Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Merced
Topics of Expertise:
Adoption & Foster Care / Children / Economic Inequality / Gender & Sexuality / Parenthood: Motherhood/Fatherhood / Transition - Adolescents to Adulthood
Laura Hamilton is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Merced. Broadly, her interests include gender, sexuality, family, education, social class, and mixed research methods. Hamilton earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from Indiana University in 2003 and 2010, respectively, and her B.A. in sociology from DePauw University in 2001.
Hamilton’s first book, equally-authored with Elizabeth A. Armstrong, was released with Harvard University Press in 2013. Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality uses an ethnographic and longitudinal case study of a moderately selective public university to gain insight into why so many students leave college with so little to show for it, and for whom this is most likely to be the case. This book was awarded the 2015 American Sociological Association Distinguished Book Award, as well as numerous other regional and sectional awards.
Hamilton’s second, solo-authored, book, Parenting to a Degree: How Family Matters for College Women’s Success, was released with the University of Chicago Press in 2016. In this book, Hamilton vividly captures the parenting approaches of mothers and fathers as their daughters move through Midwest U and into the workforce. Contrary to negative media portrayals of helicopter parents, Hamilton finds that successfully navigating a school like MU without involved parents is near impossible. Universities actually seek to recruit, rather than evade, parents to whom they can outsource a wide array of tasks, pulling them into the form and function of postsecondary education. Unfortunately, very few parents can play this role. Even they do so at a high personal cost, and with unintended side effects. Parenting to a Degree offers an incisive look into a new—and profoundly problematic—relationship between universities and parents.