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Economic Opportunity: John Iceland


John Iceland

Professor of Sociology and Demography

Department Head, Department of Sociology and Criminology  Penn State University


  1. Ph.D., Brown University, 1997
  2. A.M., Brown University, 1994
  3. A.B., Brown University, 1992

Research and Teaching Interests

Professor Iceland's research is in social demography, poverty, residential segregation, and immigration. He is an author of three books on these issues: Portrait of America (2014), Poverty in America (3rd edition in 2013), and Where We Live Now: Immigration and Race in the United States (2009), all published by University of California Press. He is on the editorial board of a number of social science journals and has served as an elected member of the Population Association of America Board of Directors and the American Sociological Association Population Section and Community and Urban Sociology Section Councils.

Professional Awards and Achievements

  • Council Member (Elected), American Sociological Association, Population Section (2011-2013) and Community and Urban Sociology Section (2013-2015)
  • Board of Directors (Elected), Population Association of America (2010-2012)
  • Editorial Boards: Demography, Social Problems, Social Science Quarterly, City and Community
  • Grant Review Panels: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Chair) and National Science Foundation
  • Grants: National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, U.S. Census Bureau, Russell Sage Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation
  • Academic Advisory Board, Arizona Department of Economic Security
  • Member, National Academies Committee to review the Census Bureau Dynamics of Economic Well-Being Data Collection Program (2007-08)
  • Testimony, U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, Hearing on Measuring Poverty in America (2007)

What They are Saying about Poverty in America

Iceland makes a strong case for the quasi-relative model. It is practical. Poverty changes during different periods of time and differs around the world. Iceland took a book that could have been mostly figures, trends and facts and transformed it into a distinct argument (namely promoting the use of the quasi-relative measure). He also took poverty (an issue that some would say only affects a select group of individuals) and emphasized its national and global importance.  Partnership for the Public Good

Iceland's book provides a lot of useful empirical information on poverty: head counts and poverty gaps, changes over time in aggregate levels and the dynamics of the individual experience of poverty, the composition and the geographic distribution of the poor, the shape, the cost, and the efficiency of social policy measures targeting the poor, as well international comparisons of poverty levels and gaps.  Iceland presents them and explains their significance in a persuasive, logical and easily accessible way. What makes this book unique, however, is his consideration of the social construction of poverty through the discussion of changes (and variations) in poverty measures and his careful analysis of the causes of the persistence of high poverty rates. Eva Fodor Central European University