that create a more inclusive and just society.