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Lisa Dodson

sociology department


Lisa Dodson

Research Professor

Ph.D., Brandeis University

McGuinn Hall 408
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

Phone: 617-552-6864

Curriculum Vitae



Scholarly and Research interests

Substantive Areas

Poverty in the U.S.; Low-wage work and family life; Carework and moral economy; Social policy for lower-income families; Stigma, social mobility, and single-mother families; Immigrant labor and family migration experiences.

Research Methods

Field-based research in diverse, working-class communities; Collaborative research methods; Multidisciplinary research teams; Qualitative and mixed-method research; Development of Interpretive Focus Group methodology.

Academic profile

Lisa Dodson is a public sociologist whose research focuses on poverty, moral economy, and low-income work and family life. She specializes in original field-based research in diverse communities, collaborating with local organizations, practitioners, and parents. In the past she has presented research findings in U.S. Congressional hearings and to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as many community organizations.

Her latest book, The Moral Underground: How Ordinary People Subvert an Unfair Economy, is based on eight years of research about everyday resistance to an economy that harms millions of working families. Her previous book Don’t Call Us Out of Name: The Untold Lives of Women and Girls in Poor America examined the daily lives and critical perspectives of women caring for low-income families in post-welfare America.

Working with BC graduate students, Dr. Dodson is currently conducting national policy research on low wage work and family with Family Values @Work; the Institute for Child, Youth, Family Policy, Brandeis U; and the Training Fund, 1199/Service Employees International Union. She recently received funding from the Ford and Annie E. Casey Foundations to research the link between youth development and the contemporary low-wage economy.

Courses typically taught

SC591 - Poor Law to Working Poor

This course traces poverty trends, policies, public attitudes, and major ideological debates from colonial times to the present.

SC590 - Carework and Inequality

Carework is foundational to human survival and the social glue that keeps families and communities intact. This course examines the labor of caring for families and other people and how carework is valued and devalued in the market and larger society.

SC735 - Research at the Margins

This is a graduate seminar about conducting research into the lives and knowledge of people who experience socioeconomic marginality.

Recent professional honors and awards

2012: Casey and Ford Foundations award for “Linking status of low-income youth with parents employment”

2010: W. K. Kellogg Foundation award for national book tour for The Moral Underground

2009: Awarded “Teaching, Advising, and Mentoring” grant with colleagues, to develop the Poverty, Families, and Social Policy specialty area at Boston College

2002-2003: Harvard Law School Fellowship for developing the Global Border Crossing initiative about working poor women and their role in building community

2000: Harvard University Joseph R. Levenson Award, nominated for “academic excellence and dedication in teaching

Recent publications


The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy (The New Press, 2010)


Dodson, Lisa. (Forthcoming) 2013. “Stereotyping Low-Income Mothers Who Have Work and Family Conflicts” Journal of Social Issues 67 (Special issue on work and family).

Dodson, Lisa and Wendy Luttrell. 2011. “Untenable Choices: Taking Care of Low-income Families.” Contexts: Understanding people and their social world 10 (1)

Dodson, Lisa. 2010. “For Low-Income Americans, Work and Family are Inseparable.” Democracy forum article in the Boston Review, a response to N. Hirschman’s article “Mothers who care too much” July/August 2010

Dodson, Lisa and Leah Schmalzbauer. 2010. “Poor Women and Habits of Hiding: Participatory Methods in Poverty Research.” Pp. 313-326 in Qualitative Educational Research Readings in Reflexive Methodology and Transformative Practice, edited by W. Luttrell. New York, NY: Routledge Press.

Dodson, Lisa and Rebekah Zincavage. 2008. “It’s Like a Family: Caring Labor, Exploitation and Race in Nursing Homes.” Gender & Society 21(6): 905-928