2023 Student Paper Competition Winning Abstracts

Congratulations to the student paper competition winners and honorable mentions! The student paper competitions awards are proudly sponsored by the Divisions


Co-Winning Title“Race, Misconduct, and Disciplinary Action in United States Prisons” 

Author: Sydney Ingel

Affiliation: George Mason University

E-mail: singel@gmu.edu


The United States criminal legal system is rife with discretionary decision-making.  Due to the large amount of discretion that criminal legal officials wield, their decision-making processes have been heavily scrutinized to see if extra-legal factors (e.g., race) affect these decisions and lead to disparities. However, in the black box that is prisons, correctional officers have faced far less scrutiny in how their discretionary power could lead to racial disparities. I used the publicly available version of the United States Survey of Prison Inmates (2016) to examine whether there are racial disparities in the number of prison misconducts a person incurs, the type of misconduct they incur, and the disciplinary action they receive as a result of the misconduct. I found that Black individuals had significantly more misconduct write-ups than White individuals and had higher odds of being issued a misconduct for assault. However, Black individuals did not experience racial disparities in disciplinary actions. Implications of these findings are that correctional officers’ discretionary decision-making regarding misconducts leads to racial disparities, which is problematic because misconduct history gets considered by parole boards and can affect whether a person is granted parole or not.

Co-Winning Title: “The ‘Adjacency Hypothesis’: Racial Threat and Criminal Justice Policy”

Author: Caylin Louis Moore

Affiliation: Stanford University

Email: clmoore@stanford.edu

Abstract: While threat theory indicates that dominant group proximity to ‘threatening groups’ activates a response of increased social control, scholarship has yet to adjudicate the precise configurations under which threat is likely to manifest and congeal into policy. This study asks, under what spatial arrangements do dominant groups perceive threats and institute criminal justice policies against non-dominant groups? Through compiling a unique block-group level dataset for Los Angeles County and 46 geographically bound areas subject to increased policing measures, I evaluate the residential configurations that catalyze local criminal justice policies. This study uses geospatial (GIS) tools, propensity score matching, and logistical regression methods to address this inquiry through the case study of civil gang injunctions, which is a formal charge against an alleged gang that restricts their movement and usage of public space. The analysis advances threat theory by demonstrating that neighborhoods which receive gang injunctions are more likely to be adjacent communities with relatively higher percentages of white, college-educated, home-owning, higher median household income, and higher property values compared to their demographically similar counterparts without gang injunctions, even when controlling for rates of serious violent crime. These findings illustrate (1) the salience of residential adjacency in threat theorization and (2) that space-based policies can be applied unevenly and in ways that imply concerns for crime only when it intrudes on higher-status areas.


Winning Title“Let’s Talk About Race, Baby: How Interracial and Interethnic RelationshipsAffect East Asian Women’s Racial Ideologies"

Author: Olivia Y. Hu

Affiliation: University of Pennsylvania

E-mail: oliviahu@sas.upenn.edu


Individuals’ race ideologies—the frameworks they use to either justify or challenge the existing racial structure—are largely derived from individuals’ locations in the United States’ racial hierarchy. As such, interracial relationships make excellent “microlevel political sites” for individuals to share and negotiate their understandings of racism. This paper draws from 47 in-depth interviews with East Asian women in relationships with White men, Black men, and South or Southeast Asian men to address the following question: How do interracial/-ethnic relationships affect individuals’ racial ideologies? I find that cross-boundary relationships tend to shift East Asian women’s racial ideologies closer to views that correspond to their partner’s systemic location in the racial structure. More specifically, participants with Black partners tend to deepen their conviction in structural understandings of racism, while participants with White partners tend to loosen their hold on progressive racial ideologies. Comparatively, participants with South or Southeast Asian partners do not experience as many shifts in their race ideologies, as they and their partners occupy similar racial positions. Overall, the findings from this paper suggest that the transformative political potential of interracial intimacy varies by the racial composition of the romantic dyad. More importantly, by reframing assimilation into Whiteness as assimilation into White racial ideologies, this study draws attention to the problematic Anglo-conformist assumptions on which assimilation paradigms are built.

Honorable Mention Title: “‘Where Does Your Christ Come From?’ Exploring the Significance and the Prevalence of the White Jesus Phenomenon among Black Baptist Women and Men” 

Author: Stephanie M. House-Niamke

Affiliation: West Virginia University

Email: houseniamkes@mix.wvu.edu


Berger's theory of religion and world construction fails to consider the critical issue of power and who is allowed to construct their own reality and thus, does not adequately capture the experience of Black Christians and the Black religious experience. I use White Jesus as a case study to analyze this process. Though the White Jesus phenomenon has been more readily explored in theological and historical fields, very little sociological research discusses this phenomenon. I argue that a Europeanized Jesus has had harmful sociocultural effects on Black Christians and Black people, in the form of cultural trauma. Yet, the White Jesus phenomenon still persists in the Black Church. This study utilizes abductive analysis with 14 interviews and 1 focus group with Black Baptist women and men, finding that women tend to find the phenomenon less significant in their lives while men tend to be hypervigilant about the phenomenon and consider it more negatively impactful to the Black community. Many of the respondents who did not find the phenomenon significant tended to exhibit signs of kingdom-mindedness and colorblind ideology in their religious lives.

Honorable Mention Title: “Public Perceptions of Police in Street-identified Black American Community: The Impacts of Neighborhood Factors”

Author: Abass Muhammed

Affiliation: University of Delaware

Email: mabass@udel.edu


The growing negative assessment of the police in Black American communities has reinforced the need to investigate the predictors of public perception of police. This street participatory action research (Street PAR) project examined the impact of neighborhood factors on perceptions of police in a street-identified Black American population from two small low-income urban communities. Multivariate regression analysis was conducted on data from the Wilmington Street PAR Health Project to investigate the impact of physical disorder and social cohesion on public perceptions of police in street-identified Black American communities in Wilmington, Delaware. Findings indicate that physical disorder and social cohesion significantly influence the public perceptions of the police. In addition to improved housing and environmental management programs, this study suggests strengthening social ties, group intervention, and community policing to improve perceptions of police and ensure effective law enforcement in marginalized urban Black communities. 


Winning Title“Welfare, Punishment, and the Social Policy of Addiction Treatment” 

Author: Josh Aleksanyan

Affiliation: Columbia University

E-mail: aja2182@columbia.edu


Information not provided.


Winning Title“The Commodification of Diversity in the Context of School Choice”

Author: J’Mauri Jackson

Affiliation: University of Michigan

E-mail: jmauri@umich.edu


Research has described the commodification of racial diversity in higher education. Though research has shown how urban K-12 schools try to recruit affluent white students despite their demographic composition (Cucchiara 2013), less is known about how K-12 schools might instead try to attract affluent white students by marketing their racial diversity as an asset, instead. This study examines the commodification of diversity through two research questions: (1) how do racially diverse schools in choice districts market diversity when recruiting potential students? and (2) how do families respond to these marketing strategies? To answer these questions, I employ data from a mixed-methods project that examines the social lives of youth and how social experiences impact the mental health and well-being of youth residing in Front Range, Colorado. From 2019 to 2021, the research team collected data on the Front Range School District, a school choice district that allows families to open-enroll their students in schools. Using qualitative data, I analyze Skyline High and examine the school’s marketing strategies for attracting white families interested in being enrolled in a high school known for its racial, ethnic, and class diversity.

Honorable Mention Title“The Labeling Power of CRT: Measuring Support for School Content using a Survey Experiment" 

Andrew Myers Crista Urena Hernandez

Authors: Andrew Myers and Crista Urena Hernandez

Affiliation: Indiana University

E-mails: myersdr@iu.edu and curenahe@iu.edu


Debate on schools’ handling of topics surrounding race and racism has captured widespread public and political attention, with much of this debate falling under the umbrella term of critical race theory (CRT). Despite this widespread attention, we currently do not know whether it is the content within these lessons or the CRT label that is influencing opinion on this issue. Are critics of CRT reacting to the instructional content that CRT encapsulates? Or does CRT trigger partisan beliefs that are unrelated or only weakly tied to the central claims CRT advances? To address these questions, we use original data from two experiments in national surveys (N=1,983) to test whether and how the CRT label influences public opinion on educational instruction regarding racism in American society. In the first experiment, respondents were randomly assigned to one of three vignette conditions that described a local high school board’s decision to ban a lesson by either (1) describing the content of the lesson, (2) labeling the lesson as CRT, or (3) both describing and labeling the lesson. In the second experiment, some respondents were also assigned to conditions where the school board approved the lesson rather than banning it. Results indicate that labeling the lesson as CRT leads to opposition to the content – either agreeing with its ban or disagreeing with is approval – regardless of whether a substantive description of the lesson was included.  We discuss the implications of this finding and suggest avenues for future research to understand how various social and political actors are shaping debates regarding content on racism in U.S. schools.


Brent K. Marshall Paper Winning Title “Drought and Settler Colonialism in the Tohono during the Mid-twentieth Century” 

Author: Allison Ramirez Madia

Affiliation: University of California, Los Angeles

E-mail: allramirez@ucla.edu


"Drought and Settler Colonialism in the Tohono During the Mid-Twentieth Century." examines how Tohono O’odham and American settlers interpreted seasonal changes related to drought during the mid-twentieth century in the Tohono (Tohono O’odham territory/Sonoran Desert) and how interpretations of drought impacted water management methods. Historical materials relating to how American settlers understood and responded to drought in the Tohono show that drought was widely understood as an ever-pressing environmental threat capable of spreading to other regions, such as the Midwest and the Southern United States, during the mid-twentieth century. This learned understanding of drought provided American settler colonialists with the economic and political apparatus to develop and extend water conservation projects in Central and Southern Arizona, including on the Tohono O’odham Nation’s Reservations. On the contrary, Tohono O'odham leaders and civilians largely refused settler colonial narratives of drought while also struggling to manage water infrastructure previously instituted and neglected by the United States federal government. This paper argues that American settler colonists’ tendency to deem the Tohono as drought-stricken, especially during naturally occurring seasonal drought conditions, represents colonial stigmergy. Colonial stigmergy refers to the colonial production of cultural ideas about our physical environment that help to reconstruct it and expand colonial domination through interactions with people, places, materials, and ideas.


Winning Title“Gendered Money and Relational Work: Women’s Money and Labor in Matrimonial Disputes in India” 

Author: Upasana Garnaik

Affiliation: The University of Texas at Austin

E-mail: ugarnaik@utexas.edu


What is the meaning and role of women’s money in matrimonial disputes? Economic sociologists have challenged the notion that money is uniform and fungible. Based on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork, I highlight the legal and familial mechanisms through which money becomes gendered. By integrating concepts from economic sociology on relational work and Daniel’s (1984) concept of invisible labor, I conceptualize “invisible money”. By doing so, I show how gendering of money in family disputes renders women’s money invisible. This article expands on the meaning of relational work to include institutional relational work i.e., how institutions outside the interpersonal dynamics distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate claims and have an effect on women’s material reality. Therefore, this study provides new evidence and broadens our understanding of the social meaning of money, the temporality in relational work and highlights the gendered nature of relational work and money itself.


Winning Title“Affirming Blackness in a Colorblind Nation: How Brazilians Negotiate Racial Ideologies and Ethnoracial Categories in Response to Police Killings of Afro-Brazilians” 

Author: Demetrius Miles Murphy

Affiliation: University of Southern California

E-mail: dmmurphy@usc.edu


The historically dominant ideology of racial ambiguity has structured Brazilian beliefs, opinions, and worldviews. Its antithesis, racial affirmation, has gained wider acceptance on a national scale due to Brazil’s Black movement and affirmative action policies. Which ethnoracial categories do Brazilians employ within the context of police killings of Afro-Brazilians? Do they emphasize racial stories of ambiguity or affirmation? I use computational text analysis and qualitative interpretation of Twitter data in Portuguese from 2019 to 2021 to analyze five prominent Brazilian cases of racial violence—Pedro Gonzaga, Ágatha Félix, João Pedro, João Alberto, and Kathlen Romeu. These cases create opportunities to examine the contours and tensions of Brazilian racial ideologies. Across the five cases, I find Brazilians primarily use the ethnoracial category negro and foreground stories of racial affirmation. These racial stories align with the frames and identities that the Black movement has struggled to promote for generations. In contrast to earlier scholarship that notes the ineffectiveness of the Black movement in Brazil to create a mass movement or a popular negro identity, I find the Black movement’s framing and ethnoracial category resonate with urban Brazilian Twitter users.

Honorable Mention Title“‘I am Born on the Land of Pakistan. I am Pakistani’: Terric Nationalism among Hindu Pakistanis” 

Author: Syeda Q. Masood

Affiliation: Brown University

E-mail: syeda_masood@brown.edu


Pakistan is known for the problems its religious minorities face. Moreover, officially Pakistan was created as a state for the Muslims of South Asia. This would lead one to expect that religious minorities in Pakistan do not feel a sense of belonging to the Pakistani nation. Drawing on more than 50 interviews and four months of extensive fieldwork among Hindu residents of a mixed Hindu-Muslim neighborhood in Karachi, Pakistan, this article evidences that my interlocuters in fact believed they did belong to the Pakistani nation. It also explores how they made such a connection. This article elucidates that the key to their sense of national belonging was the connection they and their ancestors had with the land of what is now Pakistan. In doing so this article presents the idea of terric nationalism. 


Alfred R. Lindesmith Paper Winning Title: “Prosecution for Services: How Access to Services through the Criminal Legal System Shapes Prosecutors’ Decisions”

Author: Chiara Clio Packard

Affilitation: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Email: cpackard@wisc.edu


Scholarship at the intersection of punishment and welfare describes how the penal and welfare systems have become increasingly intertwined. However, less is known about how this entangling of coercion and support shapes the decisions of actors working within the criminal legal system. This study uses the case of the prosecutor, an actor with enormous discretion, to reveal how the presence of social services within the criminal legal system and a lack of treatment and welfare alternatives outside the system fosters criminalization. Data are drawn from a study on prosecutorial discretion involving twelve months of ethnographic observations in two mid-sized midwestern District Attorney’s offices, and 80 interviews with prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and pretrial agency staff. One key finding is that prosecutor decisions about whether to charge an individual with a crime or offer a probation recommendation are sometimes based on the belief that the accused needs supportive services, a phenomenon I call prosecution for services. These prosecutors either think of the criminal legal system as one of the only avenues for people to receive these services or believe a defendant must be coerced into using services. This study reveals the on-the-ground consequences of a retrenchment of the welfare state and expansion of the penal state, where access to social support for the poor becomes contingent on criminal justice involvement. 

Alfred R. Lindesmith Paper Honorable Mention: “Deportation Defense Funds: Innovative or Continuing Inequalities?” 

Author: Blanca A. Ramirez

Affilitation: University of Southern California/Luskin School of Public Affairs, University of California, Los Angeles

Email: baramire@usc.edu/blanca.ramirez@austin.utexas.edu


Local governments are increasingly turning towards deportation defense funds, public funds aimed at increasing legal representation in immigration court, usually via funding non-profit organizations to address the expansive federal immigration enforcement system. Though migration scholarship has generally accepted that progressive localized immigration policies aimed at reducing legal status stratification can at the same time reproduce inequalities based on racialized illegality, little is known if these funds follow the same pattern. Drawing on archival data as well as interviews with advocates of deportation defense funds (immigration attorneys, staff members at non-profit organizations, and executive directors of non-profits), I demonstrate that these interventions are not universally beneficially to all immigrants. Contrary to government officials and key stakeholders who touted these interventions as protecting immigrants, these interventions reinforce racialized illegality and elevate the profession of immigration attorneys as a solution to the immigration enforcement system. Ultimately, I argue that deportation defense funds are a type of carceral distractions that draw attention to a limited intervention and away from the harms of the immigration enforcement system. 


Winning Title“‘From the Dark Side of the Valley’: Making Power in Las Colonias in the Era of New Federalism” Bobby Cervantes, Harvard University

Author: Bobby Cervantes

Affiliation: Harvard University

E-mail: bcervantes@fas.harvard.edu


"'From the Dark Side of the Valley': Making Power in Las Colonias in the Era of New Federalism" reveals how residents of poor, peri-urban communities on the South Texas border, called colonias, met the challenges of late-twentieth-century political transformations. It traces the ways they used their newfound clout to secure unprecedented funding for infrastructure projects and other needs at the dawn of the neoliberal age. From the 1960s to the 1980s, they marshalled their growing numbers into grassroots community organizations that marked the heyday of their influence. Volunteer-led groups like Colonias Del Valle and Valley Interfaith were comprised nearly entirely of colonia residents, and they became powerhouses in the waning days of a bipartisan Texas political scene. Another key organization, Amigos Unidos Federal Credit Union, became the major banking institution where colonia residents took out loans and built savings in the era of booming Latino entrepreneurism. Whether securing public grants for water lines or private loans for home renovations, residents invested in their future and ushered in new possibilities. All told, their activism heightened their expectations while transforming their communities into a veritable modern American institution.


Winning Title: “The Chicken or the Egg? Behavioral-Attitudinal Feedback Loops for Premarital Sex” 

Author: Michelle Eilers

Affiliation: The University of Texas at Austin

E-mail: meilers@prc.utexas.edu


Sociologists have long been puzzled by whether attitudes inform behaviors or vice versa. Accurately assessing both possibilities requires intensive panel data collected at relatively short intervals. In this study, I leverage unique intensive panel data from the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life Study to assess the case of young women’s premarital sexual attitudes and behavior. Through a series of descriptive and cross-lagged panel regression analyses, I show that opposition to premarital sex is not associated with subsequent premarital sexual behavior, but premarital sexual behavior is negatively associated with subsequent opposition to premarital sex. This effect is concentrated among women who sexually debut during the study and indicates that changes in sexual behavior precede, rather than follow, changes in attitudes. However, among young women who oppose premarital sex and sexually debut, almost half do not change their attitudes and just one-third become less opposed to premarital sex. This study nuances longstanding debates on the malleability of attitudes within a person over time and with respect to behavior, and has implications for how people approach behavioral experiences according to their attitudes across a wide spectrum of social phenomena.


Winning Title: “Theory with Consequents: Theories of Neoliberalism in the Study of Social Problems”

Author: Justin Lucas Sola

Affilitation: University of California, Irvine

Email: solaj@uci.edu


Theories of neoliberalism, beginning as adjectival descriptors of policy and historical processes, are now deployed as causal forces in social problems research. These ‘agentic’ theorizations of neoliberalism are potent. However, agentic theories of neoliberalism may also backfire.

Theories of neoliberalism have two linked problems that affect research designs and impair causal validity: context collapse and lack of counterfactuals. To avoid backfire, I suggest that scholars clarify which neoliberalism they are grappling with: a causal theory of neoliberalism that demands clear mechanisms, or a more limited neoliberalism as a ‘sensitizing construct’ (Blumer 1954). Then readers and the field can consider counterfactuals and context characteristics, enabling them to complete the research cycle by fully engaging with theories of neoliberalism.

Honorable Mention Title: “Egalitarian Attitudes as Mechanisms for Status Enhancement: Social and Symbolic Benefits for Men Who Support Gender Equality” 

Author: Katharine Khanna

Affiliation: Columbia University

E-mail: knk2121@columbia.edu


How does expressing support for equality with low-status groups, such as women, affect
perceptions of high-status groups, such as men? This study examines men’s gender
attitudes from a new angle by investigating the social and symbolic benefits men gain
through expressing support for equality with women. Results from an original, nationally
representative survey experiment reveal that men who espouse egalitarian attitudes toward
women are attributed greater status, considerateness, and authenticity, paradoxically
earning them greater social esteem relative to other men at the same time that they repudiate their group advantage over women. Yet these attributions depend on the social context: namely, men’s perceived motivations for expressing egalitarian attitudes and respondents’ political affiliations. Taken together, these findings demonstrate how expressing egalitarian attitudes can serve as a mechanism for enhancing status and reinforcing intragroup inequality. More broadly, they shed light on how members of high-status groups can benefit from expressing support for equality with members of low-status groups.


Winning Title: “Envisioning Opportunities to College Admissions: Social Capital in the Development of Students’ College Plans”  

Author: Ruo-Fan Liu 

Affiliation: University of Wisconsin-Madison

E-mail: mikki.liu@wisc.edu

Abstract: This paper explores how social capital operates in the college counseling field, where admissions criteria are elucidated. Drawing on a year of fieldwork in a high school and 156 interviews in Taiwan, I argue that the effects of social capital for college applicants are not solely determined by the presence of social ties but by the content of messages given to students. I propose a mechanism called “envisioning opportunities,” which involves an informational exchange among parents, teachers, and college representatives to reassess the range of possibilities available to students and help students negotiate the system. Three types of envisioning opportunities are identified: leveraging opportunities, successful renegotiation, and selling (un)wanted options. Leveraging opportunity refers to how middle-class parents take advantage of transparent criteria to assist students in spotting opportunities in selective universities. Successful renegotiation occurs when middle-class teachers analyze evaluation rules to encourage high-achieving, working-class students to take another chance. Selling (un)wanted options to refer to college representatives presenting undesirable options to working-class parents and students to lure them into enrolling in for-profit universities. Each type shows how social capital gets implemented through informational exchanges among multiple actors, the contestation among the actors involved, and how different types of social capital can be beneficial or detrimental in the application process.