Dr. Sarah Damaske’s research focuses on how work and family transitions lead to cumulating inequalities over the life course. Her research agenda investigates inequalities through three main streams: qualitative interviewing projects examining the relationships between work, family, and inequality, research on how class and gender shape workforce participation, and a focus on the relationships between inequality, work and health. She has published in numerous top sociology journals, including Demography, Gender & Society, Work and Occupations, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Journal of Marriage and Family, Social Science & Medicine, and Social Science Research. There have been hundreds of media citations of her research, including multiple stories in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and NPR, as well as featured stories in the Wall Street Journal, ABC Nightly News, and the BBC. Dr. Damaske’s first book, For the Family? How Class and Gender Shape Women's Work (Oxford University Press, 2011), uses in-depth interview data collected from 80 randomly sampled participants to challenge the popular perception that middle-class white women choose whether or not to work, while working-class and minority women need to work. Instead, she finds that engaging in paid work steadily over the life course was a limited resource more easily accessed by middle-class women. Yet most women use a “for the family” language to explain their work decisions; whether the choice is to work or stay at home, gendered norms about caregiving lead women to say the choice is made “for their families.” In addition to awards from the National Women’s Studies Association and the North Central Sociological Association and numerous laudatory book reviews, the book was named one of the “most influential books published on the family since 2000” by Contemporary Sociology. Currently, with the support of grants from the National Science Foundation, the American Sociological Association, and Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Damaske is writing her second book examining class and gender differences in job loss and unemployment based on 104 in-depth qualitative interviews of men and women who experienced the loss of a full-time job. Additionally, Dr. Damaske is also working on several collaborative projects. With Dr. Adrianne Frech, she is writing a series of new papers investigating men’s longitudinal work pathways as well as men’s and women’s longitudinal unemployment pathways. They also are continuing an earlier line of inquiry on work and health through an investigation of men and women’s unemployment pathways and health. With Drs. Joshua Smyth and Matthew Zawadzki, Dr. Damaske is continuing her investigation of SES differences in the relationships between work, home, and the experience of stress. Two papers with two different teams of graduate and undergraduate students examine gender differences in the experiences of men and women who earned an MBA. Finally, PSU alumnus, Dr. Adam Lippert and Dr. Damaske are investigating the relationship between work-family patterns and immunity dysfunction.

Research Interests

Family, Relationships and Interpersonal Networks; Social Inequality; Health and Life Course


  • Ph.D., Sociology, New York University, 2009
  • M.A., Sociology, New York University, 2005
  • B.A., Summa Cum Laude, Comparative Literature, Hamilton College, 1999. Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Sigma Iota, Thesis Honors.