Jessica Calarco

Position title: Associate Professor of Sociology


8116A Sewell Social Science

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Jessica Calarco

Research Interest Statement:

My research focuses on education, families, and health decision-making. Broadly speaking, I am interested in the structures of power and privilege that maintain socioeconomic, racial, and gender inequalities in these settings, as well as the role that qualitative methods can play in uncovering these mechanisms.
Much of my early work, including my first book, Negotiating Opportunities: How the Middle Class Secures Advantages in School, uses ethnographic observations and in-depth interviews to reveal the origins and consequences of social class differences in interactions between students, teachers, and parents. Building on this research and on my work teaching and mentoring students in higher education, I also published A Field Guide to Grad School: Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum.
My more recent and ongoing research, including my forthcoming book, Holding it TogetherHow Women Became America’s Safety Net, draws on in-depth interviews and original surveys to show how US families navigate the challenges of raising children (and making decisions about work, childcare, schooling, and healthcare) in the context of high levels of inequality and in the absence of adequate policy support.
As an active public sociologist, I seek to make research accessible to broad audiences, including through my book Qualitative Literacy: A Guide to Evaluating Ethnographic and Interview Research and by writing for high-profile media outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and Inside Higher Ed.


Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2012

Departmental Areas of Interest:

Education; Family; Gender; Medical Sociology; Culture; Social Stratification; Class Analysis and Historical Change; Organizational and Occupational Analysis; Social Psychology and Microsociology; Qualitative Methods


SOC 754: Qualitative Research Methods in Sociology
SOC 196: Children and Youth in a Changing World

Selected Publications:

Jessica McCrory Calarco. 2024. Holding it Together: How Women Became America’s Safety Net. Portfolio/Penguin.

Mario Luis Small and Jessica McCrory Calarco. 2022. Qualitative Literacy: A Guide to Evaluating Ethnographic and Interview Research. University of California Press.

Jessica McCrory Calarco, Ilana Horn, and Grace A. Chen. 2022. “‘You Need to Be More Responsible’: Homework Inequalities and the Myth of Meritocracy,” Educational Researcher.

Monica Heilman and Jessica McCrory Calarco. 2022. “Home is where it happens: a visual essay on pandemic parenting for employed mothers,” Visual Studies.

Elaine M. Hernandez and Jessica McCrory Calarco. 2021. “Health Decisions Amidst Controversy: Conflicting Norms and Influence regarding Prenatal Alcohol Consumption.” Social Science & Medicine 286: 114319

Jeffrey Guhin, Jessica McCrory Calarco, and Cynthia Miller-Idris. 2021. “Whatever Happened to Socialization?” Annual Review of Sociology 47: 109-129.

Jessica McCrory Calarco, Elizabeth M. Anderson, Emily Meanwell, and Amelia S. Knopf. 2021. “By Default: How Mothers in Different-Sex Dual-Earner Couples Account for Inequalities in Pandemic Parenting,” Socius.

Jessica McCrory Calarco. 2020. “Avoiding Us versus Them: How Schools’ Dependence on Privileged ‘Helicopter’ Parents Influences Enforcement of Rules,” American Sociological Review 85, no. 2.

Jessica McCrory Calarco. 2020. A Field Guide to Grad School: Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum. Princeton University Press.

Amy L. Gonzales, Jessica McCrory Calarco, and Teresa Lynch. 2020. “Technology Problems and Student Achievement Gaps: A Validation and Extension of Technology Maintenance Theory,” Communication Research. First published online 2017.

Jessica McCrory Calarco. 2018. Negotiating Opportunities: How the Middle Class Secures Advantages in School. Oxford University Press