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

Mazelis specializes in the study of urban poverty and social support, using qualitative interview methods to explore the meaning and understanding people have of their own situations. Her work focuses on rising inequality, the power of American individualism in perceptions about poor people, the erosion of the public safety net and the importance of the private safety net, and how people both build and avoid social ties with others. She is an affiliated scholar at the Center for Urban Research and Education at Rutgers University-Camden.


No Jargon Podcast

In the News

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


"I Might Stay to Myself: Activation and Avoidance of Assistance From Kin Copy What Is Title Case?" (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.

"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 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.

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.