Faculty Directory

Katharine G. Young


Dean's Distinguished Scholar


Katharine Young is Professor and Dean’s Distinguished Scholar at Boston College Law School. She previously served as Associate Dean of Faculty and Global Programs. Her research focuses on comparative constitutional law, international human rights law, economic and social rights, and law and gender. Her recent scholarship examines how “positive” legal obligations, which require state action rather than restraint, challenge traditional constitutionalist models of public law. This includes an extended study of the mechanisms of queues and waiting lists in law, and a comparative analysis of social movements and litigation around rights to health care, housing, education, and other economic and social rights. 

Professor Young’s publications include: “Human Rights Originalism” (Georgetown Law Journal), “Rights and Queues: Distributive Contests in the Modern State” (Columbia Journal of Transnational Law ) selected for the 2016 Harvard/Stanford/Yale Junior Faculty Forum, and “The Minimum Core of Economic and Social Rights: A Concept in Search of Content” (Yale Journal of International Law). Her monograph, Constituting Economic and Social Rights (Oxford University Press, 2012), is published in the Oxford Constitutional Theory series. She has also edited The Future of Economic and Social Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2019) with a foreword by Amartya Sen, and The Public Law of Gender with Kim Rubenstein (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Other recent publications have appeared in the University of Toronto Law Journal, Harvard Human Rights Journal, Harvard Law Review Forum, International Journal of Constitutional Law (I-CON)Australian Year Book of International Law, and more than a dozen edited books. Young has also co-published a casebook with Jim Rogers, The Law of Contracts, Cases and Materials (Foundation Press, 2017) and her work has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese. She is currently co-editing, with Malcolm Langford, the Oxford Handbook of Economic and Social Rights, an interdisciplinary study that involves legal, philosophical, historical, and broader social scientific inquiry in relation to such rights, across states and regions in both the Global North and Global South.

Before coming to Boston College, Young was an Associate Professor at the Australian National University and a Byse Teaching Fellow at Harvard Law School. She completed fellowships with Harvard University’s Project on Justice, Welfare, and Economics, the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

Young earned her B.A. and LL.B. (Hons) from the University of Melbourne and later completed the LL.M. studies and S.J.D. degree from Harvard University as a Knox Scholar. She also completed a law exchange at the University of Heidelberg, Germany (in German). She clerked for Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG of the Australian High Court, and represented the winning team, for Australia, of the Jessup International Law Moot Court. When in practice, she worked as a lawyer with Allens in Melbourne, with the United Nations in Bonn, Germany, with the Legal Resources Centre in Accra, Ghana, and with Paul, Weiss in New York.