U.Va. To Host International Conference on Social Inequality Issues

August 9, 2012 — Starting Monday morning, the University of Virginia will host a three-day international conference on issues of social inequality, stratification and mobility.

The International Sociological Association's conference on "Labor Market and Educational Transitions in Uncertain Times" will open Monday at 9 a.m. with remarks from U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan in the Great Hall of Garrett Hall, home of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

Sullivan expressed a special interest in the conference sessions focused on higher education in the U.S. and abroad. "Researchers will be discussing who goes to college and who doesn't, issues of inequality among various groups, and how all this affects social stratification and mobility," she said. "These are important questions for all of us in higher education, as we continue to address issues related to access and affordability in our colleges and universities."

Sullivan's remarks are open to the public, but the rest of the conference is not, explained conference organizer Josipa Roksa, an associate professor of sociology and education, with dual appointments in the College of Arts & Sciences and the Curry School of Education.

Conference sessions will discuss how social mobility and inequality issues play out in labor markets, education, job security and satisfaction, unemployment, neighborhood poverty, achievement gaps, career choices, adolescent well-being, mental health, migration and immigration, among other topics.

Research on the many dimensions of inequality is "especially pertinent because of increasing popular attention to issues related to inequality," said Paul W. Kingston, a U.Va. sociology professor who will present at the conference.

The conference will showcase "sophisticated quantitative research," Roksa said.

Supporting this emphasis, the conference is co-sponsored by U.Va.'s Quantitative Collaborative, a College initiative to marry quantitative research and the social sciences to create data and analyses that offer fresh solutions to "critical social problems," explained Karen Parshall, a professor of history and mathematics and former associate dean for the social sciences, who helped launch the collaborative last year.

"The study of social stratification is an area of social science where quantitative methods have made signal contributions," said Tom Guterbock, professor of sociology and director of U.Va.'s Center for Survey Research.

The conference presenters hail from top American universities, including Harvard, Yale and Columbia universities. Almost two-thirds of the 75 conference speakers are based at institutions outside North America, including leading universities in Japan, China, Germany, Italy, Spain, Israel, Brazil, Chile, Suriname, Czech Republic, Finland, Denmark and England.

"The international roster will give U.Va. global exposure and put U.Va. on the map for social science research in a new way," Roksa said.

Much of the research to be presented features transnational comparative studies, as well as comparisons across racial and ethnic groups that examine segregation and discrimination.

"Almost all of the presented papers will eventually appear in prestigious journals," Kingston said.

Other U.Va. supporters and sponsors of the conference include the office of Arts & Sciences Dean Meredith Woo, the departments of sociology and economics and the Center for Education Policy and Workforce Competitiveness, a joint center of the Curry and Batten schools.

— by Brevy Cannon