I study racial, class, and gender disparities in the relationship between families and institutions of social control in the United States. My research applies quantitative methods to original sources of archival and administrative data to provide novel accounts of intersectional inequality in the prevalence, causes, and consequences of contact with the legal, criminal justice, and child welfare systems.
My ongoing research on criminal justice examines how mass incarceration in the contemporary U.S. exacerbates inequality. For example, in a working paper, Christopher Muller and I show that although racial inequality and class inequality in imprisonment were comparable in the late-twentieth century, gaps between those with and without a college education are now ten times larger than those between Black and White people of comparable educational attainment. Despite this change, we use recent survey and administrative data to show that racial inequality continues to exceed class inequality in the experience of having had a family member imprisoned or living in a neighborhood with a high imprisonment rate. Other ongoing criminal justice research examines the impact of mass imprisonment on marriage markets, racial and economic gaps in children's exposure to neighborhood imprisonment, and inequality and long-term trends in violent crime victimization in the United States.
My work on child welfare focuses on documenting and explaining racial disparities in the prevalence of child maltreatment and foster care. A forthcoming paper at Demography compiles multiple historical sources to trace U.S. foster care trends over six decades. I show that longstanding Black–White gaps in foster care have recently closed in several Southern states, but elsewhere remain alarmingly wide. Other ongoing child welfare projects generate race-specific estimates of the causes of foster care placement, and develop new sources for measuring long-term trends in child maltreatment fatalities.