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Personal profile

Research interests


I am a Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Centre for Poverty and Social Justice in the School for Policy Studies.


My research focusses on how gender and family structure relate to inequality and poverty. I am co-Investigator of the ESRC funded research centre on Micro-Social Change (MiSoC) and lead Principal Investigator on a cross-country comparative project, funded by the NORFACE Dynamics of Inequality program, on how inequalities evolve over the life course together (with colleagues in Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, and Germany), and co-investigator (with Silva Avram, PI) on an ESRC project on pay progression and gender equality. Other recently funded projects include research for the Low Pay Commission on the minimum wage and earnings progression, and for the Government Equalities Office on occupational downgrading following childbirth.  Previous research has been funded by the ESRC, the Nuffield Foundation, OECD, and Joseph Rowntree Foundation. 


I am a visiting professor at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics and the topic champion for social policy at Understanding Society. I was previously the Associate Director for Policy, Understanding Society, and Professor of Public Policy at ISER, University of Essex. I  previously worked at the Universities of Bath, Sussex, and the London School of Economics and hold a Ph.D. in Economics from UCL, a MA from Sussex University, and a BA from Cambridge University. 

Recent Grants

ESRC (2020-2022), “The gender gap in pay progression: job mobility and job ladders” (co-investigator with S. Avram, Principal Investigator, and D. Popova), £298k.

ESRC Research Centre on Micro-social change (MiSoc), 2019-24, Co-Investigator and research lead on labour markets and institutions. £7.8 million.

Low Pay Commission, ‘The Living Wage, wage progression and wage differentials,’ April 2018- September 2020, £60k, Co-investigator, with Silvia Avram (ISER).

NORFACE Dynamics of Inequality Across the Lfecycle (DIAL), EQUALIVES, 2018-2021, Euros 1,430,000, Susan Harkness (Principal Investigator), with co-investigators Anette Fasang (Humboldt), Jani Erola (Turku), Mads Meier Jaeger (Copenhagen) and Thomas Leopold (Amsterdam).

Government Equalities Office, “Occupational Downgrading after Childbirth,” July 2018-April 2019, £23k (Principal Investigator, with Co-Is Magda Borkowska and Selcuk Beduk, ISER).

ESRC  Seminar Series (2015-2018), Child Poverty and Social Mobility, 2014-2017, £30,000, Susan Harkness (Principal Investigator) with Lynn Prince Cooke, Paul Gregg, Lindsey Macmillan and Matt Dickson (CIs) and the Child Poverty and Social Mobility Commission.

ESRC Secondary Data Analysis Initiative, 2013-2014, Changes in the Nature and Consequences of Lone Parenthood, Susan Harkness (Principal Investigator) & Paul Gregg, 2013-2014, £196,000.

Nuffield Foundation, £49k, 2013-2014, Partnership Dissolution and Formation, co-investigator with Mike Brewer, Principal Investigator, Essex.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation, £10k, 2011, The Causes of Poverty, Susan Harkness (Principal Investigator) with Paul Gregg and Lindsey MacMillain (Bristol)

Nuffield Foundation, £96k, 2010-2011, Lone Parents, Depression and Work, Susan Harkness Principal Investigator. Work in collaboration with Martin Evans (Oxford) and Gingerbread.

ESRC Placement Fellowship, £33k 2009-2010, Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, Cabinet Office.

OECD (2009-2010), The Future of Families to 2030 (lead author on Low-income Families and Social Cohesion), E30,000.

External positions

Visting Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science

Scientific Advisory Board member and Social Policy Topic Champion, Understanding Society, University of Essex


  • women's employment, gender pay gap, single mother families, poverty, inequality, welfare policy


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