Alexandra Cooperstock

PhD Candidate


My primary research interests focus on the intersection of schools, neighborhoods, and policy for shaping inequality and educational opportunities.



Stratification and Inequality; Sociology of Education; Community and Urban Sociology; Social Policy; Quantitative Methods; Applied and Spatial Demography


Dissertation Committee

Kendra Bischoff (chair), Peter Rich, Laura Tach, Kim Weeden



Place-Based Education Investment: Opportunity Gaps and Student Academic Outcomes

My dissertation examines a place-based policy and a new iteration of federal education intervention: Promise Neighborhoods. This work has been supported through a dissertation fellowship from the American Educational Research Association and the National Science Foundation (#1749275) and an Educational Opportunity Monitoring Grant for early career scholars from the Russell Sage Foundation and the W. T. Grant Foundation (#2103-30966). I also acknowledge institutional support through a series of research grants from the Cornell Population Center, the Center for the Study of Economy and Society at Cornell University, and the Center for the Study of Inequality at Cornell University.

Combining high-quality schools with community-based supports, Promise Neighborhoods are a holistic program that create a continuum of services designed to improve children’s outcomes from birth to when they join the labor market, or from “cradle-to-career.” Promise Neighborhood entities must evaluate their programs as a condition of acceptance, but research to date mainly consists of case studies and implementation studies. I answer two primary research questions: (1) Does the funding selection process for Promise Neighborhoods target the most disadvantaged schools and neighborhoods? and (2) What is the effect of Promise Neighborhood funding on student academic outcomes?

I use spatial techniques to create a novel database at the Promise Neighborhood level and combine several national data sources to capture the social and economic conditions of these units; key neighborhood and school indicators stem from the U.S. Census, the Common Core of Data (CCD), the Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA), and the Texas Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS). I then use quasi-experimental methods to estimate Promise Neighborhood effects.


Other Research

The Demographics of School District Secession

School segregation has been a topic of significant sociological research in the United States. Less attention has been devoted to understanding the relationship between school district inequalities and secession, a political tool that forms new boundaries after a formal withdrawal from an existing school district. School district secession processes elucidate the many pathways by which school segregation is produced and perpetuated, including micro-level school and neighborhood selection decisions, jurisdictional restructuring of district boundaries, and the national and state-level legal landscape. I received the Maureen T. Hallinan Paper Award from the American Educational Research Association and the Robin M. Williams Jr. Paper Award from Cornell University for this project, published in Social Forces.

I analyze the school district secession attempts that have occurred since the year 2000 using national data and build upon qualitative research and case studies focused on a single region or metropolitan area. Drawing on social closure theory, I explore the community characteristics associated with secession attempts. To do so, I create a measure of social imbalance that leverages the geographic variation between places attempting a secession and the school districts they are nested within. Results indicate that the percentage of residents with a college degree is among the strongest predictors of secession attempts, highlighting the salience of educational attainment at the population-level for selecting into the use of this political tool. Results also indicate that school districts successfully created through secession cleave onto racial and economic divides for both the residential and student populations, driven by secessions located in the South.


Peer-Reviewed Publications

   Cooperstock, Alexandra. 2022. “The Demographics of School District Secession.” Social Forces soac069.

  • Maureen T. Hallinan Paper Award, American Educational Research Association, 2022
  • Robin M. Williams Jr. Paper Award, Cornell University, 2020

   McCauley, Erin and Alexandra Cooperstock. 2022. “Differential Self-Reported COVID-19 Impacts Among U.S. Secondary Teachers by Race/Ethnicity.” Frontiers in Education 7:931234

   Alvarado, Steven and Alexandra Cooperstock. 2021. “Context in Continuity: The Enduring Legacy of Neighborhood Disadvantage Across Generations.” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 74:100620.


Book Chapters

   Sassler, Sharon and Alexandra Cooperstock. 2022. “The Various Roles of Cohabitation in the United States.” Forthcoming in the Oxford International Handbook of Family Policy, edited by Douglas Besharov and Douglas Call. Oxford, UK: Oxford Press.

Manuscripts Under Review

   Alvarado, Steven and Alexandra Cooperstock. “The Echo of Neighborhood Disadvantage: Multigenerational Contextual Hardship and Adult Income for Whites, Blacks, and Latinos.” Invitation to Revise and Resubmit at City & Community.