Four distinct, although often intersecting, lines of inquiry characterize my current and future work.
Social scientists are turning their attention to young adulthood, which is increasingly viewed as a life-stage between adolescence and adulthood. During this period, youth engage in increased cross-sex interaction, experiment with adult sexualities, and begin to sort into different romantic and career trajectories. These processes are organized by the principles of gender and (hetero) sexuality and institutionalized in higher education.
Sociologists have long identified parental resources and practices as key mechanisms driving class reproduction — explaining how the educational and occupational standings of parents are largely reproduced by their children. My research adds to this rich tradition of research by elucidating some often implicit, but little investigated ways that family background and structure advantage or disadvantage youth.
Once students arrive on campus, traditional four-year universities are thought to serve as a meritocratic gateway to the economic, social, intellectual, and health-related returns of a college degree. That is, for students who are smart enough and work hard enough, college will pay off. However, as scholars — and the public — are increasingly realizing, college does not have the same returns for everyone, and may even leave some students worse off (in terms of debt and financial security) than when they started. This variation cannot be explained entirely by academic ability or social class, as more reproductive models of educational stratification might suggest.
My final research area reflects a direction in which my work is increasingly pushing. Building on the insights of gender scholars such as Barbara Risman, Patricia Yancey Martin, Cecilia Ridgeway, and Leslie McCall, I argue that both how we measure gender attitudes and how we conceive of status and power among women are in need of further development. This interest builds directly from much of my earlier work with gender.