Ranita Ray

Associate Professor of Sociology
Expertise: Poverty, Race and Gender, Children and Youth, Education, Schools, and Policing


Ranita Ray joined the UNLV faculty in 2013 after completing her doctoral studies in the same year. Ray is a feminist ethnographer of children/youth, schooling, economic marginalization, gender, and racial dominance. Her book, The Making of a Teenage Service Class: Poverty and Mobility in an American City (University of California Press, 2018), challenges common wisdom that targeting “risk behaviors” such as drugs, gangs, violence, and teen parenthood among youth is key to breaking the cycle of economic and racial marginalization. This book is based on her dissertation work (partially funded by a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant).

Ray's book The Making of a Teenage Service Class: Poverty and Mobility in an American City received the 2018 C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems as well as an Honorable Mention for 2019 Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Book Award Presented by the American Sociological Association’s Section on Race, Gender, and Class.

Ray received a 2019 NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship for her current longitudinal ethnography, which explores the complexities of schooling, gender and racial dominance, based in Las Vegas.

Ray has published journal articles on various issues related to children/youth and urban inequalities including reproductive justice and teen parenthood as a public/moral health panic (Social Problems); kinship ties under the constraints of poverty (Journal of Contemporary Ethnography); pediatric participation (The American Journal of Bioethics); neuroenhancers and educational inequalities (The American Journal of Bioethics); new direction in poverty studies (Sociology Compass).

Ray has published several other book chapters on urban issues, youth, education, and human rights.

Ranita's article "'Identity of Distance': How Economically Marginalized Black and Latina Women Navigate Risk Discourse and Employ Feminist Ideals" received the 2019 American Sociological Association Race, Gender, and Class Section Best Article Award.

Ray has also co-authored a book titled As The Leaves Turn Gold: Aging Experiences of Asian Americans (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012)--an account of the aging experiences of Asians Americans in the U.S.

Current Project

With support from NAEd/Spencer Foundation (as a 2019 Postdoctoral Fellow), Ray is currently preparing a new book manuscript drawing on a neighborhood based longitudinal and multi-sited ethnography which began in summer 2016 in Las Vegas. Ray is combining her immersive ethnography with in-depth interviews and archival data to understand the complex relationship between schooling, policing, gender, and racial dominance. Ray began preparing her book manuscript as a Racial Democracy, Crime and Justice Network Summer Institute Research Fellow at Rutgers University in 2018.

Ray is also actively involved in community-oriented research projects, and mentors undergraduate and graduate students studying poverty, social inequalities, intersectional feminisms, and contemporary theories.

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Ranita Ray In The News

June 12, 2018
Think of TEDxUNLV as a festival — a Burning Man, perhaps — of ideas.
June 11, 2018
It’s repeated so often that it goes largely unchallenged: In economically disadvantaged communities, young people are at extreme risk of drug usage, gang activity, violent crime and unplanned pregnancies.
June 1, 2018
The marshmallow test is one of the most famous pieces of social-science research: Put a marshmallow in front of a child, tell her that she can have a second one if she can go 15 minutes without eating the first one, and then leave the room. Whether she’s patient enough to double her payout is supposedly indicative of a willpower that will pay dividends down the line, at school and eventually at work. Passing the test is, to many, a promising signal of future success.
January 29, 2014
Las Vegas is a long way from the Himalayas, where Ranita Ray grew up in a boarding school close to the Nepalese border. But poverty is universal, and studying it is Ray’s specialty.