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Assistant Professor of Sociology
Expertise: Poverty, Race and Gender
Ranita Ray is an ethnographer studying and writing about urban poverty, class, gender, race, and educational and work trajectories of marginalized black and brown youth. She is currently conducting a multi-year and multi-sited ethnographic project that explores the relationship between education, poverty, social mobility, and policing in marginalized communities in Las Vegas.
Drawing on three years of immersed fieldwork among a group of black and Latina/o youth from a marginalized community in northeastern United States, her book, The Making of a Teenage Service Class: Poverty and Mobility in an American City (University of California Press, 2017), challenges common wisdom that targeting “risk behaviors” such as drugs, gangs, violence, and teen parenthood is key to breaking the cycle of poverty. She argues that overemphasis on drugs, gangs, violence, and teen parenthood reinforces race, class and gender inequalities.
Her first book, As The Leaves Turn Gold: Aging Experiences of Asian Americans (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012), was a co-authored account of the aging experiences of Asian-Americans.
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.
Ranita Ray In The News
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.
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.