Amanda Barrett Cox

Assistant Professor of Sociology
Amanda Barrett Cox headshot


Phone 610-526-5392
Location Dalton 200G
Office Hours
Monday 2:45-4:00; Wednesday 2:45-4:00



  • Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
  • M.A., Stanford University
  • M.S.Ed., University of Pennsylvania
  • B.A., Wellesley College

Areas of Focus

Organizations and power, economic elites and philanthropy, sociology of education, social capital, ethnographic methods, social network analysis


My research examines how organizations transform and reproduce social inequality. We are a society of organizations—schools, churches, corporations, clubs, prisons—that structure our everyday lives, enable and constrain our actions, and shape our life chances. I use ethnographic methods, in-depth interviews, social network analysis, and qualitative comparative analysis to investigate three aspects of organizations: organizations as sites of power, as generators of social networks and social capital, and as brokers of social mobility. To date my research has focused on organizations within two institutions, education and philanthropy. However, the questions I ask apply beyond schools, education-related programs, or philanthropic foundations.

My current work includes an ethnographic study of two organizations attempting to redistribute power across institutional roles—a philanthropic foundation seeking to transfer control over a portion of its grant-making to a community-based board, and a democratic school in which students and teachers have equal voice (one vote per person) in decisions. Additionally, I am working on a computational text analysis of pledge letters written by philanthropists, and I am collaborating on a project with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and Dickinson College that investigates the school- and neighborhood-based social networks of parents sending their children to a school of choice.

My prior work includes an ethnographic study of the summer session of a program that prepares low-income students of color to attend elite boarding schools. 

My work has received awards from several sections of the American Sociological Association and is published in (forthcoming) American Journal of Sociology, Sociology of Education, Sociological Forum, Symbolic Interaction, and Du Bois Review. I have co-authored pieces that appear in Teachers College Record, Educational Researcher, The New York Times, The Hechinger Report, and Social Class and Changing Families in an Unequal America (Stanford University Press, edited by Marcia Carlson and Paula England).