Becky Pettit


Professor of Sociology

University of Washington

224 Savery Hall

Seattle, WA 98195-3340

Phone:  206-616-1173

Fax:  206-543-2516



Becky Pettit is a professor of sociology at the University of Washington. She is a sociologist, trained in demographic methods, with interests in social inequality (broadly defined).  Past and present projects investigate the role of institutional factors in explaining differential labor market opportunities and aggregate patterns of inequality.  One line of research has examined race and class inequality in the likelihood of spending time in prison and the implications of the growth of the American penal population on the labor market opportunities and experiences of low-skill men in the United States.  Another line of research explores how gender inequality in the workplace is institutionalized by state and market policies and practices that regulate, routinize and reinforce gender differences in involvement in the paid labor force, occupation, and pay especially in relation to family obligations. 

Pettit is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles.  Gendered Tradeoffs (Russell Sage Foundation 2009), with Jennifer Hook, examines how gender and family obligations influence economic inequalities in 21 advanced industrialized countries.  Invisible Men (Russell Sage Foundation 2012) argues that our national data systems – and the social facts they produce – overestimate the well-being of African American men.  Surveys, including the Current Population Survey, used to gauge social and economic well-being often draw their samples from individuals living in households.  People who are institutionalized are commonly excluded.  The incarcerated population has grown dramatically over the past 40 years and incarceration is disproportionately concentrated among low-skill black men.  In the book, Pettit details how basic statistics on education, employment, earnings, voting, and health are biased by the sample selection effects of mass incarceration.

Pettit has been the recipient of many honors and awards.  Her paper “Black-White Wage Inequality, Employment Rates, and Incarceration” (with Bruce Western of Harvard University) received the James Short paper award from the American Sociological Association Crime, Law, and Deviance Section.  Another paper “Mass Imprisonment and the Life Course:  Race and Class Inequality in U.S. Incarceration” (with Western) received Honorable Mention from the American Sociological Association Sociology of Law Section Article Prize Committee.  And, a paper with Jennifer Hook (now a research associate at Partners for Our Children) was a finalist for the 2006 Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Family Research.   Pettit has been a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, Northwestern University and the American Bar Foundation, and is the recipient of a mentored research development award (K01) from the National Institutes of Health (NICHD) for her work on “Institutionalizing Inequality:  Gender, Work and Family.” 

Pettit is the Editor of Social Problems, the official journal of the Society of the Study of Social Problems.  She is a founding member of the Scholars Strategy Network.

Professor Pettit teaches courses on social inequality and stratification, sociology of the family, and statistics.  She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton University and a B.A. in sociology from University of California at Berkeley.