Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

Rourke O’Brien

Rourke O’Brien
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No longer with the La Follette School

Rourke O’Brien was an assistant professor for the La Follette School of Public Affairs from January 2016 until June 2019. Previously, he was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at Harvard University and an affiliate of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.

O’Brien’s research interests include taxation, household finance, and population health. Current projects explore the social determinants of subnational tax structures, household savings and credit behavior, and the interplay between health and intergenerational economic mobility. Previous projects analyzed patterns of informal financial assistance, and the impact of labor market conditions and policy context on self-reported disability.

From 2012 to 2014, O’Brien served as a Senior Policy Advisor at the U.S. Department of the Treasury where he worked on a range of policy issues related to consumer financial services and economic policy.

He is coauthor (with Katherine S. Newman) of Taxing the Poor (2011 UC Press), which examines the consequences of regressive state and local tax policy, particularly in the southern states.

He earned his B.A. from Harvard University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology and social policy from Princeton University. O'Brien's recent scholarly articles have appeared in journals including Sociological Science, Social Forces, and Social Science & Medicine, and he has written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post.

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