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Authors: Parsons, Ryan James
Advisors: DuneierEdin, MitchKathy
Contributors: Sociology Department
Keywords: Education
The American South
Subjects: Sociology
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Social mobility has becoming increasingly constrained through spatial and racialized processes, but the micro-level mechanisms that structure these patterns remain understudied. This dissertation draws on three years of ethnographic participation in community life in Sunflower County, Mississippi, to document patterns of immobility in a rural, predominately Black community. In addition to this ethnographic data, the dissertation leverages extensive archival research and a systematic interview study of Sunflower County households. The dissertation builds an argument for a microsociology of social mobility that is attentive to the “mobility moments” that structure trajectories. These small interactions with people and institutions have the potential to shape mobility paths in unexpected ways and add nuance to population-level analysis of mobility checkpoints, the easy-to-measure life events that are often centered in analyses of mobility. The dissertation supports this theoretical argument with four empirical chapters. The first reinvestigates the concept of “caste” and its use in early American studies of race relations in the South. It offers an alternative conception of caste from an economic sociology perspective that highlights how caste describes interactions across groups, rather than properties internal to groups. The second chapter uses archival data to explore the Great Migration, suggesting that White elites were willing to facilitate Black outmigration at the expense of local community sustainability and vitality. The latter two chapters leverages ethnographic analyses of education in Sunflower County. In the third chapter, I describe how young people with college aspirations navigate the prospect of social mobility pathways that require geographic mobility. In the fourth, I turn to the experiences of students experiencing remote learning during the COVID pandemic to highlight the steep cost associated with navigating a stratification process. The conclusion suggests directions for policy applications and future research.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology

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