Fortner studies the intersection of American political development and political philosophy – particularly in the areas of race, ethnicity, and social class. His research on mass incarceration examines the role the black middle class played in the development of the carceral state. His research on urban politics examines how local political institutions shape patterns of racial and ethnic conflict within cities and national political behavior. Fortner teaches classes on urban politics and policy, racial and ethnic politics, and social science research design. Finally, Fortner teaches democratic theory and leadership for Prep for Prep, a nonprofit organization that identifies New York City’s most promising students of color and prepares them for placement at the top boarding schools in the country and the most prestigious colleges and universities in the world.