I investigate class, race, and gender inequalities from a micro-sociological perspective. This micro-sociological perspective shows how seemingly small moments, simple expectations, and slight judgments can produce and deepen structural inequalities. My research projects are methodologically diverse and use original data. I have three current projects:
Growing Up Unequal: Children's Experiences in Class-segregated Preschools Current scholarship emphasizes parents as early socializers, overlooking other influences. This is a critical oversight; the majority of American children now attend daycare before kindergarten. My dissertation asks how socialization at preschool contributes to inequalities. I conducted two years of ethnography at a Head Start center and one month of comparative observations at an affluent preschool center.
I found that poor children of color received conflicting messages about school behavior from peers, encountered rigid rules for using material objects that emphasized scarcity, and became skilled at meeting their needs informally. In contrast, affluent, white children received synchronized messages from peers and teachers about school behavior, encountered liberal polices about material objects that emphasized abundance and individuality, and became skilled at meeting their needs using teacher-approved strategies. I argue that these disparate socialization experiences inculcate classed interactional skills and naturalize unequal lifestyles for children. This work is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
Constructing Race at the Micro-level: Asserted Identities vs. Skin Color In a second project, forthcoming in Sociological Perspectives, I conducted two experiments to analyze how observers judge racial identity assertions and physical appearance. I found that identity assertions influenced how observers categorized people but not how observers evaluated them. My findings suggest that racial identity assertions by themselves do not predict racial stigma at the micro-level. I argue that other aspects of race, like physical appearance, may be more consequential in inducing stigma and creating racial disadvantages. This micro-sociological case clarifies the mechanisms that produce stratification by skin color.
Elite Women and the ‘Condensed Courtship Clock’ Finally, Katherine Fallon and I studied how elite women balance their romantic and professional aspirations. We interviewed single, college-educated women living in New York City. We found that women have a shared timeline for their lives—they intentionally pursue self-development before feeling ready to search for a spouse. This timeline creates a narrow window to find a partner that we call the ‘condensed courtship clock.’ Women who struggle to meet this timeline are criticized for the time they invested in self-development and are seen as incomplete. As these elite women adapt their individual expectations for family and self to conform to a common timeline, they uphold the two-parent, married family as normal and desirable. This paper won the ASA Section on Aging and the Life Course Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Award.