If you want to combine the disciplinary depth of a PhD in political science or sociology with the multidisciplinary study of social policy issues, the PhD in Social Policy is for you.

As a joint venture between the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’  government and sociology departments with Harvard Kennedy School’s Social Policy faculty members, the program is designed for you to focus your research on issues including:

  • Changing family structures
  • Comparative and institutional studies of social policy
  • Economic inequality
  • Educational access and quality
  • Immigration
  • Neighborhoods and spatial segregation
  • Political inequalities and participation
  • Poverty
  • Race and ethnicity

Depending on your preferred track, you graduate from the program with either a PhD in government and social policy, or a PhD in sociology and social policy.

The “discipline-plus” model

The PhD in Social Policy is defined by its “discipline-plus” structure. You will build a strong foundation in either government or sociology before embarking on a sequence of multidisciplinary seminars and advanced research in social policy—all of which will focus primarily on the United States and Western Europe.

If your interests focus on developing countries, you may want to consider the Master in Public Administration in International Development or other master's degree programs at HKS.

Research at the core

The joint PhD Programs in Social Policy are fundamentally about research, often in a highly specialized domain. The skills and cross-disciplinary insights you develop will allow you to identify important unanswered questions and create research strategies that improve our understanding of social problems.

Our PhD in Social Policy graduates leave the program well equipped to pursue careers in political science or sociology departments at leading colleges and universities, public policy graduate schools, think tanks, nonprofit organizations, and in the public sector.  

Read more about the PhD in Social Policy Program and how to apply on the GSAS website