Numerators and denominators: a critical demographic approach to the study of institutional contact and social inequality in childhood
At its most basic, the field of demography can be described as being concerned with analyzing population and social change as a function of natural increase (fertility), natural decrease (mortality), and redistribution (migration) of populations, with measurement and counting being central to this endeavor. In this talk, I will offer an overview of three recent and ongoing works examining the impacts of child welfare and criminal legal system involvement on social inequality in early life and childhood to argue that the use of a “demographer’s lens” – a focus on numerators and denominators – offers an empirical and theoretically-grounded approach by which to make explicit the assumptions built into policy systems in the United States. In addition to critiquing mainstream approaches to the study of childhood and family inequality, this approach also allows for the production of new empirical descriptions of the ways in which social institutions designed to address particular social problems (i.e., child maltreatment, crime and victimization) have broader and more fundamental impacts on social organization and the life course.
Youngmin (Min) Yi is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She joined the UMass Amherst faculty in Fall 2020 after completing her PhD and MA in Sociology at Cornell University in the Departments of Sociology and Policy Analysis and Management (now the Brooks School of Public Policy). She is a sociologist and demographer who uses quantitative data and methods to study family and racial inequality in the United States, focusing primarily to date on the child welfare and criminal legal systems as racialized institutions of social control that impact and shape family life. Her recent and ongoing work also extends to analysis of inequality in prosecutorial processes and outcomes, critical exploration of the social construction of administrative data, and the application of social network concepts to measurement and description of family systems and family inequality.