Dissertation Title: “Writing Up: Commercial Success, Reputation, and
the Career Pathways of Nashville Songwriters”
Dissertation Chair: Dan Cornfield
Research Interests: Work and Occupations; Cultural Sociology; Social Networks; Cultural Policy
Dissertation Abstract: How might someone create a career out of a series of self driven, informal collaborations? This is the question I ask in my dissertation, as career pathways outside of the boundaries of formal bureaucratic organizations are becoming more common and employment arrangements like freelancing, self-employment, and project-based organization of work are becoming more common.
I use a novel methodological approach to situate a three-level analysis of the career pathways of Nashville songwriters, workers whose employment has always been based on temporary collaborations focused on writing songs. I use publically available measures of which songs were noted as the best of 2000-2015 and connect these songs to their writers to form a quantitative career history, I then map out the social network connections between the writers, lastly, I interview the songs’ writers and construct a more nuanced and agentic narrative around their career histories and trajectories. What emerges from this process are three interrelated stories—at the industry level, how success is distributed in aggregate; at the network level, how success clusters and diffuses among small groups of collaborators; and at the individual level, how individual songwriters talk about their career path and strategies toward building a career in the Nashville songwriting Industry.
This research examines the nexus of cultural production and employment relations in an era and industrial context where matching persons to jobs is becoming less important than matching persons (and their connections) to persons (and their connections). My research will contribute to a better understanding of reputational labor markets and work in informal labor markets by theorizing the social networks of an occupational community as the opportunity structure through which individuals connect to their industry.
Personal website link: www.rachelskaggs.me
Dissertation Title: “Romantic Relationship Status, Self-concpet, and Health during the Transition to Adulthood: The Consequences of Race, Gender, and Educational Attainment”
Dissertation Chair: C. André Christie-Mizell
Research Interests: Race and Ethnicity; Gender; Education; Mental and Physical Health; Family; Social Psychology
Dissertation Abstract: Romantic relationships influence well-being, including the development and maintenance of positive self-concept as well as favorable mental and physical health. Demographic shifts in marriage have led to research aimed at examining why contemporary young adults delay entry into marriage and other committed relationships. Research shows that blacks are less likely to marry, compared to whites, during early adulthood. Women tend to enter committed romantic relationships at rates higher than men, but these rates vary considerably by race and ethnicity. Scholars have emphasized changing labor markets and educational attainment patterns as an explanation for the unequally distributed delays in initiating monogamous romantic relationships.
In my dissertation, I use quantitative methods with both cross-sectional (Portraits of American Life Survey; 2012; N = 668) and longitudinal data (National Survey of Youth – Young Adults sample; 1994-2010; N=4,520) to analyze the associations among race, gender, education, romantic relationships, health, and self-concept. I incorporate conceptual and theoretical elements from a variety of perspectives, including critical race theory, the stress process framework, family social capital theory, and the life course perspective. With cross-sectional data, I examine how perceived racial discrimination and racial salience (i.e. how often you think about your race) impact the odds of marriage for blacks compared to whites. Utilizing multilevel models and longitudinal data, I analyze how four relationship statuses (i.e., single, monogamously dating, cohabiting, and marriage), during the transition to adulthood, impact self-concept and health for blacks and whites. Further, I consider whether and how educational attainment moderates the effects of intimate relationship status by race and gender.
I provide three innovations to existing literature. First, I include race-based stressors as possible explanations of why blacks are less likely to be married compared to whites. Second, I clarify how race, gender, and relationship status combine to influence well-being for a nationally representative sample of contemporary youth transitioning to adulthood. Third, I show that variations in education across race and gender shape self-concept and health by relationship status.
The preliminary results indicate that perceived racial discrimination is negatively associated with the odds of marriage for blacks. I also find that during young adulthood, educational attainment shapes how intimate relationships impact mastery and self-esteem such that black men, who are monogamously dating and single, receive the greatest returns to education, compared to all other groups. Across all groups, black women receive the greatest gains to mastery and self-esteem by marrying. These findings have implications for researchers interested in how structural positions in society, shaped by race, gender, and education, influence health, family, and self-concept. Additionally, my work is relevant for policymakers interested in marriage initiatives and reducing health disparities.
Dissertation Title: “Education and Health: The Consequences of Race, Gender, and Involvement with the Criminal Justice System”
Dissertation Chair: C. André Christie-Mizell
Research Interests: Social Determinants of Health; Criminal Justice; Race/Ethnicity; Education
Dissertation Abstract: The positive association between education and health is well documented but how education impacts mental health in the context of everyday school interactions is not well understood. An abundance of extant literature documents the role of education in promoting later health, generally concluding that those with more years of education are healthier, both mentally and physically, than those with fewer years of education. However, recent literature has surfaced suggesting that students’ various school experiences may be contributing to a rise in the prevalence and severity of mental health disorders. Thus, there is a need to identify specific experiences that impact the health of students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
In this dissertation, I start with the school-to-prison pipeline as a process that may disproportionately contribute to diminished well-being. Specifically, given that Blacks and Latinos are both suspended and incarcerated at higher rates than other racial groups, I explore how school disciplinary practices and interactions with the criminal justice system come together to differentially impact the mental health of individuals over their life course. This dissertation consists of three papers, two of which rely on longitudinal, quantitative data from a sample of young adults in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth – 1997 cohort (N=3,783) and one that relies on a cross-sectional sample Blacks and Black Caribbeans in the National Survey of American Life (N=4,112). My main goals are to 1) explore the impact of suspension from school during childhood and adolescence on chances of incarceration as an adult; 2) examine the impact of being arrested during childhood and adolescence on mental health as a young adult; and 3) uncover factors that buffer individuals from the known negative impacts of criminal justice system on health outcomes.
Relying on the often-theorized school-to-prison pipeline and the stress process framework, preliminary findings from logistic and linear regressions as well as multi-sample structural equation modeling reveal that school disciplinary practices spark a chain reaction of interactions with the criminal justice system that are detrimental to adolescents’ mental health. The findings also reveal that differences in these processes exist across race and gender such that blacks, and, specifically, black men, are more adversely impacted than their white and female counterparts. The findings from this dissertation call for reimagining the role of education in patterning health outcomes. Additionally, the findings have implications for policy on school disciplinary practices and ex-offender reentry.
Dissertation Title: “Urban Inequality, Race, and the Labor Market Consequences of Freelancing: An Audit Study in 50 U.S Metropolitan Statistical Areas”
Dissertation Chair: Daniel Cornfield (co-chair), Larry Isaac (co-chair)
Research Interests: Work and Occupations; Social Stratification; Quantitative and Experimental Methods; Media and Social Change; Social Movements; Health and Environmental Sociology
Dissertation Abstract: The advent of freelancing and other forms of contingent employment arrangements complicate selection criteria for full-time employment in organizational careers in diverse urban labor markets. Freelancers constitute one of the fastest-growing groups in the nonstandard workforce. Recent surveys estimate the number of freelancers to be 21 million, equivalent to the combined population of 17 U.S states. While previous studies analyzed the labor market penalty associated with other forms of contingent work such as part-time and temporary work, the labor market consequences of freelancing for ethnically diverse job-seekers in multiple urban labor markets have been largely overlooked. Drawing on a unique large-scale audit study that includes sending 12,000 fictitious resumes to 6,000 job openings in 50 major metropolitan areas, my dissertation asks three interrelated questions:  How does a history of freelancing affect subsequent labor market transition into full-time jobs?  How do these labor market consequences vary among Whites, Blacks, Asians and Hispanics, and  How do local labor market demographic composition and economic conditions shape the spatial distribution of such consequences?
Preliminary findings shed light on the complex interaction between urban labor markets, race, and precarious work in the new economy. The results suggest that freelancers occupy a middling status between long-term unemployed and full-time workers, but there are important racial variations. Compared to remaining unemployed, freelancing significantly improves Hispanics’ labor market prospects and does little to increase Blacks’ desirability from employers’ perspectives. City-level analyses reveal two key findings. First, Black concentration has a large negative effect on the relative odds of getting a callback for Blacks, percent Asian has a small positive effect on narrowing the White-Asian hiring gap, and percent Hispanic has no significant effect on the White-Hispanic gap. Second, I found some support for the thesis that the dynamics of hiring discrimination manifest differently in entrepreneurial cities. In urban labor markets with high rates of self-employment, long-term unemployed applicants face harsher penalties, while freelancing applicants are not necessarily better off.
Dissertation Title: “Health and Migration Within and Across Borders: A Study of Mexican Internal Migrants and Return US Migrants.”
Dissertation Chair: Evelyn J. Patterson
Research Interests: Medical Sociology; International Migration; Health Disparities; Social Demography
Dissertation Abstract: Health and migration are interrelated processes that shape the life course. However, little is known about whether and how migration experience—either domestic or international—shapes health trajectories over time relative to staying in the community of origin. Using detailed migration histories and repeated health measures, my dissertation examines the association between internal and international migration experiences and changes in the health of Mexicans over time. Specifically, it answers three questions that will contribute to our understanding of the role of migration on the health of the Mexican population. First, does the health of return US migrants improve or worsen as a result of migration, and does this change differ from that of non-migrants? Second, does internal migration produce different health outcomes relative to staying in the community of origin, and does it vary for rural and urban individuals? And third, does internal migration shape the health disparities between the Mexican indigenous and non-indigenous populations?
I use longitudinal data from the Mexican Family Life Survey and estimate multilevel linear growth curves to assess the effects of migration on changes in self-rated health over time. The analytic sample includes data on over 16,000 individuals who were interviewed at three time points between 2002 and 2012. Preliminary results reveal that the health of return US migrants and of indigenous internal migrants deteriorated significantly following migration; non-indigenous internal migrants, on the other hand, experienced health improvements during the same period. Return US migrants and indigenous internal migrants in my sample are predominantly low skilled compared to non-indigenous internal migrants. There is a vast literature indicating that living in the United States is detrimental for immigrants’ health. However, findings from this dissertation suggest that it may not be US experience per se that is harmful for health; rather, migrating (either domestically or internationally) to more developed destinations may be detrimental for low skilled individuals.
Dissertation Title: “Feminist Policy Reforms in Korea: Strategies and Outcomes of the Women’s Movement in Korea”
Dissertation Chair: Holly McCammon
Research Interests: Social Movements; Law and Policy; Women’s Rights; South Korea; Comparative Sociology; Qualitative Research Methods
Dissertation Abstract: My dissertation investigates multiple pathways leading to the success or failure of eleven feminist policy reform campaigns that took place between 1993 and 2007 in South Korea. Previous research on policymaking tends to be state-centered, often explaining policy reform with a focus on lawmakers and policy-making procedure. In my dissertation, I take a societal or citizenship perspective and highlight the role of the women’s movement in influencing gender policy change in South Korea.
My dissertation is organized into three analysis chapters. The first chapter examines how coalitions among different social movement organizations influence legislative policy outcomes. My findings indicate that coalition characteristics, such as coalition size, form, and particularly the quality of its hub (the last, an innovative concept I develop in detail in my chapter), greatly differ between successful and failed policy reform campaigns. The second chapter also analyzes movement strategy, particularly the role of activist framing strategies, strategies that are culturally tailored to resonate with the interests of the public as well as policymakers. In this study, I argue that frame qualities (e.g., frame articulateness and empirically-credible frames) work together to produce political success, rather than having independent effects on movement outcomes. Additionally, I show that non-verbal framing activities, such as strategic silence and identity deployment in framing, are as important as the verbal contents of frames in persuading policymakers. The third chapter investigates the interaction between broad political contexts and social movement strategies. Specifically, I explore the influence of this interaction on gender policy reforms. In this chapter, I also test the hypothesis that strong alliances between activists outside politics (i.e., non-state actors) and political insiders (i.e., state actors) enhance the chance for policy change.
Empirically, my dissertation analyzes qualitative data that I collected during my fieldwork in South Korea between 2013 and 2015, including archival documents and interviews with feminist activists. Utilizing a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) method, I examine the strategic and environmental conditions that explain the success of seven feminist policy reform campaigns and the failure of the other four. This policy comparison responds to a recent scholarly call for systematic empirical research that compares social movement campaigns across policy issues. Moreover, by investigating a non-Western country, South Korea, my dissertation seeks to test theories of policymaking developed largely for Western democratic countries.