Michael Leo Owens

Associate Professor of Political Science, Emory University

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About Michael

Owens specializes in local and state politics, the politics of policing and mass incarceration, and the political engagement of nonprofit organizations. He has done research on urban and metropolitan governance and public policy, religion and politics, and African-American politics. Owens co-directs the Politics of Policing Lab at Emory, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. He serves on boards of the Georgia Justice Project; Journal of Urban Affairs; Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and the City; Perspectives on Politics; and Politics, Groups, and Identities. His current book project is Prisoners of Democracy, a study of the politics of restoring political, social, and civil rights to formerly imprisoned people in the U.S.

In the News

Michael Leo Owens's research on state and city secessions discussed by J. Brian Charles, "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: Why Some States and Cities Want to Secede," Governing, June 19, 2018.
Michael Leo Owens quoted on changing demographics and local elections by Ross Terrell, "Gwinnett Could Elect First Nonwhite School Board Members" WABE, May 2, 2018.
Michael Leo Owens quoted on ideology preferences of Atlanta residents by Suzanne Monyak, "Can an African American Berniecrat Push Southern Democrats Left?" The New Republic, November 7, 2017.
"‘Banning the Box’ Would Help People Released from Prison Rebuild Their Lives," Michael Leo Owens, The Conversation, August 3, 2015.
"Mass Incarceration Does Injustice to Millions of American Children," Michael Leo Owens, The Guardian, August 19, 2013.
"Reduce Economic Immobility," Michael Leo Owens, Atlanta's Economic (Im)mobility, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 14, 2013.
"MLK Day: A ‘Day On’ for What?," Michael Leo Owens, Opinion: Need to Know on PBS, January 18, 2013.
"Let My Preachers Endorse: A Modest Church-State Proposal," Michael Leo Owens, Religion Dispatches, November 18, 2012.
"Realities of Racial Equity," Michael Leo Owens, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 16, 2012.
"Transportation Tax Could be Tough Sell," Michael Leo Owens, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 24, 2010.
"Why Blacks Support Vouchers," Michael Leo Owens, New York Times, February 26, 2002.


"Uneven Reparations for Wrongful Convictions: Examining the State Politics of Statutory Compensation Legislation" (with Elizabeth Griffiths). Albany Law Review 75 (2011/2012): 1283-1327.
Discusses the struggle that many of the wrongly-convicted people face in their quest to acquire compensation for unjust imprisonment along with aid for social reintegration.
"Weakening Strong Black Political Empowerment: Implications from Atlanta’s 2009 Mayoral Election" (with Jacob Brown). Journal of Urban Affairs (forthcoming).
Tells the story of how, after decades of struggle, Blacks control the city halls of many cities. Their challenges to retaining them in the 21st century are great.
"The Distributive Politics of ‘Compassion in Action’: Federal Funding, Faith-Based Organizations, and Electoral Advantage" (with Amy Yuen). Political Research Quarterly 65 (2012): 422-442.
Suggests that federal social welfare funding for faith-based organizations during the George W. Bush administration may have served a combination of purposes, including grants for both electoral purposes as well as help for meeting social needs.
"'Deviants' and Democracy: Punitive Policy Designs for Poor Citizens with Drug Felonies" (with Adrienne Smith). American Politics Research 40 (2012): 531-567.
Explores the question: why do some states take a punitive approach toward poor citizens using drugs, while others look for ways to reduce punitive responses to lawbreakers, including felons?
"The Political Determinants of Women’s Descriptive Representation in Cities" (with Adrienne Smith and Beth Reingold). Political Research Quarterly 65 (2012): 315-329.
Explains how urban political context affects women’s numerical representation in local government, and the political characteristics of local communities are consequential for predicting the presence of women as municipal policymakers.
"Faith-Based Initiatives" in Encyclopedia of Religion in America, Volume 2, E-K, edited by Charles H. Lippy and Peter W. Williams (Congressional Quarterly Press, 2010).
Provides a concise definition and brief history and contextual discussion of faith-based initiatives.
God & Government in the Ghetto: The Politics of Church-State Collaboration in Black America (University of Chicago Press, 2007).
Draws on survey data and fieldwork to show how government grants to faith-based organizations have created a means for black clergy to reaffirm political leadership and enhance their moral authority in black civil society.