Sarah K. Cowan

Assistant Professor of Sociology, New York University

About Sarah

Cowan studies secrets. She is interested in when and why people conceal information about themselves and others and the effects of these acts of concealment on social influence, behavior and attitudes. Her work has examined abortion and miscarriage secrets in the United States and Americans keeping their political attitudes secret. Her next project examines the revelation and concealment of cancer diagnoses.


In the News

"The Future Did Not Have to be Luxury Condos: Revisiting Gordon Matta-Clark," Sarah K. Cowan, The New Yorker, March 18, 2018.
Sarah K. Cowan quoted on American public opinion on abortion by Annalisa Merelli, "Why Americans Have Become Much More Liberal about Same-Sex Marriage, but not abortion" Quartz, June 27, 2017.
Sarah K. Cowan's research on secrets regarding abortions and miscarriages discussed by Susan Grigsby, "Talking about Abortion and Changing Minds," Daily Kos, February 8, 2015.
Guest to discuss abortion secrets on National Public Radio, Sarah K. Cowan, December 31, 2014.
Sarah K. Cowan quoted on abortion secrets by Rebecca Traister, "Let's Just Say It: Women Matter More than Fetuses Do" New Republic, November 11, 2014.
Sarah K. Cowan quoted on abortion secrets by Jenny Kutner, "Women are Less Likely to Tell Pro-Life Friends about Their Abortions" Salon, November 4, 2014.
"What if a President Served for 42 Years?," Sarah K. Cowan, CNN International, June 15, 2011.
"How Much is Your Vote Worth?," Sarah K. Cowan (with Stephen Doyle and Drew Heffron), New York Times, November 2, 2008.


"Periodic Discordance between Vote Equality and Representational Equality in the United States" Sociological Science 2 (2015): 442-453.

Looks at the electoral standard of “one person, one vote” and the conditions in which it ensures or fails to achieve both representational equality and vote equality. 

"Cohort Abortion Measures for the United States" Population and Development Review 39, no. 2 (2013): 289-307.

Provides the first set of cohort abortion measures for the United States. Finds stability in the distribution of abortion by abortion order and the racial composition of abortion incidences.

"When You’re in a Crisis Like That, You Don’t Want People to Know’: Mortgage Strain, Stigma, and Mental Health" (with Danya E. Keene and Amy Castro Baker). American Journal of Public Health 105, no. 5 (2015): 1008-1012.

Argues that stigma may exacerbate the stress associated with mortgage strain and contribute to poor mental health, particularly among upwardly mobile African Americans who have overcome significant structural barriers to home ownership. 

"Secrets and Misperceptions: The Creation of Self-Fulfilling Illusions" Sociological Science 1 (2014): 466-492.

Examines who hears what secrets, comparing two similar secrets - one which is highly stigmatized and one which is less so. Considers the macro-consequences of patterned secret-keeping and disclosure.