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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: May 2020 (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.



JAMIE BUDNICK - The New Gay Science: Sexuality Knowledge, Demography, and the Politics of Population Measurement


• Professor Karin Martin (chair)
• Professor Jennifer Barber
• Assistant Professor Rachel Best
• Professor Alexandra Stern (American Culture)


I am a sociologist specializing in gender and sexuality. My work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, and the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center and Institute for Research on Women and Gender. My sole-authored and co-authored scholarship has been published in Gender & Society, Contexts, Demography, and the American Sociological Review.

My research agenda comprises three major areas: First, I study the social construction of knowledge about sexuality. My book project, based on my dissertation research, shows how the sexuality knowledge produced by demographers and other social scientists shapes policy, politics, and identities. Second, I am deeply invested in advancing the demography of sexualities, both by producing population science that can be used to meaningfully address inequalities affecting LGBTQ people, and by shaping measurement and research practices. Third, I have examined young women’s sexual identity, behavior, and desire using innovative sampling methods in order to make theories of sexual fluidity more intersectional.


In my dissertation, I analyze the surge of interest in the demography of sexuality to show how social scientific thinking shapes policy, and vice versa. The last decade witnessed an unprecedented prioritization of research on non-heterosexuality, fueling progress in LGBTQ civil rights and activism focused on issues of data collection. Political upheaval and contemporary skepticism toward expertise leaves this sexuality knowledge in a precarious position. I draw on STS approaches to the politics of knowledge, the sociology of quantification and classification, survey methodology, and feminist epistemology to tell the stories of five prominent knowledge claims about non-heterosexuality. I use comparative-historical and interview methods to analyze newspaper articles, judicial opinions, court case arguments and amicus briefs, citations, survey documentation, and interviews with both research participants and expert stakeholders. I investigate how knowledge claims about non-heterosexuality circulate out in the world in public discourse and policy debates, and interrogate their technical production within social science, specifically demography. My case demonstrates the continued relevance, contested legitimacy, and sociopolitical influence of sexuality knowledge – as well as the high stakes of social science expertise on the national stage.

Curriculum Vitae


DANIELLE CZARNECKI - Modern Crosses: How Christian Women Navigate Maternal Desire, Religion, and Assisted Reproductive Technologies 


  • Renee Anspach and Karin Martin,Co-Chairs
  • Genevieve Zubrzycki
  • Elizabeth Roberts (Anthropology)
    My dissertation examines how religion shapes women's experiences with infertility in the U.S., a country with an unregulated in vitro fertilization (IVF) industry and uniquely high levels of religiosity among developed countries. I conducted a total of 80 interviews with Catholic and Protestant infertile women in order to better understand how women pursuing motherhood navigate cultural messages about gender, technology, and religion when making decisions about using assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). While conservative Protestants and the Catholic Church have been vocal about protecting the embryo in their opposition to abortion and stem cell research, their positions regarding ARTs diverge. Protestant denominations generally support the use of IVF and have largely remained silent about ethical or moral concerns. Catholicism, on the other hand, is the most restrictive world religion in its position on ARTs. I examine how Christian women navigate the moral dilemmas that emerge when the pursuit of biological parenthood leads to encounters with technologies that threaten what they consider to be sacred—the human embryo.

    Personal Webpage

MICHAEL EVANGELIST - Three Essays on Racial Dynamics and Trust


  • Sarah A. Burgard (Co-Chair)
  • H. Luke Shaefer (Co-Chair)
  • Alford A. Young
  • Kristin S. Seefeldt 

My research is motivated by the problems of social distrust and inequality. I draw on novel data sets and quantitative methods to (1) study the causes of social distrust, (2) identify structural factors that contribute to inequality, and (3) evaluate the potential for public policy to reduce inequalities. Central to this work is the fundamental problem that distrust is both a cause and consequence of social inequality. 

My research seeks a nuanced understanding of how racial dynamics contribute to the formation of trust in the United States. Trust is thought to be essential to social order and has been associated with a host of social benefits from faster economic growth to lower rates of community violence. For this reason, inequality scholars have expressed concern that people of color report low levels of trust and that trust appears to be on the decline in the United States. 

In my dissertation, I evaluate the two prominent explanations for these patterns, namely that discrimination accounts for racial differences in trust and that increased racial diversity has contributed to a decline in generalized trust. Using a formal mediation analysis and methods for causal inference with panel data I find mixed support for these theories. However, subsequent work illustrates how racial dynamics contribute to distrust in government. I show that an increase in the nonwhite population coincides with the punitive administration of state social welfare programs. I argue that arbitrary penalties for minor program violations undermine public trust, leaving social programs politically vulnerable by contributing to perceptions that they are overrun by fraud and abuse. 

In other work, I have used administrative data to identify racial disparities within the juvenilejustice system and in the probability of experiencing homelessness while in school. This work also connects homelessness to structural causes related to evictions, foreclosures, and the opioid epidemic. Additional housing-related work has sought to understand the causal relationship between housing assistance and health outcomes.


MIKELL HYMAN - Land of Broken Promises: Classification Struggles in Detroit's Municipal Bankruptcy


Greta Krippner (co-chair)
Jason Owen-Smith (co-chair)
Mark Mizruchi
Alex Murphy
Rob Mickey (Political Science)


I am a cultural and economic sociologist interested in elites, inequality, law and social policy, retirement, urban politics, and the sociology of valuation. My work has been supported by the National Science Foundation. I completed my PhD in September 2018 and am currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.

My primary research agenda asks how conflicts between social and economic value emerge and are resolved. A current book project draws on my dissertation research to further this agenda through an in-depth analysis of Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy. I argue that the rollback of public employment benefits constitutes a new institutional form of urban inequality. The erosion of economic benefits is by now a familiar trope, but Detroit’s financial crisis was exploited not just to shift risk onto active workers, but also to revoke promises made to people who had already earned their benefits, defying the categorical logic of the American welfare state. Through a combination of archival, observational, and interview data, the manuscript’s empirical chapters carefully unpack the sequential process by which city stakeholders were prioritized and reprioritized in relation to one another in terms of their deservingness of economic protection. These classification struggles culminated in a public-private financing arrangement that converted highly protected pension benefits from a contractual right to a charitable gift.

Based on this research, I have an article under review about how people adapt to unexpected economic loss. In addition, I am currently developing a spin-off project, Discounting Politics, that investigates the fragile political authority of economic expertise in the context of politicized valuation disputes.


CHARITY HOFFMAN - The 21st Century Mother: How New Moms Navigate Work, Family, and the Struggle to Have it All


Karin Martin and Katie Richards-Schuster (Social Work), Co-Chairs
Fatma Gocek
Mary Ruffolo (Social Work)

This dissertation examines the experiences of first-time mothers’ transition to motherhood. Based on interviews with 46 first-time mothers, I explore three aspects of the transition to motherhood in the 21st century: parental leave, engagement with technology, and the unique challenges facing low-income mothers. My central research questions were: (1) What structural challenges confront 21st century American women when they become mothers? and (2) What factors may exacerbate or mediate these challenges? These questions are addressed in three distinct papers.

The first article explores how, in the absence of a federally mandated parental leave policy, American women’s occupational group shapes their access to parental leave. I argue that disparities in access to formal benefits, including job security and paid or unpaid time off, are exacerbated by inequitable access to informal benefits, such as flexible hours and accommodations offered by “understanding” bosses. Furthermore, I find these differences are reinforced by women’s ability to leverage cultural capital and knowledge to access these informal benefits.

In the second article, I explore women’s use of social media and technology across the transition to motherhood. I argue that technology can be both an asset and a liability-- helping women stay more connected to social, cultural and material resources on the one hand, but heightening anxiety, fear, and a sense of competition on the other. I conclude that, despite technology’s potential to extend social support and connectedness for new mothers, it may also bring an additional source of invisible labor for women.

In the third article, I examine structural factors that may create invisible hardships for low-income first-time mothers. I also explore divergent logics of parenting for lower- and higher-income women, in an effort to explain why, in spite of these hardships, low income mothers often describe the transition to motherhood as less disruptive than more financially secure mothers do. I argue that for middle-class women, the transition to motherhood imposes chaos onto lives that are otherwise relatively controlled, while for low-income mothers, it may impose some regularity onto lives that are otherwise marked by instability.

In each of these studies, I explore how structural factors such as occupational group, class status, and access to technology, may shape the very personal and individual experience of the transition to motherhood.

HUIYUN KIM - Housing Insecurity and Low-Income Housing Policies in the United States


  • Sarah Burgard and Kristin Seefeldt (Co-Chairs)
  • Rachel Best
  • Richard Tolman
  • Lan Deng
    Description of Dissertation chapters: My dissertation project examining the role of housing assistance programs in reducing housing insecurity and implementation and policy design of low-income housing programs followed naturally from this early work. Using multiple methods, I have examined the intersection of low-income housing programs and housing insecurity among the poor, taking for example an econometric approach to program evaluation and a qualitative approach to examining decision making in program implementation.
    My first dissertation chapter addresses the role of housing assistance programs in reducing housing insecurity in the years immediately following the Great Recession. My second dissertation chapter interrogates local implementation of the federal Housing Choice Voucher (formerly known as the Section 8 voucher) program in relation to the federal initiative to end homelessness. I document the dominant patterns in the local preference systems in the Detroit metropolitan area, examine the mechanisms that have created the most common form of local preference system, and estimate this form’s impacts across income levels among those eligible for housing assistance. My third dissertation chapter examines the politics of admission policies in federal low-income housing programs: how QHWRA led to major change in tenant eligibility and preference in low-income housing assistance programs.

MIN HEE KIM - Causes and Consequences of Geographic Disparities in Home and Community Based Services

  • Sarah Burgard and Ruth Dunkle (Co-Chairs)
  • Sandy Levitsky
  • Emily Nicklett
  • Philippa Clarke

Place—in both the micro sense of a site of care such as a private home or skilled nursing facility and the macro sense of a broad geographic area—is the locus of social interactions for aging populations and a key determinant of services received. My research takes this as a launching point as it focuses on three areas: (1) understanding the dynamics of inequality and resource distribution in health and social services for older adults, (2) investigating how spatial distributions of health and social services influence service delivery and quality care, and (3) identifying mechanisms through which macro and mezzo level structural factors (such as race and social and built environments) shape physical and mental health in later life.

My dissertation bridges two areas of scholarship: research examining how multi-dimensional environments affect older adults’ healthy and productive aging and research asking how current public policy can best serve the complex health care needs of seniors, especially those living in communities with sparse resources, as the population grows. It examines policy that affects health and social service delivery to seniors, with particular attention to the geographic variations in resources and the impact of this variation. The first paper in my dissertation demonstrates an unequal distribution of a range of institutional and non-institutional health and social services for older adults and persons with disability in the state of Michigan. The other two identify service distributional factors and mechanisms that explain the chance of hospitalization and worsening cognition in older adults who receive home care funded by the state. The population that receives care paid for by public money has increased over the last two decades as the central and state governments have shifted toward home and community-based care over nursing homes. This situation calls for an in-depth evaluation of community resources and their influence on service delivery and health outcomes.

DANA KORNBERG - Reclaiming Waste, Remaking Communities: Persistence and Change in Delhi's Informal Garbage Economy


  • George Steinmetz (chair)
  • Greta Krippner (member)
  • Frederick Wherry (member)
  • Arun Agrawal (cognate)

Dana Kornberg is an urban, economic, and environmental sociologist and is currently a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the University of Michigan. Working in the United States and India, she uses ethnographic and qualitative methods to examine how environmental and economic institutions are shaped by variegated forms of state power and social differences such as race and caste. She has written about the politics of water governance in metropolitan Detroit and the City of Flint and the persistence of informal recycling amid centralized waste management initiatives in contemporary Delhi. Her dissertation, which she is simultaneously working on as a book project, draws on 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Delhi and explains how the informal garbage collection and recycling system has survived the threat of mechanization and displacement. Her research finds that the economy of waste depends on relations and practices based on caste and community, which conflict with state-supported programs. Because of these, a remarkable level of recycling is achieved in India, even in the face of modernization and threats of displacement.Kornberg’s work has been published in the International Journal of Urban & Regional Research (best article of the year award),Critical Sociology, andLocal Environment. Her most recent article, “Competing for Jurisdiction” received an R&R (minor) from Social Forces. For more information, see:

SIMEON J. NEWMAN - The Political Development of Urban Clientelism in 20th Century Latin America: Mexico City, Lima, and Caracas in Comparative-Historical Perspective


  • 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 comparative-historical sociologist who focuses largely on power, inequality, and urbanization. He also has interests in social theory, political economy, and the philosophy of the social sciences. His dissertation and book project, The Political Development of Urban Clientelism, represents an attempt to rethink the relationship between the growth of cities and political power in the context of acute inequality. Classical social theorists (such as Tönnies and Simmel) consider urban growth a key aspect of societal modernization, while political sociologists (like Weber and Elias) tend to think that modernization is characterized by the progressive formalization of power relations and state monopolization of political authority. Through an analysis of 20th century Latin America, which experienced the fastest and most extensive urban expansion in world history, Newman argues that when urbanization is concentrated among society’s poorest, it generates informal power relations, or clientelism, and powerful non-state actors, or urban brokers—both contrary to what political sociologists might expect. Newman reaches this conclusion through his in-depth analysis of Mexico City, Lima, and Caracas, based on over 20,000 pages of original primary-source data collected from 12 archives.

In brief, since new urban denizens in 20th century Latin America were generally very poor, urban growth took the form of squatter settlements and slums. This put the urban poor in the position of supplicants, requesting permission to live on land they did not acquire legally and hoping the state would equip it with urban infrastructure. State and political party officials, meanwhile, sought to harness the new urban poor’s political loyalties. Together, these divergent-yet-compatible aims gave rise to a system of reciprocal, informal, and unequal relations known as “clientelism”: residents lent political elites conditional support, which served political elites’ interests, and the state granted residents tacit permission and limited aid, which satisfied rudimentary needs of the new urban poor. The urbanization that gave rise to clientelism also empowered the non-state actors, urban brokers, who mediated between the urban poor and the state. In sum, the urbanization of inequality belied what political sociologists might expect in terms of both the formalization of power relations and the state’s monopolization of authority. Newman elaborates a model to capture the causal relationship between urbanization and clientelism and move beyond the existing literature—which is overly focused on single cases—towards a synthetic model of broader applicability. This may help promote greater attention to the phenomenon of clientelism, which manifests in social settings as diverse as neighborhoods, labor markets, and universities, but which receives relatively little attention by sociologists.

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 Comparative Sociology, Research in Political Sociology, and other venues.

For more information, see his website.


JANETTE NORRINGTON - Mental Health Across the Life Course


  • Sarah Burgard (Chair)
  • Renee Anspach
  • Jeffrey Morenoff
  • Belinda Needham (Public Health)


I am a sociologist specializing in mental health and social stratification. My research agenda focuses on minimizing mental health disparities and educating the public about the health issues facing socially disadvantaged populations throughout the life course.

 My dissertation examines how stress, social stratification, and culture can impact mental health and substance abuse. The first paper in my dissertation uses data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to examine whether self-concept is a mediator in the relationship between adolescent peer victimization and psychological distress in emerging adulthood.

This study is currently under review at a sociological journal. The second chapter utilizes data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to investigate the relationship between early life adversity, perceived social support, and substance abuse in young adulthood. For the final chapter, I conducted 34 in-depth interviews to examine how
perceptions of mental health and illness and help-seeking differ by race and other characteristics such as mental illness and socioeconomic status.


RICHARD RODEMS - Hidden Hardship: Three Essays on Material Well-Being and Poverty in the United States


  • Sandra Danzinger
  • Greta Krippner
  • Fabian Pfeffer (co-chair)
  • Luke Shaefer (co-chair)

I am a sociologist of poverty and inequality with substantive interests in material hardship and the welfare state as a system of stratification. Trained in the University of Michigan’s Joint Program in Social Work and Sociology, my research focuses on areas that are both of core sociological concern and social policy interest. I am currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan.

The research agenda growing out of my dissertation focuses on two areas: First, I study material hardship in the United States using quantitative methods. Material hardship includes the ability of households to keep food on the table, pay essential bills, live stably housed, and receive needed medical care. I show that the majority of households in material hardship live above the poverty line, effectively hidden by the very measure which should illuminate their lack of material well-being. Additional papers in this area examine the role of race as a key structure determining the material well-being of households, and the importance of external shocks leading to entry into spells of material hardship. Second, explore the ways in which the welfare state is a system of stratification. Using historical methods, I place the exclusion of black workers from key social safety net programs in international comparative perspective and identify the role of US social scientists and technical experts in this exclusion. Additional projects in this area use quantitative methods to measure the differential impact of anti-poverty tax credits on households by race.

My dissertation explored three areas of material hardship. First, I find that income and material hardship is not as closely linked as one might expect. Income measures of poverty do a poor job of measuring material hardship, and substantial levels of material hardship exist far into what might commonly be considered the middle classes. Second, I find that the duration of material hardship differs considerably by race. Third, I find that external shocks such as unemployment, moving, or divorce can raise a household’s risk of entering material hardship, but that this risk so strongly differs by race that what might constitute a relatively risky period in the life of a household for a white family is similar to a non-white household with the best of luck. During my postdoc fellowship, my work has expanded to include more applied work, including projects on material hardship among children, homelessness among public school students, and external collaborations with major non-profits and health care systems.