UMass Boston

Erin O'Brien

Political Science
Associate Professor
Wheatley Hall Floor 05

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

Professor O'Brien's CV

Professor O'Brien is a Bostonian with Buckeye flair. Her primary research interests include voting access in the United States, gender in political participation/representation, Massachusetts politics, and policy feedback. 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 four books: More Than Blue, More Than Yankee: Complexity and Change in New England Politics (forthcoming Fall 2024, University of Massachusetts Press, co-edited), The Politics of Massachusetts Exceptionalism: Reputation Meets Reality (University of Massachusetts Press, co-edited), 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 Politics of Identity is based a year of fieldwork in a low-wage service job and in-depth interviews.

Her articles appear in top peer-reviewed journals including American Journal of Political Science, Perspectives on Politics, Political Research Quarterly, Women & Politics, and The New England Journal of Political Science. She believes in, and practices, a publicly engaged Political Science. O’Brien’s political commentary appears frequently in national outlets including The Associated Press (AP), The EconomistThe GuardianThe New RepublicThe New York Times, NPR’s All Things Considered, NPR’s MarketplaceNewsweekTimeThe Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. Locally, she appears regularly on Bloomberg Radio Boston, GBH (Under the Radar with Callie Crossley, Morning Edition), New England Cable News (NECN), NBC10, and Boston 25 where she served as 2020 Presidential Election and impeachment analyst.

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 of best paper honors from both the Annual Meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association and New England Political Science Association.  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 John F. Kennedy Presidential LibraryMassachusetts Historical Society, National Convention of League of Women Voters, League of Women Voters Ohio, League of Women Voters Connecticut, Progressive MASS, the Sidore Lecture Series, Harvard University, Rhodes College, Suffolk University, and University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute.

O’Brien was founding President of the Department Chair’s Union at UMass Boston, past Chair of the Department of Political Science, past moderator of the College of Liberal Arts Senate, and longtime Director of the Public Policy Minor.  She teaches undergraduate courses including Research Methods, Women and Politics, Sports and Politics, Public Policy, and The Politics of Poverty and US Social Welfare Policy.  At the doctoral-level she teaches on Approaches to Public Policy and US Political Institutions.

O’Brien’s personal website is: