Leslie McCall

Position: Professor
Campus Affiliation: CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Department
E-mail: l-mccall@northwestern.edu
Degrees/Diplomas: Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison, Department of Sociology
Research Interests: public policy; income inequality and economic opportunity.
  • Associate Director, Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality
  • Presidential Professor of Sociology, Graduate Center – CUNY
  • LIS Senior Scholar


Leslie McCall’s areas of interest include social inequality, economic and political sociology, social theory, and methods. Her work on class inequality among women in the United States, and more generally, on how racial, educational, and gender inequality overlap and conflict with one other, has been published in a wide range of journals as well as in her book, Complex Inequality: Gender, Class, and Race in the New Economy (Routledge, 2001), which was the first runner-up for the C. Wright Mills Book Award, given by the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

In her new book, The Undeserving Rich: American Beliefs About Inequality, Opportunity, and Redistribution (read a related article here), McCall examines American attitudes about income inequality, economic opportunity, and redistribution in the era of rising inequality. Her current research also includes ongoing studies of rising economic inequality among women and families, declining gender inequality, the impact of corporate restructuring (e.g., downsizing, subcontracting) on rising earnings inequality, and media coverage of economic inequality. McCall also maintains an interest in feminist social theory and methodology, in particular the conceptualization and empirical analysis of intersectionality from a social science perspective.

Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, Demos: A Network of Ideas and Action, the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University, and the Advanced Research Collaborative at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she was a visiting fellow during the 2015-16 academic year.

Current Research


underserving rich

The Politics of Inequality. In this project, McCall examines questions from a wide range of surveys to determine the extent of awareness of both income inequality and economic opportunity; whether such awareness, if it exists, translates into a particular set of policy preferences; and whether attitudes towards inequality and policy preferences vary across countries, with Lane Kenworthy of the University of Arizona. She also examines media coverage of the issue and its role in shaping attitudes towards inequality. The introduction from her new book, The Undeserving Rich: American Beliefs About Inequality, Opportunity, and Redistribution (Cambridge University Press), along with related papers and articles, can be found here.

In new research funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, she is working with psychologist Jennifer Richeson of Northwestern University to conduct survey experiments that test the findings from the book, with sociologists Jonas Edlund and Arvid Lindh of Umea University in Sweden to develop new survey questions that gauge the public’s policy preferences regarding inequality, and with several coauthors to extend and automate her textual analysis of media coverage of income inequality.

Class and Gender. Although levels of and increases in earnings inequality are comparable among women and men, much less attention is being paid to inequality among women than to inequality among men or inequality between men and women. In this project, growing earnings inequality among women serves as the primary motivation for examining the relationship between increasing class inequality and declinging gender inequality. Research from this project appears in several of the chapters in the edited volumes listed below. Her latest project in this area focuses on changes in family demography and develops new linked measures of economic dependency and gender inequality (see “New population measures of economic dependency…”). See also her commentary on the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act for the Council on Contemporary Families.

Corporate Restructuring and Rising Inequality. Many suspect that corporate restructuring has led to rising earnings inequality. Yet it is very difficult to measure this effect empirically because of the lack of large-scale data on both organizations and earnings within those organizations. This project explores several different ways to address this issue. McCall is currently examining the impact of two familiar aspects of corporate restructuring on levels and changes in earnings inequality: downsizing (i.e., establishment size and establishment size changes) and domestic subcontracting and outsourcing (i.e., temp work, producer services, etc.). This analysis focuses on changes in urban U.S. labor markets from 1970 to 2000.

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