Harvard sociology professor Devah Pager dead at 46

A Harvard sociology professor known for groundbreaking research into job market discrimination has died after battling a lengthy illness, the university said.

Devah Pager, the Peter & Isabel Malkin Professor of Sociology & Public Policy at Harvard University, died last Friday, according to a statement posted to the website of Harvard’s Department of Sociology. She was 46.

“Devah’s creative, rigorous, and insightful work on discrimination in low-wage labor markets had a truly global impact, including in the 2008 US Presidential campaign, when the New York Times, among other outlets, featured work from her dissertation, including her famous article in the American Journal of Sociology, ‘The Mark of a Criminal Record,’ ” the statement said.


Among her celebrated publications was the 2007 book, “Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration.” Harvard said the book “investigates the racial and economic consequences of large scale imprisonment for contemporary U.S. labor markets.”

Her scholarship, the statement said, “focused on institutions affecting racial stratification, including education, labor markets, and the criminal justice system. Pager’s recent research involved a series of field experiments studying discrimination against minorities and ex-offenders in the low-wage labor market.”

Ms. Pager was a former Fulbright scholar who taught at Northwestern and Princeton before joining Harvard’s sociology faculty in 2013, according to an article posted Wednesday to the Harvard Gazette, the university’s official news website.

In the Gazette article, Ms. Pager’s colleagues recalled her as a passionate, talented scholar.

“She was a force of nature who accomplished a superhuman quantity and quality of work in a tragically short amount of time, and her impact on scholarship and policy is hard to overstate,” said Jason Beckfield, chair of the department of sociology, in the article. “She did work of global scope and tremendous depth that is unusual in its combination of rigor and creativity and relevance.”


Mario Luis Small, Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology at Harvard, told the Gazette that Ms. Pager left an immediate impression when the two were at Princeton.

“Devah had an extraordinary mix of qualities: the tenacity to see difficult and important projects to their conclusion, the clarity of mind to see and address potential problems well before they arose, the imagination to see her way around obstacles that to others might seem insurmountable, and an extraordinary kindness at a level all too rare among scholars of her caliber,” Small said. “But a few years older than me, she was nonetheless a role model.”

A memorial is being planned on campus to honor Ms. Pager and her work, the Gazette reported. Ms. Pager leaves her husband, Mike, and son, Atticus.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.