The End Game: How Inequality Shapes Our Final Years, was published by Harvard University Press in 2015. The End Game draws on two-and-a-half years of intensive participant-observation in four ethnically-diverse urban neighborhoods along with sixty in-depth interviews with older adults to show how key mechanisms of racial and socioeconomic inequality—health disparities, neighborhood effects, wealth gaps, social policy, culture and social networks—create an unequal “end game” that structures the lives and experiences of older Americans. The End Game received a positive reception both within sociology and beyond. Recognitions include the American Sociological Association award for best book on aging and the life course (2016), coverage in the New York Times, an invited piece in The Atlantic, a Korean translation and a paperback re-release in 2017. I’ve been invited to present the at policy venues including the AARP and the National Academy of Medicine, as well as universities including UC Berkeley and the London School of Economics.
Beyond the Case: The Logics and Practices of Comparative Ethnography (Oxford University Press), is a volume co-edited with sociologist and ethnographer Neil Gong. The 2020 volume charts the historically diverse logics and practices of comparative ethnography. The volume reflects my concern for the need to articulate coherent and transparent connections between the theory and practice of social scientific methods and the continued value of maintaining multiple forms of inquiry. Beyond the Case notably features prominent senior scholars descendent from a variety of “competing” ethnographic traditions—ranging from grounded theory, to ethnomethodology, to scientific realism—and concludes with a comparative analysis of the logics, limits, and utility of ethnographic comparison. The mini-conference for the volume at the Center for Ethnographic Research had over 250 attendees and featured luminary researchers, who talked about our craft with student ethnographers after the event.
The End Game
“Drawing on concepts from social stratification and cultural sociology, Corey M. Abramson demonstrates how key mechanisms of social stratification like health disparities, structural inequalities, culture, and social networks affect later life experiences. Although the focus of the book is persons ages 65 and older, its messages inform our understanding of inequality more generally... The End Game is an exemplar of theoretically informed, methodologically rigorous qualitative work. The book may well join both long-time classics like Barbara Myerhoff’s Number Our Days (1980) and contemporary classics like Eric Klinenberg’s Heat Wave (2015) in introducing to a wide audience the indignities, inequities, and occasional joys of aging.”
—Deborah Carr, Contemporary Sociology
“Abramson takes readers on a journey through geriatric inequality to show how on the west coast of the U.S. the supposed golden years of post-employment for many individuals is an illusion, and in reality retirement is a corrosive quotidian struggle on body and soul. However, the saddening tone of this ethnographic work serves many purposes by shedding light on: the effects of social networks; rationalizations behind decision-making; greater understanding of general social stratification; and the symbolic as well as practical challenges of growing old in the U.S.… Avoiding reductionist frameworks and showing the hugely varying lifestyles of Californian seniors, The End Game poses a profound question: how can provision of services for the elderly cater for individual circumstances and not merely treat the aged as one grey block? Abramson eloquently and comprehensively expounds this complex question.”
—Michael Warren, LSE Review of Books
Ethnographies of old age are few and far between, especially those that explore community-dwelling elders, despite the fact that they amount to 95% of the elderly population. Corey M. Abramson’s book, The End Game: How Inequality Shapes Our Final Years, with its insightful exploration of later life and the inequalities that shape it, is an especially welcome addition to the literature… Abramson’s book offers something of value to all readers, and its critical message concerning age inequalities is one they should take to heart.
—Toni Calsanti, American Journal of Sociology
“Abramson provides a remarkable ethnographic look at four urban neighborhoods inhabited by older Americans. He uses in-depth interviews to explore inequality and how it shapes end-of-life issues in ways never seen before. The author’s approach situates inequality experienced by older Americans in a real world context and links culture, social life, biological life, and structural disparities in ways that allow readers to understand the intersectionality of diversity imbued in the lives of older Americans… Abramson opens a window into the reality of old age, the importance of culture and the impact it has on shared/prior experiences, and the inequalities that structure them.”
—A. L. Lewis, Choice
“American seniors face starkly different challenges depending on economic circumstances. The End Game provides a deeper understanding of how inequalities affect the entire passage of our lives.”
—Robert Reich, University of California, Berkeley, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor
“How inequality plays out in our aging population could not be a more important question. The aged are supposedly a group that we have done a good job at protecting with Medicare and Social Security, yet we still see sharp social gradients. This book, the first on the topic, helps to answer that question.”
—Dalton Conley, New York University
“Abramson brings a qualitative eye to a topic we have mainly known through statistics—mortality rates, actuarial estimates, and life expectancies. With a refreshing perspective, The End Game brings us close to what people experience as they age, making clear not only that ‘aches and pains’ are shared across the board but also that access to resources matters enormously for how people manage those difficulties. The book dispels stereotypes over and over; his elderly respondents work to maintain their image, laugh at their failing memories, and smoke marijuana. The book is a terrific contribution to our knowledge of how people actually experience inequality in their later years.” —Mario Luis Small, Harvard University
Beyond the Case
"This stimulative book will make its readers think anew about the pitfalls, profits, and promise of comparison in ethnography."
— Loïc Wacquant, author of Body and Soul: Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer
"An exciting and much needed volume, Beyond the Case is the first major work in decades to spot-light comparative ethnography and the wide-ranging pluralistic developments over time. Chapter contributors-both the legendary and the new generations-pass on insights, techniques, methods, and logics of various approaches. Both beginners and experienced ethnographers will be inspired by the theoretical potential of comparative casing"
— Diane Vaughan, Columbia University
"An essential and usable volume for reconnecting today the ethnographic case study to the historic ambitions for it in designs of broad scale comparison."
— George E. Marcus, author of Ethnography Through Thick and Thin
"Perhaps the hottest topic in contemporary ethnographic research is the possibility, the value, and the drawbacks of comparative ethnography. In Beyond the Case, Corey Abramson and Neil Gong and their well-chosen authors provide a diverse set of explanations for how and when comparative ethnographies advance description, theory, and policy analysis. This is a book that will stand the methodological test of time and every field researcher will wish to consider its arguments for their own projects and for those of their students."
— Gary Alan Fine, Northwestern University
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DISCLAIMER: All content expresses my own opinions and not my employing institution or the State of Arizona.