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Elena van Stee

PhD Candidate in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania
Exchange Scholar, Harvard University

About Elena

Van Stee's research focuses on higher education, parenting, and young adulthood. Overarching themes in van Stee's writings include social class divides into young adults' college experiences, family relationships, and post-college trajectories. Van Stee also has extensive experience conducting interviews and focus groups in consulting roles for nonprofit organizations. Van Stee currently serves as Blog editor for Contexts, the public-facing magazine of the American Sociological Association.

In the News

Opinion: "Who’s the Grown-Up Here?," Elena van Stee, Contexts, June 12, 2023.
Interviewed in "Meet Contexts’ New Blog Editor!," Contexts Magazine, June 2, 2023.
Quoted by Katelyn C. Silva in "Inequality and Parental (Pandemic) Support," Penn Arts and Sciences, February 3, 2023.
Opinion: "Social Class Matters at College. What Happened When Campuses Shut Down?," Elena van Stee, Work In Progress, December 15, 2022.


"Parenting Young Adults Across Social Class: A Review and Synthesis" Sociology Compass 16, no. 9 (2022).

Summarizes recent research on parents' roles in young adult children's lives, focusing on social class divides. Elaborates in relation to five traditional young adult milestones: finishing school, finding a job, leaving the family home, getting married, and becoming a parent. Underscores that understanding the transition to adulthood requires understanding young adults' relationships with parents.

"How Do Colleges and Universities Support Multifaith Chaplaincy? The Causes and Effects of Different Institutional Approaches" (with Wendy Cadge and Rebecca Barton). Journal of College and Character 22, no. 2 (2021): 134-155 .

Discusses how universities support religiously diverse student populations through chaplaincy services and identify the implications for interfaith engagement. Finds that smaller institutions and those historically affiliated with a religious group tend to employ more staff chaplains. Reveals chaplaincy models affect how deeply chaplains and affiliates are involved on campus and the possibilities for interfaith engagement.

"Privileged Dependence, Precarious Autonomy: Parent/Young Adult Relationships Through the Lens of COVID-19" Journal of Marriage and Family 85, no. 1 (2023): 215-232.

Shows how college students from different social class backgrounds navigate COVID-19 campus closings. Discusses interviews with undergraduates and their mothers revealed class divides into students' family resources and roles--with implications for educational inequalities during remote instruction. Reveals beyond the immediate context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the concepts of “privileged dependence” and “precarious autonomy” offer scholars a set of theoretical tools for understanding class inequality in other young adult contexts.