My research focuses on the study of gender, race, and class inequalities in families. My goal is to contribute to a larger social justice project, examining how individuals understand and navigate these inequalities in their everyday lives. Beyond my dissertation, I have engaged in a number of collaborative and interdisciplinary research projects that form a full range of ongoing and future creative work.
MOTHERING AND SCHOOL CHOICE
My dissertation, “Mothering in an Era of Choice: Race and Gender in Schooling Decisions of Homeschooling and Public Schooling Families,” compares the schooling choices of 85 white and black mothers, with half of each group teaching their children at home and half sending them to public schools. Using in-depth interview methods, the study examines how homeschool and public school families living in the same region make the choices that they do and how their choices are linked to inequalities in schools. These choices encompass a range of options, including traditional or neighborhood public schools, private schools, charter schools and homeschools. School choice places the responsibility of selection on individual families, yet my research finds mothers’ are particularly burdened with this responsibility. Their schooling choices are shaped by racial logics, while framed as what best fits their individual child and family. This research unpacks the host of factors shaping families’ schooling choices, contributing to our understanding of how the choice to homeschool is made within broader educational contexts. To date no research has compared homeschoolers to other schooling families in the same region, or examined the impacts of local educational inequalities across these two groups. The study offers a rich comparative analysis for how school choice initiatives are understood by parents who are confronted with the same range of educational options, yet are making different choices.
INTERRACIAL COUPLES RESIDENTIAL DECISIONS
My ongoing study with colleague, Dr. Celeste Curington (North Carolina State University), examines how parental status, gender, and race shape interracial couples’ residential and schooling decisions. Using mixed methods with women and men involved in interracial partnerships, the study seeks to uncover how these couples negotiate decisions around residence and schooling. This investigation is particularly timely given shifting patterns of segregation.
CHILDFREE ADULTS DECISIONS AND GENDER
In this project with my collaborator Dr. Amy Blackstone (University of Maine), we investigate decisions of adults choosing not to have children. Using focus group data collected with childfree women and men, we examine how the childfree come to this decision, and how they navigate responses from family, friends and co-workers. Childfree adults describe their decision as a conscious one, and often one made over time through a series of influential moments that unfold across the life course. Childfree women and men understand their decisions differently. Women describe motivations that prioritize others, while men describe the decision as prioritizing themselves, something they would have to give up if they had children. These findings show the persistence of gendered cultural scripts even among those who choose to forego childrearing, a persistently gendered aspect of family life.
WIKIPEDIA AND STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES
In this study, my colleague Dr. Zachary McDowell (University of Illinois), and I combine mixed methods research with scholarship of teaching, to assess student learning outcomes using Wikipedia assignments. Results from our survey and focus group data show that after completing Wikipedia assignments, students hold more positive views towards Wikipedia, and describe developing a range of skills. These include digital literacy, critical thinking, writing for the general public, and evaluating online sources. Focus group data show students’ perceptions of Wikipedia became much more positive after gaining editing experience.