Sampson has published widely in the areas of crime and deviance, the life course, neighborhood effects, and the social organization of cities. Much of this work stems from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, for which Sampson serves as scientific director. He is also engaged in a long-term study from birth to death of 1,000 disadvantaged men born in Boston during the Great Depression. Two books from this project—Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points Through Life (Harvard University Press, 1993) and Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives: Delinquent Boys to Age 70 (Harvard University Press, 2003), both cowritten with John H. Laub—are the recipients of multiple scholarly awards.
Robert J. Sampson serves as the director of the social sciences program, Academic Ventures at the Radcliffe Institute and the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University. He is the co-director of the Boston Area Research Initiative. Previously, he taught for 12 years in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago and for 7 years in his first faculty post at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Sampson was also a senior research fellow at the American Bar Foundation and was twice a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005 and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2006.