Kenan Postdoc Joins Worldview Lab

Lauren Valentino was a graduate fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics in 2013-2014.  As a postdoctoral associate at Kenan this year, Valentino will work with Stephen Vaisey and the Worldview Lab by investigating how different people have different conceptions of “the good life,” and how these concepts are, in turn, related to people’s beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes about inequality.

“When I started my PhD in sociology, I always knew I wanted to study inequality in the United States, but joining the KIE community opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about this issue. I had never before considered how people’s moral worldviews are the basis upon which we as a society decide whether (or not) the stark inequality in our society is an ethical issue worth resolving.” 

The primary goal of Valentino’s research is to understand why it is that social inequality is so stubbornly persistent in the United States. She uses a culture and cognition approach to study how people think about their place in our increasingly unequal society. This approach typically involves using experiments, survey data, or interviews to probe or manipulate people’s beliefs and perceptions about the social world. Valentino explains, “In one line of work, I have studied people’s beliefs about the poor in America – who they think is poor and why. In my dissertation, I look at how people construct social hierarchies in the U.S. In particular, I chose to problematize a decades-old concept in social science – occupational prestige – to understand how the occupational hierarchy is socially constructed in diverse ways.”  Valentino has found that existing inequality in the labor market – especially gender and racial segregation of jobs – impacts the status people accord to occupations.  Additionally, a person’s social position – in terms of their gender, race, and social class background – shapes the way they view the occupational status hierarchy.

lauren valentino
Lauren Valentino

Worldview Lab is an interdisciplinary collaborative research group directed by Stephen Vaisey (Professor of Sociology and Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics) and Christopher Johnston (Associate Professor of Political Science). Its goal is to better understand diversity in values, goals, and worldviews both internationally and within contemporary American society.