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Quetelet Professor of Social Science at Columbia University. MoreCV


I am developing an approach to social networks in which context, not just structure, is central. In quantitative and qualitative studies across multiple settings---from parents in daycare centers to children in violent neighborhoods to students in Ph.D. programs---I am examining how networks are shaped by their organizational embeddedness, by people's decisions, or both. I am studying what we can learn from shifting attention from the structure of the network to the decisions of the individual. Recent works include a decision-process theory of how people mobilize their networks, included in a Cambridge University Press collection on ego network analysis with more than 50 contributors. Forthcoming is a new book series on the mechanisms behind network processes. [Papers] 


I am using large-scale administrative data from Twitter, Google Maps, and other sources to answer important new questions in racial inequality and urban poverty.  We are testing hypotheses derived from ethnographic and interview studies about how depopulation and other neighborhood conditions affect people’s capacities and wellbeing. In collaborations with engineers, spatial analysts, and other social scientists, I hope to build on the interdisciplinary promise of “big data” for the study of inequality. Recent works include studies on racial segregation and everyday mobility based on millions of geotagged tweets, and an analysis of racial inequality in neighborhood access to financial institutions based on millions of travel queries. See DRIP[Papers]


I am working to raise the standards of qualitative research and improve both researchers’ and the public’s “qualitative literacy”—the ability to read and interpret qualitative evidence. The central challenge is to develop standards for ethnographic and interview research that is scientifically cumulative but leans into its strengths, rather than emulating quantitative methods. I believe that elevating scientists', journalists', and policy makers' qualitative literacy is important to a democratic society, and essential to countering polarization. New works include a study of how to assess interview data, a case for why the big data revolution will need qualitative research, and a new book on how to evaluate ethnographic and interview research. [Papers] 

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