Joan Maya Mazelis Headshot

Joan Maya Mazelis

Associate Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University-Camden
Former Chapter Leader, New Jersey-Philadelphia SSN
Areas of Expertise:

About Joan

In her research, Mazelis focuses on two main areas: 1) poverty, homelessness, and housing, and 2) student loan debt and the transition to adulthood. Overarching themes in her writings include inequality, reciprocity, stigma, and the importance of social ties. She is the author of Surviving Poverty: Creating Sustainable Ties among the Poor (NYU Press, 2017) based on her research in Philadelphia. Mazelis is currently engaged in a collaborative, longitudinal, mixed-methods study of student loan debt, the transition to adulthood, and the intergenerational transmission of inequality; this study is funded by the National Science Foundation.

No Jargon Podcast

In the News

Opinion: "Paying for child care shouldn’t be this hard | Opinion," Joan Maya Mazelis, The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 9, 2022.
Opinion: "It’s Time To Give Pa. A Raise: Lawmakers, Wolf Should Not Wait To Increase the Minimum Wage," Joan Maya Mazelis, Pennsylvania Capital - Star, June 21, 2021.
Opinion: "Punishing the Poor Isn't Just Bad Policy, It's Wasting Taxpayer Money," Joan Maya Mazelis, The Hill, February 20, 2018.
Opinion: "Subsidized Housing Can Change Lives, Now It's Facing Deep Cuts," Joan Maya Mazelis, The Inquirer, February 16, 2018.
Interviewed in "Helping the Poor Put Dinner on the Table Without Giving Them a Seat at the Table," The 1A, WAMU, American University Radio, June 26, 2017.
Opinion: "Poverty Really is the Result of a State of Mind — among Rich People," Joan Maya Mazelis, Washington Post, June 20, 2017.
Opinion: "The Joyful Urban Ballet Increases Public Safety," Joan Maya Mazelis, The Inquirer, June 16, 2017.
Opinion: "Trump's Proposed HUD Cuts Spell Disaster," Joan Maya Mazelis, WHYY, March 17, 2017.


"Social Norms and Expectations about Student Loans and Family Formation*" (with Arielle Kuperberg). Sociological Inquiry (2021): 1–33.

Examines student's expectations about family formation and other effects of student loans after graduation.

"Student Loans, College Attendance and Completion, and Family Formation," (with Arielle Kuperberg), University of North Carolina at Greensboro, June 18, 2018.

Finds women college graduates with loans have fewer children compared to college graduates without loans, and are more likely to be unmarried when they have children.

"My Crying Is Not a Cry by Itself”: Building Sustainable Social Ties Through a Poor People’s Organization" The American Academy of Political and Social Science 689, no. 1 (2020): 110-128.

Argues that organizations that serve the needs of poor people can help to create more sustainable supportive ties among them.

"I Might Stay to Myself: Activation and Avoidance of Assistance From Kin" (with Laryssa Mykyta). Journal of Marriage and Family 82, no. 5 (2020): 1479-1494.

Explores how low‐income mothers and fathers who recently have had a child avoid and access financial and other instrumental support from kin, and the statements they make about kin support.

"Surviving Poverty: Creating Sustainable Ties among the Poor" (NYU Press, 2017).

Examines the experiences of people living below the poverty level, looking at the tension between social isolation and social ties among the poor to explore how they survive and the benefits they gain by being connected to one another.

""I Got to Try to Give Back": How Reciprocity Norms in a Poor People's Organization Influence Members' Social Capital" Journal of Poverty 19, no. 1 (2015): 109-131.

Discusses how the norms of reciprocity partially govern social support behavior, particularly in the context of an organization requiring participation in an exchange network. Examines how reciprocity fosters social capital for those who fulfill norms of reciprocity and hinder social capital for those who violate them.