Professor of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin
305 E 23rd Street
A1700, CLA 3.306
Austin, TX 78712
Areas of Expertise & Civic Involvements
Pettit conducts research on the effects of incarceration on inequality. Her most recent research investigates how excluding inmates from household-based surveys biases estimates of black progress.
SSN Key Findings, October 2012
"Mass Incarceration, Family Complexity, and the Reproduction of Childhood Disadvantage" (with Bryan Sykes). The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 654, no. 1 (2014): 127-149.
Examines the link between family complexity - measured by noncustodial parenthood and multiple-partner fertility - and incarceration.
"Degrees of Disadvantage: Mass Incarceration and Racial Inequality in High School Completion " (with Stephanie Ewert and Bryan Sykes). The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 651 (2013): 24-43.
Examines how the rise in incarceration and its disproportionate concentration among low-skill, young African American men influences estimates of educational attainment in the United States. Focuses on high school graduation rates and the persistent gap in attainment that exists between young black and white Americans.
Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress (Russell Sage Foundation, 2012).
Observes that our national data systems are based on assumptions which systematically exclude inmates and itinerant former inmates. Because inmates differ in systematic ways from individuals living in households, data gathered through household-based surveys offer a biased glimpse of the economic, political, demographic, and health experiences of the American population and the factors thought to produce them.
"Incarceration and Social Inequality" (with Bruce Western). Daedalus 139, no. 3 (2010): 8-19.
Argues that unions helped institutionalize norms of equity and reduced inequality of wages in both union and nonunion wages. Finds that the decline in private sector union membership from 1973 to 2007 explains a fifth to a third of the growth in wage inequality over that period.
Gendered Tradeoffs: Family, Social Policy, and Economic Inequality in 21 Countries (with Jennifer Hook) (Russell Sage Foundation, 2009).
Argues that there are tradeoffs between different aspects of gender inequality in the economy. Through the analysis of empirical data, we endeavor to explain how those tradeoffs are shaped by individuals, markets, and states. We show the contours of inequality across and within countries are shaped by individual characteristics and specific aspects of social policy that either relieve or concentrate the demands of caregiving within households – usually in the hands of women – and at the same time shape workplace expectations.
Becky Pettit's research on the mass incarceration of Black men discussed in A. Moore, "8 Ways the Incarceration of Black Men Distorted the Numbers Showing African-American Progress," Atlanta Black Star, October 10, 2014.
Becky Pettit quoted on how the mass incarceration of black men has skewed demographic study findings (as reported in her new book, "Invisible Men"), "Why Surveys Should Pay Attention to Prisoners" The Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2012.
Talks and Briefings
"Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress," Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, January 2012.
"Civil Rights Legislation and Legalized Exclusion: Mass Incarceration and the Masking of Inequality," Annual Meetings of the Southern Sociological Association, 2015.
"Invisible Men," Annual Meetings of the American Public Health Association, 2014.
"Incarceration and Comparative Accounts of Inequality," Annual Meetings of the American Sociological Association, 2013.