Gary Orfield (born September 5, 1941) is an American professor of education, law, political science and urban planning at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, formerly of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is co-founder of The Civil Rights Project, now called The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles. He founded the project in 1996 to provide needed intellectual capital to academics, policy makers and civil rights advocates. The project has commissioned more than 400 studies and 15 books.
In addition to many studies of desegregation, Orfield is an author or editor of many books and reports (see Google Scholar) including the recent publications: Dropouts in America, Lessons in Integration, Higher Education and the Color Line, and spoken out for affirmative action and against standardized testing, and particularly the use of test scores to deny high school graduation in the book, Raising Standards or Raising Barriers. He was professor of education and social policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for 16 years. Orfield is interested in the study of civil rights, education policy, urban policy, and minority opportunity. He is cofounder and director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard, an initiative that is developing and publishing a new generation of research on multiracial civil rights issues. Orfield's central interest is the development and implementation of social policy, with a central focus on the impact of policy on equal opportunity for success in American society. Recent works include studies of changing patterns of school desegregation and the impact of diversity on the educational experiences of law students. In addition to his scholarly work, Orfield has been involved with development of governmental policy. He has participated as a court-appointed expert in several dozen civil rights cases, including the University of Michigan Supreme Court case that upheld the policy of affirmative action in 2003 and he has been called to give testimony in civil rights suits by the U.S. Department of Justice and many civil rights, legal services, and educational organizations.
In 1997, Orfield was awarded the American Political Science Association's Charles Merriam Award for his "contribution to the art of government through the application of social science research." A native Minnesotan, Orfield received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and travels annually to Latin America, where his research work is now expanding. He is married to Patricia Gandara, co-director of the Civil Rights Project. His work at the Civil Rights Project can be found at civilrightsproject.ucla.edu.