Watson Institute at Brown University
Public Policy
Margaret Weir

Margaret Weir

+1 401 863 9652
111 Thayer Street, Room 337

Downloadable CV

Margaret Weir

Wilson Professor of International and Public Affairs and Political Science

Areas of Interest: Social policy in the US and Europe, urban politics and policy.


Margaret Weir is Wilson 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.  She has also been a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. Her research centers on social policy, poverty, and urban politics in the United States and Europe.  In 2020, she was the John G. Winant Visiting Professor of American Government at the Rothermere Institute at the University of Oxford. She current co-directs the Stone Project on Inequality at the Watson Institute. 

Weir is the author and editor of several books, including Who Gets What? The New Politics of Insecurity (co-edited with Frances Rosenbluth (Cambridge University Press); Schooling for All: Race, Class and the Decline of the Democratic Ideal (coauthored with Ira Katznelson, Basic Books); 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 has written more than 40 journal articles and book chapters.

Weir has received numerous fellowships for her work, including, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute. She also served as director of the MacAthur Foundation’s Research Network Building Resilient Regions. Weir has served on a number of editorial boards, including Politics and Society, American Political Science Review, and Urban Affairs Review.  She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Social Insurance. In 2020 she received the Norton Long Career Achievement Award from the American Political Science Association’s Urban and Local Politics Section.  


I am currently working on a book entitled The New Metropolis: Spatial Inequality in Twenty-first Century 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 data from 25 large metropolitan areas and 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, Perspectives on Politics, Regional Studies, and Studies in American Political Development.  

I am co-director (with Jim Morone) the Stone Project on Inequality. This new project brings Brown faculty and students together to examine the impact of great wealth on American institutions. Economic inequality has grown dramatically over the past forty years as the income and wealth of those at the very top has soared while most of the rest of Americans have faced stagnating or, at best, slowly rising wages. The pandemic has only exacerbated these divisions. The topics we will explore include the impact of great wealth on cities and housing, health care, schools, politics, and public amenities including parks and other public spaces. As we consider these topics we will be attentive to the ways great wealth affects the life prospects of groups from different racial and ethnic backgrounds as well as gender differences. 


“Work-Oriented Social Policy and the Persistence of Poverty in America.” In Developments in American Politics, 9th edition Gillian Peele, Bruce E. Cain, Jon Herbert, and Andrew Wroe (eds) Palgrave MacMillan (forthcoming).

Who Gets What? The New Politics of Insecurity (Cambridge University Press, 2021) (co-edited with Frances Rosenbluth).

“Redistribution and the Anxieties of Local Democracy in Metropolitan America” in Who Gets What? The New Politics of Insecurity (Cambridge University Press, 2021) (with Desmond King)

 “Governing the New Geography of Poverty in Metropolitan America,” Urban Affairs Review (with Elizabeth Mattiuzzi) 2020: 56(4):1086-1131.

“America’s Two Worlds of Welfare: Subnational Institutions and Social Assistance in Metropolitan America,” Perspectives on Politics vol. 16 (2) (June 2018): 380-399. 

“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).


IAPA 1701F Wealth and Poverty in the New American Metropolis (undergraduate seminar)

POLS 1375 Political Organizations and Social Change in America (undergraduate lecture course)

POLS 2025 The American Welfare State in Comparative Perspective (graduate seminar)

MPA 2475 Policy Problems of the Twenty-First Century (MPA Lecture course)

Talks & Media

“America's Two Worlds of Welfare: Subnational Institutions and Social Assistance in Metropolitan America, Political Equality in Unequal Societies: Participation, Representation, and Public Policy, Villa Vigoni, Italy, June 4-8, 2018.

“Race, Redistribution and the Problem of Local Democracy,” Meeting of the Social Science Research Council Working Group on Distribution, Yale University, February 9, 2018

Paper Presentation “Low Income America in the New Metropolis,” Anton-Lippitt Conference on Citizenship and the City, Brown University, January 2018 

“Two Worlds of Welfare,” Paper presented at the American Political Science Association Annual Meetings, San Francisco, August 30-Sept. 3, 2017.

Participant, “Roundtable on Trump and the Cities,” American Political Science Association, Annual Meetings, San Francisco, August 30-Sept. 3, 2017.

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."