Professor Orfield received his B.A. in political science from the University of Minnesota and his M.A. and Ph.D from the University of Chicago. He is primarily interested in the study of civil rights, education policy, urban policy, and minority opportunity. He was co-founder and director of the Harvard Civil Rights Project and is now co-director of the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA. Orfield's central interest has been the development and implementation of social policy, with a central focus on the impact of policy on equal opportunity for success in American society.
Orfield received the 2007 "Social Justice in Education" Award by the American Educational Research Association for "work that has had a profound impact on demonstrating the critical role of education research in supporting social justice." He is a member of the National Academy of Education.
Professor Orfield, together with Professor Patricia Gondara, co-director of the Civil Rights Project, received two new research grants since June 2007. The first initiative, funded by the Eleanor Foundation of Chicago, is entitled, "The Future Rests on Working Moms: Unequal Opportunity and Policies to Help Them Realize Their Dreams for Their Children." The second study, funded by the Ford Foundation, is called "Breaking the Chain of Failure: Moving from Weak High Schools to Strong Community Colleges for Students of Color."