Reischauer Institute Professor of Sociology

Director, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies
Mary C. Brinton is the Reischauer Institute Professor of Sociology and current Director of the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies. Professor Brinton is also a Faculty Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and former Chair of the Harvard Department of Sociology (2010 to 2016). She joined the Harvard faculty in 2003, having previously taught at the University of Chicago for 12 years and at Cornell University for 4 years.

Professor Brinton’s research and teaching focus on gender inequality, labor markets and employment, social demography, and contemporary Japanese society. Her research combines qualitative and quantitative methods to study institutional change and its effects on individual action, particularly in labor markets. Her forthcoming book (Chūō Kōron Shinsha, summer 2022) analyzes the link between Japan’s stubbornly low birth rate and persistent gender inequality in the labor market and the family. Drawing on comparative statistics and in-depth interviews with young adult men and women, she argues that movement towards gender equality is stalled in Japan because of the primary policy emphasis on making women’s but not men’s work lives more consistent with family life. Sweden and the U.S. serve as counter-examples that respectively illustrate how social policy and open labor markets help society move towards greater gender equality and maintain higher birth rates. Professor Brinton studied sociolinguistics as an undergraduate at Stanford University, and she earned an M.A. in Japanese Studies and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Washington.