I investigate class, race, and gender inequalities from a micro-sociological perspective. This micro-sociological perspective shows how seemingly small moments, small judgments, and simple expectations can produce and deepen stratification. 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 Preschools could potentially flatten the classed differences in early socialization. I thus studied children’s social experiences in preschool. I conducted two years of ethnography at a Head Start center and one month of comparative observations at an affluent preschool center. The dissertation describes how children engage with adults, understand their material circumstances, and react to peers’ and teachers’ attempts to influence their behavior. I show that unequal classroom conditions produce socialization experiences just as divergent as what children might have experienced at home. This work is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
Constructing Race at the Micro-level: Asserted Identities vs. Skin Color My second project, forthcoming in Sociological Perspectives, asked how white observers react when people with black heritage assert a multiracial or white identity rather than a black identity. To address this question, I conducted two experiments to analyze how observers judge racial identity assertions and physical appearance to construct race. 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. Instead, other aspects of race, like physical appearance, may be more consequential in inducing stigma and racial disadvantage. I use this microsociological case to identify a mechanism that produces the macro-level stratification by skin color that sociologists have observed.
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.’ 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.