Research Agenda

Racial Typicality and Economic Stratification

Racial typicality refers to the extent to which an individual is deemed to fit a given racial category. Research finds that certain racial subgroups (e.g., lighter-skin Black people) are perceived to be less like their “typical” umbrella group (e.g., Black people). As a result, social actors treat subgroups perceived as less typical (e.g., lighter-skin Black people) differently from subgroups perceived to be more typical (e.g., darker-skin Black people) of the larger umbrella group (e.g., Black people). In my dissertation, I examine how the Black-White wealth gap varies by skin tone subgroups among Black people. I demonstrate not only the the Black-White wealth gaps vary by skin tone but also that the wealth gap between lighter-skin and darker-skin Black people increases over time. This study has received a second R&R with minor revisions at Social Forces. Ongoing work examines how other racial cues moderate Black-White economic disparities on other domains.

The Consequences of Horizontal Stratification in Higher Education

Horizontal stratification refers to the unequal distribution of different subpopulations within the same level of education but across qualitatively distinct pathways. For example, as with the designation of a given racial classification, not all types of college degrees are seen as legitimate by others. In other words, the degree to which a person judges another individual as deserving of the “college graduate” label may be dependent on the type of degree that individual holds as some types of degrees are perceived to be less valuable. This designation of legitimacy may then shape how that individual is viewed by employers, colleagues, and peers. For example, in one chapter of my dissertation, I examine how the unequal distribution of for-profit college attendance across racial groups shapes Black-White disparities in wealth and debt. In another project with Olivia Y. Hu, I am investigating the causal effect of educational attainment and prestige on romantic desirability and their potential consequences for assortative mating.

Race and Social Mobility

Despite the longstanding literature demonstrating racial disparities in economic standing, little research had examine racial differences in social mobility until the past decade or so. Much of this research has focused on examining these disparities with single point-in-time estimate of both childhood and adulthood economic circumstances to assess the relationship between the two. More precisely, scholarship tends to measure childhood economic conditions between ages 14 to 16 and adulthood economic conditions between ages 30 to 33. Though this research has provided valuable insight into racial differences in economic opportunity, it potentially masks heterogeneity in the relationship between childhood upbringing and a person’s life chances. In a paper co-authored with Arthur Sakamoto and Xi Song, I examine racial differences in intergenerational income elasticities across all ages in childhood and all ages in adulthood up to middle age. More precisely, we use measures of childhood family income at different points in childhood to predict adulthood family income at various stages of adulthood. We demonstrate significant racial variation in the predictive power of childhood family income for adulthood family income at different ages in adulthood.

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