Sarah Quinn uses historical research and case studies to investigate how political institutions affect the development of financial organizations and technologies. She also studies processes of moralization and classification. These studies are united by her abiding interest in how social categories interact with systems of power.

Download my CV (updated July 1019)

Housing & Credit in the Political Economy

This research examines the political economy of housing and credit in the United States.

The central component of this research agenda is a book, titled American Bonds: How Credit Markets Shaped a Nation (Princeton University Press). Other work related to this topic includes:

“The Miracles of Bookkeeping”: How Budget Politics Link Fiscal Policies and Financial Markets" (American Journal of Sociology, 2017).

The Credit Mines (Contexts, 2010). A book review of Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us, by Alyssa Katz and Collateral Damaged: The Marketing of Consumer Debt to America, by Charles R. Geisst.

The Federal Credit Database. *A grant from the Institute of New Economic Thinking has funded data collection for a new longitudinal database of credit programs from 1916 to today. This data will allow for a more detailed and comprehensive study of the scope and development of the US federal government’s use of credit as a policy tool, both domestically and internationally.


American Statecraft

This research seeks to explain how government officials design and manage complex or indirect policies, which are frequently implemented through private actors and firms. A series of co-authored papers use case studies to address how they such policies are implemented, and why they are so frequently overlooked.

Writings on this topic include:

Defining the State from Within: Boundaries, Schemas, and Associational Policymaking” (with Damon Mayrl). This article in Sociological Theory  analyzes an associational educational policy to identify mechanisms that govern how officials classify hybrid programs as appropriately belonging or not belonging to the state.

Beyond the Hidden American State: Rethinking Government Visibility”(with Damon Mayrl). A chapter in The Many Hands of the State: Theorizing Political Authority and Social Control, edited by Ann Orloff and Kimberly Morgan (Cambridge University Press) that analyzes fights over an associational health policy to show how classification struggles can render complex policies more or less visible.

State Schemas and American Political Life. A book manuscript, authored with Damon Mayrl, that theorizes how various groups perceive and interpret governmental complexity. Select chapters available upon request.


Morality & Classification

Research on the moralization and classification of markets, bodies, and deaths, with the goal of better understanding how culture influences social fields.

The Transformation of Morals in Markets: Death, Benefits, and the Exchange of Life Insurance Policies. (American Journal of Sociology, 2008). This article uses content analysis and interviews to show how position within a field influences morality. Reprinted in The Sociology of Economic Life (Granovetter and Swedberg, eds., Third Edition).

Blue Chip Bodies. (with Lynne Gerber). Shows how moralization of body size varies depending on a person's social position and resources; this is illustrated through a comparison of the work of Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Spurlock, and Pat Robertson.

In progress: "‘It’s not Because of My Mastectomies. It’s Because I’m Fat’: Body Shame Among Terminally Ill Women" (with Sara McClelland and Lynne Gerber). Draft in process. Analysis of interviews of women with terminal breast cancer reveals that modes of gendered domination – aesthetic labor, sizeism, and sexualization – all become distinct sites of loss at the end of life in ways that are mediated by overall configurations of cultural and bodily capital.