fbpx Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy | Harvard Kennedy School

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.


New Study Finds Wide Gap in SAT/ACT Test Scores Between Wealthy, Lower-Income Kids

Research by David Deming and Opportunity Insights found that children of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans were 13 times likelier than the children of low-income families to score 1300 or higher on SAT/ACT tests. Deming expected to find an income-related gap among test-takers, but the magnitude of the disparity was “sobering.”

The Launch of the Workforce Almanac

The future of work increasingly requires workers of all education levels to reskill and upskill. The Project on Workforce has launched the Workforce Almanac, a first-of-its-kind open-source directory with data on nearly 17,000 workforce training providers across the country. Accompanying the tool is the new paper “The Workforce Almanac: A System-Level View of U.S. Workforce Training Providers”, which shares key findings from the data and use cases for these assets.


Reimagining the Economy event hosted political philosopher Michael Sandel and economists Raj Chetty and Dani Rodrik to discuss some of the drivers of economic inequality and the disillusionment of many Americans. "It’s no longer easy to get ahead, even through hard work," said Chetty.


Should enrolling in public programs be easy or hard? Mark Shepard asks that question in a new research paper co-written with Myles Wagner. “Policymakers can use our results to better think about how a simpler system might close gaps and affect the targeting of who gets support,” they write.


Research from Daniel Schneider and the Shift Project finds that even in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, half of hourly workers in the service sector still report lacking access to paid sick leave. However, providing paid sick leave is far from impossible for large service sector companies.

Questions We Explore


From opportunity gaps in education, to racial and gender disparities in employment, our interdisciplinary research explores the social and economic causes and effects of inequality and how sound policy can improve access for all.


Our research applies rigorous scholarship and insight to questions around labor markets and employment, creating pathways to economic mobility in the workforce and in society.


Reforming the criminal legal system aims to balance objectives of fairness, justice, and public safety. Our evidence-based research advances policy solutions that can break barriers and lead to systemic change.


Drastic inequalities in healthcare access and outcomes require us to confront this stark question. We bring expertise and data-driven inquiry to the goals of improving access and reducing disparities in the healthcare system.

Logo text

The Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management

The Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management draws from rigorous research as well as insights from practitioners and people from impacted communities to inform the development of fairer and more just criminal legal system policies, practices, and procedures.


The Stone Program

The James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Program in Wealth Distribution, Inequality and Social Policy unites faculty, students, and researchers from across Harvard University and beyond to address the causes and consequences of wealth inequalities in different populations around the world.

Logo text

Reimagining the Economy

The Reimagining the Economy project explores local labor market, industrial, and development policies, combined with practitioner insights, to produce multidisciplinary scholarship to reshape narratives about how we achieve inclusive prosperity.

Text and a logo of a clock.

Shift Project

The Shift Project, a joint project at Harvard Kennedy School and UCSF, examines the nature and consequences of precarious employment in the service sector with a focus on how policymakers and firms can improve job quality.

Logo text.

Project on Workforce

The Project on Workforce is an interdisciplinary, collaborative project with Harvard Business School and the Harvard Graduate School of Education charting the course for a post-secondary system of the future that creates more and better pathways to economic mobility.


Health Inequality Lab

The Health Inequality Lab is a research group based at the Harvard Kennedy School dedicated to studying the economics of health inequality in the United States and around the world.

Logo text.

Other Programs and Initiatives

Explore all of the programs, projects, and initiatives at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

Faculty Focus

New research from David Deming finds that wages grow faster for college graduates who have more opportunity for on-the-job training. College acts as a gateway to jobs with higher wage growth because it allows workers to find jobs where they can develop expertise and productivity over time. Understanding how to design jobs so that workers can continue to learn is an important priority for future work.

David Deming’s New Blog “Forked Lightning”
News and opinion on education, economics, and the future of work.

JavaScript - Do Not Delete

CSS - Do Not Delete


Subscribe for updates on upcoming events, news, and more.