Cohorts, ‘Siblings,’ and Mentors: Organizational Structures and the Creation of Social Capital

Cox, Amanda Barrett. 2017. Sociology of Education 90(1):47-63.

* To be reprinted in The Structure of Schooling: Readings in the Sociology of Education (4th edition), edited by R. Arum, I.R. Beattie, & K. Ford

* Received 2017 James D. Thompson Graduate Student Paper Award (Honorable Mention), American Sociological Association section on Organizations, Occupations and Work

* Received 2017 David Lee Stevenson Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Paper (Honorable Mention), American Sociological Association section on Sociology of Education

How can an organization help participants increase their social capital? Using data from an ethnographic study of Launch, an organization that prepares low-income students of color to attend elite boarding schools, I analyze how the organization’s structures not only generate social ties among students but also stratify those ties horizontally and vertically, thereby connecting students to a set of social contacts who occupy a range of hierarchical positions and who are able to provide access to resources that are beneficial in different contexts and at different times. I argue that organizational structures can function as tools for building—and embedding participants within—social networks with advantageous structural characteristics.

Correcting Behaviors and Policing Emotions: How Behavioral Infractions Become Feeling-Rule Violations

Cox, Amanda Barrett. 2016. Symbolic Interaction 39(3):484-503.

* Received 2018 Graduate Student Paper Award, American Sociological Association section on Sociology of Emotions

This study examines interactions surrounding the transmission, enforcement, and assessment of compliance with feeling rules. Using ethnographic data, I investigate how actors within an organization that prepares low-income black and Latino students to attend elite boarding schools serve as both emotional socializers, transmitting particular feeling rules, and emotional gatekeepers, enforcing and assessing compliance with those rules. I find that it was the interactional process surrounding rule reminders—rather than differences in students' behavioral infractions or in the feeling rules themselves—that was most consequential in shaping evaluations of students' compliance with the program's feeling rules. Gendered patterns in these interactions often resulted in male students being treated as behaviorally deviant and female students being treated as emotionally deviant.

Engineered Struggle and ‘Earned’ Success: Preparation for Upward Mobility via Elite Boarding Schools

Cox, Amanda Barrett. 2019. Du Bois Review 15(2):467-488.

This paper examines how a nonprofit organization prepares low-income Black and Latino/a students to attend elite boarding high schools.  Using ethnographic data, I investigate how the program engineers the experience of academic and emotional struggle for students, how students experience these struggles, and what students learn from this process.  I find that the program’s academically-induced emotional rollercoaster serves to strengthen students’ confidence in their academic skills and their ability to persist in the face of academic challenges—a valuable emotional asset for the students as they enter elite boarding schools.  However, I argue, the feeling students emerge with of having earned their successes (and failures) may ultimately serve to reproduce the individualistic, meritocratic discourses that support the patterns of social inequality the program helps its students sidestep.

Mechanisms of Organizational Commitment: Adding Frames to Greedy Institution Theory

Cox, Amanda Barrett. 2016. Sociological Forum 31(3):685-708.

How do organizations that make significant physical, emotional, and intellectual demands foster commitment and loyalty from voluntary participants? Greedy institution theory (Coser 1974) answers this question by identifying structural elements that foster participants' undivided commitment to “greedy” groups, those in which participants' involvement interferes with and takes precedence over their involvement in other social spheres. In this article, I argue for the expansion of greedy institution theory to include frames and framing processes as “greedy” organizational tools that work on the microinteractional level. Using data from an ethnographic study of an intensive program that prepares low-income students of color to attend elite boarding high schools, I show how the organization's “family” frame mobilized participants and encouraged interpretations and interactions that helped students persist in the program and remain committed to the organization. I argue that turning our attention to frames and framing processes will increase our understanding of the tools organizations use on a microinteractional level to build and repair participants' loyalty and commitment.

Parental Challenges to Organizational Authority in an Elite School District: The Role of Cultural, Social, and Symbolic Capital

Lareau, Annette, Elliot B. Weininger, and Amanda Barrett Cox. 2018. Teachers College Record 120(1):1-46.

This paper examines the consequences of the abundance of cultural, social, and symbolic capital held by parents in one elite district, which we call Kingsley.  During the period in which we collected data, the district administration sought to re-draw attendance boundaries for the two high schools in Kingsley.  We show how shifting coalitions of parents made use of the full range of available resources in opposing, or in some instances supporting, district officials’ plans.  We suggest that elite districts may be prone to a distinctive type of conflict between residents and policymakers.  As economic segregation increases, it is possible that more districts will experience these challenges.

Social Class and the Transition to Adulthood: Differences in Parents’ Interactions with Institutions

Lareau, Annette, and Amanda Cox. 2011. Pp. 134-164 in Social Class and Changing Families in an Unequal America, edited by M.J. Carlson & P. England. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

How Entitled Parents Hurt Schools 

Lareau, Annette, Elliot B. Weininger, and Amanda Barrett Cox. 2018. The New York Times, June 25.

When Wealthy Parents Hold Sway in Public Schools

Lareau, Annette, Elliot B. Weininger, and Amanda Barrett Cox. 2018. The Hechinger Report, June 24.