Jessica Calarco

Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

I'm a Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of two books, A Field Guide to Grad School: Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum (Princeton 2020) and Negotiating Opportunities: How the Middle Class Secures Advantages in Schools (Oxford 2018). 

My research examines inequalities in education and family life, and I have written about these inequalities for the New York Times, the Atlantic, Inside Higher Ed, the Conversation, and the Council on Contemporary Families.

One line of research uses ethnographic observations and interviews to examine inequalities in K-12 schooling. That includes my first book, Negotiating Opportunities, which reveals how students from privileged families secure unfair advantages in school. This line of research also includes work on inequalities in students’ help-seeking and trust in teachers, work on parents’ role in coaching students to negotiate with teachers, and work on how schools’ financial and logistical dependence on privileged families leads to inequalities in schools’ enforcement of rules.

Another line of research considers inequalities in higher education. That includes work on the digital divide among college students and work on how the resources students can access through their friendships matter for college enrollment and completion. This area of research also includes my new book, A Field Guide to Grad School, which uncovers the hidden curriculum of grad school — things you’re supposed to know that aren’t explicitly taught — and explains why that curriculum is hidden at all.

A third area of research considers inequalities in family decision-making. This includes mixed-methods work on how pandemic-related disruptions to families’ paid work and childcare arrangements are contributing to conflict between mothers and their partners and also undermining some mothers’ well-being. This area of research also incorporates work on mothers’ health decision-making, including decisions about diet and nutrition, alcohol use, vaccine use, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and screen time.

I’m also active on Twitter (@JessicaCalarco), where I regularly post about grad school, education policy, and parenting in academia.