Alexandra Cooperstock

PhD Candidate


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, and the field of applied 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 census data, restricted administrative data, web scraped records, freedom of information act 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; Quantitative Methods; Applied and Spatial Demography

Research Agenda


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

Cooperstock's dissertation examines a place-based policy and a new iteration of federal education intervention: Promise Neighborhoods. Rather than separately estimating school effects and neighborhood effects on children’s educational outcomes, this project contributes to the reorientation of the literature and incorporates neighborhood, school, and policy contexts jointly. Her dissertation project answers three primary research questions: (1) Does the funding selection process for Promise Neighborhoods target the most disadvantaged schools and neighborhoods? (2) What is the effect of Promise Neighborhood funding on neighborhoods and student academic outcomes? and (3) Are there heterogeneous treatment effects?

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

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

  • Brooks School of Public Policy Outstanding Research Paper Award, Cornell University, 2022
  • Maureen T. Hallinan Paper Award, American Educational Research Association, 2022
  • Robin M. Williams Jr. Paper Award, 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

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

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