My research and teaching center on my substantive interests in public opinion, political behavior, and racial and ethnic politics, with a focus on understanding intra- and inter-group relations in a nuanced fashion. I focus on group identities in the realm of American Politics though the knowledge and methods can be applied across contexts. Moreover, my work can inform public policy and efforts to reduce inequality. I employ a mixed-methods approach in my research, including the use of large-N statistical analysis, developing and conducting original surveys and experiments, and relying on qualitative work via content analyses and in-depth interviews. My research has been supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, a Russell Sage Foundation Presidential Award with Mara C. Ostfeld, an APSA Centennial Center Grant, as well as several other fellowships, grants, and awards. Below, I provide more detailed information about a selection of my ongoing projects. Working papers are available upon request.
Please refer to my complete CV for a more comprehensive overview of my research, awards, and experience.
“Mejorando La Raza”: Latinos, Skin Color, & Political Preferences with Mara C. Ostfeld (Revise & Resubmit at American Sociological Review)
Abstract: Is there a relationship between Latinos’ political preferences and skin color? And if so, is one’s skin color driving one’s political preferences? Or could one’s political preferences be driving how they report their skin color? To answer these questions, we draw on 495 surveys administered to Latino respondents via face-to-face recruitment and computer-assisted self-interviewing (CASI) throughout the Detroit and Chicago metropolitan regions. In these surveys, we collected both objective measures of skin color using a non-invasive narrowband light reflectance spectrophotometer, as well as subjective measures of skin color, using the Yadon-Ostfeld Skin Color Scale. We then examined how differences between self-reported and objective skin color measurements relate to a range of political preferences. Our findings illustrate an important, but surprising, relationship between Latino political attitudes and skin color. In doing so, we highlight the nuanced interplay between political preferences and skin color identities in American politics.
Examining Whites’ Anti-Black Attitudes after Obama’s Presidency with Spencer Piston (Forthcoming at Politics, Groups, and Identities)
Abstract: We develop and test competing theoretical expectations about the level and effects of white prejudice against Blacks in the aftermath of America’s first Black presidency. Using both cross-sectional and panel survey datasets of nationally representative samples of Americans, we find little evidence that any of the following declined during Obama’s presidency: white opposition to Black leaders, white opposition to policies intended to benefit Blacks, white prejudice against Blacks, or the impact of prejudice on white vote choice. Furthermore, the impact of prejudice on policy opinion appears to have increased over this time period, even beyond existing findings indicating a spillover of racialization. These findings suggest that Obama’s rise to power increased whites’ perception that Blacks threaten their dominant position in the United States
Shades of Privilege: The Relationship Between Skin Color and Political Attitudes Among White Americans with Mara C. Ostfeld (Under Review)
Abstract: The growing size of the non-White and multiracial populations in the U.S. has heightened the salience of White racial identity, and a sense that Whites’ social status and resources are no longer secure. At the same time, the growing size of these populations has also renewed attention to skin color-based stratification and the potential blurring of racial boundaries. Here, we consider whether Whites’ with darker skin color are particularly motivated to protect the boundaries of Whiteness due to the loss of status they would face from the blurring of racial boundaries. We demonstrate that Whites with darker skin—measured via a light-reflectance spectrophotometer—identify more strongly with their White racial identity, and are more likely to hold conservative views on racialized political issues than Whites with lighter skin. Together, these findings offer new insights into the evolving meaning of race and color in American politics.
The Color of Our Skin and the Content of Our Politics: Exploring the Effects of Skin Tone on Policy Preferences Among African Americans with Vincent L. Hutchings, Hakeem J. Jefferson, and Neil Lewis Jr.
Abstract: Social scientists have established for some time that darker-skinned African Americans have lower incomes, encounter more discrimination in the workplace, and have poorer health outcomes than lighter-skinned Blacks. These findings persist into the 21st century, yet public opinion scholars have found few attitudinal differences among Blacks that reflect these disparate outcomes. That is, previous work has failed to uncover consistent correlations between skin tone and racial group identification or policy preferences. We revisit this question by relying on the discipline’s most comprehensive political survey: the 2012 American National Election Study (ANES). The 2012 ANES includes interviewer assessed skin-tone measurements along with an oversample of Black respondents (N=511). We find significant skin tone related differences among Blacks on economic redistribution, explicitly racial policies, and endorsement of racial stereotypes. We also find in a supplemental experiment that skin tone based identities can be made more relevant with respect to racial group identity.