Faculty & Staff

Erin O’Brien, PhD

Associate Professor of Political Science, College of Liberal Arts


Areas of Expertise

Public Policy; Politics of Poverty and U.S. Social Welfare Policy; Stratification, Politics, and Policy; Political Behavior; Urban Politics; Research Methods and Epistemology; American Politics


PhD, American University

Additional Information

SPRING 2018 Office Hours: Tuesday 8am- 9am; 11:45AM – 1:45PM; and by appointment

Professor O'Brien's CV

Professor Erin O’Brien’s research and teaching interests focus on the politics of poverty and social welfare policy, voting access in the United States, and gender in political participation/representation.  Her work employs a variety of methods and approaches to social science in order to examine the connections among social policy, political thought and action, inequality, and patterns of stratification associated with social groups.

Professor O’Brien's research appears in top peer-reviewed journals including American Journal of Political Science, Perspectives on Politics, Political Research Quarterly, Women & Politics, and Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. She is also author of two books: The Politics of Identity: Solidarity Building among America’s Working Poor (State University of New York Press, Helen Ingram and Anne Schneider’s “Public Policy” series) and Diversity in Contemporary American Politics and Government (Pearson-Longman Press, co-edited).  She has published numerous other book chapters and policy briefs.  Her political commentaries have appeared with both Time and Newsweek amongst other venues.

O’Brien’s scholarship has been extensively covered by media outlets and organizations including: The AtlanticThe Boston Globe; Boston Public Radio (WGBH, NPR); The Daily BeastThe Dallas Morning News;  DEMOS; Generation Progress; The Houston ChronicleThe Huffington Post; MassPoliticsProfs; The Miami Times; Melissa Harris Perry Show (MSNBC); The Monkey Cage; National Memo; Outside the Beltway; Politics Nation with Al Sharpton (MSNBC); Project Vote;  Rainbow Push; Salon; The Society Pages; Talking Points; Talking Points Café; The Takeaway (NPR); Think Progress; Up with Steve Kornacki (MSNBC); Under the Radar with Callie Crossley (WGBH, NPR); The Washington Post.

Professor O’Brien served as lead policy consultant in Marty Walsh’s 2013 successful mayoral bid in Boston and is a regular political commentator. She is a frequent guest on “Morning Edition” (WGBH, NPR), “Under the Radar with Callie Crossley” (WGBH, NPR), and New England Cable News (NECN).  She has also offered political commentary for outlets including:  The Associated Press (AP), Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Cape Cod Times, Christian Science Monitor, Fox News 25 Boston, Greater Boston, NightSide with Dan Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer, POTUS SiriusXM, NPR’s All Things Political, NPR’s The Takeaway, WGBH News, and ZVEZDA Television, Russian Federation.  

O’Brien is past co-program chair of the New England Political Science Association Annual Meeting, past president of the Southern Political Science Women’s Caucus, and recipient, along with coauthor Jason MacDonald, of the Sophinisba Breckinridge Award for best paper on gender-related topics presented at the Midwest Political Science Association’s annual meeting. She has given invited lectures and keynote addresses to academic and practitioner audiences in China, Greece, South Korea, and for groups across the United States including the National Convention of League of Women Voters, League of Women Voters Ohio, League of Women Voters Connecticut, the Center for Women, Politics, and Policy, the Sidore Lecture Series, Harvard University, Rhodes College, Suffolk University, and University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute.