The RWJF Health & Society Scholars program ended February 2017. The site will no longer be updated. More »

Rourke O'Brien, Ph.D.

 RWJF Health & Society Scholar:

Public Policy, Sociology, Social Demography

Area(s) of Expertise:
Inequality, Social Determinants of Health, Wealth, Welfare, Disability



Rourke O’Brien joins the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars program having completed a Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Policy at Princeton University. His research focuses on household finance, taxation, welfare state policy and how these domains intersect with population health. His dissertation uses quantitative and experimental methods to analyze how labor market conditions and social policy shape evaluations of health and disability. Other projects explore race differences in the provision of informal financial assistance and the social determinants of state and local tax policy. He is coauthor (with Katherine Newman) of Taxing the Poor (2011 UC Press), which examines the consequences of regressive state and local tax policy, particularly in the southern states. In addition to his academic work, Rourke served as a Senior Policy Advisor at the US Department of the Treasury and as a Research Fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington. He received his BA in Social Studies from Harvard University and has written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. In the spring of 2016, Rourke will begin as an Assistant Professor at the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Journal Articles:
Click here for a list of Rourke O’Brien’s available publications in PubMed.



Newman, Katherine S. and Rourke L. O'Brien. 2011. Taxing the Poor: Doing Damage to the Truly Disadvantaged. Berkeley: University of California Press