Research Areas

The Department of Sociology is a vibrant intellectual community where faculty and students work within, across, and beyond traditional disciplinary lines and national borders. The program is loosely organized in six major areas, although most faculty and students identify with two or three different areas. 

  • Crime, Law, and Social Policy
    Faculty and students who work in this area examine how individual behavior and social processes shape crime, law and social policy, and, in turn, how law and policy shape individual lives and social structures. In particular, they focus on how law perpetuates inequality and other social problems, as examined through the lenses of the labor market, environment, crime, and health, using quantitative, qualitative, comparative, and mixed-methods approaches.
  • Family and the Life Course
    Faculty and students who work in this area aim to understand the interplay between aging and the life course, family relationships, and changing social structures. A key question in this area is how broader structures of inequality (e.g. race, class, gender, period, place) shape how our individual and interpersonal lives play out. Through diverse methods, including in-depth interviewing, comparative, and quantitative approaches, scholars in this area both describe and explain these relationships, and their work yields implications for public policy, professional practice, and individual well-being. Courses and seminars in this area include families and inequality, families and public policy, social policies for aging societies, families and crime, sociology of death and dying, and life course sociology, among others.
  • Health and Illness
    Medical sociology studies the role of social factors (from small-scale interpersonal interactions to large-scale social institutions) in shaping health, illness, and health care in the U.S. and around the world. Faculty at UB study the ways in which race/ethnicity, gender, social class, social relationships, and neighborhood or environmental characteristics affect health; explore the social processes and institutions shaping health; develop innovative approaches to measuring health or determinants of health; and address current debates about health policy and health law.
  • Social Inequalities
    UB sociologists and students explore the causes and consequences of social inequalities in the U.S. and around the world. Through the examination of cultural ideologies and practices (such as gendered parenting and bodywork practices), gendered, raced, and classed social institutions (including law, medicine, science, the labor market, and the military), and the unequal distribution of social advantages and disadvantages (such as pollution, crime, and affordable housing), scholars in this field untangle the complex web of intersectional inequality that characterizes contemporary social life.
  • Urban, Community, and the Environment
    Sociology faculty and students working in the Urban, Community and Environment field use different theories and methods to understand a wide variety of social, political, and economic issues arising from the interactions of people and place. Research in this field addresses how the physical environment (neighborhoods, inner cities, suburbs, metropolitan areas and regions, as well as water, air, and other species) influences and affects social behavior (such as residential patterns, health outcomes, and concentrated poverty). In addition, faculty in this field investigate complex issues associated with urban growth and decline, migration and demographic changes, environmental sustainability, and smart growth.
  • Work, Labor, and Political Economy
    Faculty and students working in this area explore multiple dimensions of work, labor, and political economy and how they intersect with other arenas of social life. By interrogating the boundaries of work (whether through analysis of carework, domestic labor, graduate student work, or student athlete labor), by exploring the relationship between employment and social inequalities (such as age, gender, and class), and by analyzing how work mitigates—or exacerbates—social problems (such as crime or precarity), UB researchers reveal new dimensions of this central social institution.