Dissertation Title: Risk-Orientation and Risk-Taking Behavior: The Impact of Race, Class, and Gender on Well-being in the Transitions to Adolescence and Young Adulthood
Dissertation Advisor: C. André Christie-Mizell
Research Interests: Racial and Ethnic Inequality; Crime/Deviance; Mental Health; Social Psychology
In the dissertation, I explore the development of risk-orientation (i.e. the propensity to approve of and seek out risk) as youth transition into young adulthood. I investigate whether and how risk-taking behaviors and risk orientation are related to mental health, the quality of social relationships, and engaging in deviant behavior in the transition to adulthood. Furthermore, I test whether these associations are conditioned by race-ethnicity and gender. As a theoretical backdrop, I utilize parts of the Stress Process Model (Pearlin 1999) as well as Hollister-Wagner, Foshee, and Jackson’s (2001) risk-resilience framework. Utilizing data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth – Child and Young Adult samples and structural equation modeling, I examine outcomes for African Americans, Latinos, and whites. Results indicate that in the transition from adolescence to young adulthood, risk orientation is positively related to risk-taking behavior (e.g., unprotected sex and heavy drinking); the size of the effect is larger for males compared to females, but does not differ across race-ethnicity. Furthermore, as they transition through adolescence, white youth experience heightened risk orientation, but as they approach young adulthood, they tend to “age out” of a higher propensity toward risk. Conversely, I find that while age and risk orientation also have a curvilinear relationship among Latino youth, this group tends to “age into” risk orientation as they approach young adulthood. Age is not a significant predictor of risk orientation among the African American youth in my sample. I also find that the relationship between risk orientation and mental health (e.g., depressive symptoms) is reciprocal among all three groups. While increased risk orientation increases depressive symptoms among African Americans and whites, it is a protective factor against depressive symptoms among Latinos. Clearly, these processes work differently across race-ethnic status and gender. My dissertation furthers our understanding of racial/ethnic and gender inequality in mental health and psychosocial outcomes as youth transition into young adulthood.
Dissertation Title: Everything but the Funnel Cake: Art and the University of Puerto Rico Student Occupation of 2010
Dissertation Advisor: Richard Lloyd
Research Interests: Sociology of Culture; Social Movements; Political Sociology; New Media
My dissertation, Everything but the Funnel Cake: Art and the University of Puerto Rico Student Occupation of 2010, explores the use of art and culture in protest. In the summer of 2010, students occupied the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) for 62 days, protesting the austerity measures of newly elected governor Luis Fortuno. The occupation was striking for its use of artistic and cultural performance; subsequently, it is remembered as the “Creative Strike” due to this overwhelming aesthetic dimension. Drawing upon two years of ethnographic data, including both on-site and virtual observations, 31 in-depth interviews, and movement documentation, my research is situated at the nexus of sociology of culture and social movements.
The use of artistic intervention in protest is not novel; however, contexts specific to the 21st century, including new media, pave the way for an emerging tactical consensus in response to neoliberalism and austerity measures. The UPR protest resembles past actions like the 1999 Battle of Seattle and anticipated coming interventions such as Occupy Wall Street. These actions are notable for the heterogeneity of the participants and a stated commitment to non-hierarchical organization. This dissertation illuminates the elevated role of art as a means to manage this movement pluralism, showing how aesthetics are deployed to both unify and differentiate movement participants. In doing so, it illuminates both longstanding protest challenges and 21st century configurations.
My approach contrasts with existing literature that emphasizes the role of art in creating a single collective identity, in that my data shows that artistic expression allows participants to perform multiple activist identities. In turn, while too much diversity of identity within a movement can lead to infighting among activist groups, artistic and cultural interventions act to ease the tensions among groups. It combines major theoretical perspectives from social movements, the sociology of culture, and political sociology, filling in subdisciplinary gaps in the engagement with movement tactics, “user created” culture and identity formation, and the challenge of political pluralism.
Dissertation Title:‘It’s My Pleasure’: Gender, Sexual Subjectivity, and College Students’ Sexual Safety
Dissertation Advisor: Laura M. Carpenter
Research Interests: Gender and Sexuality; Media; Violence Against Women; Social Movements
On college campuses across the United States, which students earn passing grades in sexual safety – those who demonstrate proficiency in a sexual double standard that privileges male pleasure over female pleasure or those who value mutual pleasure with their partners? In my dissertation I examine the relationship between college students’ sexual subjectivity (i.e., entitlement to pleasure) and their sexual safety. I conceptualize sexual safety one’s ability to say “no” to unwanted sex and, when one does engage in sexual activity, the ability to protect oneself from sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy.
Although several scholars have noted that dominant ideals about sexual subjectivity take male sexual subjectivity for granted, the extant research tends to duplicate this oversight by focusing on females and failing to empirically examine male sexual subjectivity. Using data from the Online College Social Life Survey (OCSLS) I examine the relationship between sexual subjectivity and sexual safety for both college women and men. I find that one’s entitlement to sexual pleasure is associated with increased safety for young women, but not necessarily for men. These findings have important implications for sex education and outreach services on college campuses. That is, the relationship between sexual subjectivity and sexual outcomes can provide insight into whether it might be beneficial to modify the messages conveyed to young adults in a manner that acknowledges their sexual subjectivity – and encourages their sexual safety.
Dissertation Title:Racial Hierarchy and Liminality in South Africa: A Case Study of Coloureds’ Social Location, Attitudes, and Experiences
Dissertation Advisor: Tony N. Brown
Research Interests: Race and Race Making; Social Psychology; Sociology of Mental Health
Racial hierarchies are defined as systems of stratification premised upon the belief that some racial groups are either superior or inferior to other racial groups. Racial hierarchies are often similarly constructed in the sense that whiteness is situated at the top of the hierarchy while those marked most starkly as ‘others’ represent the disadvantaged bottom. It is the place of those in between the continuum of white and black that often complicates the system. In my dissertation project, I develop the concept of racial liminality—belonging to a group positioned between a dominant group and a subordinate group in a racial hierarchy—and use the concept to develop a comprehensive research project. Previous research is limited because it tends to focus on either a top-down perspective (e.g., the historical formation of racial liminality) or bottom-up perspective (i.e., identities of racial liminal individuals). The two perspectives are rarely in conversation with each other, minimizing integration of what we know across the macro-, meso-, and micro-levels. I present an intervention by providing a systematic study of racial liminality and using coloured South Africans as a case.
Specifically, my dissertation: (1) explores primary legal sources to assess the South African nation-state’s role in the construction and maintenance of the liminal position of coloureds, (2) employs two waves of the Southern African Barometer to determine whether self-identified coloureds’ report attitudes and perceptions that are consistent with their liminal position (3) develops a multivariate measure of coloured racial identification—derived from latent class analysis of coloured identification and other social factors in the 2005 Cape Town Area Study—to determine whether a subgroup of coloureds represents more conclusive evidence of a racially liminal position, and (4) explores qualitative experiences of coloureds with particular interest in whether they themselves perceive their racial liminality. In sum, I contend that racial liminality has ‘stuck’ for coloureds even in contemporary South Africa; however, this aggregated liminal position hides a great amount of variation within coloureds. This dissertation contributes an understanding of how social positioning can have significant implications for groups’ experience, but also how group boundaries are characterized by greater variation for those positioned liminally.
Dissertation Title: Off Center: Art Careers in Peripheral Places
Dissertation Chair: Dan Cornfield
Research Interests: Urban and Community Sociology; Art and Culture; Stratification; Theory; Race and Ethnicity; Research Methods; Work and Occupations; Public Policy
The dissertation combines two years of ethnographic field work and 76 in-depth interviews with visual artists and related arts professionals in Portland, Oregon and Nashville, Tennessee to explore their career pathways in “off center” cities in the context of a global, or “decentered,” contemporary art world. Artists and art scenes are now actively cultivated by planning and development interests in cities of all sizes, but most of these places are far from contemporary arts’ global centers –New York, Los Angeles, London – and the concentrations of markets and institutional resources that are already known to propel and reward artistic careers in those places. Not all artists can live in the centers, however, and in fact only 20 percent of American professional visual artists live in New York or Los Angeles. How do artists navigate career opportunities and constraints from off-center places? To explore this question, I looked to two cities similar in size but that differ dramatically in their artist populations and trends to find out how careers unfold in varying urban contexts. I analyzed artists’ practical strategies in domains of exhibiting, networking, work, their understandings of their cities and scenes, and their definitions of success.
This study has generated findings that promise to build urban and cultural theory in interesting new ways. First, it complicates existing center/periphery models of cultural production and extends a Bourdieuian field perspective by inductively deriving a typology of cities as positions in a global field. Contemporary artists operate in a reputational field that generates local as well as global stakes and rewards. In this multi-level field, cities vary by the institutional resources that sustain artistic careers, but also by the place-based symbolic credits that legitimate them. Second, I find that off-center artists’ careers are uniquely translocal. Because off-center cities cannot sustain many careers alone, most artists have to struggle to accumulate recognition both within and beyond the city in which they live. Finally, one way they can do so is by working to draw attention to their city as a legitimate site of artistic production, recognizable to outside observers and gatekeepers. As such, places are symbolic resources, and they are also moving targets in this reputational field. These findings challenge existing understandings of art worlds and cultural fields by demonstrating how practical agents generate and respond to urban/spatial divisions. This study also specifies a field-generated mechanism of place differentiation, and challenges assumptions about why art scenes matter for contemporary urban branding and development strategies.
Dissertation Title: Playing Catch-Up: Legalization and the Labor Market Trajectories of Unauthorized Latin American Immigrants
Dissertation Chair: Katharine M. Donato
Research Interests: International migration; Social Demography; Social Stratification
What happens to the labor market outcomes of unauthorized immigrants when they transition to legal immigrant status? The 8 million immigrants in the U.S. labor market that lack legal status are significantly disadvantaged relative to legal immigrants. However, it is unclear if legalization will close the gap between unauthorized and legal immigrants: while the earnings of immigrants legalized through the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act did increase, research using more recent data suggests that the benefits of legalization may have deteriorated.
Adopting a cumulative advantage perspective, I hypothesize that legalized immigrants either undergo subsequent disadvantage because of their previous unauthorized status or experience social mobility as a result of their transition to legal immigrant status. I use panel data from the 2003 New Immigrant Survey and the 2001 Survey of Income and Program Participation to analyze the hourly wages and occupational characteristics of one treatment group (unauthorized immigrants that transition to legal status) and three control groups (continuously unauthorized immigrants, continuously legal immigrants, and US-born Latinos).
In contrast to those arguing that legalization’s benefits have weakened, I find that the hourly wages of legalized immigrant women and men are 25 percent higher than they would be without gaining legal status. Further, legalization increases the occupational standing of immigrants: legalized immigrants work in occupations with higher median wages, more employer-provided health insurance, a lower percentage of individuals that classify as working poor, and a smaller share of workers with less than a high school diploma. Thus, the results from my dissertation indicate that legalization persists as a robust mechanism of labor market mobility for unauthorized immigrants.
Dissertation Title: The Market Inscribed Landscape: Industry and City Causes of Food Deserts
Dissertation Chair: Richard Lloyd
Research Interests: Crime, Law and Deviance; Economic Sociology; Food Deserts/Food Environment; Historical Methods; Quantitative Methods; Social Problems; Theory; Urban Sociology.
My dissertation contributes to the urban sociology and ‘food desert’ literatures by showing that the ‘neighborhood effects’ of concentrated poverty (popularized by Robert Sampson and William J. Wilson) and concentrated %black (e.g. Massey and Denton) depend on city and industry dynamics. I do this by investigating how city and industry factors affect the relationship between demographics and supermarket placement (and thus the correlates of the ‘neighborhood effect’ of living in an area with limited access to fresh produce).
I first look at how industry dynamics affect the relationship between economic neighborhood characteristics and the number of supermarkets in a zip code. Using self-collected historical data in nine urban areas I find that the relationship between the number of supermarkets in a zip code and the economics of a zip code changed over time: whereas in 1970 the relationship between poverty and supermarkets was positive, from 1970 to 1990 this relationship gradually became negative. Conducting a content analysis of grocery trade journals I hypothesize that a change from an ‘everyday shopping’ to a ‘one stop shopping’ institutional logic from 1970 to 1990 explains this change in the relationship between the poverty of a zip code and supermarket placement.
Finally, I look at how the relationship between neighborhood characteristics (especially %black) and the number of supermarkets depends on city dynamics. I argue that racial threat theory explains the negative relationship between a higher proportion of African Americans in a zip code and a lower number of supermarkets in the zip code. I extend both the understanding of the correlates of food deserts and racial threat theory by arguing that (racial) majority perceptions of the threat of (racial) minorities leads to the ‘hoarding’ of neighborhood resources such as supermarkets by the (racial) majority. Using a ‘geocoded’ 2010 census and zip code business patterns dataset I conduct a negative binomial HLM showing that the city level racial composition (non-linearly) predicts the variation in the zip code level association between %black and the number of supermarkets.