About My Research

My research is concerned with how surveillance and social control become injected in U.S. domestic policy and the consequences for marginalized individuals. My research is motivated by an interest in poverty governance, and what others have referred to as the “two-hands of the state”—social welfare and criminal justice institutions. I utilize quantitative, qualitative, and comparative-historical methods.


Farm Bill to Table: Pregnancy and the Politics of Food Assistance (1961-Present)

In my dissertation, Farm Bill to Table: Pregnancy and the Politics of Food Assistance (1961-Present), I use comparative-historical methods to examine the disparate trajectories of two U.S. food assistance programs: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC). SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is a generally-targeted food assistance program for low-income individuals. Recipients use a debit-type card to purchase groceries with few restrictions. WIC, on the other hand, targets low-income pregnant and breastfeeding individuals and children under five years old. The program restricts the types, brands, and quantities of foods recipients can purchase. Program requirements further stipulate that participants attend nutrition education courses. The WIC program is not only uniquely restrictive, it is also uniquely durable. During times of welfare retrenchment and reform, the WIC budget and access to the program were maintained. One simple question orients my research: Why did WIC and SNAP take divergent approaches to participant surveillance and dietary restrictions?  

 To answer this question, I draw upon thousands of pages of documents including: congressional records, presidential records, USDA documents, publications from advocacy organizations, and media from the 1960s to present. I argue that racialized conceptions of the poor as ignorant and unable to make healthy food decisions dominated discussion about WIC and the Food Stamp Program. However, rhetoric about the WIC program also contained concerns that poor dietary choices were detrimental to fetal and infant health. I argue that pregnant women’s rights were circumscribed as the government chose to act in loco parentis—making strides to strip WIC recipients of decision-making power otherwise granted to Food Stamp recipients. In doing so, poor pregnant women accessing the program, both then and today, have their privacy rights restricted and cannot act as autonomous consumers.

From my dissertation, I am preparing two manuscripts for publication: “When the ‘Deserving’ Fetus Belongs to an ‘Undeserving’ Body: Fetal Protections in WIC During an Era of Welfare Retrenchment” and “How Pregnancy, Poverty, and Race Shaped Access to Food (1961-1972)”.


Race and the Long-term Consequences of Police Stops

In this research, I examine the long-term consequences of criminal justice contact for young people. The first two published papers in this vein focus on factors that increase the risk of police contact for Black and White young people and the consequences of contact on arrests in the tenth grade. The co-authored papers (Crutchfield et. al 2009; Crutchfield et. al 2012) find that Black children are twice as likely as White children to experience stops by the police before the eighth grade, and some of the difference in early contact are attributable to racial disparities in school discipline. In an article currently under review, I find that police contacts have a different effect on young adult arrest for Black individuals versus White individuals. Black respondents’ who experience police contact by eighth grade have an eleven times greater odds of experiencing an arrest in young adulthood than their non-contacted peers. White respondents with contact, however, experience no long-term criminal justice consequences stemming from contact with police. In the paper, I argue that once Black children have an encounter with police, they become part of a “suspect class” and subject to future police interventions. White children, on the other hand, experience a “racial halo” effect—their racial privileges buffering them from future criminal justice contact. The co-authored paper has received an invitation to revise and resubmit at Social Problems (McGlynn-Wright et. al, revise and resubmit).