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Aside from their teaching responsibilities, Sociology faculty pursue academic research in many different areas of expertise, including crime, demographic change, deviance, education, family, globalization, heath and illness, labor relations, immigration, international border issues, race relations, social class, and mental health.  

Several faculty members have attained regional, national and international recognitions through their prolific scholarly work and funded research endeavors.  

Faculty members have also recently led or collaborated with researchers from leading research universities on projects of vast social and policy implications on topics such as undocumented immigrants, public health, community corrections and parole policies, and statistical strategies for sampling racial/ethnic minorities and other hard-to-reach populations. 

Faculty members have also engaged in intense community-oriented research focused on salient local and regional problems that make significant contributions to the local communities. 

Taking advantage of our geographical location, several faculty members focus on trans-border and trans-cultural research projects.

Research Highlights

Learn more about our faculty's research by reading about their work:

Daniel Davis in the classroom

Core Research Area:

His work examines the intersections between higher education and occupations & work. Most often this means investigating issues around college-to-career transitions.

Other Day Job:

When not lecturing at SDSU Daniel conducts research on the regional workforce for UC San Diego Extension. At UCSD Extension, they largely explore how to improve workforce training while striving to create a more inclusive economy.

Newest Project:

Daniel is investigating the platform economy (think apps and websites like Uber, TaskRabbit, Upwork, Fiverr, Airbnb, Etsy, eBay, Amazon, Seeking Arrangement, etc.) and how these types of platforms are transforming the ways undergraduates come to desire, and prepare for, various types of careers. Or phrased as a research question:

Is the tech-enabled gig-economy helping and/or harming college-student career formation?

How and why?

Select Past Work:

Some examples of his recent (and recent-ish) projects include:

  • Sociology Explains Entrepreneurial Identity (forthcoming): How sociological theory is helpful for understanding how people who start businesses construct various types of entrepreneurial identities.
  • Companies Can Buy Access to Students (2016): How the emergence of corporate partnership programs in university career services centers are changing the face of how some firms can recruit students.
  • Top Firms Hack Recruiting at Top Campuses (2016): How elite universities like Harvard and Stanford let a handful of wealthy firms recruit massively outsized proportions of their students; students who are often ambivalent about working for these gilded employers.

computer with cup of coffee on front porchDr. Joseph Gibbons is an Urban Sociologist whose research focuses on how residence in neighborhoods affects one's well-being. He is an Associate Director of the Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age (HDMA) center, a multiple-disciplinary research consortium of scholars interested in applying 'big data' derived from very large data sources like social media to understand human behavior.  

He is currently involved in three ongoing projects with HDMA colleagues: 

  1. Exploring the imprint that social ties from social media have on urban communities.
  2. Using Twitter data to identify the emotional sentiment and efficacy of neighborhoods to better understand health outcomes. 
  3. Using Yelp reviews of restaurants in San Diego to more dynamically identify gentrification. 
  4. Mapping incidence of late stage cancer diagnosis listed in the California Cancer Registry with neighborhood demographic data. 

Hank Johnston is an eminent scholar of collective action, protest, and social movements. His research examines protest performance in different state systems, especially authoritarian regimes, cognitive/interpretative dimensions of collective action, and the cultural analysis of mobilization processes. In the last three years, Dr. Johnston has written three books:  What is a Social Movement, States and Social Movements, and with Greek researcher, Seraphim Sepheriades (Pantion University, Athens), Violent Protest in the Neoliberal State.

Dr. Johnston’s present research is a comparative study of protest and resistance in authoritarian states, entitled “The Resistance Repertoire.” Its themes are proposed in his recent article, “State Violence and Oppositional Protest in High-Capacity Authoritarian Regimes,” and his recent Mobilizing Ideas blog, “The Games Afoot, Authoritarian Regimes and the Field of Play.” This project comparatively analyzes protests in three authoritarian contexts of different repressive capacity:  (1) Mexico during its authoritarian period, especially in the post-1968 repression and until the opening of the political system in the early 1990s; (2) China’s current policy of providing channels of popular protest through the xinfang system of “petitioning” state authorities; and (3) the resistance against communist rule in Eastern Europe in the 1980s and early 1990s,  about which Dr. Johnston has written numerous articles and essays.

Dr. Enrico Marcelli’s research agenda is to (1) design and implement community-based probabilistic sample surveys to collect representative and sensitive demographic, economic, health-related and sociocultural information from relatively clandestine or “hard-to-reach" populations (e.g., undocumented immigrants, informal workers, young adults); and to (2) employ statistical (e.g., regression) techniques to these and publicly available (e.g., U.S. Census, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) data to investigate the demographic characteristics, health, integration and effects of these populations; for the purpose of (3) augmenting the technical and fundraising capacities of the community-based organizations with which he works (e.g., Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Border Angels) and providing policy-relevant information to county, state and federal-level legislators regarding health and immigration.

Some of his most recent research-oriented accomplishments are:

  1. a $449,175 grant from The California Endowment (TCE) on The Inclusion of Unauthorized Immigrants in the Implementation of the Affordable Care Act for which I estimated (in collaboration with an Manuel Pastor if USC) and continue to estimate the number and characteristics foreign-born residents of the USA in California by citizenship and immigrant legal status (e.g., unauthorized, legal permanent resident, other “authorized" non-citizens) at county and smaller geographic areas; Read the fact sheet | Read the report | Read the article from the Sacramento Bee

  2. a $106,835 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to help design and implement the San Francisco Bay Area Young Adult Health Survey (BAYAHS) in collaboration with UCSF colleagues Pam Ling and Louisa Holmes, and to home environment is associated with tobacco use; 

  3. the 2014 San Diego County Mexican Immigrant Health & Legal Status Survey (SDC-MIHLSS) data, which were collected in collaboration with UCSD Dr. Wayne Cornelius;

  4. a paper being co-authored with four colleagues from the CDC, UCSF, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health entitled “Vaccination Coverage among Foreign-born Mexican Adults: New Evidence from Los Angeles County," which employs his 2012 Los Angeles County Mexican Immigrant Health & Legal Status Survey (LAC-MIHLSS III) data (funded by the CDC with $93,685);

  5. and serving on the Population Association of America (PAA) Program Committee held in San Diego from the April 29 to May 1, 2015. 
Mike RobertsMy recently published research has been in the areas of: the American labor movement, the social and cultural history of rock-and-roll music, the representation of social class in mass media forms, the intersection of race and class and Critical Theory.  My book, Tell Tchaikovsky the News: Rock’n’Roll, the Labor Question and the Musicians’ Union (Duke University Press, 2014) was nominated for the Mary Douglas Prize by the Section on Culture of the American Sociological Association.  My book was also the topic of an interview conducted for the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM). Recently, the online magazine Jacobin ran an article about my book

In addition to research on popular music and the American labor movement, my other area of research on the culture industry concerns the representation of social class on television.  I co-authored an article on the representation of work and workers in children’s television programming.

My article, “Turning the Race/Class Dialectic on Its Head," represents a new direction in my research on the intersectionality of race and class.  It was published in October, 2015 in the journal Race & Class.  My latest work on the topic of social class includes a new co-edited book that will be published by Wiley in September 2017.  Read an excerpt from it.

In the area of Critical Theory, I have developed a new project on the contributions of Friedrich Nietzsche to critical social theory.  My essay, “Twilight of Work: The Labor Question in Nietzsche and Marx,” was accepted for publication in the journal Critical Sociology, where I am co-guest editor for a special issue on Nietzsche.  I am also currently co-editing a book titled Nietzsche and Critical Social Theory: Affirmation, Animosity, Ambiguity (under contract with Brill).  The selections are drawn, in part, from selected papers that were presented at an international conference I co-organized here at San Diego State University.  You can find more about the conference at