On the Market
Dissertation Title: “Transit Justice: Assessing Gentrification, Displacement, and Patterns of Environmental Inequity Surrounding Light Rail Stations, Bus Stops, and Transit Deserts”
Dissertation Chair: David Hess
Research Interests: Environmental Justice; Environmental Sociology; Quantitative Methods;
In my current research, I use a variety of quantitative methods to examine how social, economic, and political inequalities manifest within, and are shaped by both the built and natural environment. I am primarily interested in exploring how decision making concerning the distribution of environmental goods and bads, and by extension technological innovations, can be used as tools of oppression that diminish the agency of marginalized groups. Thus, as a scholar, I am driven by questions such as: how do multiple reinforcing categories of social difference relate to the environment? how can we center inequality within the bounds of manufactured geographic space? and how can environmental problems be examined at multiple levels of analysis within socio-political decision-making?
My dissertation directly engages with these questions by examining the spatial and temporal aspects of transportation inequality in urbanized areas across the United States. I bring together literature in urban sociology and environmental justice to better understand the relationship between gentrification, residential displacement, and transit systems. Transportation inequality has been a feature of urban areas in the U.S. since the birth of the highway system. Middle class whites fled to the suburbs and enjoyed automobile-based transportation, while the poor and racial minorities were left behind in cities with inadequate and underfunded urban bus systems. However, the growth of the new urban middle class in late twentieth and twenty-first century is changing the nature of transit-based segregation. Rather than bringing reinvestment into the city as a whole and encouraging the ideal of a multicultural, multiclass city, the return of the white middle-class to the central city has tended to create a new chapter in the saga of geographical apartheid, transportation racism, and spatialized inequality. Some studies have recognized that gentrification and displacement of low income residents has been facilitated by new forms of transportation, such as light rail transit (LRT), that has made it easy for the new urban middle-class to move freely about the city without the constraints of urban traffic that has plagued bus systems. I expand on those previous studies in two ways. First, using insights from critical environmental justice theory, I argue that transit related gentrification from LRT should be studied through the lens of race as well as class and should include measures of racial displacement. Second, I examine whether LRT development leads to the displacement minority residents, and subsequently, the growth of minority populations surrounding dirtier forms of transit, such as bus systems as well as in transit deserts, using a series of spatial autoregressive models.
Aside from my work on transportation justice, I have also worked on several research projects on environmental planning and management as an NSF funded research assistant at the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and the Environment (VIEE). I am currently coauthoring two interdisciplinary projects on water governance. The first project develops an agent-based model (ABM) to better understand how water stakeholders, such as local governments, business owners, and low-income households negotiate to create water supply portfolios. This social network simulation tool allows us to better understand how the consequences of decision making under various automated negation protocols shape water governance within cities. The second project uses topic modeling to characterize and compare rhetoric used in both state-level water plans and state-level drought plans.
Rachel McKane and Holly McCammon. “Why We March: The Role of Grievances, Threats and
Organizational Resources in the 2017 Women’s Marches.” Forthcoming at Mobilization.
Rachel McKane, Lacee Satcher, Stacey L. Houston II, and David J. Hess. 2018. “Race, Space, and Waste: An Intersectional Approach to Environmental Justice in New York City.” Environmental Sociology.4(1):79-92, DOI: 10.1080/23251042.2018.1429177
David J. Hess and Rachel McKane. 2017. “Renewable Energy Research and Development: A Political Economy Perspective.” In David Tyfield, Rebecca Lave, Samuel Randalls, and Charles Thorpe, eds. Routledge Handbook of the Political Economy of Science.
My research broadly centers on the intersections of social movements, gender, and law. My prior and current projects examine how feminist activists mobilize and influence gender policymaking through their political activism both in South Korea and in the U.S. My dissertation examines multiple pathways leading to the success or failure of eleven feminist legislative policy campaigns in South Korea between 1993 and 2007 when pro-women presidents held power in Korean politics. The campaigns I examine consider various gender issues, including violence against women, equal employment, family systems, family/work reconciliation, and women’s representativeness in politics. Drawing on the interview and archival data that I collected during my fieldwork in South Korea, and utilizing a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) method, I find that there are effective coalition and framing strategies that contribute to the successful outcomes of feminist legislative policy campaigns in Korea.
While my dissertation examines the women’s movement and gender legislation in South Korea, I have also explored gender policies and women’s activism in the U.S. With collaborators, I have examined how gendered organizational logics shape university sexual assault policies in the U.S., and how feminist legal coalitions and framing strategies influence Supreme Court decision making in sex-discrimination and reproductive rights cases. My goal with these projects is to further test the theoretical arguments that I make in my dissertation, such as the importance of the quality of a coalition in winning political victories for women’s rights. My collaborative research project has been published in Law & Policy.
Going forward, my research will focus on women’s activism targeting policies related to sexual harassment in the workplace and women’s reproductive rights. I have begun to explore landmark sexual harassment cases in the Korean courts to understand the strategies and impact of women’s activism in expanding and protecting women’s rights in the workplace. Then, drawing on sexual harassment cases from the U.S. feminist litigation project, I will compare the strategies of the Korean and the U.S. feminist movements to examine how different political, cultural, and legal contexts influence strategic choices that feminist activists make. Additionally, I am developing a new study on emerging radical women’s activism for the legalization of abortion in South Korea as it marks a significant step in the prospect of advancing women’s reproductive rights in Korea.
My primary interests are health and well-being, racial and ethnic relations, and punishment and inequality. I investigate how social factors shape disproportionate exposure to health deteriorating factors and ultimately disparities in well-being by race-ethnicity and gender. My research employs quantitative methods and relies on insights from a variety of theoretical perspectives including the stress process model, life course theory, and critical race theory. My work that is published or under review examines gender differences in how social roles (i.e., spouse, parent, and employee) impact black Americans’ mental health in the first decade of midlife; how well theories of racial stratification map onto public support for the Confederate flag; and the association between family-member incarceration, role combinations, and mental health among black women. I will complete my studies in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University in May 2020.
My dissertation examines the influence of white supremacy on racial-ethnic health disparities. Specifically, I examine disparities in infant mortality, mental health and well-being, and cardiovascular health as a function of civil rights era Ku Klux Klan organizing, the presence of public Confederate monuments, and exposure to deadly police encounters, respectively. I conceptualize these three indicators as organizational, material cultural, and behavioral extensions of white supremacy. Using a fixed-effects design, the first paper analyzes county-level longitudinal data from ten former Confederate states to assess the influence of Klan organizing on white and nonwhite infant mortality rates. Findings show that nonwhite infant mortality increased in counties that experienced Klan mobilization. Nonwhite and white infant mortality increased in counties adjacent to—but not host of their own—Klan organization, and rates remained higher thirty years after the Klan declined. In other words, Klan activity was associated with population-level health patterns long after its decline.
The second paper of my dissertation examines the relationship between state-level Confederate monument presence and the mental health of black and white residents using data from the Southern Poverty Law Center and Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Results show that higher numbers of monuments are associated with worse mental health for blacks as well as whites. Exposure to the Charleston church shooting intensifies the relationship between monument presence and whites’ adverse mental health. Finally, the third paper uses Mapping Police Violence and BRFSS data to examine cardiovascular health as a function of exposure to deadly police encounters differentiated by victims’ racial identification and alleged armed status. I find that exposure to black, unarmed police deaths are associated with increased odds of poor cardiovascular health among blacks while patterns are mixed for whites. Ultimately, disparities in deaths due to police activity may have implications for cardiovascular health inequalities.