Postdoctoral Research Associate (Consequences of the rising cost of tap water in US households)

Northeastern University

Boston, MA, US

About the Opportunity:

The Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Northeastern University invites applications for a full-time Postdoctoral Research Associate, beginning in Fall 2020. 

The successful candidate will assist with data collection, data analysis, and manuscript preparation on an NSF-funded grant examining the consequences of the rising cost of tap water in US households.  The costs of household water and sanitation services have risen sharply in the 21st century, with some cities shutting off a household’s water supply for nonpayment. This project uses a comparative case study design to understand how a municipality’s organizational capacity and discretion among water resource managers interact with state-level legal and economic factors to shape decisions about cost relief policies for low-income, non-white, and other socially vulnerable groups, and enforcement mechanisms that secure payment of water and sanitation bills.  This is a qualitative research project, involving documentary analysis and interviews with policymakers in 12 cities in 2 states.

This is a full-time, benefits-eligible position starting Fall 2020 until March 31, 2021 with opportunity to extend based on funding, located at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. Review of applications will begin June 15, 2020 and will continue until the position is filled.


Responsibilities include (a) conducting and analyzing interviews with policymakers, (b) gathering and analyzing archival and web data about municipal water affordability policies, and (c) preparation of manuscripts, reports, and grant applications. The work may require some travel to interview policymakers at their offices; if travel restrictions related to COVID-19 remain in place, then data collection would be conducted via telephone interview or web conferencing.

All work will be executed in close collaboration with the principal investigator and other team members.  While the primary obligation is to work with the research team on the unaffordable water project, with prior approval from the PI, the postdoc may spend up to one-third of her or his time on professional development activities and independent research that relates to the overall goals of the project.  In addition, postdocs are expected to attend the biweekly meeting of the Water Equity Team (WET) lab, present findings from their own independent research in the WET lab at least once during their period of support, and submit research for presentation at scholarly conferences (e.g., American Sociological Association, American Public Health Association).


Must have PhD or equivalent in Sociology, Public Policy, Public Health, or related social science discipline. Consideration will be given to advanced doctoral students if they can provide a letter from their advisor speaking to their productivity in team-based research projects, attesting to their progress on their dissertation, and indicating the candidate’s expected date of defense.  Time management, interpersonal sensitivity, and excellent writing and computer skills are also necessary.

Preferred Qualifications:

Advanced knowledge of conceptual and theoretical frameworks in organizational sociology, public policy, or legal aspects of human rights.  Postdoctoral or equivalent experience; commitment to mentoring and research training to build an equitable and diverse scholarly environment; and demonstrated success in writing for scholarly publication and grant applications.  Proficiency in NVivo version 12.0 or higher preferred