Graduate Student Research Profiles

In an effort to promote graduate student research on issues of economic class and inequality, the Section hosts research profiles on this webpage. Students listed here are interested in collaborating with other scholars with similar research interests, so their contact information is included below.

If you are a graduate student who would like to be added to this page, please email us at This page was last updated on October 3, 2021.

Go to profile:

    1. Al-Faham, Hajer
    2. Guy, Johnathan James
    3. James, Sarah E.
    4. Newton, Monique
    5. Lê, Adam
    6. Ma, Claire
    7. Metten, Anne
    8. Thom, Elizabeth
    9. Xu, Alice
    10. Zacher, Sam

Hajer Al-Faham
University of Pennsylvania | @HajerAlFaham | website
*on the job market*

Hajer Al-Faham is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Political Science. Hajer’s research explores the relationships between politics, inequality, and group identity. She specializes in the fields of race and ethnicity, citizenship, immigration, religion, and urban politics. To date, her research has been published in multiple peer-reviewed venues, including Perspectives on Politics and the Annual Review of Law and Social Science. As a doctoral student, Hajer’s work has been supported by several organizations, including the American Association of University Women, the National Science Foundation, and the American Political Science Association. Hajer’s dissertation, Contingent Citizenship: Muslims in America, studies the political incorporation and exclusion of Arab, Black, and South Asian American Muslims. After completing her doctoral studies in June of 2022, Hajer is eager to conduct civically engaged research while teaching and mentoring the next generation of university students.

Johnathan James Guy
University of California, Berkeley | @johnathanjguy | website

My research focuses on the comparative politics of climate change, inequality, and development. In particular, I am interested in the role of developmental states in energy transitions punctuated by class conflict in middle and high-income societies.

I defended my dissertation prospectus in June of 2021. The dissertation project asks why some states planned for lower-carbon energy infrastructure than others over the course of the 2000s and 2010s as large-scale renewable energy and electrification technologies became economically feasible. My current side projects concern i) the comparative structure of social cleavages in climate projects, ii) how imbalances in power resources between social classes may facilitate or impede decarbonization, and iii) uncovering variation in how states organize their institutions which attempt to mitigate climate change.

Sarah E. James
Harvard University | website | CV
*on the job market*

Sarah James received her PhD in Government & Social Policy from Harvard in 2021. She is currently is a lecturer in Government and Social Studies at Harvard. Sarah studies inequality and social policy, particularly at the state and local level. Specifically, her current book project examines how public officials use data to understand and respond to the impact of state-level social policy. The project relies on case studies (from education and tax policy) and a mixed methods approach. She also studies the changing nature of the political organizations supporting political parties in contemporary America, the effects of educational experiences and interactions with government on future civic participation. Prior to graduate school, Sarah worked as a teacher and, later, high school principal for 5 years in Boston.

Research paper: “Hindsight: The politics of failed social policies”

Adam Lê
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities | @AyyumJLe | website

I’m a fourth-year PhD Student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota studying American Politics and Political Theory. I’m interested in questions of citizenship and incarceration in the United States.

Claire Ma
University of Pennsylvania | @theclairema | website | CV

Claire Ma is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests are broadly focused on the American political economy, with an emphasis on employment and the welfare state. Her ongoing dissertation project examines the development of post-war U.S. labor market policy and its response to social risks that result from technological change. Other research projects involve questions about the intersection of employment and political participation, specifically the political socialization of Asian Americans in the workplace and employee activism among tech workers.

Monique Newton
Northwestern University | @cvo_monique | CV

Monique Newton is a 3rd year Ph.D. student at Northwestern University where she studies Black political behavior in urban settings. Her research examines how anxiety and trauma affect local poor Black political participation across neighborhoods in the United States. Her most recent work explores the relationship between the police response to BLM protests during the summer of 2020 and the location of the protests in the city of Chicago, IL. She has presented her research at APSA, NCOBPS, and MPSA. An alumnus of the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute and APSA Minority Fellows Program, Monique is a first-generation collegiate scholar and graduate of Oberlin College in 2018 with a BA in Politics and Law & Society.

Research paper: “After the Storm: Black Lives Matter Protests and the Spatial Variation of Policing in Chicago”

Abstract: Recent scholarship calls attention to the police as an important locus of state power in race–class subjugated (RCS) neighborhoods in American cities (Soss and Weaver 2017). This scholarship shows how governing institutions and officials that exercise everyday social control through coercion, surveillance, discipline, and violence impact the lives of neighborhood residents. Yet little is known about how police officers exercise control in RCS neighborhoods during times of social unrest, such as the recent Black Lives Matter protests taking place in cities across the United States. Overall, little attention has been paid to the relationship between policing, spatial variation, urban politics, and social unrest in American cities. This study explores whether or not there are differences in how police manage protests across neighborhoods in the same city during this historic time of mass protests. I also examine how police behavior toward protesters shifts over time. To explore this phenomenon, I conduct an ethnographic study of Black Lives Matter protests in the city Chicago, IL beginning on May 30, 2020. This methodological approach allows me to describe empirically the relationship between police, geography, and protests in the city. My field observations document police behavior in various neighborhoods at a time when police officers may be reluctant to talk to researchers and when official records and media account may not be available. My ethnography details how police interact with protesters in real-time in various neighborhoods across a major city in the United States. I find that there were neighborhood-level disparities in how police treated the protesters across the city in the early days of unrest and converged just days later. Police interactions with protesters started to look the same across the city after the first few days of the demonstrations. However, during those first four days, policing tactics varied noticeably by neighborhood.

Anne Metten
Kiel University | @Anne_Metten

Anne Metten is a research associate at the Department of Political Science at the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel. Her research focuses on transnational labor relations, international labor rights and trade unions, as well as global development dynamics. At the Chair of Comparative Political Science she is currently writing her dissertation on globalization and collective labor power. In doing so, she is investigating the political economy of industrial relations, or more precisely of trade unions, on a cross-national basis by means of an empirical-analytical approach using statistical data at the macro level. She graduated from the University of Kiel with an MA in International Politics and International Public Law and previously completed her BA in Political Science and Social Sciences at the University of Bielefeld.

Research paper: “Beyond Trade Union Density: A New Index on Collective Labor Force”

Abstract: While trade union density is the most influential and most commonly used indicator to map trade union strength, comparing between countries and time, the author argues that trade union density is lacking both specificity and comparability. Additionally, many studies on industrial relations neglect developing countries. Therefore, the paper offers a new concept based on a combination of different theoretical approaches that identify determinants of trade union strength involving developing countries. On that basis, the author creates a novel, composite index that is better at capturing trade union strength than previous indices. First evaluations of this Collective Labor Force (CLF) Index, which covers the years 2000 to 2016 in 72 countries, show that it is quite capable of doing so.

Elizabeth Thom
Harvard University

Elizabeth Thom is a PhD candidate in Government and Social Policy and a Malcolm Wiener Scholar in Poverty and Justice. She studies the political economy of rural and rust belt communities in the United States. She is particularly interested in how climate change and transitions to the knowledge economy are affecting poverty and inequality in these communities. Her work examines the spatial dimensions of social programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance and the political attitudes of beneficiaries. Elizabeth holds a BA in Political Science and Hispanic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and an MSc in Comparative Social Policy from the University of Oxford where she was a Thouron Scholar in St Cross College. Prior to her studies, Elizabeth worked with E.J. Dionne Jr. as a Senior Project Coordinator and Research Assistant in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution.

Alice Xu
Yale Leitner Program in Political Economy | @alice_z_xu | website | CV
*on the job market*

I am a Postdoctoral Associate at the Yale Leitner Program in Political Economy and Ph.D. Candidate (expected October 2021) in the Department of Government at Harvard University. I study inequality and social policy, urban and distributive politics, and comparative environmental politics in the Global South. My dissertation book project, “Segregation and the Spatial Externalities of Inequality: Public Goods and Political Polarization in Urban Latin America,” explores the political causes and consequences of socioeconomic and racial segregation across major cities in Brazil and Mexico. My research draws on a mixed-methods approach that combines original quasi-experimental strategies with large-scale household surveys, survey experiments, geocoded and remote sensing datasets, and qualitative evidence gathered over the course of 17 months of field research.

Paper title: “Segregation and the Spatial Externalities of Inequality: A Theory of Collateral Cooperation for Public Goods in Cities

Abstract: Conventional wisdom claims that racial diversity undermines public goods provision. In this paper, I show that socioeconomic diversity, instead, generates a form of collateral cooperation for public goods. I argue that socioeconomically integrated (non-segregated) cities have a higher incidence of the negative spatial externalities of inequality (e.g., crime, contamination) that spill over from impoverished localities. Such neighborhood effects, in turn, induce the middle-class’ preferences for certain public goods, while decreasing the perceived relative efficacy of private solutions (e.g., private guards). Thus, socioeconomic integration –through the spatial externalities mechanism– enables preference convergence on the public provision of services in place of private options. To test the argument, I propose an instrument for segregation that interacts rural-to-urban predicted migration (i.e., shift-share instrument) of the poor with the destination locality’s “urban form.” I combine this quasi-experimental strategy with neighborhood-level measures of class- and race-based segregation and an original face-to-face survey of preferences with over 4,000 households across 408 of the total 456 neighborhoods in the megacity of São Paulo, Brazil. The analysis introduces self-interest in reducing externalities as a new mechanism that drives cooperation for public goods. Using embedded mechanism vignettes, I distinguish this mechanism from alternatives mechanisms –e.g., racial tolerance, social affinity– proposed in the literature.

Sam Zacher
Yale University | @samzacher

I’m a fourth-year PhD candidate in American politics and political economy, studying the politics of economic inequality and the climate crisis. My dissertation projects focus on class depolarization in the U.S. — causes and consequences of the Democratic Party’s increasing support among affluent Americans. I’m also working on projects about the influence of the fracking boom on state climate policy and drivers of climate interest groups’ choices in policies and strategies.