Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Margaret Weir

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Margaret Weir

Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs


Margaret Weir is Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs at Brown University.  Before coming to Brown in 2016, she was the Avice M Saint Chair in Public Policy and Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.  Her research centers on social policy, poverty, and urban politics in the United States and Europe.  She is the author and editor of several books, including Schooling for All: Race, Class and the Decline of the Democratic Ideal (coauthored with Ira Katznelson, Basic Books); and Politics and Jobs: The Boundaries of Employment Policy in the United States (Princeton University Press), The Politics of Social Policy in the United States (with Ann Shola Orloff and Theda Skocpol, Princeton University Press) and The Social Divide (Brookings and Russell Sage).  She is currently working on a book about the politics of spatial inequality in American metropolitan areas.


Metropolitan Politics and Inequality

 I am currently working on a book entitled Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Marginalizing the Poor in Metropolitan America.  The book examines how the concerns of low-income residents are being addressed as poverty has moved from being identified as an urban issue to one that reaches across metropolitan areas. Drawing on cases studies of Chicago, Atlanta, and Houston, the project examines political mobilization and policy conflicts in the domains of social services, health care, and transportation. Parts of this project have been published in the Urban Affairs Review, Regional Studies, and Studies in American Political Development.

The Politics of the Public-Private Welfare State

I am interested in understanding how political mobilization can successfully challenge exclusions rooted in policies that are complex and nontransparent.  I have published articles on this question examing health care in Politics and Society and in Health, Politics, Policy, and Law.


“The Power of Coalitions: Advancing the Public in California’s Public-Private Welfare State,” Politics and Society, March 2015, 43:3-32 (with Charlie Eaton).  Related Policy Brief: http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/sites/default/files/ssn_basic_facts_eaton_and_weir_on_obamacares_success_in_california.pdf

“Building Safety Nets in an Era of Fiscal Constraint,” in Metropolitan Resilience in a Time of Economic Turmoil,” Michael Pagano, (ed.)  (University of Illinois Press, 2014), pp. 21-50.

Building Resilient Regions; vol. 4 of Urban and Regional Policy and its Effects (Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2012) (co-edited with Nancy Pindus, Howard Wial, and Howard Wolman).

“Building a Resilient Social Safety Net,” in Building Resilient Regions; vol. 4 of Urban and Regional Policy and its Effects (Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2012) (with Sarah Reckhow), pp.275-323. Related Policy Brief http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2011/07/21-philanthropy-reckhow-weir

“Justice for the Poor in the New Metropolis,” in Justice and the American Metropolis (ed.) Clarissa Hayward and Todd Swanstrom (eds.) (University of Minnesota Press, 2011), pp.237-256. 

“The Long Shadow of the Past: Risk Pooling and the Political Development of State Health Care Reform,” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law vol. 34, no. 5 (October 2009) (with Anthony S. Chen).

“Collaboration is Not Enough: Virtuous Cycles of Reform in Transportation Policy,” Urban Affairs Review vol. 44 no.4 (March 2009): 455-489 (with Jane Rongerude and Christopher K. Ansell).


Undergraduate Seminar – Power and Prosperity in Urban America

News|Recent News

Liberals Turn to Cities to Pass Laws and Spread Ideas (comments by Margaret Weir)

January 26, 2016 The New York Times

Margaret Weir comments on an article about liberals turning to cities to enact policy changes."Historically, especially for groups that want more government action and more generous social and economic policies, they could go to the federal government and achieve those things," Ms. Weir said. "That has become more difficult. It's a reflection of the loss of power at the federal level."