Social policy has the ability to transform lives, across all sectors of society. Through research and education, we provide students with an understanding of the impact of laws, regulations, and data on social outcomes. The intent is to improve the lives of citizens by supporting their education, work, health and wellbeing.

The school and our faculty aim to promote equity by identifying and addressing inequalities in access to supports and services for individuals and communities. 

Related Programs & Courses

Undergraduate program

  • Public Policy Studies major
  • Child Policy Research Certificate (open to all Duke majors)

Professional Program

MPP (Social Policy Concentration available) - View concentration requirements

Graduate Program

PhD in Public Policy


  • Center for Child and Family Policy
  • Family Connects
  • Hart Leadership Program
  • North Carolina Education Research Data Center  
  • Samuel Dubois Cook Center on Social Equity
  • Social Science Research Institute

Featured Faculty

"Dramatic social change requires imagination." - Professor William A. "Sandy" Darity, Jr.


Our faculty have testified before Congress and advised legislators on gun control, anti-trafficking legislation, poverty programs, education programs and many other issues; worked with community partners around North Carolina on issues; created a nurse home-visiting program that reduces child abuse; supported schools to facilitate language and literacy skills for English learners; helped teachers implement high-impact instructional strategies; designed a community-based program for caregivers of veterans; and produced thousands of research findings that contribute to the knowledge base for evidence-driven policy.

core faculty: social policy

Featured Faculty & Research

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Leslie Babinski, Director, Center for Child and Family Policy

Center for Child & Family Policy

The renowned Center for Child and Family Policy pursues science-based solutions to important problems affecting today’s children and families. 

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Professor Lisa Gennetian

Professor Lisa Gennetian

Lisa Gennetian uses the tools of economics to get at the thorny policy questions about poverty, inequality and the well-being of children.


Research Spotlight

Policymakers and the public need updates on how families are faring during the COVID-19 crisis. A research project by Anna Gassman-Pines draws on data from an ongoing study of over 1,000 service workers with young children. Economic instability remains high, food insecurity has increased, and safety nets are not reaching everyone. She provides recommended actions for policymakers to keep struggling families afloat.

Listen to the podcast

Student Spotlight

"I had the tremendous privilege of participating in the historic White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health. Being able to attend this conference and represent the Duke World Food Policy Center and my food policy research with El Departamento de la Comida (El Depa)—a food sovereignty and mutual aid organization based out of Puerto Rico—was an immense honor." - Denise Rebeil MPP'23

Read about Denise's experience

Diversity Spotlight

The fall 2022 Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture featured Bryan Stevenson, the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a human rights organization in Montgomery. EJI has won reversals, relief, or release from prison for 135+ wrongly condemned prisoners on death row.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Just Mercy, which was adapted as a major motion picture.  

More distinguished lectures

Featured Podcast

Arc of Justice Series

Our podcasts regularly feature stories about social policy. The Ways & Means podcast series Arc of Justice explores how today’s economic inequality came to be. The series was distributed nationally to NPR stations by American Public Media.

Social Policy Stories

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Contact Us

Interested in pursuing a degree with a focus on social policy? Great! The admissions page for each program has detailed guidelines, including our contact info. Please reach out!