Associate Professor of Sociology and Faculty Research Associate of the Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin
Expertise & Civic Involvements
Kirk’s research is focused on three inter-related themes: first, the legitimacy of the law and the effects of illegitimacy on crime and the willingness of residents to cooperate with the police; second, the effects of criminal sanctions on future life chances and social inequality; and third, prisoner reentry and the consequences of housing and parole policies for offender reintegration. Kirk is the Vice-Chair of the Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable.
"Juvenile Arrest and Collateral Educational Damage in the Transition to Adulthood" (with ). Sociology of Education 85 (forthcoming). Presents evidence that a criminal arrest record has a substantively large and robust impact on dropping out of high school among public school students even after accounting for all the leading predictors of dropout. Also reveals a significant gap in four-year college enrollment between arrested and otherwise similar youth without a criminal record.
"The Paradox of Law Enforcement in Immigrant Communities: Does Tough Immigration Enforcement Undermine Public Safety?" (with ). The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 641 (2012): 79-89. Investigates the consequences of harsh immigration reforms on the willingness of residents to cooperate with the police and ultimately the ability of the police to detect and solve crimes.
"Cultural Mechanisms and the Persistence of Neighborhood Violence" (with ). American Journal of Sociology 116, no. 4 (2011): 1190-1233. Finds that the persistence of violence in Chicago neighborhoods despite gentrification and declines in poverty can be attributed to neighborhood culture, particularly cynical views of the police that lead residents to conclude that the police are illegitimate, unresponsive, and ill-equipped to ensure public safety.
"A Natural Experiment on Residential Change and Recidivism: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina" American Sociological Review 74, no. 3 (2009): 484-505. Utilizes Hurricane Katrina as a natural experiment to examine the implications of residential change for the likelihood of desisting from criminal behavior. Findings reveal that offenders who moved away from home neighborhoods were much less likely to be reincarcerated in the future. Residential change can provide ex-offenders a fresh start, by severing ties to peers and social situations that contributed to their prior criminal behavior.
- "We are Rolling Back Civil Rights When It Comes to Employment Decisions," Austin American-Statesman, April 8, 2014.
- David Kirk's research on prisoner reentry and Hurricane Katrina discussed in , "Removing Roadblocks to Rehabilitation," New York Times, January 21, 2011.
Talks and Briefings
- "How Residential Change Might Help Ex-Offenders Stay Out of Prison: Findings from a Natural Experiment," The Institute for Excellence in Justice, Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Columbus, OH, March 9, 2012.
- "Going Home (or Not): How Residential Change Might Help Former Offenders Stay Out of Prison," The National Institute of Justice, Washington, DC, October 24, 2011.