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Sociology Professor Among Several Harvard Affiliates to Win Pulitzer Prize

Sociology professor Matthew S. Desmond won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, which examines the connections between poverty and eviction.
Sociology professor Matthew S. Desmond won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, which examines the connections between poverty and eviction. By Courtesy of John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
By Alexis J. Ross, Crimson Staff Writer

Sociology professor Matthew S. Desmond was one of several Harvard affiliates to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize Monday, taking top honors in the “general nonfiction” category for his book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.”

Established in 1917, the Pulitzer Prize recognizes outstanding achievements in literature, journalism, and musical composition. Desmond’s book presents eight families’ experiences with low-income housing, diagnosing systemic problems in the United States’s housing policies.

“It is clear from having read his book how deeply he came to understand the tragedy of people's lives,” said Michèle Lamont, Desmond’s colleague in the Sociology department and president of the American Sociological Association.

Lamont called Desmond’s ability to combine compelling narrative with ideas about how the government could improve its housing policies “really an important contribution.” The contributions of sociology are particularly crucial now, she said, in a time of “increased inequality” and “when marginalized groups are more deeply stigmatized than ever.”

“I consider the book to be partly important because it is inspiring policy changes and changing the discourse about poverty in Washington,” Lamont added. “This Pulitzer Prize will also help policy-makers become even more attuned to the fact that solving the kind of drama that [Desmond] describes in the book is within reach–a matter of political will and priority.”

Desmond, who is on sabbatical this semester, could not be reached for comment.

Desmond’s Pulitzer follows Lamont’s February award of the 2017 Erasmus Prize, an award given annually to a person or institution for exceptional work in the humanities, social sciences, or arts.

David A. Fahrenthold ’00, a former Crimson Associate Managing Editor, also received a Pulitzer Prize in national reporting for his coverage of President Trump’s philanthropy that cast doubts on the accuracy of his claims. Fahrenthold also broke the story of Trump's "Access Hollywood” tape, in which the then-candidate was captured on a hot mic making lewd comments about women in 2005.

Other Harvard affiliates to win Pulitzer prizes this year include Colson Whitehead ’91, who won the prize in fiction for his novel “The Underground Railroad,” and composer Du Yun, a Harvard Ph.D. who won the prize in music for his opera “Angel’s Bone.”

—Staff writer Alexis J. Ross can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @aross125.

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