Lawrence M. Mead
Professor of Politics and Public Policy

Lawrence Mead is Professor of Politics and Public Policy at New York University, where he teaches public policy and American government.  He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Princeton, and the University of Wisconsin.  He has also been a visiting fellow at Princeton and at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. 

Professor Mead is an expert on the problems of poverty and welfare in the United States.  Among academics, he was the principal exponent of work requirements in welfare, the approach that now dominates national policy.  He is also a leading scholar of the politics and implementation of welfare reform programs.  He has written seven books and over a hundred other publications on these subjects. These works have helped shape welfare reform in the United States and abroad. 

Government Matters, his study of welfare reform inWisconsin, was a co-winner of the 2005 Louis Brownlow Book Award, given by the National Academy of Public Administration.  More recently, he has also written and lectured on the sources of American primacy in the world.

Professor Mead has consulted with federal, state, and local governments in this country and with several foreign countries.  He testifies regularly to Congress on poverty, welfare, and social policy, and he often comments on these subjects in the media.

He is a native of Huntington, New York, and a graduate of Amherst College.  He received his Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University. 

Date Publication/Paper

Mead, Lawrence M. 2011. Welfare Politics in Congress PS: Political Science & Politics. V. 44, no. 2 (April 2011): 345-56.
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The stakes of political conflict involve contending values and issue definitions as well as policy. Welfare reform was the most important change in American domestic policy since civil rights. Its significance hinges crucially on how participants understood the issue, but existing research fails to resolve what their perceptions were. Most accounts suggest that welfare reform was an ideological contest concerning the proper scope of government, but there are other views. This study gauges the welfare agenda rigorously by coding speakers in congressional hearings on the basis of how they framed the issue and the position they took on it during the six chief episodes of welfare reform that occurred between 1962 and 1996. The reform efforts aroused four distinct divisions. Over time, positions moved rightward, but more important, the dominant issue changed: The ideological debate about government was overtaken by a more practical debate about how to manage welfare. This is the first study to track the substantive meaning of any issue in Congress over an extended period of time using hearing witnesses and a preset analytic scheme.

Mead, Lawrence M. 2011. Expanding Work Programs for Poor Men AEI Press, 2011.


Mead, Lawrence M. 2010. Scholasticism in Political Science Perspectives on Politics. V. 8, no. 2 (June 2010): 453-64.
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Criticism of trends in political science centers on specific methodologies—quantitative methods or rational choice. However, the more worrisome development is scholasticism—a tendency for research to become overspecialized and ingrown. I define that trend more closely and document its growth through increases in numbers of journals, organized sections in the American Political Science Association, and divisions within the APSA conference. I also code articles published in the American Political Science Review to show a growth in scholastic features in recent decades. The changes affect all fields in political science. Scholasticism serves values of rigor. To restrain it will require reemphasizing relevance to real-world issues and audiences. To do this should also help restore morale among political scientists.


Mead, Lawrence M. 2004. Government Matters: Welfare Reform in Wisconsin Princeton University Press, 2004.


Mead, Lawrence M. 1997. The New Paternalism: Supervisory Approaches to Poverty Brookings Institution Press, 1997.


Mead, Lawrence M. 1992. The New Politics of Poverty: The Nonworking Poor in America Basic Books, 1992.


Mead, Lawrence M. 1986. Beyond Entitlement: The Social Obligations of Citizenship Free Press, 1986.