Emily Sandusky

Ph.D. date: May 2023


My primary research investigates ideas about economic inequality. Using an approach informed by contextual effects and public opinion scholarship, I treat everyday observations and interactions in neighborhoods, school districts, counties, and other place-based contexts as economic and political information. I study the ways that information coded in local conditions shapes beliefs and attitudes about inequality and support for potentially corrective policies. My second research area is focused on local democratic participation, and specifically examines citizen engagement in public school governance.


Inequality, Poverty, & Mobility; Public Opinion; Community & Urban Sociology

Committee Members

Mabel Berezin (Chair), Kendra Bischoff, Kim Weeden, Peter Enns (Government)


Economic Inequality Through a Contextual Lens: Spatial Variation in Beliefs, Opinions, and Policy Support

In my dissertation, I recast local economic conditions as contextual information. In the first section I explore the associations between individuals’ beliefs and attitudes about income inequality and the economic characteristics of their residential contexts. I use opinion data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study and General Social Survey along with new survey data I collected in 2020. I draw on insights from sociological theory and political psychology to identify how social positions and political perspectives shape the salience and interpretation of contextual information. Throughout the dissertation, I test a novel multivariate measure that captures constellations of economic characteristics that individuals may observe in their communities. The second part of the dissertation is focused on popular support for policies that can reduce income inequality. I examine the associations between contextual economic conditions and local results of statewide ballot measures to raise the state minimum wage.