Sandra Smith is a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Smith’s research focuses on questions of urban poverty and joblessness, social capital and social networks, racial inequality, and trust. Her first book, Lone Pursuit: Distrust and Defensive Individualism among the Black Poor (Russell Sage Foundation) advances current and enduring debates about black joblessness, highlighting the role of interpersonal distrust dynamics between low-income black jobholders and their job-seeking relations that make cooperation during the process of finding work a problematic affair. She more fully engages questions about the cultural underpinnings of social capital mobilization during the job-matching process, in her forthcoming book, Want, Need, Fit: Cultural Logics of Job-Matching Assistance. Smith’s work on this topic has also been widely published in journals such as the American Journal of Sociology, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, the Annual Review of Sociology, Racial and Ethnic Studies, Social Science Research, Work and Occupations, and The Sociological Quarterly.
Professor Smith has recently expanded her research to include criminal justice issues, with special attention to the front-end of criminal case processing, a direct result of her membership in the Executive Session on Community Corrections at Harvard's Kennedy School and her membership on the National Research Advisory Board on Misdemeanor Justice. With a generous grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Smith is currently working on a large, four-city qualitative study of the front end of criminal case processing, with a focus on how pretrial detention and diversion effect justice-involved individuals' future involvement with crime.
In addition to her research activities, Smith has also recently served as a council member for the American Sociological Association (ASA), Deputy Editor and editorial board member of the American Sociological Review and the American Journal of Sociology, respectively, and chair of the ASA Section, Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility. Smith holds a PhD and Masters in sociology, both from the University of Chicago, and a BA from Columbia University. She joined the Berkeley faculty in 2004
Areas of Expertise: urban poverty and joblessness, workplace discrimination, racial inequality, and criminal justice.