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Heather M. Rackin

Assistant Professor
Sociology
Louisiana State University
United States of America

Heather  M.  Rackin

Biography

Heather  M.  Rackin recently joined the faculty in the LSU Sociology Department after receiving my Ph.D. in Sociology at Duke University. In short, my primary research interests include family, fertility, demography, and research methods. If you want to know more, please read on. If not, thanks for this short cyber visit. My work has two threads. First a relatively traditional set of papers in the social demography literature and a second innovative project that builds on this social demography by applying network methods to textual data describing family formation. My relatively traditional papers generally examine what factors influence family formation and fertility over time and the implications of these trends. My questions tend to be centered on why people tend to have certain family forms (or fertility patterns), how do those change over time, and what are the implications for inequality. Additionally, I’m very interested in developing a novel methodology to explore similar questions. I innovatively use a novel methodology to understand how structural and schematic factors shape family formation behaviors and connect multiple methodological and theoretical traditions. This work combines theoretical and methodological innovations using both qualitative and quantitative analysis. This research was guided by my interest in applying the Theory of Conjunctural Action that connects cognitive schemas and material conditions into demography (see, Understanding Family Change and Variation: Toward a Theory of Conjunctural Action). The difficulty in measuring schemas lead me to adapt a novel methodology, Network Text Analysis, which uses social network techniques adapted to networks of words to build a relational network of words used together to decipher meaning. Patterns of frequent word associations appear and represent meaning or mental schemas. My most recent work examines the links between marriage and fertility with a focus on how cognitive schemas and material conditions interact for low-income Blacks. I use interview data from childless low-income Blacks from the Becoming Parents and Partners Study (N=69). I explore schemas of childbearing and marriage. Contrary to previous findings that low-income parents do not link marriage and fertility and have different requirements for each, I find that marriage and childbearing are indeed linked and have similar requirements prior to childbearing. Low income Blacks hold quite traditional views about the appropriate role of marriage and its sequencing vis-à-vis fertility. I argue that the material constraints to marital childbearing may lead to non-marital births and thus respondents sever schemas connecting marriage and childbearing and adopt other schemas of childbearing to provide ad hoc justifications for their behavior.

Research Interest

Research interests include family, fertility, demography, and research methods

Publications

  • Has the Internet Reduced Friendship? Scientific Relationships in Ghana, Kenya, and India, 1994-2010 W Shrum, A Palackal, DBS Dzorgbo, P Mbatia, M Schafer, P Miller, ... Science, Technology, & Human Values 42 (3), 491-519.

  • Comparing Veteran and Non-veteran Racial Disparities in Mid-life Health and Well-being HM Rackin Population Research and Policy Review 36 (3), 331-356.

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