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"Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Insurance Coverage: What has Changed After the Affordable Care Act?" Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies [With Rene Flores]

Medicaid expansion, as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), was touted by many policymakers as a potentially powerful force for reducing ethnoracial disparities in health insurance coverage. Using a unique county-level dataset at two time points (before and after the passage of the PPACA), we test whether Medicaid Expansion predicted change in ethnoracial disparities. Specifically, we use fixed effect regression models to predict the Black-white, Hispanic-white, and Asian-white disparities in health insurance coverage. Using states that did not expand Medicaid as a counterfactual, our models show that this policy expansion was not significantly associated with a decrease in ethnoracial health insurance disparities. Overall, these findings suggest the need for scholars and policymakers to be more cautious and tempered about Medicaid expansion’s relationship with ethnoracial disparities in health insurance coverage. We discuss the implications of these findings for research on ethnoracial health insurance disparities, as well as policy efforts to increase coverage in minority communities.

"Race and State in City Police Spending Growth: 1980-2010." Sociology of Race and Ethnicity  3(1):96-112 [with Phil McHarris]

What has driven city police spending growth in large cities? Studies show racial threat is an important predictor, but scholars overlook how cities can afford spending increases during hard financial times. Research suggests that federal grants through the Clinton crime bill and U.S. Department of Homeland Security play important roles. In this article, we ask whether racial threat and federal aid have an interrelated role in city police spending from 1980-2010. Using a unique dataset on 88 large cities, we find that Clinton crime bill grants were associated with city police spending, especially in cities with growing Black populations. We also find that from 2000-2010, overall federal aid was associated with city police spending, especially in cities with growing foreign-born populations. Our study show that the state, through relationships between Federal and local government, has been a critical missing component in the process whereby racial threat shapes local police spending. 

"How Health Navigators Legitimize the Affordable Care Act to the Uninsured Poor." Social Science and Medicine Vol 165:263-270

Health navigators are a new health care workforce created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to assist low-income minority populations with acquiring health insurance. Given the high levels of distrust among the poor toward government and the medical profession, this article asks: How do health navigators build the legitimacy necessary to persuade low-income uninsured clients to enroll in health insurance? Through ethnography of face-to-face interaction between navigators and the uninsured poor in Chicago, this study shows that successful navigators deployed a combination of cultural repertoires for building trust and legitimacy. These repertoires included ceding control of the conversation, creating ethnic solidarity, and disassociating themselves from government bureaucrats or self-serving insurance employees. These findings demonstrate the usefulness of cultural sociology for understanding health insurance provision to the poor, ACA outreach efforts, and the more general study of how occupations legitimize themselves to clients.

"Criminal Group Embeddedness and the Adverse Effects of Arresting a Gang’s Leader.” Criminology 52(2):143-168. [Lead Article] 

Although law enforcement agencies arrest criminal group leaders to dismantle organized crime, very few studies have assessed whether such interventions produce adverse effects. Through a mixed method comparative case study of the Latin Kings and 22 Boys street gangs in Chicago, this article examines the consequences of arresting a gang’s leader. Using violent crime data, I show that a spike in violent crime took place in the first month after the 22 Boy gang leader’s arrest. In contrast, the Latin King gang leader’s arrest produced no change in violent crime. Using several qualitative data sources, I show that the 22 Boy gang leader’s arrest temporarily led to the gang’s withdrawal from their territory which spurred violent aggression from rival gangs in adjacent territories. In contrast, the Latin Kings continued their operations because the gang’s prison leaders quickly appointed new leadership. Results suggest that criminal group embeddedness (or the social relations between criminal groups) can contribute to adverse effects in interventions targeting gang or other criminal group leaders.

“Being in “Bad” Company: Power Dependency and Status in Adolescent Susceptibility to Peer Influence.” Social Psychology Quarterly 74(3): 310-332.

Theories of susceptibility to peer influence have centered on the idea that lower status adoles- cents are likely to adopt the behaviors of high status adolescents . While status is important , social exchange theorists have shown the value of analyzing exchange relations between actors to understand differences in power. To build on status-based theories of peer influence, this study analyzes power dependence relations in three adolescent friendship groups. Analyzing adolescent interaction as social exchange showed how being in a group with bal- anced power relations insulated adolescents from peer influence, even when some peers were delinquent or low academic achievers. In contrast, adolescents in groups with unbal- anced power relations were particularly susceptible to peer influence. This study presents an additional way to analyze the peer influence process and illustrates the importance of applying social psychological theory to cases of micro inequality, particularly in the context of small groups.