In modern societies, formal education plays primary roles in a host of basic social processes, from socialization and stratification to national development and globalization. Questions arise at every level of analysis, and they inspire vigorous policy debates.

The Sociology of Education cluster at UCI draws on uniquely broad and deep faculty expertise to provide students with exceptional opportunities and training to address these questions. Our faculty are on the cutting edge of both quantitative and qualitative methods, and cluster members' research features prominently in public debates as well as informing policy and legislation. Students interested in the sociology of education benefit from UCI's interdisciplinary landscape, and work with faculty examining educational processes at the interactional, organizational, and global levels. Nine sociologists at UCI have been honored as National Academy of Education/Spencer post-doctoral fellows, and our faculty includes a member of the National Academy of Education. In addition to the world class faculty in the cluster, students often work closely with other leading scholars from UCI's School of Education.

Interests of individual faculty and examples of their research are listed below:

Richard ArumMy current research focuses on studying innovative programs that have attempted to integrate digital learning with progressive pedagogical approaches. I also continue to work on higher education outcomes and assessment.

Susan Brown:My research examines unexpected ways that policy affects access to higher education.  Current work with Frank D. Bean looks at how the ability of unauthorized immigrants to legalize can enhance children's educational attainment.

David John Frank, Department Chair: A current project (with John W. Meyer) envisions the university as the bedrock institution of the contemporary global knowledge society.  Another (with Matthew Pearce and Evan Schofer) looks at the worldwide expansion of the university curriculum.

Paul Hanselman (Cluster Coordinator): My research asks how schools contribute to social inequality and what we can do about it. I am especially interested in how local social contexts shape developmental processes and the consequences for educational interventions and policy. Some of my research details how schools allocate valuable learning opportunities, such as advanced mathematics courses. Other projects assess the effects of individual interventions, such as writing exercises to mitigate stereotype threat for students of color, with a focus on how effects vary across different types of schools.

Julia C. Lerch: My research examines how global cultural ideologies impact the role of education as a social institution in countries around the world. One current project focuses on the rise of education as a humanitarian response. Today, global responses to humanitarian crises have come to deliver "emergency education" to affected populations (e.g. refugees), in addition to more traditional humanitarian services like emergency medicine, shelter, and food. The project seeks to understand the world cultural changes that have facilitated this re-conceptualization of education as a humanitarian need. A second project studies the impact of the global cultural environment on school curricula worldwide, asking to what extent global cultural ideologies of individual rights and multiculturalism have challenged nationalism and the mono-cultural narratives once favored in schools.

Andrew Penner: My research seeks to understand issues around inequality in education. In particular, I am interested in how educational systems sort students in ways that create categorical inequalities, the role of educational policies and practices in creating and redressing inequality, and how gender differences in education vary across national contexts. 

Rubén G. Rumbaut: My research focuses on intergenerational educational mobility and inequality among immigrant-origin groups.

David Schaefer: I am interested in the processes that shape adolescent social networks and drive network change. Much of my research uses Add Health data to examine school-based friendship networks, their links to extracurricular activities, and consequences for adolescent development and health outcomes.

Evan Schofer: I am interested in the global expansion of education systems, the varying structure and organization of education around the world, and the impact of those variations on the economy and inequality.

Kristin TurneyMy research examines how inequalities in family life contribute to inequalities in children's wellbeing. In one vein of this research, I consider the collateral consequences of incarceration for children's educational outcomes.

Sherelle Ferguson: My research focuses on education, race and ethnicity, social stratification, social capital and social networks, and qualitative methods

Kelley FongMy research and teaching interests include poverty, inequality, social policy, children and youth, education, and family life.



Emily Penner: My work examines the ways in which schools, teachers, families, and policies produce and ameliorate educational inequality. In particular, I'm interested in the ways that contexts and policies shape school experiences and outcomes for low-income children and youth in urban schools.

Maria Rendon: My current research focuses on urban environments and their impact on the social mobility process of children of Latino immigrants. As part of this research, I examine neighborhood and school processes and the cultural outlooks of inner city youth and young adults. In particular, I focus on Latino young men.

George Farkas: My research focuses on educational inequality and how it can be reduced.

Glenda Flores: My research examines the intersection of race, gender, class and other social locations in educational institutions through ethnographic methods. In particular, I examine interracial relations between teachers, parents and students as well as dominant and non-dominant forms of cultural capital in schools.


To qualify for a graduate field exam and/or expertise in the sociology of education, students must take both of the core courses and one of the elective courses listed below.

Core Courses

SOC 237- Educational Inequality 

EDUC 251- Educational Politics and Policy 


Elective Courses: 

  • Comparative Sociology of Education (Lerch)
  • Higher Education and Society (Frank)
  • Intersectionalities in Education (Flores)
  • Organizational Studies and School Change (Arum)
  • Policies to Reduce Educational Inequality (Farkas)
  • Social and Cultural Foundations of Education (E. Penner)
  • Social Capital and Student Achievement (Farkas)
  • Women in Science (A. Penner)
  • World Culture and World Society (Frank and Schofer)


Students interested in taking the field exam in the sociology of education should consult with the cluster coordinator.  Parts of the reading list (up to a quarter of the readings) can be tailored to accommodate particular student interests.


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