Bruce Western

Director, Wiener Center for Social Policy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Bruce Western is Professor of Sociology and the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice Policy. He is the Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy and the Faculty Chair of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.  Western’s research broadly studies the relationship between political institutions and social and economic inequality. He has longstanding interests in criminal justice policy, incarceration, and the effects of incarceration on poor communities.  His research on economic inequality has analyzed labor unions and their effects on income inequality, and trends in income inequality and mobility in the United States.   In his work on quantitative methods, Western has also developed applications of Bayesian statistics to sociology.

In recent projects, Western served as the Vice Chair of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Causes and Consequences of High Incarceration Rates in the United States, and he is the principal investigator on the Harvard Executive Session on Community Corrections, sponsored by the National Institute of Justice. He is also the principal investigator of the Boston Reentry Study, a longitudinal study of formerly-incarcerated men and women returning to the Boston area.

Western received his B.A. with first class honors in government from the University of Queensland, Australia in 1986, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1993. Before moving to Harvard, he taught at Princeton University from 1993 to 2007. Western has been a Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute, a Guggenheim Fellow, a fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. His book Punishment and Inequality in America won the 2007 Albert J. Reiss Award from the Crime Law and Deviance Section of the American Sociological Association and the 2008 Michael J. Hindelang Award for the most outstanding contribution to research on criminology from the American Society of Criminology.