skip to primary navigation skip to content

Department of Geography


Professor Mia Gray MCRP PhD

Professor of Economic Geography and Fellow of Girton College

Labour, economic and urban geography



  • 1997-present: Department of Geography, University of Cambridge.


  • Masters from University of California at Berkeley
  • PhD from Rutgers University


One of my main interests is in labour markets and the social and organisational dynamics of work. I am interested in how labour markets are shaped, structured and regulated — and what the implications of this are for contemporary work. My research lies at the intersection of political economy and economic and labour geographies. Much of my research examines the urban politics and labour market dynamics of union organising in place. In particular, I have been interested in the structure and strategies of UNITE HERE, in the “hospitality” industry.

Other labour research explores processes of labour market change, geographies of organised labour, immigrant workers, aging and youth at work, underemployment, precarious work, technology and work, and social networks in the workplace. I am interested in how categories of social difference like gender, race, age, and class relate to how labour is rewarded, valued and regulated in and across place.

My other major research interest is in the economic and political repercussions of austerity. This research examines the intertwining of the economic, social and political effects on the local decisions around austerity and the shaping of the local state. This project highlights the uneven nature of the budget cuts, the political coalitions surrounding funding change, and the institutional mechanisms which promote change in policy priorities in the UK, the US, and Canada.

My interest in austerity has led me to an interest in debt. I have an edited collection on Debt and Austerity, Debt and Austerity Implications of the Financial Crisis. The book explores the ways in which debt became interwoven with the international finance system, the nation state, local governments, legal and welfare systems, households, and the personal and intimate lives of people on low incomes. I explore the “mobility of debt” – the institutional transmission mechanisms through which the burden of debt is reconfigured, repackaged, and pushed onto others. This mobility includes the increasingly “innovative” ways in which debt is traded on global markets; how debt is downloaded from one level of governance to another; the ways in which private debt is transformed into public debt; and the ways in which governmental debt becomes personal debt.

As part of this interest in austerity and debt, I have collaborated on an interactive play, The Great Austerity Debate, which explores the themes of austerity, precarious work, the ethics of care, and debt. The intentionally provocative play encourages audiences to explore solutions to the problems highlighted in the play. Audiences can debate the action, advise the characters, or even get up on stage and change the scene. Read more about The Great Austerity Debate.

The work on austerity is related to my long-standing interest in regional economies. In past research, I explore the regional and workplace implications of changing working patterns, identity and cultural norms; implications of austerity; and links between globalisation and regional economies.

I am also an Editor of the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society which publishes multi-disciplinary international research on the spatial dimensions of contemporary socio-economic-political change. The Journal adopts a focused thematic format. Each issue is devoted to a particular theme selected by the international editorial team. The aim of the Journal is to understand the formative changes and developments associated with the new spatial foundations of today’s globalizing world and examines how changes in the global economy are playing out across different spatial scales.

Further information on research is online within the Infrastructural Geographies pages.

Contested Political Economy: Theory, Applications and Policy

  • My current research explores the contours of the current rounds of austerity. This projects looks at the coalitions formed around austerity cuts and the many explicit and implicit implications of austerity.
  • I have been examining the “mobility of debt” – the institutional transmission mechanisms through which the burden of debt is reconfigured, repackaged, and pushed onto others.
  • I have also been examining the geographies of union growth in the low-paid service sector for over a decade. This project looks at the UNITE HERE, the union representing the hotel and restaurant workers, in different local labour markets in the US.
  • Current methodological research explores the co-production of narratives around work.


[Publications will load automatically from the University’s publications database…]


Undergraduate and graduate courses on the political economy of austerity, inequality, and the geography of labour and work.

PhD students

  • Jon White – 2022- CPEST  funded.
  • Coco Huggins – 2021- ESRC funded.
  • Emily Harbach, 2019-2020 Cradle to grave? Situating care and ageing within austere Britain.
  • Melissa Fielding, 2018- 2022 A Woman’s Place is in the (Temporary) Home? Housing Initiatives, Gender and the State in Regional Britain. Cambridge Trust.
  • Misbah Khatana, 2015 – 2019 “Mediations between the global and local: Exploring institutional forces that influence the construction of gendered labour markets in Punjab, Pakistan” Cambridge Trust.
  • Ave Lauren, 2012 – 2016 “Global Citizens and Local Aliens: The Rise of New Migrant Identities and Landscapes in the San Francisco Bay Area” ESRC Funded. Awarded the best dissertation prize from the IBG-RGS’s Economic Geography Research Group.
  • Zheng Zhang, 2012- “Disintermediation, Decentralisation and Disruption? The Economic Geography of Crowdfunding for SMEs in the UK”
  • Wei-Yun Chung, 2012-2018 “The Gender Landscape of the Taiwanese Public Sector Labour Market”
  • Wilson Chung, 2012-13. “An occupational approach to outsourcing within the context of two Chinese sports goods industrial clusters in Jiangsu province”
  • Simon Coates, 2011-2012 “Post-Industrial Masculinities: The Embodied Response to Unemployment and Class Subordination” AHRC funded.
  • Noah Isserman 2008 – 2018 “Venturing into Public Good: from Venture Capital to the Creation of State-Supported Venture Philanthropy and it’s Implications for Third Sector Financing”. Bill and Melinda Gates Scholar. Awarded a prize for best dissertation from ARNOVA (Association for Research on Nonprofit Organisations and Voluntary Action).
  • Franz Huber 2006 – 2009 “The Social Network Foundation of Knowledge Spillovers: an Investigation of Mechanisms.” Bill and Melinda Gates Scholar.
  • Karenjit Clare 2005 – 2009 “Cool, Creative and Diverse? Exploring Gender in Project-Based Advertising Work.” ESRC funded.
  • Will Harvey 2004 – 2008 “U.K. and U.S. Skilled Immigration Networks: a Comparison of Biotechnology Clusters”. Won the EGRG MPhil thesis prize 2005.
  • Shiri Breznitz 2003 – 2008 “The Role of the University in Economic Development: A comparison of Yale and Cambridge”
  • Andrew Currah 2002 – 2006 “Digital Effects in the Spatial Economy of Film: Software Format, the Internet and Hollywood” ESRC Funded. Won EGRG dissertation prize 2007.
  • Alan James 1999 – 2003 “Regional Culture, Corporate Strategy, and High Tech Innovation: Salt Lake City” ESRC Funded. Won EGRG dissertation prize 2004.

Potential PhD students

I tend to only take on one new student each year, so that I can give enough attention to each student. I am currently interested in the politics and economics of austerity, labour and globalisation, issues around regional and industrial culture, union change, alternative finance social networks and labour market mobility, and labour market intermediaries which function to structure local labour markets. However, I do supervise PhD students on other topics, and you’re welcome to contact me directly if you think we may be a good match. Read about demystifying postgraduate research admissions in Geography.

External activities

  • Invited speaker, Dialogues in Radical Geography seminar series.  Geographies of Justice Research Group at the RGS. “A critique of the everyday — expanding our understandings of austerity”  May 2023
  • Keynote speaker, The Public Cost of Personal Hardship conference, CRASSH, “Exploring Extraordinary Austerity” May 2023.
  • Plenary Speaker, The Law Centre Network annual conference, “Austerity, Community Resources, and Charities”, 2021
  • Keynote speaker, PPP annual conference, “Austerity, Debt and the Intersectionality of Place” 2021
  • Keynote speaker, Regional Studies Association, Annual Conference, London 2019
  • Keynote speaker, CJRES annual conference, Cambridge, July 2019
  • Keynote speaker, inauguration of International Perspectives on Development Problems and Public Policy. Department of Regional Studies, INESER. University of Guadalajara, Mexico. May 2017.
  • Co-editor of Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society
  • Regional Studies Association, Vice Chair, Communication & Public Engagement, 2015 – present
  • Trustee, Cambridge Citizens Advice.
  • Research Associate, Centre for Business Research (CBR), University of Cambridge, 2015 – present
  • Senior Research Fellow, Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, 2014 – present
  • Fellow, ‘Inspiring Leadership in Society’. Keynote speaker. National University of Ireland, Galway, 2012.
  • Co-editor of Regional Studies, 2003-2006, a leading journal focussing on regional issues from a multidisciplinary view.
  • Editorial Board Member for Geography Compass,, an online-only journal, 2006-07
  • Acting Director, Centre for Gender Studies , 2007-08
  • Academic Advisory Committee Member, Centre for Gender Studies, 2008-2015
  • Senior Examiner, Centre for Gender Studies, University of Cambridge, 2013-2016
  • External Examiner, University of Galway, MA Gender, Globalisation and Rights, 2011-14
  • Visiting Professor, Queen’s Univeristy, Canada, 2014
  • Secretary, Economic Geography Research Group, Royal Geographic Society – Institute Bristish Geographers , 2005-08
  • Fellow, Girton College