James Wilson joined the Russell Sage Foundation in 2008, and oversees the Foundation’s program in Social, Political and Economic Inequality and directs the application and selection process for its signature Visiting Scholars program. He has also implemented Foundation Special Initiatives in Integrating Biology and Social Science Knowledge and Computational Social Science, and coordinated large-scale group projects like Social Inequality and Educational Disadvantage, US 2010, and The Social and Economic Effects of the Great Recession.
After earning an undergraduate degree in Geology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1980, he worked for nearly a decade as a consulting and well-site geologist for the oil industry, first in the Texas/Louisiana Gulf Coast and then parts of the intermountain west in Utah, Nevada and Wyoming. After leaving the oil industry, he spent a number of years working various jobs as a bartender, landscaper and bicycle mechanic, and when not working, skiing, hiking and rock-climbing Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. After a serious reevaluation of his life prospects, he turned to graduate school, and earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from Vanderbilt University in 2001. He has since held positions as Director of Planning, Policy, and Research with the Tennessee Department of Correction, Senior Research Associate at the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice in lower Manhattan and Professor of Sociology at Fordham University in NYC. As a scholar, his research has appeared in journals such as American Sociological Review, Criminology and Public Policy and Social Science Research.