Dorothy Roberts


  • PSC researcher, Dorothy Roberts, says the child-welfare system has a bias against poor people, especially mothers of color: “Instead of actually responding to the struggles of poor families … we’ve decided that it’s simpler to take their children away” in a Washington Post article.

  • In a Wednesday evening campus event, UCLA’s Kimberlé Crenshaw, PSC researcher Dorothy Roberts, and Brandeis University’s Anita Hill looked at the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings, comparing them to the 1991 Clarence Thomas confirmation process. Hill called the Brett Kavanaugh hearings “a disservice to the American public.” Read more on Penn Today.

  • In the new volume of the book “Reassembling Motherhood: Procreation and Care in a Globalized World,” PSC researcher Dorothy E. Roberts explores the uphill battle black mothers can face when navigating the complex matrix of state systems. Her chapter, “Marginalized Mothers and Intersecting Systems of Surveillance: Prisons and Foster Care,” links child-welfare interventions to racial stereotyping and systemic obstacles like mass incarceration and insufficient access to social services. Roberts speaks more about her chapter in Penn Today and Penn Law News.

Director, Program on Race, Science and Society
George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology
Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights
Professor of Africana Studies

J.D., Law, Harvard University, 1980


Dorothy Roberts, an acclaimed scholar of race, gender and the law, joined the University of Pennsylvania as its 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Sociology and the Law School where she also holds the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mosell Alexander chair. Her pathbreaking work in law and public policy focuses on urgent contemporary issues in health, social justice, and bioethics, especially as they impact the lives of women, children and African-Americans. Her major books include Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century (New Press, 2011); Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Books, 2002), and Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Pantheon, 1997). She is the author of more than 80 scholarly articles and book chapters, as well as a co-editor of six books on such topics as constitutional law and women and the law.


  • NAPW Webinar: Dorothy Roberts on "Overturning Roe: More than Abortion is at Stake"
  • Dorothy Roberts on Women Could Go to Jail for Miscarriages if ‘Roe’ Is Overturned
  • Dorothy Roberts Talks U.S. Family Policy with MSNBC's Ali Velshi