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Graduate Students on the Job Market

LACEY BOBIER – Dress Coded: A Middle School Education in Gender, Race, and Appearance

Karin Martin (Chair)
Elizabeth Armstrong
Erin Cech
Sara McClelland (Psychology)


Lacey is a PhD. Candidate. Her research lies at the intersections of adolescence and childhood, education, embodiment, gender and sexuality, medicine and reproductive health, and race and class. Using an intersectional approach, she seeks to expand scholarship on early adolescence as a life stage that significantly impacts embodied inequalities. Specifically, she examines processes that prioritize girls’ bodies over their minds and simultaneously deny girls knowledge about their bodies and control over them.

Lacey’s two co-authored book chapters examine early childhood sexuality education. These pieces reveal that curricula, which address physiology with accurate language and explore gendered assumptions and stereotypes may help to prevent later taboos, shame, and fear of the female body.

Her research on adolescence and menstruation, resulting in a published book chapter and a forthcoming article, tackles ideologies and practices that deny girls bodily knowledge and agency. Lacey’s book chapter, “The Sexualization of Menstruation: On Rape, Tampons, and ‘Prostitutes,’” contradicts previous studies, demonstrating that middle school girls connect menstruation, sex, and sexuality. In associating menarche and menstruation with sexuality, girls experience new anxieties about their bodies and the gendered and sexual power relations in which they find themselves. Her article in progress, “Menstruation in Seventeen: Self-knowledge, Secrecy, and Shame,” details how the medicalization of menstruation has constructed menses in ways that exacerbates embodied and sexual alienation.

Lacey’s dissertation, “Dress Coded: A Middle School Education in Gender, Race, and Appearance,” uses middle school dress codes to demonstrate how, by combining gendered, sexualized, racialized, and classed expectations, practices of body management create an embodied hierarchy. This dissertation uses qualitative data from in-depth interviews with middle school students, teachers, and administrators along with content analysis of one hundred middle school handbooks to illustrate how school dress codes participate in a larger system of discipline and punishment. Dress policies are based on white, heterosexual middle-class standards. Interviews reveal that students’ adherence to these standards is used to evaluate student character; rule violators are cast in the role of troublemaker and are disciplined accordingly. In contrast, students’ primary concern is comfort, followed by a desire for self-expression, rather than willful rebellion. Her findings thus highlight a discrepancy between adult perceptions of dress code violations and student views. Girls of color are especially susceptible to surveillance, punishment, and resulting alienation from education. Focusing on early adolescence as a time when girls transition to their role as sexualized other and attending to how this experience varies with race and class, this project details processes of sexualization, objectification, and self-objectification that negatively impact developing sexuality. Policies that position girls’ bodies as distractions further relegate their education and comfort to a secondary position, giving priority to boys’ education. This language of distractions signals to girls that their bodies are inferior and incompatible with their learning environments.

ELIZABETH BURLAND – Stratification in Educational Decision Making: How Inequality, Social Contexts, and Policy Interventions Influence Student Postsecondary Pathways


Fabian Pfeffer, Co-chair (University of Michigan Department of Sociology)
Susan Dynarski, Co-chair (Harvard University Graduate School of Education)
Elizabeth Armstrong (University of Michigan Sociology)
Stefanie DeLuca (Johns Hopkins University Department of Sociology and Social Policy)
Katherine Michelmore (University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy)


I am a mixed-methods sociologist studying social stratification, inequality, and education policy. Iexpect to complete my Ph.D. in Public Policy and Sociology by April 2023. My research uses multiple methods, including qualitative interviews, experimental, and quasi-experimental analysis using both administrative and survey data, to answer questions about the complex factors that shape inequality in access to educational opportunities and the ability of public policies to reduce these inequalities.

My dissertation focuses on stratification in the transition to postsecondary education, and how family, school, geographic, and policy contexts shape student postsecondary options and decisions. For my first dissertation paper, I collected and analyzed longitudinal, semi-structured narrative interviews with 36 high school seniors from low-income families. In this first paper, I identify theintegral role that older siblings play in shaping the way students make postsecondary decisions. These students were a part of the sample for a highly successful financial aid intervention that I studied experimentally in my second chapter.

My second dissertation chapter is a first-authored paper conditionally accepted at the American Economic Review: Insights titled, “The Power of Certainty: Experimental Evidence on the Effective Design of Free Tuition Programs.” We worked directly with our University of Michigan partners to design and implement an experimentally evaluation of two “free tuition” policy designs: an unconditional, four-year free-tuition guarantee and an informational treatment that informs students of their likely eligibility (contingent on demonstration of need) for an existing free tuition policy. We conclude that “free tuition” policies that require verification before a promise of aid is made, as most “free tuition” policy designs do, are much less effective than an upfront guarantee at increasing enrollment among students from low-income families. My final chapter uses detailed administrative education data to decompose rural/urban inequality in college pathways.

In an extension of my dissertation work, my collaborators and I interviewed an additional 100 students from low-income families across two cohorts of this financial aid intervention. In a first-authored paper with Stefanie DeLuca, Susan Dynarski, and Katherine Michelmore, we identify several key mechanisms behind the effectiveness of the intervention. Future papers will use these data to explore the complex factors that shape the postsecondary pathways students consider. In other work with Fabian Pfeffer, I use complex longitudinal survey data to evaluate long-term demographic effects of federal higher education policy on inequality. My research has been funded by the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Institute of Education Sciences, Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, and the Institute for Social Research. My personal website and updated CV are available here:

MARIA CARABELLO - The Metabolic Health and Mortality Patterns of the US Hispanic Population: Exploring Causes and Consequences

Sarah Burgard (co-chair)
Denise Anthony (co-chair)
Barbara Anderson
Paula Lantz
Neil Mehta
Julia Wolfson


Maria Carabello (she/her) is a joint PhD candidate in Sociology and Health Policy at the University of Michigan (U-M), as well as a Social Demography trainee at the U-M Population Studies Center within the Institute for Social Research and a Public Health and Aging trainee at the U-M School of Public Health. Her current research employs methods from demography and social epidemiology to explore, explain, and anticipate the consequences of population health trends at different periods of the life course. Substantively, her research has a strong focus on diet-related chronic conditions, social determinants of health, immigrant and minority populations, and aging. In prior work, she has also conducted ethnographic studies focused on how individuals make sense of home cooking and health in the context of modern American life. Her work has appeared in Social Science & Medicine – Population Health, Appetite, Frontiers in Medicine, Frontiers in Pediatrics, and Counihan and Højlund’s edited volume Making Taste Public, among others.

Maria’s dissertation explores the Hispanic paradox in health and mortality, with a specific focus on the distribution and effects of metabolic health conditions by race-ethnicity, nativity, country of origin, and generational status. The first paper explores whether a Hispanic health advantage in metabolic syndrome persists amongst recent Mexican immigrants to the US despite the rising prevalence of obesity and diabetes in both the sending and receiving countries. To inform policy solutions, a counterfactual decomposition approach is used to assess how demographic, socioeconomic, and health risk characteristics contribute to observed population health gaps by race-ethnicity, country of origin, and duration of residence in the US.

The second paper goes on to explore whether the Hispanic paradox in mortality is expected to persist into the future given changes in the prevalence and patterning of obesity. This project employs demographic projection techniques that incorporate historical patterns of weight change by race-ethnicity, nativity, age, and sex to estimate the effects that obesity may have on US mortality patterns over the next three decades. Finally, responding to previous work that has found that the Hispanic paradox in mortality does not uniformly translate to more favorable health profiles, the third paper in the dissertation explores, and attempts to explain, whether certain major mortality risks in mid-to-late adulthood—such as, the chronic health conditions which compose metabolic syndrome—present differential mortality risks across study populations defined by race/ethnicity, nativity, country of origin, and generational status. Taken together, the dissertation project aims to provide an informative forecast of future chronic health patterns and associated mortality risks as multiple generations of Hispanic immigrants, who currently compose the largest and fastest-growing ethnic minority group in the United States, age into the future.

ANNE CLARK – Internalizing Achievement Inequality: The Development of Racial/Ethnic Differences in Mathematics Attitudes and Their Implications for Persistence in STEM

Elizabeth Bruch (chair)
Jennifer Barber
Erin Cech
Pamela Davis-Kean (Psychology)


Having received my PhD in Sociology from the University of Michigan in 2022, I am now a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Center for Research on Educational Opportunity at the University of Notre Dame. I am a quantitative sociologist specializing in racial/ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic inequalities in education and housing.

A central question underlies my work: How does racial/ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic inequality reproduce itself via its influence on young people’s attitudes and behavior? Using longitudinal survey data, I follow young people growing up in under-resourced schools, neighborhoods, and/or families. I pinpoint how these environments trigger shifts in their attitudes and behavior that keep them trapped in a cycle of disadvantage. My ongoing research examines two substantive areas: attitudes towards mathematics during childhood and adolescence and housing instability during the transition to adulthood. Peer-reviewed studies from these projects have been published in Social Problems and Demographic Research.

SHAUNA DYER - Job Quality: Changes, Timing, and Consequences


Elizabeth Armstrong (Co-chair)
Deirdre Bloome (Co-chair)
Sarah Burgard (Sociology)
Fabian Pfeffer (Sociology)
Kevin Stange (Public Policy)

Interest Areas: Stratification; Job Quality; Postsecondary Education; Intergenerational Mobility; Race/Ethnicity

Curriculum Vitae

I am currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Michigan. I will complete my degree in Spring 2023. I am a quantitative, stratification scholar broadly interested in economic security: who has it, who does not, and more specifically, what do those from disadvantaged or historically excluded backgrounds need to do or overcome to achieve it? Considering the critical roles education and employment play in obtaining economic security in the United States, I focus on three strands of research: 1) Job Quality, defined as employer-provided benefits, 2) Racialized/Ethnic Inequalities in postsecondary education, and 3) Intergenerational Persistence via educational attainment.

My dissertation, Job Quality: Changes, Timing, and Consequences, uses data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth 1979 and 1997 and a wide array of measures (employee-provided medical insurance, dental insurance, retirement plan, life insurance, paid time off, parental leave, flexibility, and a standard schedule) to explore job quality stratification and change from 1985 to 2017. Paper one, currently under review at a sociology journal, examines how job quality has changed over time by educational attainment and wages. In my second paper, I examine job quality development over the employment life course and at the birth of a first child by gender and race/ethnicity. In paper three, I build upon my findings from paper two and examine the consequences of job quality on men and women’s employment. These papers demonstrate the increasing challenges individuals, especially women, face when seeking to gain economic security through education and employment. These papers also reveal the illogical connection between job quality and employment tenure since women are much more likely to give birth early in their careers, in particular women with lower levels of education. Finally, these papers show how job quality, unlike wages, is primarily a failure of the welfare state in the United States.

Beyond my dissertation, I have several collaborative projects that engage with questions surrounding inequalities in postsecondary education, employment, and mobility. My work has been recognized by several awards and organizations. My article in Demography received three Honorable Mentions in 2022 for best graduate student paper from the ASA Section on Sociology of Education, the Department of Sociology at the University of Michigan, and the ASA Section on Race, Class, and Gender. My article, in the American Sociological Review, received the 2020 James Coleman Award for Outstanding Article, from the ASA Section on Sociology of Education. My poster from paper two of my dissertation received a 2021 Population Association of America Poster Award. In addition, I was awarded the 2020 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship. I have also received several fellowships within the University of Michigan including the Causal Inference in Education Policy Predoctoral Fellowship funded by the Institute for Education Sciences at the Ford School of Public Policy and the Predoctoral Training Fellowship from the Population Studies Center.

ELLY FIELD - How the Policy-Based Link Between Neighborhoods and Schools Affects Racial Segregation Dynamics

Elizabeth Bruch (Chair)
Jeffrey Morenoff (Sociology & Public Policy)
Fabian Pfeffer (Sociology)
Robert Manduca (Sociology)
Joffre Swait (Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management)


I am a quantitative sociologist and demographer broadly focused on racial and economic inequality. I expect to complete my Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Michigan in May 2023. My research agenda focuses on two major areas. First, I study how the structural link between schools and neighborhoods created by school district policies shapes racial segregation dynamics. In a first-authored paper with Elizabeth Bruch, I propose and test a general theory of how schools and neighborhoods experience racial composition change, termed “coupled tipping.” My dissertation expands this work to trace the individual-, neighborhood-, and school district-level processes that shape these dynamics of change. Through an original stated choice survey experiment, I show how parents’ preferences vary across schools and neighborhoods, exploring how variations in these preferences will affect racial segregation in both contexts. Then, using a novel data set capturing school and neighborhood racial compositions across time, I examine how school district choice policies, urban geographies, and race shape the dynamics of school and neighborhood change.

My second research area focuses on poverty and material hardship. My sole-authored paper, published in Demography, captures how the unmet needs of poverty, or material hardship, harm women’s ability to consistently use reliable methods of contraception. In a co-authored working paper, I examine how the decline of unions has combined with deindustrialization and the rise of the service industry to increase workers’ risk of earning poverty-level wages.

My research has been supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development Graduate Fellowship, and the American Sociological Association/NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant.

More information and my CV are available on my website:

LUIS FLORES - The Informal Oeconomy: Home-Based Moneymaking after the Family Wage

Greta Krippner (Chair)
Robert Jansen
Fabian Pfeffer
Josh Pacewicz (Brown Sociology)
Elizabeth Anderson (UM Philosophy)


Luis is a historical-comparative sociologist, with substantive interests in political economy,
urban/regional sociology, social inequality, and theory. His research investigates the regulatory
politics of home-based moneymaking in labor, land-use, tax, and mortgage law, as household
economic informality moved from the stigmatized margins of the economy to its center.

Luis’ dissertation, funded by the National Science Foundation, the ASA, Rackham, and UM-
IRWG, highlights the intersections between labor market restructuring since the 1970s and
contested household efforts to monetize domestic skills, underused home space, illiquid assets,
and social networks. His dissertation argues that the resurgence of home-based moneymaking
came from pockets of household experimentation among groups excluded from or unaccounted
for by the social protections tied to the postwar family wage: housewives, immigrants, workers
of color, and the elderly. As labor market restructuring broadened experiences of precarity, the
appeal of once-marginal moneymaking practices spread. These practices quickly came into
conflict with regulatory boundaries, in land-use zoning, tax codes, protectionist labor law, and
mortgage law, that enforced the postwar separation between home and market at the center of
mid-century economic citizenship. Their contested incorporation remade gendered divisions
between home and market, and regulatory and racialized constructions of economic informality.

Luis’ publishable paper project on how land-use zoning shapes labor markets and the asset
attributes of American homes has become two papers, revised and resubmitted at the American
Journal of Sociology
and at Theory and Society respectively. Other collaborative projects have
been published with Columbia University Press (with Neil Gross) and the International Journal
of Environmental Research and Public Health
(with SDSU collaborators); conditionally
accepted at the Journal of Law and Political Economy (with Greta Krippner); and revised and
resubmitted at the Journal of Rural Studies (with SDSU collaborators).

MIRIAM GLECKMAN-KRUT - The Rainbow Nation and The Gays it Excludes: LGBTI refugees living in a modern South Africa

Fatma Muge Gocek (Chair)
Elizabeth A. Armstrong (Sociology)
Jaeeun Kim (Sociology)
Adam Ashforth (African Studies)


Miriam Gleckman-Krut (she/her) is interested in how, when, and why states or institutions erase evidence of sexual- and/or gender-based violence. This phenomenon is fairly widespread, and, accordingly, so too have been her cases. Gleckman-Krut has published work on sexual violence within American Sociology, campus sexual assault in the United States, the Namibian genocide, and LGBTI+ asylum seeking in South Africa. Her work has appeared in The Annual Review of Sociology and The New York Timesand is forthcoming in David Grusky's Inequality Reader (5th edition) as well as Contexts

Her book project uses a novel legal archive representing 85 people, as well as 11 months of participation with Cape Town-based legal clinics, to examine the construction of the South African state through the exclusion of a new legal category -- people state officials refer to as "a gay." She will be presenting elements of this project at the ASA and the SSSP, including excerpts from "The Rainbow Nation and theGays it Excludes: LGBTI Refugees in a Modern South Africa," which received the SSSP Global Division's Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Award Honorable Mention and the UM African Studies Center Lester P. Monts Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Research on Africa.

Gleckman-Krut works with Fatma Müge Göçek, Elizabeth Armstrong, and Jaeeun Kim, as well as Adam Ashforth (African Studies). She hopes for her next step to be at a liberal arts college in the Boston/New England area. This has been her hope since she graduated Barnard College in 2014, and since then has pursued as many teaching opportunities at Michigan as she could. These included completing four semesters (and counting!) of GSIships and the CRLT teaching certificate; involvement in SURO and as a course consultant; and acting as an instructor of record for Soc of Sexualities in the Summer 2020.

CHELLE JONES – Jigsaw Migration: How Mixed Status LGBTQ Families (Re)Assemble their Fragmented Citizenship

Jaeeun Kim (Co-Chair)
Barbara Anderson (Co-Chair)
Erin Cech (Sociology)
Fatma Müge Göçek (Sociology)
Gayle Rubin (Anthropology)

Interest Areas: sexuality, sex/gender, migration, urban sociology
Methodologies: ethnographic and qualitative interview

Chelle Jones (they/them) studies gender and sexuality and is a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan with certificates in LGBTQ Studies and in Teaching. Jones’ research agenda focuses on how the intersection of gender and sexuality with other statuses such as national origin, class, and race influences the life trajectories of LGBTQ people.

Much of the literature on queer migration has attempted to isolate the effects of sexuality on migration in order to theorize how migration processes affect LGBTQ people. However, this approach obscures important insights offered by an intersectional perspective attentive to sexuality, gender, race, class, and national origin. Jones’ dissertation examines how trans, gender nonconforming, and lesbian, bisexual and queer women (LBTQ) skilled labor migrants in South Korea negotiate different social and policy regimes governing sexual minority and migrant’s rights, as they pursue employment and/or maintain mixed-citizenship relationships abroad.

Jones won Fulbright and other grants to spend 16 months in South Korea’s queer communities. Jones shows that persistent cisheteronormativity in both migration and family reunification policies constrains LBTQ families unable to achieve full legal recognition even after they marry legally in one country. Jones argues that Korea proves to be a desirable destination for LBTQ migrants because its skilled labor recruitment policies make it accessible, whereas cisheteronormative and socioeconomic discrimination, or strict immigration limits make other desired destinations with better legal protections for LGBTQ people inaccessible. Compared to ‘LGBTQ-friendly’ destinations in the West, Korea’s comparatively low bar for ‘skilled’ labor migration enables college educated LBTQ people to stay together even without legal recognition and accumulate resources to settle in their desired destinations in the future. Furthermore, because family migration regimes have long constructed women as dependent on a male breadwinner, gender compounds sexuality- and class-based inequalities for LBTQ families. Jones has published in the Journal of Lesbian Studies, has an R&R from International Migration Review, and is submitting work to Gender and Society.

JEFFREY LOCKHART - Establishing Sex: The Scientific Quest to Support a Controversial Binary

Elizabeth Bruch (Co-chair)
Erin Cech (Co-chair)
Jason Owen-Smith (Sociology)
Joy Rohde (Public Policy and History)

Interest areas: sex/gender; sexuality; science, knowledge, & technology; politics

Methodologies: computational social science; qualitative archival research


Jeff Lockhart is a 2022 graduate from the University of Michigan’s Department of Sociology, with previous degrees in computer science and gender studies. He is now a James S. McDonnell Postdoctoral Fellow, with appointments at the University of Chicago's Knowledge Lab and Harvard University's GenderSci Lab.

Lockhart's research has been published in Gender & Society, Socius, the Journal of Homosexuality among other venues, including numerous machine learning proceedings. He mixes qualitative, archival approaches with computational ones in order to understand the science and politics of identity. He played a central role in the development of the University of Michigan’s computational social science curriculum.

Lockhart’s dissertation critically examines how scientists work to establish the sex binary, a view in which men and women are innately, categorically distinct. Now he is extending his research to study how sex science was cleaved off from other scientific projects of human categorization along the lines of race, disability, and sexuality. Lockhart also has a number of ongoing projects examining the role of machine learning in (re)constructing human categories.

SIMEON J. NEWMAN - Mass Clientelism: Urban Growth and Ruling Groups in 20th Century Latin America


George Steinmetz (co-chair)
Robert S. Jansen (co-chair)
Greta Krippner
Victoria Langland
Kenneth Roberts
Xiaohong Xu

Simeon J. Newman is a political and urban sociologist with a keen interest in macro- historical change and political economy. His research focuses on politics and urban growth; civil society and the state; and theory and methods.

In his dissertation and book project, Mass Clientelism: Urban Growth and Nation Building in 20th Century Latin America, he probes the poorly-understood question of how the growth of built environments (urbs) affects the sociopolitical relationships that take place within cities (civitas). He does so by focusing on the period and region that underwent the swiftest urban growth in human history: 20th century Latin America. He makes two interrelated arguments. First, many of the millions of poor people who migrated from the countryside to major cities amidst relatively few jobs and insufficient public housing starting in the 1930s and 1940s solicited subordination to political elites to secure denizen status. This not only gave nation-building elites a base of support but also led them to orient to one another to compete for these followers. The result was mass clientelism: neighborhood-level leaders organized residents’ support behind political elites, and the latter reciprocated with recognition and aid. In this way, clientelist relations helped ambitious political individuals and parties acquire and retain power. Second, however, where urban growth continued, it eventually reached a tipping point, after which it undermined the political elite’s power. Continued urban growth generated conflicts between different generations of residents, which drove newer residents into neighborhood leaders’ arms for protection. This gave local leaders the ability to command followers for their own ends rather than to bolster political elites in power—leaving them free to peel support away from the political elite. Taken as a whole, then, the dynamics of urban growth were non-linear or “dialectical”: some urban growth fortified nation-building elites, but excessive urban growth undermined their power.

Newman’s other research falls into two areas. The first uses case-study and mixed-methods approaches with original data to probe the nature of civil society and of the state. The second grapples with theoretical and methodological problems related to comparative-historical sociology and social theorizing.

Newman earned his dual B.A. degree in Sociology (Departmental Citation) and History (Departmental Highest Honors) from UC Berkeley in 2011 and his M.A. degree from the University of Michigan in 2014. His research has received financial support from the Social Science Research Council, the National Science Foundation, Rackham Graduate School, and other funders. His articles have been published in The Sociological Quarterly, Comparative Sociology, Research in Political Sociology, and other venues.

For more information, see his website.

ADRIANA PONCE - Parenting Kids: Invisible Work, Power, and Money in Child Custody Arrangements

Karin A. Martin (Chair)
Elizabeth A. Armstrong (Sociology)
Erin Cech (Sociology)
Katie Richards-Schuster (Social Work)


Adriana Ponce (she/her/hers) is a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan and feminist scholar in sociology. The arc of her research agenda is to interrogate gender inequality with attention to other social identities in contemporary American family forms utilizing a qualitative lens. More broadly, she is interested in how micro-level changes reconstitute patriarchy in micro-experiences, as well as the boundaries between the public and private sphere.

Ponce’s dissertation project investigates child custody arrangements as an empirical case of shared parenting by leaning on in-depth interviews with 50 parents to analyze their perceptions of each others’ parenting styles and responsibilities, as well as how court orders translate into daily life. Her three dissertation articles are expansive to theoretical literature on (1) the unequal division of household labor, (2) interactional gendered power, and (3) the breadwinner-caregiver dichotomy within the context of gender-neutral family laws and cultural promotion of fatherhood involvement. The American Sociological Association has recognized Ponce’s cutting-edge contributions to sociological inquiry through the Sex and Gender Section Sally Hacker Paper Award (winner) and Family Section Graduate Student Paper Award (finalist). Ponce is currently developing a post-dissertation project that explores stepparents.

Ponce is passionate about research to redress inequality and stratification, and she also incorporates diversity, equity, and inclusion approaches into her teaching, mentorship, and service to bolster students from marginalized identities.

KELLY RUSSELL - Becoming Good Investments: Social Impact Bonds and the Politics of Social Policy in the Neoliberal Era


Sandra R. Levitsky (co-chair)
Greta R. Krippner (co-chair)
Roi Livne
Paula M. Lantz


My research concerns the politics of United States welfare state expansion in the neoliberal era. In particular, I am interested in the use of neoliberal logics and market-based policy tools and funding strategies to expand state reach in political climates hostile to widening the scope of government. I have explored these and related themes in my dissertation research on social impact bonds (SIBs), in an additional research project on the tax deduction for charitable contributions, and in collaborative project on the politics of crime victim compensation policy and the recent dramatic expansion of public pre-kindergarten programs in the U.S.

My work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy. I earned my A.B. (English) from the University of Chicago in 2007 and my M.A. (Sociology) from the University of Michigan in 2014.  

SHOSHANA SHAPIRO – Place, Space, and Flyover States: The Geography of Poverty and the Nonprofit Social Safety Net in America


Sarah Burgard (co-chair)
Luke Shaefer (co-chair)
Natasha Pilkauskas
Scott Allard (University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy)

Research Interests: Sociology of poverty, sociology of inequality, social safety net programs, rural sociology, social determinants of health


I research poverty, inequality, and the social safety net as a Joint PhD Candidate in Sociology and Public Policy. My dissertation focuses on the geography of poverty and access to the social safety net. Using quantitative analysis of national administrative data, I find that rural, Black, Hispanic, and Latino communities are intersectionally underserved by the nonprofit human services safety net after controlling for other possible covariates. Although the effect is explained by geographic factors, county-level poverty is also associated with lower rates of nonprofit human services expenditures. My final dissertation chapter is a mixed-methods interview project that uses national administrative data to target interviews in possible human services deserts. This project will create the first systematic study of human services deserts. Taken together, my dissertation findings show that the distribution of nonprofit human services is largely wrong: nationally, services to address poverty are going disproportionately to the wealthiest counties and regions, while communities of color, rural counties, and poor counties are underserved. This research on the sociology of inequality illustrates how market-based social safety nets worsen macrospatial inequality.

A second line of research focuses on how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted rural communities. I developed a grant-funded mixed-methods research project, in collaboration with Dr. Robert Manduca and Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, to study how the crisis negatively impacted employment in recreation-dependent counties nationwide. We are also working on a research project using the U.S. Census Bureau Restricted Data Center at the Institute for Social Research to, for the first time, analyze the impact of the pandemic on material hardship in rural counties in the United States.

My work has been published in Social Service Review, the American Journal of Public Health (with collaborators from the U-M Policies for Action Research Hub), and the Journal of Primary Care and Community Health (with collaborators from the U-M Center for Improving Patient and Population Health). I have received grants in support of this research from the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, the Rackham Graduate School, and the National Science Foundation, and I serve as an Annie E. Casey Foundation Rural Poverty Research Fellow.

PINAR USTEL - Coming off Psychiatric Medications: Knowledge, Selfhood, and Care in Withdrawal Support Groups

Renee Anspach (Sociology, Co-Chair)
Karen Staller (Social Work, Co-Chair)
Shanna Kattari (Social Work)
Rachel Best (Sociology)
Roi Livne (Sociology)


I am a doctoral candidate in Sociology and Social Work. My research interests encompass the construction and sociopolitical implications of the knowledge on mental health and illness.

My dissertation traces people’s experiences of coming off psychiatric medications by seeking help in online platforms. Drawing on discussion board posts and in-depth interviews with people who moderate and/or use these platforms, I explore the reasons why they seek help from other patients instead of healthcare professionals, the ways in which they establish expertise on medications, and their narratives of self-transformation. As a qualitative researcher, I have extensive experience conducting and analyzing interviews and focus groups, as well as using less traditional sources of empirical evidence such as videos and podcasts.

I have served as a graduate student instructor for five semesters at the University of Michigan. Additionally, in my role as an instructional consultant at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT), I have had the opportunity to help other graduate students implement transparent teaching strategies to enhance student engagement. I have also mentored students through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which instilled in me a commitment to mentoring as a way of cultivating intellectual curiosity and a sense of belonging.

MIRA VALE – Data Values: Moral Entrepreneurship in Digital Health

Jason Owen-Smith
Roi Livne
Renée Anspach
Greta Krippner
Mark Ackerman (School of Information)

Research Interests:
Medical sociology, economic sociology, ethnography, technology, mental health, morality

Mira Vale is a medical sociologist, economic sociologist, and ethnographer. Her research investigates how innovation in technology reshapes social relationships and influences inequality. Using the field of medicine as her empirical case, she studies how tools for medical research and care become a prism for professional debates, shape population health disparities, and provoke moral dilemmas. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Predoctoral Traineeship, the ASA/NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship.

Mira’s dissertation examines the digital health industry, which adapts digital technology for health care and research. Although digital health has arisen at a time of backlash against the broader technology industry, digital data remains largely unregulated. Digital health researchers contend with questions about privacy, algorithmic bias, and the marketization of personal data. Drawing on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork and interviews, Mira’s dissertation explores how digital health researchers tackle these questions in the absence of clear social or legal prescriptions. She argues medical researchers become what Howard Becker called “moral entrepreneurs,” people who wield social power to prescribe moral rules. Ultimately, her dissertation argues these rules are consequential decisions about what digital health focuses on and whom it serves. This project contributes to scholarship on how moral ideas are adjudicated amidst uncertainty and how digital technology markets affect social inequality.

Beyond Mira’s dissertation, she has published articles exploring various aspects of morality, health, and technology. All build on in-depth ethnographic research and interviews in diverse medical institutional settings. Her work has been published in Social Science & Medicine, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, and the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, among other venues.


LYDIA WILEDEN - (Mis)Perceiving the Metropolis: The utility and consequences of imperfect neighborhood knowledge

Elizabeth Bruch (Co-chair)
Jeffrey Morenoff (Co-chair)
Elisabeth Gerber (Public Policy)
Maggie Frye (Sociology)
Alexandra Murphy (Sociology)

Interest Areas: urban sociology; neighborhood change; decision making; gentrification; poverty and inequality; housing; race/ethnicity; social policy; quantitative methods


I am a quantitative, urban sociologist and a doctoral candidate in the joint Public Policy and Sociology program at the University of Michigan. My work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, and the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center; Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy; Rackham Program in Public Scholarship; and Poverty Solutions.

My research agenda seeks to understand the role of neighborhood knowledge in creating and perpetuating spatial patterns of inequality. By focusing on how individuals make sense of – and decisions about – their local environments, my work examines the ways in which imperfect information, perceptions, place reputations, demographic change, and public policy combine to shape where and how we live.

My dissertation explores the nature and prevalence of three distinct dimensions of stylized or imperfect knowledge and their consequences for neighborhood dynamics. My first chapter, currently under review at a sociology journal, focuses on residents’ perceptions of neighborhood composition. It offers quantitative evidence that individuals’ perceptions of local demographic composition are both at odds with census measures and systematically biased. I find that across ethnoracial groups, residents are more likely to overstate the proportion of own-group neighbors than other-group neighbors, even when controlling for objective neighborhood composition. These misperceptions emphasize one’s compatibility with their surroundings and likely minimize cognitive dissonance between one’s preferred and achieved neighborhoods. My second chapter builds on this work, examining perceptions of neighborhood change and documenting the degree to which residents’ perceived change in local crime levels are sensitive to personal experience, neighborhood attributes, and actual neighborhood crime trends. My third chapter interrogates neighborhood reputations—the sentiments and identities collectively ascribed to neighborhoods. Using longitudinal data, I demonstrate the sticky nature of historical disadvantage in shaping residents’ views of contemporary reputation hierarchies. Throughout my dissertation project, I argue that widespread misbelief about neighborhoods is a key mechanism that shapes residential processes and perpetuates place-based inequalities, but one that is often overlooked by quantitative researchers and policymakers alike.

My research agenda extends beyond my dissertation to a variety of other research collaborations. An ongoing research project with Elizabeth Bruch uses choice models to examine how individuals’ residential choice processes are shaped by neighborhood socio-economic change. Additionally, I work with Jeffrey Morenoff and Elisabeth Gerber as a core member of the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS) research team. DMACS is a longitudinal study that highlights the experience of a representative sample of Detroit residents, including the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. My DMACS work has resulted in numerous reports and op-eds and has been featured in the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, the Associated Press, and Newsweek.

ANNA WOŹNY – Marriage-hunting: Markets, Morals, and Marriageability in Contemporary Japan

Geneviève Zubrzycki (Co-chair)
Margaret Frye (Co-chair)
Elizabeth A. Armstrong (Sociology)
Greta Krippner (Sociology)
Jennifer Robertson (Anthropology)


My research is situated at the crossroads of the sociology of culture, gender, and political economy and reveals how cultural forms, such as markets and states, reproduce inequality. My dissertation and book project, Marriage-hunting: Markets, Morals, and Marriageability in Contemporary Japan, examines the rise of a new dating economy in Japan known as “marriage- hunting.” Given that marriage is widely regarded as a necessary condition of reproduction in Japan, the Japanese government has endorsed this industry to counteract ongoing population decline. Based on data collected over nine months in Japan (including participant observation in marriage-hunting events and seminars, nearly 130 interviews with industry professionals and their clients, and documentary evidence), I show why and how the marriage-hunting market emerged following structural transformations and how it mediates incipient romantic
relationships. I argue that by implicating the personal in state reproduction, the marriage-hunting industry becomes one of the state’s “many hands,” a mechanism of moral regulation and soft stratification.

My research has been generously supported by the Mellon/ACLS Foundation, the Japan Foundation as well as numerous research grants from the University of Michigan. To date, it has resulted in an article recently published in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society entitled “Herbivorous Men, Carnivorous Women: Doing Masculinity and Femininity in Japanese Marriage Hunting,” which received four paper awards. My other collaborative projects focusing on culture, inequality, and belonging were published in the American Sociological Review (with Maggie Frye) and the Annual Review of Sociology (with Geneviève Zubrzycki).

JESSE YEH – Darkly through a Veil: How Liberals and Conservatives Make Sense of Law- and-Order Politics across Racial Differences

Alford A. Young, Jr. (Co-Chair; Sociology)
Ann C. Lin (Co-Chair; Public Policy & Political Science)
Sandra R. Levitsky (Sociology)


My research interest broadly encompasses race and immigration, crime and law, and politics and social movements. My core agenda for scholarly intervention is twofold: 1) inverting the focus and attending to how advantages associated with race, gender, class, and immigration status is produced, maintained, and challenged, especially in the legal and criminal justice systems and 2) explicating the social processes and mechanisms of meaning-making—that is, how do occurrences and experiences become understandings and beliefs—and their roles in upholding unequal power.

My dissertation draws upon 65 original interviews with a multiracial group of both liberal and conservative activists in two suburban Southern California counties and asks how they make sense of law-and-order politics, with a special focus upon “Build the Wall” and “Defund the Police.” I make two conceptual advancements. 1) Extending the longstanding “legal consciousness” sociolegal scholarship, I argue the need to examine penal consciousness, that is, the everyday understandings surrounding rule-breaking and punishment. Whereas legal consciousness is structured by how one understands the relation between the self and the state, I find that penal consciousness is structured by how one conceptualizes the three-way relationships between self, other, and the state. 2) This dissertation builds out Du Bois’s theory of “the Veil” as a theory of how individuals form their understandings of the relationship between the self and others in a racialized society. I propose a taxonomy of three types of Veils—concealing, distorting, and projecting. I further posit that racialization itself, beyond physical, social, or symbolic distances, obstructs mutual understandings across race.