The 2012 Rosenberg Forum: Dr. Dalton Conley (by Bryant Best)

The 2012 Rosenberg lecture was presented by Dr. Dalton Conley of New York University. Dr. Conley is an esteemed researcher whose interests focus on economic opportunity, racial inequality, and health and biology. His list of supporters includes the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Dr. Conley discussed his thoughts on genetic differences and how they affect children within immediate families. He prefaced this discussion with reference to his own works, including Being Black: Living in the Red, an analysis that debunked the theory that racial differences in wealth are due to race. He also acknowledged the influence of other scholars’ work, like Susan E. Mayer’s What Money Can’t Buy. Dr. Conley was polished in his knowledge of the topic and its surrounding areas, and he constantly referred to outside works throughout his presentation.

The Blau and Duncan model of status attainment is very popular among sociological literature. However, Dr. Conley questioned whether or not it showed a certain bias that affected its outcomes. Many critique the model for taking too much data from the father of the child, instead of both parents. One of Dr. Conley’s personal critiques was that it held little explanatory power, particularly because factors such as Parental Net Worth, Parental Education, and Parental DNA all affected the Respondent’s Education. He used this finding to drive home the idea that genes interact with one’s environment to determine the life course.

Dr. Conley studied the data from several previous projects to come to this conclusion. He paid special attention to genetic and environmental differences among twins, the gender of the child as it relates to parental investment, and the influence of cultural capital on the development of the child. Although there is significant overlap with Dr. Conley’s present research aims and status achievement among children, he is focusing currently on demographics and biological indicators such as medical outcomes.

Overall, Dr. Conley presented his work in detail and with the personal flavor that can be found in most of his publications. He was “unapologetically Democrat,” making several references throughout the lecture to President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney. He took a refreshing approach that combined current events, deep theoretical perspectives, and empirical evidence. Many thanks to Dr. Conley for leading the 2012 Rosenberg Forum

Bryant is a 1st year PhD student.

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