American Sociological Association 2022 conference highlights inequities among vulnerable U.S. populations


The American Sociological Association held its 117th Annual Meeting from August 5–9, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. This event gathers sociologists and those involved in the scientific study of society every August to share their work and learn from each other in nearly 600 different sessions, collaborating and growing the sociological research field.

This year’s ASA theme, chosen by the president of the association each year, was “Bureaucracies of Displacement.” In her explanation of her choice, ASA President Cecilia Menjívar writes that the theme is a reflection of the many disparities—“social, legal, economic, political, physical, geographic, intellectual,” among others—that vulnerable populations experience, which were brought to light by the COVID-19 pandemic. She urges sociologists to “consider the role of the state in creating and amplifying the inequalities and inequities that a crisis makes so visible, and to provide a lens to examine long-term effects.”

With that in mind, Equitable Growth was excited to again participate in and contribute to this event. Grantees and members of our broader academic community were featured in at least a dozen different panels, roundtables, and paper sessions at this year’s ASA conference.

A few highlights:

  • A session titled “Wealth and Inequality,” looked into wealth inequality and its causes and consequences. Robert Manduca of the University of Michigan—a frequent guest author for Equitable Growth—discussed his research on how expectations about future events are a fundamental part of determining one’s net worth and presents a “future-oriented” perspective on wealth. Equitable Growth grantee Fabian Pfeffer, also of the University of Michigan, presided over the session and served as a discussant.
  • Inequality and Job Quality” was a paper session featuring research on access to good jobs in the U.S. economy, highlighting the role of intersectional inequalities in shaping labor market outcomes and the relationship between job quality, inequality, and social change. Equitable Growth grantee Janet Xu of Harvard University presented her Equitable Growth-funded research, which studies the effects of the reputation of diversity scholarships and pipeline programs on labor market outcomes for recent college graduates. Two-time Equitable Growth grantee Nathan Wilmers of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology presented a co-authored paper on wage growth strategies for non-college-educated workers.
  • A thematic session, “The Far-Reaching Impact of Job Precarity and Displacement,” examined the risks and outcomes—socioeconomic, health, and others—for workers who experience job instability, many of whom tend to be workers of color and those with lower levels of human capital. The panel discussion featured Equitable Growth grantees David Pedulla of Harvard University and Cristobal Young of Cornell University, alongside Allison Pugh of the University of Virginia and Pennsylvania State University’s Sarah Damaske.
  • Causes and Consequences of Poverty” was a paper session focused on individual and household material hardship and how that informs sociologists’ understanding of inequality and mobility. In this session, Equitable Growth grantee Jasmine Hill of the University of California, Los Angeles presented her paper on institutions’ role in perpetuating racial inequality in the U.S. labor market in the neoliberal era.
  • The paper session titled “Gendered and Racialized Organizations” centered around research on intersecting inequalities in workplaces, academia, and other institutions, including those seeking to challenge theories of gendered or racialized organizations. Equitable Growth grantee and incoming ASA President-elect Joya Misra of the University of Massachusetts Amherst presented her co-authored study of the intersectional experiences and challenges faced by faculty (mostly women of color) in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics departments.

Equitable Growth also organized a half-day training course for the first time at the ASA conference. The session, titled “Getting the Grant: Understanding Private Funder Requirements and Grant Writing Strategies,” was targeted at researchers who wanted more details on how to apply for funding from a philanthropic organization. Equitable Growth’s Director of Academic Programs Korin Davis led the workshop, alongside Stephen Glauser of the Russel Sage Foundation, Jenny Irons of the William T. Grant Foundation, and OiYan Poon of The Spencer Foundation. The funders discussed best practices for developing and writing a successful grant proposal, as well as their organizations’ funding priorities and grantmaking processes, and led the participants in peer review exercises to build their grant-writing skills.

The session also featured presentations from several of the foundations’ grant recipients, including Equitable Growth grantee and the University of Michigan’s Pfeffer, as well as the University of Southern California’s Ann Owens, UC Irvine’s Kristin Turney, and New York University’s R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy. The grantees each provided insight into their experience with application and review processes as grant-seekers and external reviewers.

Over the course of the conference, Equitable Growth was able to raise our visibility among sociologists and learn about cutting-edge research on inequality and growth. We hope to further our participation in future ASA annual conferences.

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