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Teo You Yenn
Head, Sociology , School of Social Sciences
School of Social Sciences
College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

TEO You Yenn received her PhD in Sociology from the University of California at Berkeley. She is currently Associate Professor, Provost’s Chair, and Head of Sociology at Nanyang Technological University.

Her research focuses on poverty and inequality, governance and state-society dynamics, gender, and class. She is the author of Neoliberal Morality in Singapore: How family policies make state and society (Routledge, 2011) and This is What Inequality Looks Like (Ethos Books, 2018). The latter is a national bestseller that sold more than 30,000 copies in two years.

Apart from academic writings, she contributes regularly to public debate through public lectures and media commentaries. She is also co-editor of, a website that promotes Singapore scholarship and public discourse. More about her work at:

Research Statement

My research focuses on poverty and inequality, state-society relations, governance, cultures. I interrogate relationships between everyday practices, social norms, and policy regimes. My work is ethnographic and focuses on ordinary people’s lives.

Two ongoing projects: cross-class comparisons of work-life balance; basic needs in households with children. A third project I would like to pursue is on how people perceive risk and how risk perceptions shape social practices.

I am interested in research that asks questions about the nature of society and how social actors forge solidarity; that address fundamental and critical questions about policy regimes and their consequences on wellbeing; and that have transformational potential through the shaping of public debate and policy thinking.

Research One-liner

Inequality and poverty, basic needs, social policy

  • Teo, You Yenn. 2018. This is What Inequality Looks Like. Singapore: Ethos Books.

This book, based on three years of ethnographic research, was written for a popular audience and became a national bestseller which sparked conversations about poverty and inequality in Singapore.

  • Teo, Youyenn. 2011. Neoliberal Morality in Singapore: How family policies make state and society. London and New York: Routledge.

Based on my dissertation research, this book contributes to knowledge about how states rule and how policies have important latent effects on state-society relations as well as social norms.

  • Teo, Youyenn. 2013. “Support for deserving families: inventing the anti-welfare familialist state in Singapore.” Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society 20(3): 386-406.

This article contributes to the literature on welfare regimes, expanding knowledge on how gender matters as both a factor in and an effect of governance.

Latest Projects
  • Work-life Balance in Contemporary Singapore: Cross-class Comparisons
  • Basic needs in households with children
Advice to young researchers

Scholars have much to contribute to the world, but only if we make conscious effort–sometimes against the grain of institutional demands–to reach beyond the academy, and also collectively. I hope more can contribute to knowledge-production by taking steps to have our writings reach beyond academia and also when we generate questions and puzzles together with others in society.

Other affiliation(s)

Expert Areas
Inequality and poverty, Sociology of Gender, State-society relations

Research Interests
minimum income standards, Social class and inequality, Social policies

Research Category
Social Sciences
Research Sub-category
NISTH Assigned Topic Groupings
Fighting inequality
Affiliated Sustainable Development Goals
GOAL 1: NO POVERTY – Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality.
GOAL 5: GENDER EQUALITY – Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
GOAL 10: REDUCED INEQUALITIES – To reduce inequalities, policies should be universal in principle, paying attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized populations.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.
Last Updated
05 May 2020
Last Updated
13 Sep 2020