*Ford, Karly and Jason Thompson. 2016. “Inherited Prestige: Intergenerational Access to Selective Colleges in the United States.” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 46: 86-98.
*Authors’ names appear alphabetically, both authors contributed equally to the study

ford-thompson-2016Given the many economic and social benefits conferred upon the graduates of selective universities, it is important to understand the avenues through which socioeconomically advantaged students access selective postsecondary institutions. Prior research documents that parental level of education, occupation, and income are associated with the likelihood that a child will attend a selective university. Our study builds upon this literature in examining whether the selectivity of a parent’s undergraduate degree contributes to a child enrolling in a selective university, independent of family income, ascriptive characteristics, and child academic ability. We find that having a parent who graduated from a selective university is associated with a three-fold increase in the likelihood that a child will attend a selective university, even when we control for a variety of family advantages. These findings shed further light on the role of education in processes of social mobility and intergenerational inequality by showing that elites transmit status to their children through the type of institutions accessed in addition to the level of education attained.

Thompson, Jason and Dalton Conley. 2016. “Health Shocks and Social Drift: Examining the Relationship between Acute Illness and Family Wealth.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 2(6): 153-171.

rsfThis paper analyzes the extent to which health shocks play a role in black-white wealth inequality. Deploying data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), we implement a first-differences identification strategy in estimating the effects of acute health events on changes in wealth for couples across waves of data from 1999-2011. We find that although acute health shocks impact white and black families, such serious health events place black families at increased financial vulnerability as family heads near retirement. In comparison to their white counterparts, black families that experience an acute health shock are more likely to rely on social safety nets, such as food stamps and Social Security Disability Insurance. Findings hold implications across multiple policy arenas, including healthcare and labor law.

Thompson, Jason, Richard Arum, Lauren Edelman, Calvin Morrill, and Karolyn Tyson. 2015. “In-services and Empty Threats: The Role of Organizational Practices and Workplace Experiences in Shaping U.S. Educators’ Understandings of Student Rights.” Social Science Research 53: 391-402.

thompson.etal.2015.front-page-001This paper applies theoretical frameworks from organizational sociology and sociolegal studies to examine factors associated with educators’ conceptions of students’ rights to due process in disciplinary actions. We analyze a unique representative data set of 402 teachers and 200 administrators in U.S. high schools to investigate how educators understand the rights to due process articulated in the Supreme Court case of Goss v. Lopez (1975). We then examine whether individual characteristics and participation in organizational processes are associated with educators’ understandings of students’ due process rights. Findings suggest that educators’ understandings of students’ entitlements to due process vary with educators’ level of education, experience of school-related legal threats, and participation in district or diocese in-service training programs on students’ rights. Results point to organizational climate as a key factor in shaping educators’ rights conceptions and the role of law in American schools.

Arum, Richard, Josipa Roksa, and Jason Thompson. 2014. “Social and Academic Learning in College.” Chapter 2 in Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


This chapter examines student accounts of academic and social learning on college campuses. In interviews, students downplayed the importance of their academic growth on campus and highlighted the opportunities for social exploration while pursuing their bachelor’s degree. Students noted an attempt to strike a balance between course material and a social life. However, most expressed that they would not let school work force them to sacrifice a “college experience.” Findings show that students have deeply internalized a concept of higher education as a tool for personal development and learning to get along with others, even if this is at the expense of acquiring critical thinking and job skills.

Conley, Dalton and Jason Thompson. 2013. “The Effects of Health and Wealth Shocks on Retirement Decisions.” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review 95(5): 389-404.

Conley.thompson copy-page-001Both health status and net worth can affect retirement decisions. In some cases, early retirement may be precipitated by a shock to an individual’s health and/or economic status. The authors examine how health and wealth shocks affect retirement decisions. They use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to estimate a first-differences model of health and wealth shocks on retirement over the course of the 2000s in the United States. Their results suggest that acute health shocks are associated with labor market exits for older American men but not women. These results appear particularly strong for blacks, whose labor force participation seems particularly sensitive to health status, which may be due to different occupations for blacks and whites.