Paul Attewell

Paul Attewell faculty

Research Interests

  • Social Stratification and Inequality
  • Sociology of Education
  • Inequality in Access and Completion in Higher Education


  • Ph.D., in Sociology University of California San Diego

Professor Paul Attewell is a sociologist whose research focuses on inequality in higher education, especially issues of access and degree completion among economically disadvantaged undergraduates. He has studied middle and high schools and colleges, using a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods. His most recent book is Data Mining in the Social Sciences (2015) — which he co-authored with David Monaghan, then a GC graduate student. Other recent books include Growing Gaps: Educational Inequality around the World (2010). His book Passing the Torch: Does Higher Education Pay Off Across the Generations? (2009) which he co-authored with David Lavin won the American Education Research Association’s Outstanding Book Award and the Grawemeyer Award in Education.
Professor Attewell’s research has examined the reasons behind low degree completion rates in nonselective colleges and includes randomized controlled field experiments in which lower-income undergraduates are encouraged to increase their “academic momentum” in college, using monetary incentives. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation fund his current research, which supports a team of sociology graduate students, as well as involving collaborators in other states.

Professor Attewell completed his undergraduate education in England before moving to the United States where he received his doctorate from the University of California at San Diego. He subsequently taught for several years at the University of California at Santa Cruz and at Stony Brook University in New York before joining the Graduate Center faculty in 1990.

Awards and Grants

  • The US Dept. of Education's Institute for Education Sciences
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The Ascendium educational philanthropy
  • The Spencer Foundation

Professional Affiliations and Memberships

  • American Sociological Association
  • American Education Research Association

Courses Taught

  • Graduate levels Statistical Methods
  • Data Mining
  • Sociology of Education