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 and communities. My research is motivated by an interest in what some have deemed “poverty governance”—social welfare and criminal justice institutions. I utilize quantitative, qualitative, and comparative-historical methods.

 
 
WIC Poster Advertisement in New York City health clinic. 2018.

WIC Poster Advertisement in New York City health clinic. 2018.

Pregnancy, Poverty, and Privacy

My primary line of research examines how views about pregnancy, race, gender, and class, have shaped surveillance and control in social welfare programs. I have two main projects within this vein. In the first, I use comparative-historical methods to trace the trajectories of two U.S. food assistance programs: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a generally-targeted food assistance program for low-income individuals and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC), a food assistance program which targets low-income pregnant and breastfeeding individuals and children under five years old. The WIC program severely restricts what recipients can purchase, mandates nutrition education, and engages in bodily surveillance. SNAP recipients do not experience these same programmatic elements. One question orients this research: How have ideas about pregnancy and the politics surrounding pregnant bodies influenced surveillance and control in food assistance programs? 

 To answer this question, I draw upon archival records 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, political discussions about WIC also framed impoverished pregnant women and mothers as ignorant and unreliable nutritional delivery systems that required tight control of their diets. Further, the medicalization of pregnant people and infants’ bodies allowed for the uncontested collection of health and biological information from these groups as a requirement of receiving aid. Consequently, poor pregnant women accessing the program have their privacy rights restricted and cannot act as autonomous consumers.

I am currently developing a second project which uses ethnographic and qualitative methods to examine the consequences of these policies for WIC recipients’ privacy rights and their responses. I plan to develop both components into a book project, which combines the historical components of the project with the contemporary qualitative project.

 
Seattle Police Department vehicle.

Seattle Police Department vehicle.

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, under review).