Harding's research focuses on inequality, poverty, urban neighborhoods, education, culture, criminal justice and prisoner reentry. Overarching themes in Harding's writings include the ways in which growing up in high poverty neighborhoods affect children and adolescents and the role of the criminal justice system in increasing and perpetuating social inequalities.
Studies prisoner reentry and reintegration based on qualitative interviews and administrative data. Argues there is a mismatch between the contemporary social, economic, and policy environment and the needs and resources of the formerly incarcerated.
Studies the effects of imprisonment as compared to probation on employment outcomes. Shows that most effects of imprisonment are due to incapacitation while in prison rather than effects after release, as only whites with a work history experience post-release effects.
Studies the employment effects of custodial parole sanctions. Shows significant long-term effects of custodial sanctions for parole violations.
Studies the effect of imprisonment compared to probation on recidivism. Shows the importance of parole violations for returns to prison and prison's revolving door, as well as the magnitude of the incapacitation effect of imprisonment.
Studies housing insecurity and homelessness among formerly incarcerated individuals. Shows extremely high rates of residential instability and the role of the criminal justice system in contributing to housing insecurity.
Studies the role of neighborhood culture and violence in the lives of adolescent boys in three neighborhoods in Boston.