Simone Ispa-Landa

Assistant Professor of Human Development and Social Policy | IPR Fellow


As a sociologist, Simone Ispa-Landa’s research examines the processes that reproduce and magnify social exclusion, as well as the ways in which subordinate individuals and groups make sense of, and seek to combat, disadvantaged statuses. Much of her work investigates how people in stigmatized communities understand dominant ideologies. She has studied these topics within the context of an urban-to-suburban racial integration program and an organization that offers legal services to those with criminal record histories. 

Ispa-Landa holds a PhD in sociology from Harvard University. The National Science Foundation and the Spencer Foundation have provided funding for her work.

Current Projects

Educators’ Expectations for Parent Involvement. Research shows that educators’ expectations for how family members should support children’s education favor white, middle- and upper-middle class families. In an ongoing project, Ispa-Landa investigates and compares how educators’ expectations for parent behavior translate into practices for managing parents from both dominant and nondominant groups.

Strategies for Coping with a Criminal Record. Although criminal records in the United States are more publicly accessible than ever before, and restrict access to jobs, housing, and financial aid, we lack knowledge about how record-bearers cope with the negative consequences associated with a visible criminal record. Ispa-Landa’s current research examines the strategies that criminal record holders use to cope with the material and emotional challenges associated with having a publicly available criminal record history.

Criminal Justice Approaches to Student Discipline. Many school disciplinary practices—such as the placement of police in schools and/or arresting students for misbehaviorreflect a criminal justice orientation to managing students. Ispa-Landa analyzes how, within racially and economically diverse school settings, teachers, students, parents, school administrators, and law enforcement agents understand and use practices associated with the criminal justice system.

First-Generation and Low-Income College Students. Colleges and universities are inherently social contexts, influencing the quantity, nature, and utility of the social ties available to individuals and groups. In partnership with Northwestern University's office of Student Enrichment Services, Ispa-Landa is examining how first-generation and low-income college students navigate the explicitly social and peer-oriented aspects of college residential life. A key focus is on how race and gender dynamics shape first-generation and low-income students’ orientations to college sociality. 


Selected Publications

Ispa-Landa, S., and C. Loeffler. 2016. Indefinite punishment and the criminal record: Stigma reports among expungement-seekers in IllinoisCriminology 54(3): 387–412.

Ispa-Landa, S. 2016. Legitimizing family management: The role of adolescents' understandings of riskJournal of Marriage & Family 78(2): 516–30.

Ispa-Landa, S., and J. Conwell. 2015. "Once you go to a white school, you kind of adapt": Black adolescents and the racial classification of schoolsSociology of Education 88(1): 119.

Ispa-Landa, S. 2013. Gender, race, and justifications for group exclusion: Urban black students bussed to affluent suburban schoolsSociology of Education 86(3): 218–33.