Angela Simms

Faculty Advisors: 

Chenoa Flippen (chair), Dorothy Roberts, Daniel Gillion, and Karyn Lacy

Research Interests: 

race, particularly the Black middle class; political economy, particularly in suburbs; inter-governmental relationships; and public policy.

In my dissertation, “Power, Privilege, and Peril: The Politics of the Black Middle Class in a Majority Black and Majority Middle Class Suburban County,” I investigate how Black elected officials make policy and budget decisions, who benefits from these decisions, and the extent to which Black officials’ experiences are the same as similarly-situated White elected officials.’ Virtually all counties face certain common constraints, but Black officials encounter additional constraints stemming from the county’s racial composition. I identify mechanisms through which government and market practices leverage legacy forms of discrimination and create and perpetuate new forms, resulting in Blacks’ continuing disadvantage when compared to Whites. I conclude that racism, as embedded within routine capitalist practices and governing structures, reduces Blacks’ life chances. My research site was Prince George’s County (PGC), Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., and the jurisdiction with the largest concentration of middle class African Americans in the United States. During my two-year ethnography, I observed budget and policy development processes and conducted 58 interviews with county elected and non-elected leaders, as well as with residents. Budget and fiscal policy, economic development, and K-12 public schools were the domains I studied. 


Simms is in her sixth year at Penn. She expects to graduate in May 2019 and is currently pursuing university faculty positions and post-docs. Prior to coming to Penn, she worked for seven years as a legislative analyst at the federal government agency the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) within the Executive Office of the U.S. President. At OMB, Simms managed the clearance process for, edited, and approved policy documents and legislation the Justice Department submitted to Congress to ensure consistency with the President’s overall legislative agenda. She has a master's degree in public policy from the University of Texas at Austin and she earned her undergraduate degree in government from the College of William and Mary.

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