Corey M. Abramson
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CV+Research Agenda

You can find my CV here.


My research examines how inequality structures everyday life in diverse contexts and how it is
reproduced over time. I am particularly interested in understanding the relationship between inequality, culture and health over the life course. I take a broad re-combinatory approach to methodology and theory that draws upon a diverse array of quantitative and qualitative methodsranging from zero-inflated negative binomial regression models of nationally representative health survey data to deep ethnographic immersion in urban communitiesin addition to developing new hybrid methodologies and formal theory when necessary.  My selection of topics, methods and contexts is grounded in the belief that social scientific innovation requires the deployment, reconfiguration and testing of existing ideas and research techniques across diverse (and often seemingly discrete) domains. It is my hope that by doing so, my body of work will aid in forging analytical constructs and methodological tools that can help illuminate how and why inequality is such a powerful organizing force across so many facets of social life (and how we might address its human consequences).

My recent empirical work focuses on understanding how the relationship between social
stratification, culture, and health shapes opportunities and outcomes in the United States. The End Game: How Inequality Shapes Our Final Years, my first book on this topic, was published by Harvard University Press in June of 2015 and released in paperback in 2017. Since its release, The End Game has been awarded the 2016 Outstanding Publication Award by the American Sociological Association Section (ASA) on Aging and the Life Course, selected for an Author Meets Critic Session at the ASA, used by policy advocacy groups such as the AARP and Justice in Aging and featured in national media outlets including The New York Times and The Atlantic.  The End Game is  broadly representative of my approach to ethnography, which centers on multi-level comparative-analytical designs and lengthy periods of in-situ data collection to systematically chart how mechanisms of inequality connect explanatory factors to outcomes. The book draws on two-and-a-half years of intensive participant-observation in four ethnically diverse urban neighborhoods along with sixty in-depth interviews to show how key mechanisms of social stratification— health disparities, neighborhood effects, wealth gaps, culture, and social networks— create an unequal “end game” that shapes the lives of older Americans. I use these data to demonstrate how durable inequalities continue to profoundly structure later life despite shared predicaments of aging and government entitlements, as well as what their operation can teach us about inequality and stratification more broadly.

I am currently working on two new book projects. My current empirical project uses a combination of traditional ethnographic and computational techniques to analyze a unique data set containing 7 years of distributed field observation in 10 cancer clinics, over 250 in-depth interviews, and a survey of terminal cancer patients to better understand how culture structures and stratifies both objective outcomes and subjective experiences of terminal illness in the context of American inequality.  I am also co-editor of a new methodological volume to be published by Oxford University Press (with Neil Gong) that charts the historically diverse logics and practices of comparative ethnography.

My scholarly articles have been published in sociological and interdisciplinary journals such as Sociological Methodology, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, Ethnography, Health Affairs, Qualitative Sociology, Preventative Medicine Reports, Public Policy and Aging Reports, and the Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior. These articles examine a wide spectrum of empirical cases related stratification, culture and health. I have written on topics ranging from charting intra-race differences in perceived discrimination in healthcare, to showing how “adult day care” organizations deploy an infantilizing cultural logic to maintain and justify control over dementia patients, to explaining middle-class cagefighters’ participation in an activity that carried both physical risk and social stigma.

Engaging with longstanding theoretical and methodological issues— such as the connection between culture in action and the relationship between quantitative and qualitative approaches— is a central part of my larger intellectual project. On the theoretical front, I have published work synthesizing and operationalizing formally “competing” theories that connect the symbolic and material facets of inequality to experience, practices, and outcomes in different socio-historical contexts. I subsequently elaborated these models empirically in The End Game. Methodologically, I am currently working on methods for enabling the production of transparent large-scale multi-site ethnographic data sets. In this regard, I have worked to develop hybrid quantitative/qualitative approaches and computational tools that aim to improve analytical flexibility, rigor, transparency, and scaling in the collection, analysis, sharing, and representation of qualitative data more broadly. My collaborators and I were recently awarded a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Award to develop and test new methodological tools, in the context of American health care. 

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