Qin Gao



Qin Gao is a leading authority on China’s social welfare system and the well-being of Chinese Americans. She is the founding director of Columbia University’s China Center for Social Policy, the first research center of its kind within a school of social work.

Qin Gao is Professor of Social Policy and Social Work and Associate Dean for Doctoral Education at the Columbia University School of Social Work and the Founding Director of the Columbia China Center for Social Policy. Dr. Gao studies poverty, inequality, social policy, migration, and child development in China and their international comparisons. She currently leads The State of Chinese Americans Survey and is a member of the New York City Longitudinal Survey of Wellbeing study research team. She is also on the faculty of the Committee on Global Thought and Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University and a Public Intellectual Fellow of the National Committee on United States-China Relations. Qin Gao’s book, Welfare, Work, and Poverty: Social Assistance in China (Oxford University Press, 2017) presents a systematic evaluation of the world’s largest social welfare program, Dibao. Her co-edited book, China Urbanizing: Impacts and Transitions (Penn Press, 2022), captures China’s urbanization in its historical and regional variations and explores its multifaceted impacts. Dr. Gao’s work has been supported by multiple national and international funding sources such as the Asian Development Bank, UNICEF, and the World Bank.

Dr. Gao holds a BA from China Youth University of Political Studies (China), an MA from Peking University (China), and an MPhil and PhD from the Columbia School of Social Work. She has been interviewed by media outlets such as the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs; the Council on Foreign Relations; and SupChina’s Sinica Podcast.


Research Interests

  • The state of Chinese Americans: identity, political engagement, health, and economic well-being
  • The Chinese welfare state in transition: size, structure, and redistributive effects
  • Effectiveness and impacts of Dibao, China’s primary social assistance program, and other anti-poverty policies and programs
  • Gender inequality in time use in China and beyond
  • Social protection for rural-to-urban migrants in China and Asian American immigrants
  • Cross-national comparative social policies and programs


Columbia Affiliations
China Center for Social Policy