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Dr. Jessica Houston Su is a sociologist who studies American family life and inequality. As a family demographer, she uses a sociological lens and quantitative analytic techniques to examine how social patterns of family formation create and reproduce inequality. Her research contributes to the sociological literature in families, health, inequality, work, and demography.

Jessica Su's research agenda is motivated by persistent socioeconomic disparities in family formation. At first glance, family formation may seem very individualized; decisions about whom we marry, when we have children, and how we raise them are personal. Her work investigates how social inequality contributes to patterns of family formation at the population level, and subsequently affects the development and well-being of parents and children. For example, there are stark differences in the transition to parenthood based on socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity. Women with low socioeconomic status and women of color are more likely to have children outside of marriage and/or sooner than they intended. In turn, these childbearing patterns alter developmental trajectories and life opportunities, potentially contributing to a process of cumulative disadvantage.

Her research appears in leading peer-reviewed journals such as Demography, the Journal of Marriage and Family, and the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Cornell University and her B.A. in Sociology from Dartmouth College.

Associated Research Themes