For Immediate Release | December 13, 2018


Devin Cowens at (202) 243-7283

The National Academy of Social Insurance announces Isabel M. Perera as the winner of the 2019 John Heinz Dissertation Award. Perera joins a prestigious and diverse network of over 40 previous Heinz Dissertation Award recipients, who are scholars in social insurance and closely related fields. Perera’s dissertation, “States of Mind: A Comparative and Historical Study of the Political Economy of Mental Health” was submitted for her doctorate in political science at the University of Pennsylvania. Perera was nominated for this honor by Julia Lynch, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Andrea Campbell, professor and current head of the Political Science Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said: “[This] dissertation is built on a stunning number of primary sources, and the research design is very strong, examining cases with similar starting conditions that then diverge. It is a complex, nuanced, and sophisticated analysis, a real tour de force utterly deserving of the Heinz Dissertation Award.”

The 2019 Heinz Dissertation Award Selection Committee (see list below) also gave an honorable mention to Wei-Ting Yen for her dissertation, “Unstable Income and the Welfare States in Asia.” Yen wrote the dissertation while she was a doctoral student in political science in the graduate school at Ohio State University. Her thesis was nominated by Sarah M. Brooks, professor in the department of political science at Ohio State University.

“The Academy is committed to developing the next generation of social insurance policy scholars and leaders. We are very pleased to recognize Isabel Perera’s groundbreaking work, as well as Wei-Ting Yen’s fascinating research. Like previous Heinz Dissertation Award winners, the scholarship of Perera and Yen will surely help us develop sound policies in the coming years,” said William J. Arnone, Chief Executive Officer of the National Academy of Social Insurance.

As the 2019 Heinz Dissertation Award winner, Perera will receive $3,500 in prize money and travel expenses to attend the Academy’s 31st annual policy conference on Regenerating Social Insurance for Millennials and the Millennium, in Washington, DC. Wei-Ting Yen will also receive a travel stipend to attend the policy conference. The 2019 Heinz Dissertation Award will be presented on January 30, 2019, at the National Press Club, as part of the Academy’s 2019 conference.


About the John Heinz Award

The National Academy of Social Insurance bestows the John Heinz Dissertation Award in honor of the late Senator John Heinz, who was a founding member of the Academy and an advocate for health reform and social insurance. The Award, made possible by the Heinz Family Foundation, recognizes and promotes outstanding doctoral research by new scholars focusing on policy questions in social insurance and related areas, including health, aging, and economic opportunities. These are all areas that were important to John Heinz, who is also remembered as a champion of the elderly. His long list of political activities included: Chairmanship of the Special Committee on Aging; Chairmanship of the Republican Conference Task Force on Job Training and Education; membership in the National Commission on Social Security Reform, and the National Commission on Health Care Reform. Teresa Heinz Kerry, chair of the Heinz Family Foundation, said of Senator Heinz: “In the performance of his duties, both as a public servant and as a philanthropist, he was not merely tireless, he was joyfully ferocious, himself the embodiment of radiant living.” Senator Heinz died in a tragic airline accident in 1991.

Nominations are reviewed by a national, multi-disciplinary selection committee chaired by Courtney Coile, Professor of Economics at Wellesley College. Other members of the selection committee: Jason Barabas, Professor of Political Science at Stony Brook University and winner of the 2001 Heinz Dissertation Award; Ezra Golberstein, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health;  and Jeffrey Wenger, Senior Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation and faculty fellow at American University.

The Academy will be accepting nominations for the 2020 John Heinz Dissertation Award in the late summer/early autumn of 2019. To obtain application forms and additional information, please visit the Student Opportunities section of the Academy’s website:

For more information about the Academy’s 31st annual policy conference on Regenerating Social Insurance for the Millennials and the Millennium, January 30-31, 2019, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, please visit:  

The National Academy of Social Insurance is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization made up of the nation’s leading experts on social insurance. Its mission is to advance solutions to challenges facing the nation by increasing public understanding of how social insurance contributes to economic security.

How can we help you?

Media Inquiries
Sponsorship Opportunities

Stay up-to-date on the latest research & policy updates.

Subscribe to our newsletter