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Karyn Lacy

Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan
Chapter Member: Michigan SSN
Areas of Expertise:
  • Race & Ethnicity
  • Public Health

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About Karyn

Lacy's research focuses on race relations, residential segregation, identity, parental socialization, social stratification, and suburban culture. Her current work explores the construction and reproduction of racial and class-based identities among members of an elite children's organization. 


How Middle-Class Blacks Fit into American Suburbs

In the News

"Auditioning for the Role of Colleague," Karyn Lacy, The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 14, 2016.
"in Black Middle Class, the Vulnerable and the Comfortable," Karyn Lacy, The New York Times, July 25, 2011.


"Is Voluntary Segregation Really Voluntary?" in Race and Real Estate (Transgressing Boundaries: Studies in Black Politics and Black Communities, edited by Adrienne Brown and Valerie Smith (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Qualifies and complicates traditional narratives of  race, property, and citizenship in the United States. Explores how the raced history of property affects understandings of home and citizenship.

"Black Spaces, Black Places: Strategic Assimilation and Identity Construction in Middle-Class Suburbia" Ethnic and Racial Studies 27, no. 6 (2004): 908-930.

Establishes the link between an affinity for black spaces and the alternative assimilation trajectories of middle-class blacks. Finds that middle-class blacks engage in a variant of segmented assimilation, privileging the black world as a site for socializing even if they live in a white suburb. Suggests that this population of middle-class blacks does not perceive itself as permanently constrained to the bottom rung of a racial hierarchy.

"Race, Privilege and the Growing Class Divide" Ethnic and Racial Studies 38, no. 8 (2015): 1246-1249.

Suggests that extending Wilson's argument, that social class mattered more for getting ahead than race by the mid-twentieth century, to include a new period that encompasses the last twenty-five years, would help to illuminate more recent structural advantages that contribute to class privilege in American society as well as an emerging fault line within the black middle class.

Blue-Chip Black: Race, Class, and Status in the New Black Middle Class (University of California Press, 2007).

Examines the complicated sense of identity that middle-class blacks craft to manage their interactions with lower-class blacks, middle-class whites, and other middle-class blacks as they seek to reap the benefits of their middle-class status. Reveals that middle-class blacks choose from a toolkit of situational identities and that they employ public identities, status-based identities, class-based identities, and suburban identities in addition to a black racial identity.

"Breaking the Class Monolith: Understanding Class Differences in Black Adolescents' Attachment to Racial Identity" (with Angel Harris), in Social Class: How Does It Work?, edited by Annette Lareau and Salton Conley (Russell Sage Foundation, 2008).

Examines how social class operates in the United States today.