The heart of NYU Wagner's programs is our faculty. An amalgam of full-time, clinical/research/visiting, and adjunct professors, they are outstanding teachers, expert researchers and committed practitioners.
Conley, D. and B. McCabe. 2012. Bribery or just desserts? Evidence on the influence of Congressional reproductive policy voting patterns on PAC contributions from exogenous variation in the sex mix of legislator offspring. Social Science Research, 41(1): 120-129.
Evidence on the relationship between political contributions and legislators’ voting behavior is marred by concerns about endogeneity in the estimation process. Using a legislator’s offspring sex mix as a truly exogenous variable, we employ an instrumental variable estimation procedure to predict the effect of voting behavior on political contributions. Following previous research, we find that a legislator’s proportion daughters has a significant effect on voting behavior for women’s issues, as measured by score in the “Congressional Record on Choice” issued by NARAL Pro-Choice America. In the second stage, we make a unique contribution by demonstrating a significant impact of exogenous voting behavior on PAC contributions, lending further credibility to the hypothesis that Political Action Committees respond to legislators’ voting patterns by “rewarding” political candidates that vote in line with the positions of the PAC, rather than affecting those same votes – at least in this high-profile policy domain.
Conley, Dalton and Jennifer Heerwig. 2012. The Long-Term Effects of Military Conscription on Mortality: Estimates From the Vietnam-Era Draft Lottery. Demography.
Research on the effects of Vietnam military service suggests that Vietnam veterans experienced significantly higher mortality than the civilian population at large. These results, however, may be biased by nonrandom selection into the military if unobserved background differences between veterans and nonveterans affect mortality directly. To generate unbiased estimates of exposure to conscription on mortality, the present study compares the observed proportion of draft-eligible male decedents born 1950–1952 to the (1) expected proportion of draft-eligible male decedents given Vietnam draft-eligibility cutoffs; and (2) observed proportion of draft-eligible decedent women. The results demonstrate no effect of draft exposure on mortality, including for cause-specific death rates. When we examine population subgroups—including splits by race, educational attainment, nativity, and marital status—we find weak evidence for an interaction between education and draft eligibility. This interaction works in the opposite direction of putative education-enhancing, mortality-reducing effects of conscription that have, in the past, led to concern about a potential exclusion restriction violation in instrumental variable (IV) regression models. We suggest that previous research, which has shown that Vietnam-era veterans experienced significantly higher mortality than nonveterans, might be biased by nonrandom selection into the military and should be further investigated.
2011. Liberalism and the New Inequality. Breakthrough Journal, 1: 35-42.
Conley, D. 2011. One Thing I Know: Falling Upward. Contexts, 10(3): 84.
Prior researchers have deployed the Vietnam-era draft lottery as an instrument to estimate causal effects of military service on health and earnings. However, household and residential outcomes may be more sensitive to the psychological effects of military service. Using 2SLS analyses of the 2000 Census and the 2005 American Community Survey, we find mixed results for residential stability, housing tenure, and extended family residence. While in the ACS white veterans are less mobile, veteran status has no effect on homeownership. Veteran status reduces extended family living for whites in the Census but increases it for ACS veterans of "other" races.
Conley, D. and B. McCabe. 2011. Body Mass Index and Physical Attractiveness: Evidence From a Combination Image-Alteration/List Experiment. Sociological Methods and Research, 40: 6-31.
The list experiment is used to detect latent beliefs when researchers suspect a substantial degree of social desirability bias from respondents. This methodology has been used in areas ranging from racial attitudes to political preferences. Meanwhile, social psychologists interested in the salience of physical attributes to social behavior have provided respondents with experimentally altered photographs to test the influence of particular visual cues or traits on social evaluations. This experimental research has examined the effect of skin blemishes, hairlessness, and particular racial attributes on respondents’ evaluation of these photographs. While this approach isolates variation in particular visual characteristics from other visual aspects that tend to covary with the traits in question, it fails to adequately deal with social desirability bias. This shortcoming is particularly important when concerned with potentially charged visual cues, such as body mass index (BMI). The present article describes a novel experiment that combines the digital alteration of photographs with the list experiment approach. When tested on a nationally representative sample of Internet respondents, results suggest that when shown photographs of women, male respondents report differences in levels of attractiveness based on the perceived BMI of the photographed confederate. Overweight individuals are less likely than their normal weight peers to report different levels of attractiveness between high-BMI and low-BMI photographs. Knowing that evaluations of attractiveness influence labor market outcomes, the findings are particularly salient in a society with rising incidence of obesity.
Conley, D. 2011. Commentary: Reading Plomin and Daniels in the post-genomic age. International Journal of Epidemiology, 40(3): 596-598.
Conley, Dalton. 2010. Elsewhere, U.S.A: How We Got from the Company Man, Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, BlackBerry Moms,and Economic Anxiety. Vintage Publishing.
Conley, D. 2010. Commentary: Tax Revolts, Pregnancy Envy, Race, and the “Death Tax”. Tax Law Review, 63(1): 261-264.
Conley, D. 2009. Seeking SWF: In this time of global financial crisis, America needs a sovereign wealth fund of its own. Democracy, A Journal of Ideas. 12:36-47.
Conley, D. 2009. The Promise and Challenges of Incorporating Genetic Data into Longitudinal Social Science Surveys and Research. Biodemography and Social Biology, 55(2): 238–251.
In this paper, I argue that social science and genomics can be integrated; however, the way this marriage is currently occurring rests on spurious methods and assumptions and, as a result, will yield few lasting insights. However, recent advances in both econometrics and in developmental genomics provide scientists with a novel opportunity to understand how genes and environment interact to produce social outcomes. Key to any causal inference about the interplay between genes and social environment is that either genotype be exogenously manipulated (i.e. through sibling fixed effects) while environmental conditions are held constant, and/or that environmental variation is exogenous in nature, i.e. experimental or arising from a natural experiment of sorts. Further, initial allele selection should be motivated by findings from genetic experiments in model animal studies linked to orthologous human genes. Likewise, genetic associations found in human population studies should then be tested through knock-out and over-expression studies in model organisms.
Conley, Dalton. 2009. You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking Like a Sociologist. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Conley, D. and R. Glauber. 2008. All in the family? Family Composition, Resources, and Sibling Similarity in Socioeconomic Status. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 26(4): 297-306.
Numerous studies have analyzed the effects of family structure, composition, and resources on socioeconomic status attainment. Fewer studies have explored how these family-based factors affect the variation—or the correlation—between siblings in socioeconomic status. The current study draws on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and provides a descriptive account of the correlations between siblings along a number of family composition and resource dimensions. We report two main findings. First, correlations do not vary by siblings’ sex mix. That is, brothers’ correlations in education, earnings, and family income are similar to sisters’ correlations. Second, siblings from relatively disadvantaged families—those with more siblings and lower educated, younger, and unmarried mothers—have lower correlations in socioeconomic status than siblings from more advantaged families. In general, family background has a weaker effect on adults who begin life from disadvantaged positions. These findings suggest that social reproduction and mobility processes are complex and shaped by family-level dynamics and resources.
Conley, D. and R. Glauber. 2008. Wealth Mobility and Volatility in Black and White. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress.
This article examines the extent to which family wealth affects the Black–White test score gap for young children based on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (aged 3–12). This study found little evidence that wealth mediated the Black–White test scores gaps, which were eliminated when child and family demographic covariates were held constant. However, family wealth had a stronger association with cognitive achievement of school-aged children than that of preschoolers and a stronger association with school-aged children’s math than on their reading scores. Liquid assets, particularly holdings in stocks or mutual funds, were positively associated with school-aged children’s test scores. Family wealth was associated with a higher quality home environment, better parenting behavior, and children’s private school attendance.
Conley, D., Pfeiffer, K.M. and M. Velez. 2007. Explaining Sibling Differences in Achievement and Behavioral Outcomes: The Importance of Within- and Between-Family Factors. Social Science Research, 36(3): 1087-1104.
Most research on child behavioral and cognitive outcomes focuses on the impact of variables measured across families—holding a number of other characteristics constant. However, this research is limited in that it does not capture variation in child developmental outcomes that occurs within families. To address these limitations, we examine correlations of child outcomes between siblings from the same family. We conduct this analysis for several demographic subgroups. Furthermore, to better understand how these inequalities are generated within families, we also examine the impact of individual level characteristics within families using fixed effects models. Results from our between-family analyses indicate that siblings with fewer family resources are more similar on behavioral outcomes compared to siblings in more privileged families. However, children in two-parent households perform more similarly on age-adjusted achievement tests than do children in single parent households. Results from our within-family sibling comparisons reveal that first born children generally outperform their younger siblings on age-adjusted achievement tests.
For decades, social scientists have relied on sibling correlations as indicative of the effect of “global family background” on socioeconomic status. This study advances this line of inquiry by drawing on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to analyze racial differences in siblings' labor market and socioeconomic outcomes. We find that African Americans have lower sibling correlations in labor market earnings and family income than whites. Across the life course, African American siblings move toward greater resemblance than whites. These findings suggest that the effect of family background on socioeconomic outcomes is weaker for African Americans than for whites. Volatility in earlier career stages may suppress the effect of family background on labor market outcomes, and this dynamic is especially pronounced for African Americans who lack resources to insulate themselves from volatile events.
Home ownership has potentially significant consequences for welfare state policy. High owner-occupancy rates may function as private insurance where social spending is low (a substitution effect). Alternatively, state income redistribution policies could raise the number of home owners (an income effect). Cross-national time-series data show that social spending is negatively related to home ownership, and mediates the positive relationship between income inequality and owner-occupancy rates. This suggests that owner-occupancy acts as a form of social insurance over the life course. Future welfare state researchers should consider the issue of home ownership in analyses of inequality and the social safety net.
Conley, D. & Glauber, R. 2006. Parental Educational Investment and Children's Academic Risk. Journal of Human Resources, Fall 2006, Vol. 41 Issue 4, p722-737, 16p.
This study uses exogenous variation in sibling sex composition to estimate the causal effect of sibship size on boys' probabilities of private school attendance and grade retention. Using the 1990 U.S. Census, we find that for second-born boys, increased sibship size reduces the likelihood of private school attendance by six percentage points and increases grade retention by almost one percentage point. Sibship size has no effect for first-born boys. Instrumental variable estimates are larger consistent across racial groups, although the standard error are larger for nonwhites as they have smaller sample sizes and this renders them insignificant at traditional alpha levels.
Conley, D. 2005. Poverty and Life Chances: The Conceptualization and Study of the Poor. Pp. 327- 344 in The Handbook of Sociology. Edited by Craig Calhoun, Chris Rojek and Bryan S. Turner. Sage Limited, U.K.
This chapter is concerned with the theoretical
This article examines whether differences in parental occupational prestige mediate or moderate race differences in four indicators of child development—reading scores, math scores, Behavior Problems Index, and health status—using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics Child Development Supplement. The authors find that although for behavioral problems there is no impact of parental occupational prestige, for reading, math, and health there are significant academic returns to parental occupational prestige, but only for White families. The authors hypothesize that this racially distinct dynamic may be a result of ongoing discrimination in the labor market, thereby reducing the association between ability (job and parenting) and prestige; or it may be a result of the difficulty of Blacks to translate occupational prestige gains into other benefits as a result of discrimination outside the labor market; or finally, it may be the result of a generational lag between occupational status and parenting practices.
Conley, D. 2004. After the Bell—Family Background and Educational Success. (Edited, with an Introduction; co-edited by Karen Albright). From conference organized in conjunction with the Jerome Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. June 4-5, London & New York: Routledge.
This book looks at the social and economic factors of schooling and will prove an intriguing read for sociologist, social economists and policy-makers.
Conley, D. & Baldwin, T. 2004. Racial Stratification in the U.S. After Emancipation: Effects on Occupation and Ownership. Patrick Weil, Mickaëlla Périna, and Laurent Dubois, eds., Colonization, Slavery and Afterward. Working Paper, Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, Yale University.
Strully, K. & Conley, D. 2004. Reconsidering Risk: Biosocial Interactions and their Implications for Health Policy: The Case of Low Birth Weight.. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.
According to recent research, interactions between infant health and environment can play crucial roles in clustering health and economic disadvantage among certain families. Researchers have provided a clear example of such intergenerational biosocial cycles when they document that interactions between parental low birth weight status and prenatal environment are associated with the risk of a low birth weight, and that interactions between a child's birth weight status and early childhood environment are associated with adult socioeconomic outcomes. In this article, we consider how existing policies may be revised to more effectively address such interactions between social and biological risk categories. We are particularly concerned in this discussion with revising risk categories so they can encompass biological risk, social risk, and developmental frameworks. A framework of biosocial risk is quite flexible and may be applied to a variety of issues and programs; however, in this article we focus on the single case of low birth weight to illustrate our argument. In considering specific applications, we further explore how attention to biosocial interactions may reshape Medicaid, special education, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Conley, D. 2004. The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why. New York: Pantheon Books.
In recent years, people have begun to examine family dynamics for clues to individual success. Birth order, in particular, has been a favored explanation for the differences between siblings in everything from leadership skills to romantic conquests. Now Dalton Conley, a sociology professor at NYU, reveals that indeed our siblings may affect how our lives turn out, but not in the ways we might think. Conley made an effort not to simplify the very complex familial data collected by both the United States Census, a long-term study conducted by the University of Michigan, and the University of Chicago's General Social Survey. What he found was that the differences between siblings outweigh almost every other kind of difference between any two individuals in the United States. Every family has a pecking order independent of birth order, and the differences between siblings are magnified by poverty and disenfranchisement. In these situations, families invest in the sibling most likely to succeed, leading to stark divides, even class differences between family members. Oddly, the choice of successful sibling is made independent of birth order, parental attention, or innate talents, and becomes a tacit agreement among family members. Conley uses a plethora of examples, including Bill and Roger Clinton, to illustrate his findings, and readers will nod knowingly at many of the ubiquitous family behaviors that set siblings up for differing life paths. Ultimately, what The Pecking Order reveals is that there is no single factor that can predict one's success or failure in life, but that complex, multilayered familial dynamics play the biggest part in determining our fate.
Conley, D. & Ryvicker, M. 2004. The Price of Female Headship: Gender, Inheritance, and Wealth Accumulation in the United States. Journal of Income Distribution, Fall2004/Winter2005, Vol. 13 Issue 3/4, p41-56, 16p.
Female-headed households in the United States suffer from lower levels of asset ownership than their male-headed counterparts. This gap remains after controlling for the lower incomes of female heads. What, then, produces the gender discrepancy in net worth? Using longitudinal, intergenerational data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we ask whether differential patterns of inheritance, savings rates, or investment yield this female-male asset gap. Results demonstrate that differential savings rates between female- and male-headed households account for the gender gap in net worth. We speculate on the financial constraints within female-headed households that account for the savings rate differential.
Conley, D. 2003. Calculating Slavery Reparations: Theory, Numbers and Implications. Politics and the Past: On Repairing Historical Injustices. Edited by John Torpey. Rowan and Littlefield.
The possibility of paying reparations to black Americans as restitution for the legacy of slavery has made a recent comeback in the popular discourse. If and when this debate moves toward actual policy, there will be many details to be worked out on how to arrive at the "right" number. Implicit in each of these details is a set of assumptions not just about the meaning of race and the legacy of slavery but about how opportunity in America is structured by birth and background more generally. Putting these assumptions on the table is important if we are to have a fruitful debate about how to rectify inequities of the past.
Seven percent of newborns in the United States weigh in at less than five and one half pounds. These "low birth weight" babies face challenges that others will never know--challenges that begin with a greater risk of infant mortality and extend well into adulthood in the form of health and developmental problems. Because low birth weight is often accompanied by social risk factors such as minority racial status, low education, young maternal age, and low income, the question of causes and consequences--of precisely how biological and social factors figure into this equation--becomes especially tricky to sort out. This is the question that The Starting Gate takes up, bringing a novel perspective to the nature-nurture debate by using the starting point of birth as a lens to examine biological and social inheritance. Seven percent of newborns in the United States weigh in at less than five and one half pounds. These "low birth weight" babies face challenges that others will never know--challenges that begin with a greater risk of infant mortality and extend well into adulthood in the form of health and developmental problems. Because low birth weight is often accompanied by social risk factors such as minority racial status, low education, young maternal age, and low income, the question of causes and consequences--of precisely how biological and social factors figure into this equation--becomes especially tricky to sort out. This is the question that The Starting Gate takes up, bringing a novel perspective to the nature-nurture debate by using the starting point of birth as a lens to examine biological and social inheritance.
Conley, D. 2002. Editorial: Introduction to the Special Issue on Race and Ethnicity. Sociological Forum. 2002, Vol. 17(4): pp. 549-551.
The tension between ascribed and achieved status pervades much of sociology, sometimes as a latent theme and sometimes manifest. The articles in this issue of Sociological Forum revisit this tension through the lens of race and ethnicity. They examine contexts varying widely from adolescents in the United States to upper-caste Muslims in India. The specific issues they address are also diverse: the relationship between race, democracy, and equal opportunity; deviant behavior among teenagers of different ethnic groups; intermarriage among whites and minorities in contemporary U.S. society; the strategic commonalities between the Deaf, gay and white supremacist movements; and finally, the tension between modernization, economic development, and finally, the tension between modernization, economic development, and caste/racial identity. Yet, the articles also share a broader common theme; each concerns the paradoxes that emerge when ascribed racial or ethnic identity collides with powerful forces that represent the conditions of achieved position.
Conley, D. 2002. Equity Inequity. Annual Editions: American Government New York: McGraw Hill / Dushkin & 2003 and originally appearing in The Nation. 3/26/01; 272(12), pp. 20-22.
The article reports on racial inequality. The author says the while African-Americans do earn less than whites, asset gaps remain large even when black and white families at the same income levels are compared. For instance, at the lower end of the economic spectrum (incomes less than $ 15,000 per year), the median African-American family has a net worth of zero, while the equivalent white family's net worth is $10,000. Likewise, among the often-heralded new black middle class, the typical white family earning $40,000 per year enjoys a nest egg of around $80,000; its African-American counterpart has less than half that amount.
Conley, D. 2002. How Much is Forty Acres Worth Today? The Debate Over Reparations for African Americans. Contexts. 2002, Vol. 1 (3), pp. 13-20.
Conley, D. & Bennett, N. 2002. Outcomes in Young Adulthood for Very-Low-Birth-Weight-Infants. (Letter) New England Journal of Medicine. 2002, Vol. 347(2), pp. 141.
To the Editor: Hack et al. (Jan. 17 issue)1 report that 20-year-olds who had very low birth weight have a lower rate of risk-taking behavior than their normal-birth-weight peers, and the authors describe this finding as "reassuring." McCormick and Richardson, in their editorial,2 suggest that the avoidance of risk-taking behavior indicates a special "resilience" in very-low-birth-weight children and their families. I disagree.
Conley, D., Douglass, A., Kelley, R.D.G. & Marable, M. 2002. Whiteness in New York City: A Critical Dialogue. Souls Fall.
Conley, D. 2001. A Room of One’s Own or A Room with a View? Housing and Educational Stratification. Sociological Forum. 2001, Vol. 16(2), pp. 263-280.
This study attempts to understand the role that housing plays in the system of social stratification. First, it generates a model of how housing outcomes are stratified along dimensions of socioeconomic status and race. Second, it asks what role housing conditions play in the system of educational stratification of offspring. Using two-generational data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, this paper demonstrates that home ownership is predicted by family income and race and that this indicator has a significant effect in predicting the educational attainment of offspring. Household crowding is also related to income and race and also affects the educational attainment of offspring. Meanwhile, housing quality—as measured by the physical condition of the unit—is not related to income or race and has no effect on educational attainment. Of particular note is that when socioeconomic status and housing conditions are held constant, African-Americans demonstrate more than a half-grade advantage over their non-black counterparts in years of completed schooling. In conclusion, the paper argues that housing matters not only for the immediate well-being of families, but also for the life-chances of the subsequent generation, and should be a standard variable in the conception of class background.
Conley, D. & Bennett, N. 2001. Birth Weight and Income: Interactions Across Generations. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 2001, Vol. 42, pp. 450-465.
This paper attempts to answer a series of questions regarding the interaction of income and birth weight across generations. First, does the effect of the income of a mother during her pregnancy on her infant's birth weight depend on the family's birth weight history (genetic predisposition)? Second, does the effect of low birth weight status on adult life chances depend on income during early childhood? These questions have implications for the way we envision the biological and social worlds as interacting across generations. To address these issues, this study uses intergenerational data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, survey years 1968 through 1992. Results of sibling comparisons (family-fixed-effects models) demonstrate that maternal income has a significant impact on birth weight for those infants who are already at high risk hereditarily (i.e., who have a low birth weight parent). However, it is not clear whether income acts as a developmental buffer for low birth weight infants as their lives progress. These findings suggest the existence of biosocial interactions between hereditary predisposition and socio-economic environment.
Examines the impact of parental wealth on their children's educational attainment using data from the 1984 Panel Study of Income Dynamics investigating the educational outcomes of the children in 1995. Demonstrates that parental wealth, as measured by net worth, has a strong nonlinear effect on the postsecondary schooling of offspring.
Conley, D. 2001. Decomposing the Black-White Wealth Gap: The Role of Parental Resources, Inheritance, and Investment Dynamics. Sociological Inquiry. 2001, Vol. 71, pp. 39-66.
Much research has shown that even after controlling for income, African Americans suffer from drastically lower net worths than their white counterparts; these differences in net worth have important implications for the overall well-being of blacks and whites. If not directly from labor market disadvantages-i.e., income differentials-then from what does this racial gap in wealth arise? The current study assesses two complementary accounts of this race difference in asset holdings. The first, the historical legacy thesis, suggests that net wealth differences in the current generation are largely a result of discrimination in past generations; that is, they can be traced to the "head start" that whites have enjoyed in accumulating assets and passing them on. The second theory, the contemporary dynamics thesis, holds that current dynamics of institutional racism in the housing and credit markets are more responsible for the gap. The current study tests the relative impact of multi-generational forces and contemporary property and credit dynamics by using two-generational data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. It finds that parental wealth and income levels and inheritance all have a significant impact on the wealth levels of the current generation net of respondent socioeconomic characteristics; however, parental wealth and inheritance fail to explain the black-white gap. Further, this study shows that even predicting net worth from that same family's net worth five years prior (also controlling for savings during the interim), there remains a significantly negative effect of African American race. However, breaking out initial net worth into asset types shows that it may be different investment types and returns that explain the difference in asset accumulation over a five-year period.
Conley, D. & Ryvicker, M. 2001. Race, Class and Social Control in the Streets. Sociological Forum. 2001, Vol. 16(4), pp. 759-772.
Jane Jacobs has recently become the most popular, pop sociologist around. There has been a spiked resurgence of media interest in her 1961 urban studies classic, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. This may be due partly to the recent release of her new book, The Nature of Economies. But there is probably something more to it. For journalists, Jacobs' account of the neighborhood life of New York City's Greenwich Village of the 1950s seems to induce nostalgic longings for a greater sense of community. The bustling, narrow streets Jacobs describes were filled with both small shops and tenement residences, with hoards of pedestrians engaged in both business and sociability, and with strangers and lifelong inhabitants alike. This apparent chaos was actually a ballet of multitudes and Jacobs uncovered the latent order that undergirded the community.
This article seeks to understand the effects of welfare-state spending on infant mortality rates. Infant mortality was chosen for its importance as a social indicator and its putative sensitivity to state action over a short time span. Country fixed-effects models are used to determine that public health spending does have a significant impact in lowering infant mortality rates, net of other factors, such as economic development, and that this effect is cumulative over a five-year time span. A net effect of health spending is also found, even when controlling for the level of spending in the year after which the outcome is measured (to account for spurious effects or reverse causation). State spending affects infant mortality both through social mechanisms and through medical ones. This article also shows that the impact of state spending may vary by the institutional structure of the welfare state. Finally, this study tests for structural breaks in the relationship between health spending and infant mortality and finds none over this time period.
Conley, D., Klinenberg, E., Nexica, I., Rasmussen, B.B., Sandell, J. & Matt Wray, (Eds.). 2001. Universal Freckle. lead chapter in The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness,Durham, NC: Duke University Press, *Peer reviewed. Reprinted in Privilege (edited by Michael S. Kimmel) ABC-Clio Press.
Bringing together new articles and essays from the controversial Berkeley conference of the same name, "The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness" presents a fascinating range of inquiry into the nature of whiteness. Representing academics, independent scholars, community organizers, and antiracist activists, the contributors are all leaders in the "second wave" of whiteness studies who collectively aim to combat the historical legacies of white supremacy and to inform those who seek to understand the changing nature of white identity, both in the United States and abroad. The editors not only raise provocative questions about the intellectual, social, and political goals of those interested in the study of whiteness but assess several of the topic's major recurrent themes: the visibility of whiteness (or the lack thereof); the "emptiness" of whiteness as a category of identification; and conceptions of whiteness as a structural privilege, a harbinger of violence, or an institutionalization of European imperialism.
What does it mean to be poor in America at the dawn of the 21 st century? For that matter, what does it mean to be rich? And how are the two related to each other? These apparently simple questions present enormous theoretical and empirical challenges to any student or social scientist. Wealth and Poverty in America is a collection of over 20 important essays on the complex relationship between the rich and poor in the United States. The authors include classical and contemporary thinkers on a wide variety of topics such as economic systems, the lifestyles of the rich and poor, and public policy. An editorial introduction and suggestions for further reading make this a useful and valuable source of information and analysis on the realities of the American rich and American poor.
Conley, D. 2001. Why Assets? Toward a New Framework on Social Stratification. Ford Foundation Volume, The Mechanisms and Benefits of Spreading Asset Ownership among the Poor. Russell Sage Foundation.
Over the past three decades, average household wealth in the United States has declined among all but the richest families, with a near 80 percent drop among the nation's poorest families. Although the national debate about inequality has focused on income, it is wealth - the private assets amassed and passed on within families -- that provides the extra economic cushion needed to move beyond mere day-to-day survival. Assets for the Poor is a full-scale investigation into the importance of family wealth and the need for policies to encourage asset-building among the poor.
Conley, D. 2000. Honky. Berkeley, CA : University of California Press.
As recalled in Honky, Dalton Conley's childhood has all of the classic elements of growing up in America. But the fact that he was one of the few white boys in a mostly black and Puerto Rican neighborhood on Manhattan's Lower East Side makes Dalton's childhood unique.
At the age of three, he couldn't understand why the infant daughter of the black separatists next door couldn't be his sister, so he kidnapped her. By the time he was a teenager, he realized that not even a parent's devotion could protect his best friend from a stray bullet. Years after the privilege of being white and middle class allowed Conley to leave the projects, his entertaining memoir allows us to see how race and class impact us all. Perfectly pitched and daringly original, Honky is that rare book that entertains even as it informs.
Conley, D. & Bennett, N. 2000. Is Biology Destiny: Birth Weight and Life Chances. American Sociological Review. 65:458-467.
Two key questions are addressed regarding the intersection of socioeconomic status, biology, and low birth weight over the life course. First, do the income and other socioeconomic conditions of a mother during her pregnancy affect her chances of having a low-birth-weight infant net of her own birth weight, that of the father, and other family-related, unobserved factors? Second, does an individual's birth weight status affect his or her adult life chances net of socioeconomic status? These questions have implications for the way we conceive of the relationship between socio- economic status and health over the life course, specifically in sorting out causal directionality. We use intergenerational data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, for the years 1968 through 1992. Results of sibling comparisons (family- fixed-effects models) demonstrate that maternal income does not appear to have a significant impact on birth weight. However, low birth weight results in lower educational attainment net of other factors. These findings suggest that, when considered across generations, causality may not be as straightforward as implied by cross-sectional or unigenerational longitudinal studies.
Conley, D. & Bennett, N. 2000. Race and the Inheritance of Low Birth Weight. Social Biology. 47:77-93.
This paper uses intergenerational data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to address the black-white difference in propensities toward low birth weight (LBW). We determine that socioeconomic conditions account for some variation in low birth weight across race. Further, while race differences in the risk of low birth weight cannot be explained entirely, we find that the inheritance of parental birth weight status dramatically reduces the black-white gap in low birth weight. Intergenerational legacies of poor infant health explain the largest share of racial disparities in filial birth weight. We then try to assess whether this intergenerational transmission of low birth weight is indeed genetic by using grandparent-fixed effects models to factor out, to a great extent, family socioeconomic circumstances. We find that even within this framework, both father's and mother's birth weight status have an important impact on filial outcomes. However, the degree of inheritance is weaker for African Americans than for other races. Finally, we theorize that the importance of paternal birth weight status implies a genetic association that does not work through the uterine environment but rather through the fetus itself.
Conley, D. 2000. Sibship Sex Composition and the Educational Attainment of Men and Women. Social Science Research. 29:441-457.
This study decomposes the detrimental effects of increased sibship on educational attainment by the sex of the respondent and his/her siblings. Previous theories regarding the interaction of gender and sibship sex composition are reviewed and a new hypothesis is offered: a revision of the sex minority hypothesis, positing that an increased number of siblings of the opposite sex (regardless of the of the respondent's gender) are harmful to educational achievement since sex minority children may find their gender-specific needs unmet, may suffer from socialization by the family that conflicts with sex role expectations within the educational system, or because there may exist returns to scale for "gender-specific"goods within the household. Findings reveal that it is the number of opposite sex siblings that most hurts educational attainment efforts, marshalling support for the revised sex minority hypothesis.
In this article, the author argues that any consideration of race and formal philanthropic activity must consider the issue of wealth differences; it is in the area of wealth that the greatest degree of racial in equality exists, with Black families owning about one eighth the assets of White families. In addition to this empirical rationale for investigating the role of net worth in accounting for Black-White differences in philanthropic activity, the author provides a theoretical argument, distinguishing between the role of income and that of wealth in giving. The author concludes by arguing for a new research agenda that links the burgeoning literature on race and wealth to that on race and philanthropy.
Conley, D. 2000. Wealth Matters. excerpted from Being Black, Living in the Red in Race, Class and Gender: An Anthology. Margaret L. Andersen and Patricia Hill Collins, Eds. 4th Edition. Wadsworth Press.
Conley, D. 1999. Getting into the Black: Race, Wealth and Public Policy. Political Science Quarterly. 114:595-612.
Dalton Conley examines the causes and consequences of the black-white asset gap in the United States. He argues that it is wealth, more than any other measure of socio-economic well being, that captures the nature of racial inequality in the post-civil rights era. Conley discusses policy implications that may be used to address such "equity inequity."
Conley, D. 1999. Being Black, Living in the Red: Race, Wealth and Social Policy in America. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
What is more important--race or class--in determining the socioeconomic success of the blacks and whites born since the civil rights triumphs of the 1960s? When compared to whites, African Americans complete less formal schooling, work fewer hours at a lower rate of pay and are more likely to give birth to a child out of wedlock and to rely on welfare. Are these differences attributable to race per se, or are they the result of differences in socioeconomic background between the two groups?Being Black, Living in the Red demonstrates that many differences between blacks and whites stem not from race but from economic inequalities that have accumulated over the course of American history. Property ownership--as measured by net worth--reflects this legacy of economic oppression. The racial discrepancy in wealth holdings leads to advantages for whites in the form of better schools, more desirable residences, higher wages, and more opportunities to save, invest, and thereby further their economic advantages.Dalton Conley shows how factoring parental wealth into a reconceptualization of class can lead to a different future for race policy in the United States. As it currently stands, affirmative action programs primarily address racial diversity in schooling and work--areas that Conley contends generate paradoxical results with respect to racial equity. Instead he suggests an affirmative action policy that fosters minority property accumulation, thereby encouraging long-term wealth equity, or one that--while continuing to address schooling and work--is based on social class as defined by family wealth levels rather than on race.
Poverty has been shown to negatively influence child health and development along a number of dimensions. For example, poverty-net of a variety of potentially confounding factors-is associated with increased neonatal and post-neonatal mortality rates, greater risk of injuries resulting from accidents or physical abuse/neglect, higher risk for asthma, and lower developmental scores in a range of tests at multiple ages.
Despite the extensive literature available that addresses the relationship between poverty and child health and development, as yet there is no consensus on how poverty should be operationalized to reflect its dynamic nature. Perhaps more important is the lack of agreement on the set of controls that should be included in the modeling of this relationship in order to determine the "true" or net effect of poverty, independent of its cofactors. In this paper, we suggest a general model that should be adhered to when investigating the effects of poverty on children. We propose a standard set of controls and various measures of poverty that should be incorporated in any study, when possible.
Conley, D. 1996. Getting it Together: Social and Institutional Obstacles to Getting off the Streets. Sociological Forum. 11: 25-40.
Avoiding macrostructural or individualistic explanations as to why homeless individuals cannot get off the streets, this paper examines the social structure of street life as it impinges on a sample of homeless persons' chances of obtaining nonshelter housing. Specifically, by interviewing 42 homeless individuals about a housing grant offered by New York State and the possibility of obtaining shared housing arrangements with such a grant, this study documents possible ways in which the social relations homeless people have with institutions and each other may dash potential efforts to obtain nonshelter housing. The research finds that distrust of the homeless among landlords and a high level of contingency with respect to welfare cases interact with distrustful personal relations among the sample of homeless themselves to reduce the likelihood of successful utilization of the housing grant. Due to sample limitations, findings from this study cannot be generalized to all homeless; nonetheless they offer insight into a dynamic which may be similar to those at work among other homeless sub-populations as well.