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Department of Sociology Greenberg, Pierce

Ph.D., Sociology, Washington State University, 2018
M.A., Sociology, Washington State University, 2015
B.S., Journalism, Belmont University, 2011


Environmental Sociology, Rural Sociology, Inequality, Spatial Analysis, Research Methods

Research Interests

My research examines environmental inequality related to hazards created by resource extraction. My current work focuses on coal waste impoundments, large facilities that hold billions of gallons of coal waste.  Coal impoundments have been responsible for some of the largest human and environmental disasters in U.S. history, but few scholars analyze the rural communities most proximate to them. My master’s thesis identified neighborhood-level predictors of proximity to coal impoundments in Appalachia. This line of research fills an important literature gap between environmental and rural sociology.

My second focus centers on the use of public records requests in sociological research. There are vast amounts and types of data compiled by government agencies that academic researchers rarely attempt to access. I draw on my background as a journalist to encourage sociologists to obtain government records and data through public records requests.


Greenberg, Pierce. 2017. Disproportionality and Resource-Based Environmental Inequality: An Analysis of Neighborhood Proximity to Coal Impoundments in Appalachia.” Rural Sociology. 82(1): 149-178. 

Greenberg, Pierce. 2016. Spatial Inequality and Uneven Rural Development: The Local Stratification of Poverty In Appalachia.” Journal of Appalachian Studies. 22(2): 187-209. 

Greenberg, Pierce. 2016. “Strengthening Sociological Research Through Public Records Requests.” Social Currents. 3(2): 110-117

Greenberg, Pierce. Fall 2016. “Mapping Mine Waste Impoundments in the Western U.S.: Understanding Community Context and Risk.Rural Connections. Western Rural Development Center.

Recent Presentations

(Invited) Policy and Research Workshop: Rethinking Data Collection with Public Records Requests: Perspectives from the U.S. and Canada. American Sociological Association Annual Meeting. Montréal, Québec. August 12-17, 2017.

Translating Sociological Methods to Marketable Skills: Practical Advice for Professionalization in Undergraduate Methods Instruction. American Sociological Association Annual Meeting. Montréal, Québec. August 12-17, 2017.

Coal Waste, Socioeconomic Change, and Environmental Inequality in Appalachia: Implications for a Just Transition in Coal Country. Rural Sociological Society Annual Meeting. Columbus, OH. July 28-30, 2017.

The Influence of Energy Production on State-Level CO2 Emissions in the U.S., 1997-2013. Poster session. Co-authored with Feng Hao. Energy Impacts Symposium. Columbus, Ohio. July 26-27, 2017.

Making Mail Communications Effective: A Test of Social Exchange Theory vs. Presuasion Theory For Improving Response Rates and Data Quality. Co-authored with Don Dillman. American Association for Public Opinion Research Annual Meeting. New Orleans, LA. May 18-21, 2017.