Bruce Western Named Director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy

Contact: Doug Gavel
Phone: (617) 495-1115
Date: May 20, 2011

Cambridge, MA – Sociologist Bruce Western has been named faculty director at Harvard Kennedy School’s (HKS) Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. Western will succeed Julie Wilson, who has served as director since 1993, beginning on August 1. Wilson will remain an integral part of the Center and its important work as she will continue to serve the School as Harry Kahn Senior Lecturer in Social Policy.

Western is Professor of Sociology at Harvard College. His research interests are in the field of social stratification and inequality, political sociology, and statistical methods, and he is currently studying the social impact of rising income inequality in the United States. Western is the author of “Punishment and Inequality in America,” analyzing the role of incarceration on American economic inequality, and “Between Class and Market,” an examination of the development and decline of labor unions in the postwar industrialized democracies.

“I could not be more pleased that Bruce Western has agreed to lead the Wiener Center,” said HKS Dean David T. Ellwood. “With rapidly changing demography, rising poverty, high levels of imprisonment, and the changes in health policy, the work of the Center has never been more crucial.”

Malcolm Wiener, for whom the Center is named, said “I am delighted to learn of the appointment of Professor Bruce Western as Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. His distinguished career and scholarship, together with the range and nature of his research, form a perfect match with the goals and areas of focus of the Center, both in general and with respect to our goal of further integrating the work of the Criminal Justice Program into the activities of the Center for Social Policy in particular.

“I would like to take this opportunity also to thank Julie Wilson for her 18 years of dedication and effective direction of the Center.”

Western remarked that, “It’s a great honor to serve as director of the Wiener Center. With its extraordinary roster of scholars, the Center stands at the cutting edge of research and practice on a range of key policy issues from urban poverty to education to criminal justice. The challenges of expanding opportunity and broadening prosperity have rarely been more pressing. The Wiener Center has a vital role at this important time, and I’m very excited to be involved.”

Wilson commended the work of the Center and the dedication of its benefactor. “Malcolm Wiener’s commitment to scholarship and the education of students committed to public service comes from his long-held concerns about poverty, crime and social injustice, particularly about the plight of poor young men of color. People who are as successful as Malcolm often forget their early social concerns, but Malcolm has stayed true to his principles and concern for others. The Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy would not be as successful as it is without his generosity,” Wilson said. “Bruce Western is the perfect director to carry the Center’s agenda forward.”

Western received his B.A. in government from the University of Queensland, Australia, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before moving to Harvard, he taught at Princeton University from 1993- 2007. Western was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2005 and a Jean Monnet Fellow with the European University Institute from 1995-96, and is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Over the last 20 years, the Wiener Center has been an influential voice in domestic policy through faculty work on community policing, welfare reform, youth violence, inner city poverty, youth and the low-wage labor market, American Indian economic and social development, and medical error rates. Its research portfolio is both broad and deep, spanning many academic disciplines, encompassing traditional research as well as executive sessions, case-based research, and action research, and employing a variety of research methodologies. See more on the website:


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