Research Agenda

I am an Associate Professor of Sociology at UC Merced where I co-founded the Higher Education, Race, and the Economy (HERE) Lab.

My research investigates the role of politics, organizations, and race in the interplay between economic elites and insurgent social groups. I ask questions like: what forms of organization support elite efforts to consolidate power in politics and the economy? What are effective organizational strategies by which non-elites can achieve more equitable distributions of power, wealth, and status?

My book, Bankers in the Ivory Tower (University of Chicago Press, 2022), is about finance and higher education as two central and overlapping domains in which elites and non-elites vie for status and resources. Beginning in the 1980s, the government, colleges, students, and their families took on multiple new roles as financial investors, borrowers, and brokers. The turn to finance, however, has yielded wildly unequal results. At the top, ties to Wall Street helped the most elite private schools achieve record endowment growth through hedge fund investments and the support of wealthy donors. At the bottom, takeovers by private equity transformed for-profit colleges into predatory organizations that leave disadvantaged students with massive loan debt and few educational benefits. And in the middle, public universities have been squeezed between incentives to increase tuition and pressures to maintain access and affordability. This organizational inequality has both exploited and magnified racial inequalities in household wealth and economic opportunity. This research been covered by The New York TimesThe Washington PostTIMENewsweekCNBCForbesThe NationInstitutional InvestorMarket WatchThe Chronicle of Higher Education, and Inside Higher Ed.

In ongoing research, I am investigating the role of finance and race in online higher education, public university enrollment patterns, and in other domains such as healthcare and taxation. Across this research, I employ techniques in data carpentry to digitize, link, and construct original data for measuring racial, class, and organizational inequalities. With my collaborators at the HERE Lab, I publish code and data from this work at the Higher Ed Data Hub.