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Jessica Pfaffendorf

Asst Professor

View CV 


Jessica is a sociologist whose research explores the social psychological and cultural underpinnings of inequality among individuals. Specifically, her research follows two substantive streams. In the first, she uses ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews to examine how experiences and outcomes are stratified vis-à-vis gender, class, and race in new therapeutic programs for privileged youth. In the second, she uses experimental methods to build an integrative theoretical framework to bridge current understandings of how status and stigma relate as concepts and affect individual outcomes.

Her work appears in Social Psychology Quarterly, Gender & Society, The Sociological Quarterly, and a number of public and press outlets including Science DailyScience MagazineMEL Magazine, and The Society Pages. Her work has also received recognition from the American Sociological Association’s sections on Social Psychology and Sex & Gender.

Jessica received her BA from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota before moving to the Sonoran Desert to complete a PhD at the University of Arizona. She is a proud McNair Scholars alum and first-generation college student.

Research Publications

Pfaffendorf, Jessica. 2019. “Wayward Elites: From Social Reproduction to Social Restoration at a Therapeutic Boarding School.” Social Psychology Quarterly 82(2): 113-133.

  • Honorable mention, Award for Best Graduate Student PaperAmerican Sociological Association Social Psychology Section, 2018.
  • Winner, Raymond Bowers Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Paper, University of Arizona, 2015.

Bjorklund, Eric, Andrew Davis, and Jessica Pfaffendorf. 2018. “Urine or You’re Out: Racialized Economic Threat and the Determinants of State-Level Drug Testing Requirements for Welfare Applicants in the United States, 2009-2015.” The Sociological Quarterly 59(3): 407-423.

  • Featured in The Society Pages.

Pfaffendorf, Jessica. 2017. “Sensitive Cowboys: Privileged Young Men and the Mobilization of Hybrid Masculinities in a Therapeutic Boarding School.” Gender & Society 31(2): 197-222.

  • Reprinted in Men’s Lives (10th Edition)edited by Michael Kimmel and Michael Messner. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Honorable mention, Sally Hacker Award for Best Graduate Student PaperAmerican Sociological Association Sex and Gender Section, 2018.
  • Winner, Raymond Bowers Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Paper, University of Arizona, 2016.
  • In the Press: Science Daily, Science Magazine, Psychology Central, MEL Magazine, Healio, UA News

Pfaffendorf, Jessica. 2017. “Reflections on Rehab: Navigating the Disparate System of Substance Abuse Treatment.” In Negotiating the Challenges of Conducting Deeply Personal Research in Health, edited by Alexandra Nowakowski and J.E. Sumerau. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Publishing Group.


B.A. Sociology Augsburg College 2011

M.A. Sociology University of Arizona 2013

Ph.D. Sociology University of Arizona 2019

Area(s) of Expertise

Inequality, Social Psychology, Gender, Culture, Qualitative Methods, Experimental Methods