Dr. O’Neil is an NSF & NIH awardee studying American Inequality

Meghan M. O’Neil was the Empirical Legal Studies Research Scholar at the University of Michigan Law School (2019-21) and is a Research Investigator with the Population Studies Center at the Institute for Social Research (2018-23). O’Neil spent three years living and training at the International House of NYC devoted to cross-cultural exchange, diversity, equity, and inclusion. International House “builds life-long qualities of leadership, respect, empathy, and moral courage among individuals of all nations and backgrounds.”

This training and lived experience-such as handling her mother’s eviction during her youth and her mother passing away while on a years-long waiting list for disabled housing-motivated O’Neil to develop empirical research aimed at reducing poverty among vulnerable families. Her scholarship focuses on finding evidence to improve access to justice and housing, to ultimately support health equity.

She has presented her research at University College Dublin, Ireland and the University of Haifa, Israel. She trained as an urban sociologist studying racial disparities in housing under Nancy Denton for her PhD. She was a Visiting Student in Sociology at University of Michigan under Reynolds Farley. She served as a Women’s International Leadership Fellow and worked as a Senior Data Scientist on Wall Street and the NYC Department of Social Services prior to matriculating for her PhD.

Dr. O’Neil is developing and evaluating “Removing Barriers to Recovery: Community Partnering for Innovative Solutions to the Opioid Crisis” for which her team won two INNOVATE public service pitch awards. O’Neil is leading this experiment partnering with two not-for-profit drug and alcohol recovery centers, several courts throughout Michigan, a Medicaid case management provider, and Court Innovations—a tech start-up that originated at the University of Michigan Law School. This experiment targets online dispute resolution to patients seeking abstinence from drugs or/and alcohol in an effort to help them sustain recovery and stay out of jail. By removing legal barriers and partnering closely with public and private stakeholders, the intervention aims to support sobriety, family reunification, housing security, return to the local economy, and self-sufficiency.

Her work is supported by The National Science Foundation and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). She is a recipient of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) LRP  for Clinical Researchers from Disadvantaged Backgrounds (L-32). Recently she was selected as a “NIDA Challenge” awardee and as a 2022 I2I Fellow with Innovation to Impact at Yale University sponsored by NIDA. She was funded by Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan where she was Co-Investigator on “Targeting Poverty in the Courts” with Law Professor J.J. Prescott.

Dr. O’Neil is the first generation in her family to attend college.

PhD, State University of New York at Albany. MA, Columbia University, Quantitative Methods of the Social Sciences. BS, Southern Connecticut State University.


NYC marathon photo credit: pbs.org; headshot: Ivory Photo Ann Arbor