Department of Sociology Social Inequalities

Sociology is centrally concerned with the causes and consequences of social inequality. The WSU Sociology Department has a particular strength in this broad area, with a majority of our faculty investigating core issues of social stratification by gender, race/ethnicity, class, immigration status, and age. Our core faculty working in this area theorizes and analyzes a variety of topics, including: educational attainment, wage inequality, workplace diversity, social mobility, poverty, environmental injustice and inequality, marriage, racial profiling, crime, and political mobilization.  In short, faculty research addresses prominent social problems that are central to public debates.

Core Faculty

  • Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson examines the dynamics of social inequality as they play out in schools and jobs during adolescence and the transition to adulthood. She is primarily concerned with what young people desire and plan for their lives, how that is shaped by social structure and experience over the life course, and how inequalities are reproduced or interrupted in these processes.
  • Julie Kmec focuses mainly on race and gender inequality in work outcomes and on the practices of work organizations that shape this inequality. She is interested in understanding, among other things, what brings about sex and race segregation in work organizations.
  • Katrina Leupp examines the gendered organization of paid and unpaid labor, and its consequences for social inequality, health and family functioning. Current projects consider the mental health benefits of employment for mothers, investigating how intra-household resource distribution, gender attitudes and life course stages condition the link between employment and mental health.
  • Raoul S. Liévanos is primarily concerned with the political, organizational, demographic, and spatial dynamics of environmental inequality and housing market inequality in the United States.
  • Alair MacLean examines the ways in which social inequality shapes and is shaped by the military and war. She has explored the extent to which military rank affect health and socioeconomic outcomes. She is currently exploring the historical and social causes and consequences of combat exposure.
  • Clay Mosher addresses broad issue of social inequality, with a more specific focus on racial inequality in the criminal justice system. He also examines how laws and their application contribute to social inequality, racial profiling by law enforcement, and racial and social class differences in criminal sentencing.
  • Jennifer Schwartz focuses on understanding how inequality relates to differences across place and changes over time in the level of crime committed and the amount of social control exerted. In particular, she seeks to understand how community-level inequalities interact with community demographics to engender varying rates of crime across communities, social groups, and historical periods. Additionally, Schwartz’ research explores how current social control practices might exacerbate existing (gender) inequalities.
  • Jennifer Sherman looks at the ways in which job loss and poverty affect families, primarily in rural U.S. communities. Her aim is to understand how economic and labor market struggles affect family life, cultural discourses, and gender norms.
  • Amy S. Wharton studies social inequality in the context of the workplace. She has published papers on sex segregation in the labor market and the effects of the sex composition of work groups on male and female workers’ perceptions of their job. She is particularly interested in the consequences of “being different” for workers’ experiences and rewards on the job. Dr. Wharton has recently begun to examine the effects of motherhood on patterns of social inequality at work.