Allison L. Hurst


B.A. Ancient Studies: Barnard College, Columbia University
J.D.: Pepperdine University School of Law
L.L.M.: New York School of Law
Ph.D. Sociology: University of Oregon

Class & Inequality, Qualitative Methodology, Sociology of Education, Marxist Theory, Sociology of Law

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Raised in the great American working class, I grew up in Southern California, Texas, and Germany.  Always passionately interested in what makes society work and why and how social divisions and inequalities keep occurring, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the gender and class dynamics of Roman society for a degree in Ancient Studies (Barnard ’92).  I followed this up with a JD from Pepperdine (’95), where I met my partner Jason Tanenbaum, and an LLM from NYU (’97).  The law was not the pathway to “saving the world,” as I had hoped, so I switched to sociology in the fall of 1999, earning my PhD from the University of Oregon in 2006.  Since then I have been happy teaching at liberal arts colleges (first Kenyon College, now Furman) and organizing and leading the Association of Working-Class Academics, a group that strives to implement programs and reforms designed to assure greater class equity within colleges and universities.

Related Books: The Burden of Academic Success: Loyalists, Renegades and Double Agents (2010)and The Other Three Percent: How College Graduates from the Working Class Managed to Make It (expected 2011)

I am currently involved in a few projects that have grown out of the previous research I did on working-class college students.  For one, I am involved in related strands focusing on student debt – a piece on judicial evaluations of student debtors in bankruptcy courts, a piece on student borrower accounts, and an institutional analysis of the student loan industry.  

I am also in the initial planning phases of a research project examining the transition from college-to-work.  Most school-to-work transition research has explored high school graduates, but I am interested in following the process of finding work for college graduates.  In a way, this is an extension of my interest in the effect of the increasingly high debt burdens graduates carry, but it will also explore the effects and activation of social and cultural capital, the prevalence of internships and alternative work structures, and the relationship between class background and employment outcome.

For fun, I sometimes delve into areas that are normally beyond my “research plan.”  Two pieces that have emerged from this extracurricular work are “Languages of Class in US Party Platforms: 1880-1936,” Journal of Social History and “Beyond the Pale: Poor Whites as Uncontrolled Social Contagion in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Dred: A Tale of the Dismal Swamp,The Mississippi Quarterly 

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