Peter Rich


Peter Rich

Assistant Professor
Martha Van Rensselaer Hall 186
Phone: 607-255-0219 Fax: 607-255-4071
View Cornell University Contact Info
Curriculum Vitae
Biographical Statement:

I am an Assistant Professor of Policy Analysis and Management (PAM) and Sociology (by courtesy) at Cornell University. My research investigates the connection between structural inequalities and individual choices in the United States. How do selection processes reflect and reinforce racial and socioeconomic gaps in educational attainment, wealth accumulation, childhood health, and economic opportunity? How do micro decisions about neighborhoods and schools contribute to macro segregation and the persistence of inequality over time and between generations? And how are choices influenced not only by individual resources and preferences, but also by public policy and demographic context?

My work ultimately examines the promises and perils of market-oriented public policy, illuminating the conditions under which open choice expands opportunity for under-served populations, and when it exacerbates segregation and stratification. My publications and working papers engage three research areas:

1. Dimensions of inequality in parental housing and schooling decisions 
2. The expression of social status hierarchies in market behavior
3. Economic insecurity and education policy

I hold affiliations with Cornell’s Center for the Study of Inequality and the Cornell Population Center.

Spring 2017 Office Hours:

Mondays and Thursdays from 4:30-5:30pm or by appointment.

Teaching and Advising Statement:

My teaching and advising seeks to balance kindness and accessibility with high expectations and rigorous academic standards for student work. In my interactions and feedback, I try to create a dynamic that is respectful and inclusive of students from all backgrounds and perspectives. Within that supportive framework, I encourage students to take intellectual risks and I challenge them to interrogate the assumptions and contextual frames that shape how they understand our social world. My courses are designed to engage students with relevant content and methods, elicit active participation, encourage inclusive classroom discussion, and assess students’ ability to apply concepts to real-world challenges. Through this approach, I hope to expose a wide range of Cornell graduate and undergraduate students to the merits of rigorous scientific thinking about social problems and policy dilemmas.

I teach two courses at Cornell: Spatial Demography (PAM 6950, graduate) and Social Problems in the U.S. (PAM 2250 / SOC 2070, undergraduate).


2016 - Ph.D. in Sociology, New York University
2013 - M.A. in Sociology, New York University
2004 - B.A. in Sociology, University of California, Berkeley

Related Websites:

For more information about my research and teaching, and to obtain data analysis replication packages, please visit

Selected Publications:

Torche, Florencia and Peter Rich. 2017. “Declining Racial Stratification in Marriage Choices? Trends in Black/White Status Exchange in the United States, 1980-2010.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 3(1):31-49. Link to SRE 

Rich, Peter and Jennifer Jennings. 2015. “Choice, Information, and Constrained Options: School Transfers in a Stratified Educational System.” American Sociological Review 80(5):1069-1098.  
Link to ASR 

Besbris, Max, Jacob Faber, Peter Rich, and Patrick Sharkey. 2015. “The Effect of Neighborhood Stigma on Economic Transactions.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(16): 4994-4998.  
Article PDF    Link to PNAS

Selected Keywords:
Segregation, Inequality, Social Stratification, Demography, Race, Education, Policy

The information on this bio page is taken from the CHE Annual Report.