Sandra Levitsky’s research lies at the intersection of sociology of law, political sociology, and social movements. Her work considers the ways in which contemporary social welfare problems are changing cultural understandings of what types of social needs or interests ought to be protected as “rights” or “entitlements” in the U.S. context. Her book, Caring for Our Own: Why There Is No Political Demand for New American Social Welfare Rights (Oxford 2014), inverts an enduring question of social welfare politics. Rather than ask why the American state hasn't responded to unmet social welfare needs by expanding social entitlements, this book asks: Why don't American families view unmet social welfare needs as the basis for demands for new state entitlements?
Professor Levitsky currently has two large studies underway. The first focuses on the case of state-funded preschool. The study seeks to explain the dramatic expansion of public preschool programs in a time of increasing state delegation of social welfare provision to the private sector (in particular, the privatization of education), and despite longstanding historical resistance to state subsidies for child care in the United States. The study also examines the implications of these programs for working families. The second study examines how colleges and universities are responding to pressure—from media, social movements, the law, the White House, Congress, and others—to address the longstanding problem of sexual violence on campus. The study involves a longitudinal analysis of the policies and practices of a sample of 380 colleges and universities and more intensive qualitative case studies of a smaller sample of schools.