Research Interests

  • Crime, Deviance, and Social Control
  • Community and Urban Sociology
  • LGBTQ Studies
  • Family and Life Course
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)
  • Computational Methods


Broadly, my research interests lie in the sociological study of: community and crime, LGBTQ studies, and family and life course. More specifically, I am interested in examining how social/community contexts influence individual and aggregate level behaviors. My main research focus is on how social disorganization and local institutions influence street crime. I use a variety of research methods to conduct studies in these areas. I am mainly trained in using quantitative methodology such as regression models for categorical and count data and multilevel regression models as well as the geographic information system (GIS). I also utilize qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) and qualitative data analysis in my research. Moreover, I have received training in using computational methods such as scraping online data from Twitter, YouTube, and Yelp and dealing with “big” data.

Dissertation Research: The Spatial-Temporal Dynamics of Neighborhood Contexts of Crime

In my dissertation research, I examine the relationship between neighborhoods and street crime. Previous communities and crime studies demonstrated that various neighborhood contextual factors influence the prevalence of crime such as social disorganization, social control, local institutions, places, and routine activities. However, less understood is how the relationship between crime and these neighborhood contextual factors may vary in different types of neighborhoods throughout the entire day. To address this unexplored area in the criminological literature, I examine the neighborhood contexts of residential and nonresidential neighborhoods that lead to robberies. I also examine how neighborhood contexts of these two types of neighborhoods may dynamically vary across five time periods of day: morning, daytime, evening, night, and late night/early morning. I propose a framework that clarifies the relationship between robbery and the aforementioned neighborhood contextual factors by considering the implications of people’s daily routine activities. This framework is designed to demonstrate that routine activities can explain the dynamic nature of the relationships between robbery, criminal opportunities, and social control mechanisms. By theorizing the dynamic neighborhood contexts, my research aims to better reflect the empirical reality of robbery patterns to achieve greater precision in interpreting neighborhood effects on robbery. Doing so, this framework also aims to integrate two major neighborhood and crime theories: social disorganization and routine activity theories. Ultimately, the proposed framework advances the existing literature by moving beyond the current static frameworks. I am conducting my research in Raleigh and Durham, two major North Carolina cities. Although these two cities are neighbors, they are ecologically distinct from one another. Such ecological contexts allow me to assess the framework more fully and to conduct comparative analysis using GIS and advanced statistical models. The first set of analysis using multilevel models confirms the utility of my framework which addresses the dynamic relationship between robberies, criminal opportunities, and social control. The second set of analysis is comparative, which allows me to assess differences in neighborhood contexts of robberies in these two cities. The analysis confirms that city-level differences have great implications for the link between robberies and neighborhood contextual factors. I have defended my dissertation in June 2019 and am currently working on turning it into articles for publication.

Neighborhood Contexts and Anti-LGBTQ Hate Crime


In order to merge my interest in crime, communities, and LGBTQ studies, I started a line of research to examine how neighborhood contexts influence the prevalence of anti-LGBTQ hate crime with my colleague, Arianna Thomas-Winfield. Although there are studies to suggest that neighborhood characteristics are important to explain the prevalence of racially-motivated hate crime (e.g., Lyons 2008), neighborhood contexts of anti-LGBTQ hate crime are relatively unexplored. Previous studies on anti-LGBTQ hate crime have mostly focused on the individual-level characteristics that may increase or reduce risks for anti-LGBTQ hate crime offending and victimization. Less understood is what contributes to the occurrence and concentrations of such crimes in neighborhoods. In order to fill these gaps, we studied the relationship between neighborhood characteristics and anti-LGBTQ hate crime in Seattle, Washington. Doing so, we considered the application of social disorganization and routine activity theories to explain the prevalence of anti-LGBTQ hate crime. Using data from Seattle, Washington for 2013-2015, we used advanced quantitative and mixed methods techniques (Poisson regression models and fuzzy-set comparative analysis) to examine the neighborhood effects on anti-LGBTQ hate crime incidents in 57 neighborhoods (used the neighborhood boundaries defined by the micro-community policing plan by Seattle PD). We found that broader neighborhood characteristics (social disorganization) and local institutions (that may promote anti-LGBTQ biases and aggression) have complex joint effects in increasing the prevalence of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes. This research confirmed that it is crucial to examine the link between neighborhood contexts that facilitate anti-LGBTQ violence. Overall, the results suggest that neighborhood contexts play roles in facilitating anti-LGBTQ hate crime.

An Ecological Model of Informal Social Control: Linking Family and Neighborhood Controls on Delinquency

In addition to aggregate level studies, I am also interested in examining neighborhood effects on individual behaviors. In this on-going project, I examine the joint effects of multiple contextual factors on violent delinquency. Although criminological literature recognizes the importance of both family and neighborhood informal social control mechanisms in reducing delinquency, prior research rarely examined whether these controls work together to curb delinquency. Drawing from criminological theories and previous empirical studies, I offer a theoretical discussion of the ecological model of informal social control that explicitly links family and neighborhood control mechanisms through a series of interaction hypotheses. I assess the theoretical model and hypotheses using individual-level and community contextual data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). The preliminary results suggest that both family and neighborhood control mechanisms have additive effects on violent delinquency. Moreover, I found partial support for the interaction effects between family and neighborhood controls.

Narratives of “My Coming Out Story” Videos on YouTube

In addition to my criminological research pursuits, a subset of my research focuses on sexuality. One such research project is a qualitative analysis of the narratives of “My Coming Out Story” videos on YouTube. This research aims to gain deeper understanding into how gay and lesbian youth share their stories in a public, digital space. I am particularly interested in the struggles that they have in navigating their marginalized identity and unique obstacles that they may have in the age of social media. For this project, I collected 100 gay and lesbian videos. All videos by gay men have been transcribed and analyzed, and the transcription and analysis of the lesbian videos are in progress. This research has also provided opportunities to include undergraduate students. I have several undergraduate research assistants who have volunteered their time and energy for this project. This opportunity helps me mentor and train students in research ethics, data collection/management, and qualitative data analysis while offering them hands-on experience to explore their interests, hone their skills, and build their resumes.

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