Dr. O’Neil’s research focuses on poverty, health disparities, housing insecurity, racial inequality, and public policy.

Meghan M. O’Neil is the Empirical Legal Studies Research Scholar at the University of Michigan Law School and Research Investigator with the Population Studies Center at the Institute for Social Research. She has presented her research at University College Dublin, Ireland and the University of Haifa, Israel. In addition, she is a regular presenter at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting. She trained as an urban sociologist 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 for International House of NYC 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 Awards. O’Neil is leading this intervention partnering with two local not-for-profit drug and alcohol recovery centers, all courts serving Washtenaw County, Michigan, and Matterhorn—a tech start-up that originated at the University of Michigan Law School. This intervention targets online dispute resolution to clients seeking recovery over the course of the next year in an effort to help sustain their recovery and stay out of jail. By removing legal barriers and partnering closely with public and private stakeholders, the intervention supports sobriety, family reunification, housing security, return to the local economy, and self-sufficiency.

Dr. O’Neil studies how our most vulnerable citizens interact with the judicial system to understand how excessive court-mandated costs can spur deleterious consequences such as homelessness, bankruptcy, criminal activity, and victimization. Her work uncovers the role court-ordered fines, fees, and costs play in perpetuating poverty and sustaining gender and racial disparities in American families. Her work is supported by The National Science Foundation and Arnold Ventures. She is Co-Investigator and site leader for the State of Michigan on “Community Corrections Fines and Fees” for PI Ebony Ruhland of the University of Cincinnati and 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.


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