Skip to main content

Welcome to my homepage. I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Department of Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University with a secondary appointment in the Department of Asian Studies. Here are the links to my Curriculum Vitae and Google Scholar Citations.

My overarching research question is “what are the social causes and consequences of social networks across society and time?” My work contributes to five major specialty areas: social networks, medical sociology, social psychology, social stratification, and comparative historical sociology. It also extends the literature on marriage and family, education, work and occupations, culture, life course and aging, body, media, environment, and genetics.

I investigate three major research themes: how social networks produce inequalities in health and well-being, how social networks generate social stratification, and how social forces stratify social networks. The network-based concepts I analyze include accessed status (network members’ status), social capital, social cost, social support, social integration, reference group, social comparison, social cohesion, homogamy, homophily, homogeneity, tie strength, and trust. The social stratifiers I study include age, gender, race/ethnicity, SES, and class. The well-being outcomes I examine include status attainment, class identity, physical and mental health, health information search, life satisfaction, health behavior and lifestyle, body weight, genetics, treatment adherence, and environmental concerns.

Does who you know protect or hurt? My current work centers on a paradox: the puzzling double-edged (protective and detrimental) role of accessed status for health and well-being. I propose social cost theory in contrast with social capital theory to explain this double-edged role. I also develop three competing institutional explanations (collectivistic advantage, collectivistic disadvantage, and inequality structure) to interpret the variation of this double-edged role by culture and society. As ten of my studies suggest, accessed status is more protective (as social capital theory predicts) in more egalitarian and individualistic societies but detrimental (as social cost theory expects) in more unequal and collectivistic societies.