About Sociology at Rice

The vision of the Department of Sociology at Rice University is to advance knowledge of social processes and patterns, mentor a diverse set of scholars and students, and teach the state of the art in the field, engaging in service to the university, the discipline, and the larger community.

"The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden.”
Pierre Bourdieu, 1998

In particular, members of our department primarily focus on the causes and consequences of social inequality and the patterns and processes of culture.

  • Social inequality refers to the ways in which socially-determined categories of people (e.g., race, class, gender, religious, and immigrant status) are hierarchically positioned in terms of access to social goods (e.g., wealth, education, healthcare, a healthy environment, and community amenities). Sociologists study the causes and consequences of differential access to opportunities as well as differential rewards when those opportunities are accessible.
  • Culture refers to the ways of acting, thinking, and describing that shape people’s and societies’ ways of life. Every action is embedded in a web of meanings that sociologists analyze interpretively.

Sociology at Rice takes pride in the research and teaching reputation of the department. Many faculty have won major research and teaching awards, consistently securing research grants from major government and private foundations, as well as publishing in top sociological journals.

As the fourth largest and the third fastest-growing city in the country, Houston is perhaps the least studied among the nation’s large urban centers. Houston provides a natural laboratory for sociological research, and Rice University, with one of the country's largest university endowments, provides an ideal learning environment for this work.

“If we have chosen the position in life in which we can most of all work for mankind… our happiness will belong to millions, our deeds will live on quietly but perpetually at work…”
Karl Marx, 1835