Alexandra Cooperstock

Ph.D. date: May 2024 (expected)


Alexandra Cooperstock is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at Cornell University. Her research examines how neighborhood, school, and policy contexts shape educational opportunity and inequality. This work contributes to research on social stratification, the sociology of education, community and urban sociology, social policy, and the field of social and spatial demography. Methodologically, her research uses a wide variety of quantitative methods such as quasi-experimental modeling, and she combines multiple sources of data including U.S. Census data, restricted administrative data, web scraped records, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and national surveys.  Her research has been funded by a Russell Sage Foundation and W.T. Grant Foundation educational opportunity monitoring grant for early career scholars and an American Educational Research Association (AERA-NSF) dissertation fellowship.


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


Research Agenda


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

Cooperstock's dissertation examines the Promise Neighborhood initiative, a federal place-based intervention implemented by the U.S. Department of Education. Promise Neighborhoods address the entire ecosystem where schools are embedded, targeting both underperforming schools and the neighborhoods that they are situated within. She assesses the geographic distribution of Promise Neighborhood funding and considers the implications for the creation of present-day educational opportunity gaps, in addition to estimating effects of the program on student academic outcomes nationally and in the state of Texas. She answers two primary questions through her dissertation research: (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, and are there heterogeneous effects by student characteristics?

Promise Neighborhood boundaries are in non-standard geographic units because target areas are defined by applicants. Drawing from Promise Neighborhood application materials obtained from the U.S. Department of Education through a series of FOIA requests, Cooperstock uses geospatial techniques to construct a novel longitudinal database of Census block-, tract-, school-, and school district-level outcomes and covariates. She uses multiple data sources to do so, including national data from the U.S. Census and custom data tabulations from the Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA), in addition to restricted, individual-level student administrative data from the Texas Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS). 

Because of the potential for place-based policies to transform neighborhood and school conditions, in both favorable and unfavorable ways, they have ramifications for durable spatial inequalities in the U.S. that are congruent with academic achievement gaps. Cooperstock's dissertation will have important implications for stratification research, expanding our understanding of the clustering of disadvantage and the ways that these conditions shape access to opportunity and educational outcomes. This project also helps to reorient the sociological literature by considering neighborhoods and schools jointly, rather than separately estimating school effects and neighborhood effects on children’s wellbeing.

Dissertation Committee

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

Other Research

The Demographics of School District Secession

In "The Demographics of School District Secession," Cooperstock analyzes the school district secession attempts that have occurred since the year 2000 using national data and builds upon qualitative research and case studies focused on a single region or metropolitan area. Drawing on social closure theory, she explores the community characteristics associated with secession attempts. To do so, she creates 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.

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. Cooperstock received multiple paper awards for this project, published in Social Forces.


Before pursuing her PhD in Sociology, Cooperstock was an elementary school teacher. She worked in both public and charter schools and was awarded Teach for America's Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award. At Cornell University, she has taught both in-person and online while serving as an instructor of record, a teaching assistant, and a Center for Teaching Innovation lead fellow. She recieved the Buttrick-Crippen Fellowship from the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines to design and teach a new course in the Fall 2023 semester -- SOC 1120: Educational Inequality and Reform Efforts in the United States.


Peer-Reviewed Publications

Alvarado, Steven and Alexandra Cooperstock. 2023. "The Echo of Neighborhood Disadvantage: Multigenerational Contextual Hardship and Adult Income for Whites, Blacks, and Latinos." Forthcoming in City & Community.

Cooperstock, Alexandra. 2023. "The Demographics of School District Secession." Social Forces 101(4):1976-2012.

  • David Lee Stevenson Paper Award, Education Section, American Sociological Association, 2023
  • Population Section Paper Award, American Sociological Association, 2023
  • Maureen T. Hallinan Paper Award, American Educational Research Association, 2022
  • Brooks School of Public Policy Paper Award, Cornell University, 2022
  • Robin M. Williams Jr. Paper Award, Department of Sociology, Cornell University, 2020
  • Abridged version prepared for the School Diversity Notebook

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. 2023. “The Various Roles of Cohabitation in the United States.” Chapter 18, pages 388-418 in The Oxford Handbook of Family Policy Over the Life Course, edited by Mary Daly, Birgit Pfau-Effinger, Neil Gilbert, and Douglas Besharov. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Manuscripts Under Review

Tach, Laura, Emily Parker, Alexandra Cooperstock, and Sam Dodini. “Shifting Foundations of Inequality in U.S. Federal Place-Based Policy.” Minor Revise and Resubmit at Social Forces.