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Meghan O’Neil

Research Scholar at the Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research

Dr. O’Neil is Research Scholar at the Population Studies Center, 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 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 Ph.D.

O’Neil is primary investigator for “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 randomized control trial partnering with two local not-for-profit drug and alcohol recovery centers, all courts serving Washtenaw County, Michigan, and Matterhorn—a start-up that originated at the University of Michigan Law School. This intervention targets online dispute resolution to approximately 10,000 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 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.

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 Arnold Foundation with which she is co-investigator and site leader for the State of Michigan on “Mixed Methods Multi-State Fines and Fees.”

O’Neil’s family migrated to the U.S. from four continents and the Caribbean escaping poverty, famine, and violence and seeking a better life in America. Four generations have served in the U.S. military and O’Neil is part of the first generation in the family to attend college.

Ph.D. University at Albany (2018), Sociology. M.A. Columbia University, Quantitative Methods. B.S. Southern Connecticut State University, Sociology.