Mark Rank

Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Welfare
PhD, University of Wisconsin
research interests:
  • Poverty and Economic Inequality
  • Social Welfare and Social Policy
  • Demography
  • Life Course

contact info:

image of book cover

Mark R. Rank, a longtime professor in the George Warren Brown School of Social Work, is very pleased to now have a joint appointment in the new Department of Sociology in Arts & Sciences.

Sociology is Dr. Rank's "home field" and he welcomes the discipline back to the Washington University campus. Dr. Rank serves as associate chair of the new department and is deeply involved in recruiting outstanding sociologists to join our faculty and in planning the curriculum for the new department.

Dr. Rank is widely recognized as one of the foremost experts and speakers in the country on issues of poverty, inequality, and social justice. His research and teaching have focused on poverty, social welfare, economic inequality, and social policy. Dr. Rank has published numerous scholarly articles. His first book, Living on the Edge: The Realities of Welfare in America, explored the conditions of surviving on public assistance and achieved widespread critical acclaim. His 2004 book, One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All, provided a new understanding of poverty in America. His life-course research has demonstrated for the first time that a majority of Americans will experience poverty and will use a social safety net program at some point during their lives.

In 2014, extensive research with Dr. Rank's long-time collaborator, Thomas Hirschl of Cornell University culminated in the publications of Chasing the American Dream: Understanding the Dynamics that Shape Our Fortunes. This book explores the nature of the American Dream and the economic viability of achieving the Dream through both extensive data analysis and in-depth interviews with a wide spectrum of modern Americans. The book is designed to shed light on the tenuous nature of the American Dream in today’s society, and how to restore its relevance and vitality. 

Dr. Rank is the recipient of many awards including the Founders Day Distinguished Faculty Award from the Washington University Alumni Board of Governors, the Faculty Award to Improve Learning from the William T. Kemper Foundation, the Outstanding Research Award from the Society for Social Work and Research, the Feldman Award from the Groves Conference on Marriage and the Family, and the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Brown School’s Alumni Association.

Dr. Rank's research has been reported in a wide range of media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and National Public Radio.  He has provided his research expertise to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as to many national and state organizations involved in issues of economic and social justice.