Department of Sociology

450 Serra Mall, Bldg. 120, Rm. 234

Stanford, CA 94305-2047

Email: asaper AT

I completed my PhD in the Graduate Group in Sociology and Demography at the University of California, Berkeley in 2008. I am currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stanford University.
Prior to attending graduate school, I was a reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Riverside Press-Enterprise, covering a range of topics from news to college and professional sports.
I also previously taught sociology at the University of Oregon.



Curriculum Vita


My research and teaching interests include: the measurement of race and ethnicity, comparative racial formation, inequality and mobility, health disparities, immigration, social demography, social psychology and research methods.

Featured Research

    Consistent with connection between stereotypes and the racial classifications of others revealed in our earlier work (see below), we find that cirrhosis decedents are more likely to be recorded as American Indian on their death certificates, and homicide victims are more likely to be recorded as Black; these results remain net of controls for followback survey racial classification, indicating that the relationship we reveal is not simply a restatement of the fact that these causes of death are more prevalent among certain groups. Our findings suggest that seemingly non-racial characteristics, such as cause of death, affect how people are racially perceived by others and thus shape U.S. official statistics.

    See coverage of this study in the Los Angeles Times and on

    Read the University of Oregon press release. Also, listen to my summary of the study, as well as its implications for future research and data collection.

    We show that racial perceptions are fluid; how individuals perceive their own race and how they are perceived by others depends in part on their social position. Using longitudinal data from a representative sample of Americans, we find that individuals who are unemployed, incarcerated, or impoverished are more likely to be seen and identify as black and less likely to be seen and identify as white, regardless of how they were classified or identified previously. This is consistent with the view that race is not a fixed individual attribute, but rather a changeable marker of status.

    See coverage of this study in: USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, among others.

    Read the University of Oregon press release and blog coverage by Not Exactly Rocket Science.

    Also covered by the Dutch popular-scientific website Kennislink, and by news services in the Netherlands, the UK and Brazil ( and Veja).

Other Recent Papers



      Previous research suggests that perceptions of crime and the operations of the criminal justice system play an important role in shaping how Americans think about race. This study extends the conversation by exploring whether being incarcerated affects how individuals perceive their own race as well as how they are perceived by others, using unique longitudinal data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

          See blog coverage of this study by Sociological Images and Racism Review.


        Most scholars continue to assume that a correct measure of race exists or that different estimates between measures are essentially quantitative errors. However, obtaining different estimates from different measures of race might instead suggest that there are substantively different explanations for the observed disparities. I explore this possibility by revisiting conventional findings about racial differences in reported health screenings using data from the 1988 National Survey of Family Growth. Regression results indicate that differences in interviewer-classified race are more closely related to disparities in health screenings than self-identification.


            Survey research needs a new operational definition of race. The standard practice of measuring race ignores the history, theory and empirical complexity of race as a contigent marker of status, one that draws on different pieces of information - ancestry, appearance, shared history or belonging, or how one is classified by others - in different contexts at different times. I demonstrate, using latent class analysis and previously unanalyzed data from the 1988 National Survey of Family Growth, that to fully capture how race comes to matter in American lives, survey research should take into account multiple measures of race from each of these different and potentially contradictory perspectives.


                Social constructivist theories of race suggest no two measures of race will capture the same information, but the degree of "error" this creates for quantitative research on inequality is unclear. Using unique data from the General Social Survey, I find observed and self-reported measures of race yield substantively different results when used to explain income inequality in the United States. This occurs because inconsistent racial classification is correlated with other respondent characteristics such as immigrant generation, educational attainment and age.


                                (Re)Modeling Race: Incorporating Racial Theory into Survey Research on Inequality

                      Over the past decade, debates have raged inside and outside the American academy about whether race should be included in survey research and governmental data gathering. The consensus position - that collecting racial data is necessary in order to monitor racial inequality - is admirable but fails to address the substantial gap between social science theory about race and actual research practice. While racial theory stresses complexity, contingency and a dynamic relationship between race and inequality, standard survey research practice continues to use a single, self-reported measure of race, as if it were a question to which there is only one "correct" answer. (read more ...)


                  Selected Conference Presentations  (Please do not quote or cite manuscripts without permission)

                                  presented at the 2010 Population Association of America Annual Meeting, April 17, Dallas
                                  presented at the 2009 Population Association of America Annual Meeting, April 30, Detroit
                                  presented at the 2008 RC-28 Summer Meeting, August 9, Stanford, CA
                                  presented at the 2008 Population Association of America Annual Meeting, April 19, New Orleans

                      presented at the 2006 Population Association of American Annual Meeting, March 30, Los Angeles

                  Media Commentary