Dalton Clark Conley (born 1969) is an American sociologist. He is University Professor (with appointments in Sociology, Medicine and Public Policy) and formerly served as the Dean for the Social Sciences and Chair of the Department of Sociology at New York University. He also holds appointments as an Adjunct Professor of Community Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, as a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and as Dean of Arts and Sciences (pro bono) for the University of the People. In 2005, Conley became the first sociologist to win the National Science Foundation's Alan T. Waterman Award. He is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow.
A graduate of New York City's prestigious math and science Stuyvesant High School, he also graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in Humanities, and from Columbia University with and an M.P.A. in Public Policy, and a Ph.D. in Sociology. He also holds an M.S. and Ph.D in Biology (Genomics) from NYU.
Conley is best known for his contributions to understanding how socioeconomic status is transmitted across generations.
His first book, Being Black, Living in the Red (1999), showed the important role of family wealth in perpetuating class advantages and racial inequalities in the post-Civil Rights era.
He has also studied the role of health in the status attainment process. A seminal article entitled, "Is Biology Destiny: Birth Weight and Life Chances" (with Neil G. Bennett, American Sociological Review 1999) and his second book, which emerged from this and related pieces, The Starting Gate: Birth Weight and Life Chances (with Kate Strully and Neil G. Bennett, 2003) showed the importance of birth weight and prenatal health to later socioeconomic outcomes, reversing the typical way sociologists viewed the health-economics relationship and anticipated a robust research literature on early life health conditions as they affect later socioeconomic processes and outcomes.
The Pecking Order, which followed in 2004, showed the importance of within-family, ascriptive factors in determining sibling differences in socioeconomic success, thereby challenging the usual association of intra-household differences with the greater salience of achievement and/or meritocracy.
In addition to these works, Conley is the author of the acclaimed sociological memoir Honky (2001), which examines Conley's own childhood growing up white in the inner city projects of New York City. Honky explores the intersection of race and class in America, outlining the subtle but profoundly important privileges even an impoverished white boy enjoys over his darker-skinned peers.
Elsewhere, U.S.A.: How We Got from the Company Man, Family Dinners and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, BlackBerry Moms and Economic Anxiety (2009) is Conley's latest book, chronicling how American society has moved from embodying Max Weber's Protestant ethic in the 19th and early 20th Centuries to William H. Whyte's "social ethic" during the mid-20th Century to today's "elsewhere ethic."
He argues that thanks to the combination of technological changes, rising economic inequality, market logics and the wholesale entry of mothers into the labor force, we have transformed from a 9-to-5 culture that had clear delineations between work and leisure to the modern 24-hour workday culture that combines home and office as well as a number of other once-bounded and sacred spheres of social life. Conley coins the terms weisure to describe activities that combine work and leisure such as social networking with colleagues who are also friends or contributing to open source products or gambling or other activities that are both instrumental and pleasurable. Likewise, he suggests the portmanteau convestment to describe purchases, or consumption, often viewed and written off as investments or serve both purposes.
Finally, he argues that we have gone from a culture of American individualism—in which the imperative was to find our true, backstage self through disconnected time alone and then let that authentic self guide our life choices as a lodestar of sorts—to American "intravidualism", where the moral imperative is to manage multiple external and internal data streams (and selves) that compete for attention, with little concern for the notion of an authentic core or true, single self as our guide. In this vein, the frontstage / backstage dichotomy that formed the basis of intimacy in an earlier epoch has been erased by the delocalized social economy and network-society where a new form of "privacy" is obtained via a metaphorical "fun house of mirrors" where once-personal information is now part of a hyperlinked, recursive data overload—which may, in fact, offer its own form of protection.
Conley's work has also appeared in Salon.com, Feed Magazine. He has written several op-ed pieces for the New York Times and is frequently interviewed for articles on race, family, and socioeconomic status.
Conley was formerly married to the technoartist Natalie Jeremijenko and together they have two children: a daughter named E and a son named Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles Jeremijenko-Conley.
- Being Black, Living in the Red. University of California Press. 1999. ISBN 978-0-520-21673-0.
- Honky. University of California Press. 2000. ISBN 0-520-21586-9.
- The Pecking Order. Random House. 2004. ISBN 978-0-375-71381-1.
- Elsewhere, U.S.A.. Random House. 2009. ISBN 978-0-375-42290-4.
- You May Ask Yourself.. W. W. Norton & Company. 2011. ISBN 978-0-393-12020-2.
- Dalton Conley (New York University)
- "Dalton Conley: Biography". New York University. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
- Bahrampour, Tara (25 September 2003). "A Boy Named Yo, Etc.; Name Changes, Both Practical and Fanciful, Are on the Rise". New York Times. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
- Conley, Dalton (10 June 2010). "Raising E and Yo...". Psychology Today magazine. Retrieved 4 September 2012.