Sociology Doctoral Student Receives Competitive Dissertation Research Grant from the Russell Sage Foundation


Julia Szabo, a sociology doctoral student, was recently awarded a dissertation research grant from the Russell Sage Foundation (RSF). The $10,000 award for her research titled “Exploring Residential Choice and Schooling Experiences Across Immigrant Generations in a Latinx-Majority Suburb of Houston, TX” will enable Szabo to gather original data, which entails interviews with parents who live in a Latinx-majority suburb in the Houston area. This is the first year the RSF has awarded dissertation research grants.

The aim of the grant-funded portion of Szabo’s research is to gain a better understanding of how families came to live in the observed suburb, what life is like for them, and what experiences they have had within the various schools and districts. Participants of the study receive honorariums, which are supported by the RSF grant. The overall project includes school observation, teacher interviews and parent interviews. The qualitative research will be paired with quantitative data to complete the larger scope of the study.

“I am interested in how where you live shapes what your education looks like,” said Szabo, “and in Houston in the last 30 years, we have seen an increase of ethnic minorities – particularly Latinx or Hispanic families – living in suburban spaces.”

The creation of these “ethnoburbs,” or ethnic suburbs that are largely comprised of one single ethnic group, led Szabo to her research on learning more about what this suburban experience looks like, how is it similar to or different from how suburbs have been envisioned in the past, and how schools in those spaces are serving Latinx families.

Szabo is working on her dissertation with Ruth López Turley, professor in the sociology department and director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, and Anna Rhodes, assistant professor in the sociology department. She is also a research assistant with the Houston Education Research Consortium, a research-practice partnership that works with school districts across the Houston area. The project was planned and approved within this partnership model, which ensures that research conducted is both wanted and useful to partner school districts.

Szabo noted that in addition to the RSF grant, her research has received substantial district support because of this partnership approach. “We have a clear audience that can use this data,” Szabo said. “It is not just going out into the ether or into academia for no reason, but it can be applied to help institutions see what is going well and how they can best serve children, educators and families.” She added, “We are incredibly excited about the potential impact of this research.”