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Graduate Students on the Job Market

MATTHEW ALEMU - Better Than My Father: An Exploration of the Influence of Absent Fatherhood on the Minds and Lives of Disadvantaged Black Men


 Alford Young Jr. (Co-chair)
Sandra K. Danzinger (Co-Chair
 Fatma Muge Gocek (Sociology)
Alexandra K. Murphy (Sociology)

Completion: August 2022 (expected)

Research Interests: race, culture & knowledge, public policy, black men

Teaching Interests: Introduction to Sociology, Race and Ethnicity, Research Methods, Cultureand Special Topics related to: Black Men, Qualitative Methods, among others.

Teaching Experience:

• Lead Instructor: race and Ethinicity, Research Methods, Graduate Student Instructor Training

• Graduate Student Instructor: Social Inequality, Intro to Sociology, see CV for details

• See CV for detailed teaching experience and training


I am a doctoral candidate in Department of Sociology and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. My research agenda blends together topics related to culture and knowledge, race, inequality, family and public policy.

My dissertation is guided by two primary research objectives. First, my work addresses voids in the way we understand and define a father’s absence. Researchers and policymakers have employed a narrow definition of absence that hinges on the residential status of fathers or temporal accounts of the contact between fathers and their children. These emphases have resulted in an under exploration of interpretations of the meaningfulness of absence by the children who experience this condition. They also foster the assumption that children with non-resident fathers experience such absence in similar ways.

My dissertation provides a detailed typology of absence and illustrates how each type may be perceived by children.  It also documents the unique and distinctive consequences of each type. Empirically, I focus on how growing up with an absent father influences how young black men form ideologies related to fatherhood, masculinity and romantic relationships. I do so by drawing from serial interviews with 35 young low-income black men in Southeast Michigan who grew up with some form of an absent father.

Ultimately, my dissertation examines voids in the cultural study of marginalized black men. While prior research had acknowledged the prevalence in this group of growing up with an absent father, its focus has been limited to studying how the structural conditions of poverty shape the minds and lives of low-income black men and less do so on the complexities inherent in the perceived impact of that experience.



LACEY BOBIER - An Education in Appearance: How Middle School Dress Codes Enforce an Embodied Hierarchy

Karin Martin (Chair)
Elizabeth Armstrong
Erin Cech
Sara McClelland

Lacey is a PhD. Candidate. Her research lies at the crossroads of adolescence, sexuality, embodiment, race, gender, and class. Using an intersectional approach, she expands scholarship on early adolescence as a life stage that significantly impacts embodied inequalities. She 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. 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.


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 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)

Social scientists have long documented racial/ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic disparities in life outcomes such as educational attainment and physical and mental health. These life outcomes are preceded by attitudes and behaviors that also vary across demographic groups. However, less population-level research delineates how structural inequalities influence individuals’ attitudes and behaviors to generate these outcomes. I use advanced longitudinal data analysis to uncover these underlying processes from childhood to the transition to adulthood, when attitudes and behaviors are particularly malleable and consequential for socioeconomic attainment and well-being. My ongoing research focuses on two substantive areas: attitudes towards mathematics during childhood and adolescence and housing instability during the transition to adulthood.

Generally, past educational achievement affects future achievement in part through academic attitudes, such that attitudes and achievement are highly correlated. However, cross-sectional studies of racial/ethnic inequality in education have identified an “attitude-achievement paradox:” Black and Hispanic students have similar or more positive academic attitudes compared to White students despite having lower achievement. My dissertation resolves the attitude-achievement paradox by examining whether Black and Hispanic students’ attitudes towards mathematics remain high as they progress through the educational system. I find that some of Black and Hispanic students’ attitudes towards mathematics decline as they internalize achievement inequality. These losses deprive Black and Hispanic students of a key psychological resource that can help them make the most of already limited educational opportunities.

Extant studies have linked housing instability to a range of negative consequences, but cannot specify how housing instability alters the material, social, and psychological conditions of everyday life to generate these outcomes. My second line of work reveals how these processes unfold during the transition to adulthood, when poor women often move in rapid succession while struggling to lay the groundwork for future socioeconomic attainment. For example, my recent first-authored article in Social Problems finds that housing instability increases young women’s risk of undesired pregnancy by taking them to neighborhoods with less access to contraception, leading to long-term decreases in contraceptive use. This project has also yielded a solo-authored paper in Demographic Research.

For my full curriculum vitae, see my web page:

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.

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 doctoral candidate in the University of Michigan’s Department of Sociology. His research has been published in Gender & Society, Socius, and a number of other venues, including machine learning conferences and an edited volume. Lockhart 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. The first part examines the role of machine learning in brain imaging studies to reveal how the unique affordances of these algorithms combine with researcher assumptions and choices to either affirm or undermine the sex binary. It demonstrates that in addition to the commonly theorized functions of machine learning—causing social change or inadvertently reproducing old social structures—ML may also be used intentionally to resist social change. The second part of his dissertation turns from the design and interpretation of sex research to its presentation. Drawing on the literature reviews of 387 books and articles, Lockhart argues that historical revisionism is a key strategy for establishing the authority of this contested science. That is, scientists misrepresent their field and their opponents in order to persuade audiences.

The final part of his dissertation combines the National Science Foundation’s census of all PhDs conferred in the US since 1970 with the Web of Science’s database of 69 million academic publications. It demonstrates that the way scientists approach the study of sex has concequences for the demographics of the scientific workforce: When biology and health subfields publish more essentialist approaches, they award PhDs to fewer women in future years. Simultaneously, explicitly feminist approaches focused on the complexity and diversity of sex correspond to future increases in women PhDs. This highlights an often unmeasured mechanism of occupational segregation. Variation in beliefs about “women’s nature” interacts with the better studied beliefs about the nature of work in a field.

Lockhart works on a variety of other projects, as well. He has co-authored research on diagnosing bias in image recognition systems, which proposes a new measure of algorithmic bias and demonstrates that it can be pervasive even when algorithms are accurate and the engineering teams at Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have deliberately tried to remove bias. He has worked on incorporating domain expertise into machine learning systems. Lockhart also studies how right and far-right wing LGBT political organizations, from Republicans and Tories to neo-Nazis, construct identity. He uses these understudied organizations to develop theory unifying sociological and queer theoretic understandings of LGBT politics.


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 (historian, University of Michigan)
Kenneth Roberts (political scientist, Cornell University)

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

In his dissertation and book project, Mass Clientelism: Urban Growth and Ruling Groups in 20th Century Latin America, he draws on extensive archival data to argue that urban population growth profoundly shaped the national political arena in the Latin American region in two main ways. First, urban growth gave rise to clientelist relations that helped a new generation of political elites secure power. Starting in the 1930s and 1940s, huge numbers of the poor flocked to major cities and formed squatter settlements. They were dependent on the good graces of political officials, who in turn sought to secure their loyalties. This gave rise to mass clientelism: neighborhood-level leaders organized residents’ support behind political elites, and the latter reciprocated with aid. Clientelist relations helped ambitious political individuals and parties acquire and retain power. Second, however, where urban concentration continued, it reached a tipping point, after which it diluted the political elite’s power. Continued urban growth generated conflicts between different generations of residents, which drove newer residents into neighborhood association 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, contributing to political instability.

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 methodological and epistemological 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 or are forthcoming in The Sociological Quarterly, Comparative Sociology, Research in Political Sociology, and other venues.

For more information, see his website.

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 LivnePaula 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.  

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 - The Moral Economy of Digital Health Data

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

My research investigates how innovation in technology produces new social relationships and influences inequality. Using the field of medicine as my empirical case, I study how tools for medical research and care become a prism for professional debates, shape population health disparities, and provoke moral dilemmas. My work is supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development.

My dissertation examines how digital technology developed for psychiatric research produces moral ideas that govern patients, clinicians, and even technology itself. I take as my starting point an observation from Durkheim, that technological innovation tends to outpace structures of moral and legal evaluation. As new surveillance technologies like algorithms, smartphone apps, and wearable devices have become popular tools, people and institutions scramble to make sense of them. Medical researchers advancing this technology contend with questions about privacy, algorithmic bias, and the marketization of personal data. My dissertation explores how moral ideas structure digital health research, and conversely how digital health technologies inform moral ideas. This project draws on over a year of ethnographic and interview data. Ultimately, my dissertation aims to inform sociological understanding of the moral economy of digital data beyond its application in health. By attending to the moral ideas crafted alongside digital health data, this project seeks to characterize the moral engines that drive modern social hierarchies and processes of generating economic value.

Beyond my dissertation, I have published articles exploring various aspects of morality, health, and technology. Two papers, published in Social Science & Medicine and Medical Anthropology Quarterly, analyze a binational sample of religious women who elected to freeze their eggs. Drawing on ethnographic interviews, my coauthors and I interrogate how these women navigate the conflicting moral pressures of religious pronatalism and religious prohibitions against the use of assisted reproductive technologies. Another paper, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, addresses the dilemmas of trust in mental health care. Based on 50 interviews with psychiatric patients, this paper argues that in contrast to an earlier era of medical paternalism, today mental health clinicians may become trustworthy by distancing themselves from hallmarks of the medical professions. For example, they may provide holistic care or emphasize the limits of their professional knowledge. A final paper, under review, investigates why electronic health records frequently make medical care inefficient and inequitable, despite promises that they will do the opposite. I argue this happens as elements of medical data infrastructure, including how data is stored, shared, and presented, interface with existing organizational difficulties. This paper analyzes 20 months of ethnographic observation with a team of surgeons.


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.