Yao Lu is Associate Professor of Sociology, and faculty affiliate of the Columbia Population Research Center (CPRC), Weatherhead East Asian Institute (WEAI), Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), and Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) at Columbia University.

Her research focuses on social stratification and inequality, with primary emphasis on (1) how migration intersects with sociopolitical processes to shape inequalities in receiving and origin societies, and (2) how social and demographic processes influence political development, especially in Chinese society. Within these general areas, she has engaged a range of research fields in labor markets, collective action, health, families and children, gender, and social capital. She has pursued this research agenda from a comparative perspective, using data from a wide range of settings and sometimes directly comparing different contexts. Her work seeks to demonstrate how studies of migration and social phenomena in comparative context can inform and expand general theories that are largely drawn from experiences of dominant population groups and from Western societies.

Her research has been funded by three grants from the National Science Foundation, two grants from the National Institutes of Health (including a K01 Career Development Award), and grants from the Russell Sage Foundation and Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation. She has also collaborated with a team of international scholars to develop and conduct a national survey on the effect of migration on children in China.