UMass Boston

Faculty & Staff Directory

Erin O'Brien

Title: Associate Professor

Phone: 617.287.6939


Department: Political Science

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

Fall 2022: NO Office Hours

Professor O'Brien's CV

Professor O'Brien is a Bostonian with Buckeye flair as well as an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She earned her PhD and MA in Political Science from American University and a BA in Sociology from John Carroll University, graduating magna cum laude. Her primary research interests are the politics of poverty and public policy, voting access in the United States, gender in political participation/ representation, and Massachusetts politics. 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 is the author of two books (The Politics of Identity: Solidarity Building among America’s Working Poor  State University of New York Press) and Diversity in Contemporary American Politics and Government (Pearson-Longman Press, co-edited). The former is based a year of fieldwork in a low-wage service job and in-depth interviews. A third book, The Politics of Massachusetts Exceptionalism: Reputation Meets Reality (University of Massachusetts Press, co-edited) appears in Spring 2022.

Her articles appear in top peer-reviewed journals including American Journal of Political Science, Perspectives on Politics, Political Research Quarterly, and Women & Politics. She believe in, and practice, a publicly engaged Political Science. Her political commentary appears in national outlets including The Associated Press (AP), The Economist, The New York Times, NPR, Newsweek, POTUS SiriusXM, Time, The Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. Locally, she appears frequently on GBH, NPR (Under the Radar with Callie Crossley, Morning Edition), New England Cable News (NECN), and Boston 25. She value and prioritize her time in the classroom and the privilege of working with students.

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 Sophonisba 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.