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. Below is a selected list of recent and ongoing projects.
PEER-REVIEWED JOURNAL ARTICLES
Examining Whites’ Anti-Black Attitudes after Obama’s Presidency with Spencer Piston (Politics, Groups, and Identities, 2019)
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 (Political Behavior, 2020; Replication Files Available Here)
Abstract: Shifting racial dynamics in the U.S. have 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 non-White populations has also renewed attention to skin color-based stratification and the potential blurring of racial boundaries. We theorize that Whites with darker skin will be motivated to protect the boundaries of Whiteness due to the loss of status they would face from blurring racial boundaries. Consistent with growing evidence of skin color’s importance for Whites, we demonstrate that darker-skinned Whites—measured via a light-reflectance spectrophotometer—identify more strongly with their White racial identity and are more likely to hold conservative political views on racialized issues than lighter-skinned Whites. Together, these findings offer new insights into the evolving meaning of race and color in American politics.
¿Mejorando La Raza?: The Political Undertones of Latinos’ Skin Color in the United States with Mara C. Ostfeld (Social Forces, 2022)
Abstract: The meaning of skin color in America has often been understood in the context of Black–White racial dynamics. However, as the soon-to-be largest ethnoracial group in the United States, Latinos are positioned to reshape the meaning of color and its relationship with many consequential outcomes. Drawing upon a survey that incorporates both the newly validated, interval-level Yadon–Ostfeld Skin Color Scale for human assessments of skin color, as well as more socially objective machine ratings of skin color, we are able to differentiate the physiological and social connotations of skin color. Our findings illustrate that politics are intertwined with how Latinos label their skin color. Latinos who overestimate their lightness (darkness) take less (more) liberal positions on racialized political issues than those who do not. Overall, we illuminate how skin color identification operates as a political statement for many Latinos, as well as how these patterns magnify racialized inequalities in America.
“They Say We’re Violent”: The Multidimensionality of Race in Perceptions of Police Brutality and BLM (Perspectives on Politics, forthcoming)
Abstract: A growing literature demonstrates the importance of both race and skin color in one’s lived experiences, including interactions with police. Media discourse and anti-police brutality movements consistently emphasize race while little, if any, attention is given to skin color. This paper seeks to examine how African Americans navigate the multidimensionality of race with respect to organizing efforts against institutionalized racism. Do African Americans perceive skin color as informing police interactions and/or support incorporating skin color into anti-brutality movement messaging? Is self-identified skin color associated with these views? A combination of 67 in-depth interviews and two national surveys of Black Americans reveals widespread recognition that darker-skinned Black people are more likely to be brutalized by police and feelings that BLM organizing is implicitly associated with skin color. Yet, there is general hesitancy for movement messaging to explicitly engage with subgroup disparities based on characteristics like skin color or gender. Among self-identified darker-skinned individuals, skin color is perceived as even more tightly interwoven with policing and there is more openness to discussing skin color alongside race. Overall, this mixed-methods project highlights how African Americans perceive the multidimensionality of racialized interactions and, in search of justice, strategize responses through social movement organizing.
Abstract: Growing attention to police shootings of unarmed citizens has provoked important discussions surrounding use of police force. While an emerging literature explores perceptions of those victimized by police, less is known about White Americans’ opinions towards the institution of policing. Drawing from stereotyping and dehumanization literatures, do Whites’ attitudes towards police vary based on the identity of a victim? And does the news of any police shooting influence Whites’ attitudes about police? Across two survey experiments, participants read a news story describing police killing an innocent victim and report subsequent attitudes towards police. We find that Whites’ views of police are not conditional on the identity of the victim, though news of police violence does shift opinions from positive to neutral relative to a control condition. Our findings also suggest that protest mobilization adjacent to police brutality may mask an underlying neutrality in opinions about policing.