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Sarah Bruch

Assistant Professor of Sociology and Director, Social and Education Policy Program, Public Policy Center, University of Iowa

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About Sarah

Bruch's research focuses broadly on social stratification and public policy. In particular, she focuses on integrating theoretical insights from relational and social theorists into the empirical study of inequalities. She brings this approach to the study of social policy, education, race, politics, and citizenship. Her work has been published in leading academic journals including the American Sociological Review, Sociology of Education, Journal of Marriage and Family, and Child Development. Her current research includes three streams. The first focuses on U.S. social policies, examining their social and distributional impacts as well as their consequences for civic and political life. The second focuses on schools as organized sites of racialized authority relations that shape life trajectories and function as formative experiences of citizenship. The third focuses on the interplay of racial and economic inequalities, seeking to clarify how they relate to each other, how they are connected to state policy choices, and how they are produced through specific relational and policy mechanisms.


Effective Ways to Reduce Disparities in School Discipline

  • Harper Haynes

In the News

Sarah Bruch's research on racial inequality discussed by Julianne Hing, "For Black Students, Skin Color and Suspensions Linked," ColorLines, October 8, 2014.
Sarah Bruch's research on racial inequality discussed by Jamaal Abdul-Alim, "Darker-Skinned African-American Students Suspended More Frequently," Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, October 6, 2014.
Guest to discuss income inequality on Iowa Public Radio, Sarah Bruch, November 19, 2013.


"Learning Where We Stand: How School Experiences Matter for Civic Marginalization and Political Inequality," (with Joe Soss), forthcoming.

Argues that schools operate as sites where individuals have their first, formative experiences with the rules and cultures of public institutions, authority relations and their uses by officials, and what it means to be a member of a rights-and-obligations-bearing community of putative equals. Develops a novel account of how schools construct citizens and position them in the polity. Shows, first, how race (in conjunction with class and gender) structures experiences of school relations and, second, how these experiences matter for citizens' positions and dispositions in the polity. 

"Threat in Context: School Moderation of the Impact of Social Identity Threat on Racial/Ethnic Achievement Gaps" (with Paul Hanselman, Adam Gamoran, and Geoffrey D. Borman). Sociology of Education 87, no. 2 (2014): 106-124.

Argues that school context moderates the benefits of self-affirmation for black and Hispanic students’ grades, with partial support among standardized achievement outcomes. Suggests that self-affirmation reduces the very large racial achievement gap in overall grade point average by 12.5 percent in high-threat school contexts and has no effect in low-threat contexts.

"The Relationship Between Skin Tone and School Suspension for African Americans" (with Lance Hannon and Robert Defina). Race and Social Problems 5, no. 4 (2013): 281-295.

Suggests that discrimination in school discipline goes beyond broad categories of race to include additional distinctions in skin tone.

"From Policy to Polity: Democracy, Paternalism, and the Incorporation of Disadvantaged Citizens" (with Myra Marx Ferree and Joe Soss). American Sociological Review 75, no. 10 (2010): 205-226.
Investigates how experiences with public policies affect levels of civic and political engagement among the poor.
"Unanticipated Consequences of a Positive Parent-Child Relationship" (with Ruth Turley and Matt Desmond). Journal of Marriage and Family 72 (2010): 1377-1390.
Uses data from the Texas Higher Education Opportunity Project and National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to examine the associations between having a positive parent-child relationship and educational outcomes.
"Caseworker Perceived Caregiver Substance Abuse and Child Protective Services Outcomes" (with Lawrence M. Berger, Kristen S. Slack, and Jane Waldfogel). Child Maltreatment 15, no. 3 (2010): 199-210.
Uses data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being to examine associations of child protective services (CPS) caseworkers' perceptions of caregiver substance abuse with their perceptions of the severity of risk and harm a child experienced as a result of alleged maltreatment, as well as with whether a family experienced a range of CPS outcomes.
"Estimating the ‘Impact’ of Out-of-Home Placement on Child Well-Being: Approaching the Problem of Selection Bias" (with Lawrence M. Berger, Elizabeth I. Johnson, Sigrid James, and David Rubin). Child Development 80, no. 6 (2009): 1856-1876.
Uses data on 2,453 children age 4 to 17 from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being and 5 analytic methods that adjust for selection factors to estimate the impact of out-of-home placement on children's cognitive skills and behavior problems.