Dalton Conley

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Conley speaking at TEDxUNC in 2015

Dalton Clark Conley (born 1969) is an American sociologist. He is the Henry Putnam University Professor of Sociology at Princeton University where he is also an affiliate of the Office of Population Research and the Center for Health and Wellbeing. 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 Health Science (pro bono) for the University of the People and sits as a member on their Health Science Advisory Board. He formerly served as the Dean for the Social Sciences and Chair of the Department of Sociology at New York University, where he had been University Professor with appointments in Sociology, Public Policy and the School of Medicine.[1] In 2005, Conley became the first sociologist to win the National Science Foundation's Alan T. Waterman Award. He is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow and an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2018 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.[2]

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 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.[1]


Conley is best known for his contributions to understanding how health and socioeconomic status are transmitted across generations. To this end, his research has examined the role of family wealth (as distinct from income) in status attainment, investigated the role of prenatal environment and birth weight on educational outcomes, addressed the causes and consequences of sibling differences in class status; and explored gene-environment interactions in family and economic life.[3]

His first book, Being Black, Living in the Red (1999), focuses on the role of family wealth in perpetuating class advantages and racial inequalities in the post-Civil Rights era.[4]

He has 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.[5]

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.[6]

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) chronicles 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," in which the pressure from high and rising income inequality within the knowledge economy interacts with telecommunications technologies to shift the income elasticity of labor supply such that higher skilled professionals work ever longer hours, thereby altering family life and tearing down once-sacrosanct boundaries of the modern era such as those between work and leisure, public and private, and even self and other.[7]

In 2014, he published the satirical book, Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know About the Science of Raising Children But Were Too Exhausted to Ask. This book uses his own quirky parenting decisions—such as naming his first child a letter of the alphabet, getting his kids as many pets as possible in their NYC apartment, and setting up a homework economy of bribery—as a trope to humorously discuss the science of child development.[8][9]

In 2017, his newest book, The Genome Factor: What the Social Genomics Revolution Reveals About Ourselves, Our History and the Future (Princeton University Press), coauthored with Jason Fletcher, will be released.[10] This volume argues that the nature-nurture debate is over. Now that many large scale social surveys collect genetic data, researchers who study behavior and social life can obtain a complete picture of how the forces of genetics and the environment interact to produce human outcomes. Conley and Fletcher address topics ranging from the role of genes in social mobility, genetic and social assortative mating, the difference between race and genetic ancestry and the potential rise of a genotocracy as foreshadowed by the 1997 film, Gattaca.

His best-selling Introduction to Sociology textbook is You May Ask Yourself, currently in its 4th edition.[11]

In addition to these works, Conley is the author of the acclaimed sociological memoir Honky (2000), which examines Conley's own childhood growing up white in an inner city neighborhood of housing 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.[12]

Conley's work has also appeared in many mainstream media publications. He has written many op-ed pieces for The New York Times on topics ranging from the calculation of slavery reparations to roommate random assignment to the dividend tax and its relation to corporate personhood. He is frequently interviewed for articles on race, family, and socioeconomic status.

Personal life[edit]

Conley is married to the Bosnian-American astrophysicist Tea Temim. He has two children from a previous marriage: a daughter named E and a son named Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles Jeremijenko-Conley.[13][14]


  • 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.



  1. ^ a b "Princeton University Sociology Faculty". Archived from the original on 2016-07-01.
  2. ^ "News From the National Academy of Sciences".
  3. ^ "Dalton Conley - Princeton University Faculty Bio". 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-08-16.
  4. ^ Conley, Dalton (1999). Being Black, Living in the Red. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520261303.
  5. ^ Conley, Dalton (2003). The Starting Gate: Birth Weight and Life Chances. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520239555.
  6. ^ Conley, Dalton (2004). The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why. Pantheon. ISBN 0375421742.
  7. ^ Conley, Dalton (2009). 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. Pantheon. ISBN 0375422900.
  8. ^ Conley, Dalton (2014). Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know about the Science of Raising Children but Were Too Exhausted to Ask. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1476712654.
  9. ^ "Time Magazine: Parent Like a Mad Scientist". 2014.
  10. ^ "The Genome Factor - Princeton University Press".
  11. ^ Conley, Dalton (2015). You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking Like a Sociologist. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393937739.
  12. ^ Conley, Dalton (2000). Honky. University of California Press. ISBN 0520215869.
  13. ^ Bahrampour, Tara (25 September 2003). "A Boy Named Yo, Etc.; Name Changes, Both Practical and Fanciful, Are on the Rise". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  14. ^ Conley, Dalton (10 June 2010). "Raising E and Yo..." Psychology Today magazine. Retrieved 19 August 2016.

External links[edit]