School of Social Work

David Wagner, Ph.D., MSW

Professor of Social Work and Sociology
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Office Location




Academic Degrees

  • Ph.D., Sociology, City University of New York
  • M.A., Labor Studies, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
  • M.S.W., Social Work, Columbia University
  • B.A., Social Work, Columbia University


David has been on the faculty of USM since 1988. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University, a Labor Studies Master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the City University of New York.

Research Interests

David’s work--scholarship and activism--has centered on poverty, homelessness, social inequality, and social welfare history and policy. He worked prior to academia as a social worker, and a labor organizer.  He has worked over the years with a variety of low income groups from Maine to California in community organization.

Recent Publications

David is the author of nine books including Checkerboard Square, which won the 1993 C. Wright Mills award, The New Temperance: The American Obsession with Sin and Vice, which won the 1998 Northeast Popular Culture Award, What's Love Got to Do With It? A Critical Look at American Charity, The Poorhouse: America's Forgotten Institution, and currently a new book with former USM social work student Jennifer Barton Gilman called Confronting Homelessness: Poverty, Politics, and the Failure of Social Policy. The book was recently named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2013 and is available here. Prof. Wagner also has a book titled The Miracle Worker and the Transcendentalist: Anne Sullivan, Franklin Sanborn, and the Education of Helen Keller, which can be found here. He is also the author of many scholarly articles, book chapters, and book reviews.

His latest book Unlikely Fame: Poor People who made History is due out in September and was assisted by recent msw graduate Jenna Nunziato. It is available at