American Sociological Association UCSF Research Showcase 2023

This blog post features the research by current students and faculty at UCSF in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Department showcased at the upcoming American Sociological Association 2023 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

Understanding The Landscape of Abortion Funds in The United States, Erin Johnson PhD Candidate

Friday August 18 from 10:00 to 11:00am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Floor: 100 Level, 113B

Population Section Roundtables: Table 2: Determinants of health care access and use

The last two years have been the worst for abortion policy since Roe was decided in 1973. As states passed new bans or enforced old ones and the Supreme Court overturned protections against such laws, abortion funds - a loosely defined group of largely volunteer-run nonprofits - continued to provide financial, logistical, and emotional support to some of the most marginalized patients seeking abortion care in all fifty states. This mixed methods study uses structured review of abortion fund websites to better define the landscape of funds in the US, focusing on how funds describe themselves, how they operate, what services they offer and to whom they offer them, and what values-based commitments they make, with special attention paid to diversity, mutual aid, collective power, and reproductive justice. While funds are often thought of as Reproductive Justice organizations, the majority do not actually espouse a reproductive justice framework. Instead, funds frequently engage with human rights and “choice” frameworks and espouse values of dignity, bodily autonomy, respect, reproductive freedom, and non-judgement. Many funds claim a commitment to justice and inclusivity, but less than a third specifically engage with anti-racism or racial justice as values or center BIPOC participation and leadership.

Masking and Unmasking The Spectrum: The Consequences of Camouflaging Neurodiverse Identities, Esperanza Padilla PhD Student

Saturday August 19 from 12:00 to 1:00pm, Marriott Philadelphia Downtown, Floor: Level 4, Franklin Hall 9

Disability in Society Roundtable 4: Experiencing Disability

This study investigates the factors and consequences of masking, the process of concealing one's Autism, and contributes to our understanding of how Autistics learn to unmask. Prior quantitative research has found that autistic individuals encounter significantly more job instability than their non-Autistic peers, and they also experience higher rates of social isolation. This study intends to contribute a micro-sociological understanding of these challenges and posit possible solutions to barriers that Autistic adults frequently encounter. This study uses a mixed-methods approach, including an online survey through Berkeley Qualtrics and remote in-depth interviews. Participants included adults ages 18 years or older who identified as autistic. The online survey contained a sample size of over 334 Autistic adults, and a total number of 26 participants were interviewed. The results from the data indicate that many Autistic adults mask Autistic behaviors in order to succeed academically and professionally. However, masking has dire consequences for these individuals in the long-term, including severe cases of burnout that require recovery time, as well as hindering an individual's ability to perform efficiently at an occupation or higher education. The study found that there are certain conditions that can help contribute to unmasking, such as access or exposure to Autistic space and the Autistic community. The implications of these findings are that Autistic adults may experience more successful outcomes in their lives if they can openly affirm their identity. Thus, organizations and institutions should make the necessary changes to help affirm and support autistic adults so they have more opportunities for success in their chosen academic and career paths.

The Pandemic and the Culture and Meaning of Work, Dr. Kristen Harknett - Session Organizer and Presider

Saturday August 19 from 12:00 to 1:30pm; Marriott Philadelphia Downtown, Floor: Level 5, Grand Ballroom Salon H

The COVID-19 pandemic has had enormous reverberations in the labor market, which varied across sectors, regions, and over time. In some sectors, workers experienced a massive surge in layoffs and furloughs. Many workers experienced an abrupt shift in fundamental dimensions of work such as working from home rather than commuting to a workplace. Those who could not work from home often experienced elevated workplace health risks during the pandemic. Alongside these other changes, researchers observed what has been termed a “great reshuffling” where many workers changed their job priorities and professions. Motivated by these broad and sweeping changes, the papers in this session will explore the way that COVID-19 has changed the meaning, culture, and future of work.


Fear, Risk Calculations, and COVID-19: Qualitative Study of Home Caregivers’ Experiences, Brittney Pond PhD Candidate

Sunday August 20 from 4:00 to 5:30pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Floor: 100 Level, 103C

Paper Session, Benefits and Consequences of Paid and Unpaid Activities in Later Life

In March of 2020, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 had become a pandemic, which illuminated and exacerbated social inequalities in the U.S., especially for the 3.5 million direct care workers providing care and assistance to older adults and people with disabilities (Almeida, Cohen, Stone, & Weller, 2021). The pandemic has made the difficult and important home health aide jobs even more important. With an aging United States population that requires more care, home health aides (HHAs) are in high demand as home health care is one of the fastest growing healthcare sectors, expected to grow by 34% from 2019-2029 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019-2020). Given that 80% of older adults live in the community and not in long term care facilities, experiences of home health aides are important to explore as they are increasingly utilized as essential labor in long term care (Hudson, 2014; Loe, 2011). In this paper, I begin to explore home health aides’ experiences of work while caring for older adults in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on in-depth interviews with HHAs, preliminary findings suggest that home health aides experienced fear and risk calculations both at work and at home. As HHAs shifted between interactions with their clients, whom they often formed close relationships with, and their spouses, children, and other family members at home, they experienced fear regarding the spread of the virus. This research demonstrates that HHAs experienced heightened fear and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic and explores 4 main facets: 1) fear and panic during the onset of the pandemic 2) worry about the risks for clients and family members 3) risks for themselves getting COVID-19 and 4) using multiple layers of protection such as masking, vaccinations, etc. to cope with stress and worry.

“Feeling like somebody else gets it:” Building Imagined Community Through Mental Health Representation in Video Games, Jeff Nicklas PhD Candidate

Sunday August 20 from 10:00 to 11:30am, Marriott Philadelphia Downtown, Floor: Level 4, Franklin Hall 10

Paper Session, Technologies of Disability Representation and Identification II

Video games, as a technologically entrenched storytelling medium, invite players to step into new worlds and into the shoes of new and different characters. Because video games operate largely in virtual spaces, they offer near endless possibilities for how stories are told, the worlds in which these stories exist, and importantly the part that players play in those stories. Game developers can craft worlds and characters nearly identical to our own or who were previously unimagined. And yet, no matter how fantastical the world and characters might be, the stories being told and the narratives that drives players from start to finish are often deeply grounded in the human experience. One aspect of the human experience being communicated through video game narratives, characters, and worlds is mental health. In this paper, I argue that the impacts of mental health narratives portrayed in video games extend far beyond communicating a particular experience and generating empathy for that experience. From data gathered during extensive in-depth interviews with people who play video games, I illustrate how these games that tell stories about and represent mental health—all single player and ostensibly solitary experiences—constitute the building of community around a shared mental health experience. In this way, I also seek to extend the ever-evolving definition of community further into the digital age by considering how non-human actors, in this case video game characters, emerge as important ‘community members’ for these players, and in so doing, help to reveal what constitutes a ‘community’. Ultimately, this paper shows how video games can bring us together in unexpected ways and counter one of the more ubiquitous and detrimental aspects of mental illness and mental health struggles: loneliness.

The Leniency of Low Expectations—Parental Incarceration, Race, and Teachers’ Evaluations of Student Writing, Dr. Erin McCauley

Friday August 18 from 4:00 to 5:30pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Floor: 100 Level, 113C

In the era of mass incarceration scholars have linked the expansion of the criminal legal system to the development and persistence of racial disparities in education. Leveraging a survey-based experiment with 1,487 high school teachers, I find that teachers grade the same essay less rigorously if they believe an otherwise identical male student has an incarcerated parent. Then I extend my analysis to examine the feedback which teachers provide, affording a unique window into the range of teacher responses that can characterize discrimination. Together, I find evidence that the stigma of parental incarceration, especially among Black male students, shapes teachers’ evaluative behaviors and likely has consequences for their educational trajectories.


Experiences of Christian Diet Culture and Control of the Female Body in Purity Culture, Rebecca Wolfe PhD Candidate

Sunday August 20 from 8:00 to 9:00am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Floor: 100 Level, 103A

Section on Sociology of Body and Embodiment Roundtables: Table 3: Bodies and Work/Organizations

In this paper, I explore an under-researched manifestation of the evangelical youth movement known as purity culture. Purity culture is well-known as a religious abstinence movement, but relatively little research has been conducted on the topic outside of this. This paper focuses on the intersection of purity culture and the Christian diet industry. While Christian cultures have long prized a thin body and restrained eating as a sign of spiritual and physical discipline, as well as a sign of a person’s ability to serve the kingdom of god, there is a gap in our knowledge regarding the modern state of this relationship between Christianity and diet culture. This work seeks to fill this gap in our knowledge by examining the often-fatphobic ideas of what makes a good or holy body, the ways in which the body can be controlled through dietary norms or spiritualized diet plans, and the gendered nature of body and diet expectations. Findings indicate that it remains true that a thin body that is considered a holy body and that denying bodily desires is considered virtuous, as seen in this expectation of thinness. We also see newer manifestations of the Christian diet industry through branded foods and diet plans such as Ezekiel Bread and The Daniel Plan. Additionally, the gendered nature of Christian diet culture and the Christian thin ideal are explored, particularly in their mechanical similarities to the more widely discussed sexuality aspect of purity culture.

Doing Public Sociology: Getting Started, Managing Challenges, and Assessing Outcomes, Dr. Stacy Torres - Invited Session

Monday August 21 from 8:00 to 9:30am, Marriott Philadelphia Downtown, Floor: Level 5, Grand Ballroom Salon G

This session will focus on communicating sociology to wider audiences and providing solutions to pressing policy concerns. By highlighting the experiences of colleagues who have been writing for and engaging with broader publics to engage in conversation, this session will showcase some of the challenges and opportunities associated with public scholarship. Panelists will share how they began their journey into public sociology, why it's important, how they deal with public backlash, and what they see as the most significant outcomes of their work.


Surfacing Disability in Technologies of Homelessness Management: Service provider strategies to counter inequities in housing prioritization, Tessa Nápoles PhD Candidate

Saturday August 19 from 2:00 to 3:30pm, Marriott Philadelphia Downtown, Floor: Level 4, Franklin Hall 10

Paper Session, Technologies of Disability Representation and Identification I

Homeless crisis response systems, known as Coordinated Entry Systems (CES), use digital tools and algorithms to manage homelessness in the U.S. CES technology identifies the most vulnerable households in each community experiencing homelessness so they are prioritized for housing and other supportive services. A growing body of work shows that CES technology contributes to disparities based on age, race, and gender and therefore, inequitable access to housing, and that these outcomes may, in part, be influenced by service provider training and administration. In this paper, I shift the focus to center the understandings, experiences, and opinions of service providers who administer CES technology in the process of housing prioritization. Drawing from over 100 hours of participant observation and 50 interviews with frontline and mid-level housing and healthcare service providers, I argue that service providers have limited but important levels of discretion in the use of algorithmic systems that prioritize households experiencing homelessness into housing. Providers identified the disability section of the CES assessment as a key strategic lever to produce housing prioritizations they felt better accounted for the health and racial inequities experienced by their clients. I describe the specific strategies service providers use--coaching, redefining, normalizing, probing, and adjusting--to counter CES technology. Service providers coach clients what to expect from the CES assessment to help them avoid vague answers that may downplay their need or acuity; redefine and normalize disability; ask open-ended questions to ensure question comprehension and make space for narrative responses; and adjust client files to reflect accurate histories, experiences, and diagnoses. The very work that service providers feel they must do for CES to prioritize their clients properly for the housing they need shows the stakes of algorithmic outcomes. Taken together, these findings underscore the importance of service provider advocacy and navigation in reducing racial and health disparities in housing assessment and prioritization among households experiencing homelessness.

Brittney Pond is a co-Assistant Director of the Emancipatory Sciences Lab and a doctoral student in the Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences at UCSF.