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Erin York Cornwell

Assistant Professor and Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow

On Leave, Fall 2015

Ph.D. 2008
University of Chicago

364 Uris Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York

(607) 255-3261

Areas of Interest:

  • Urban Sociology
  • Sociology of Law
  • Health, aging, and social networks
  • Social inequality

Home : Faculty : Erin York Cornwell

Curriculum Vitae

Recent Courses:

Soc 256 Sociology of Law
Soc 312 Urban Sociology
Soc 316 Social Context and Health
Soc 518 Social Inequality: Contemporary Theories and Debates
Soc 644 Urban Structure and Process


My research is driven by concerns about how social status and the social environment shape social action, social networks, and individual outcomes. I am pursuing research in three interrelated areas, which are described below.

Neighborhood and Household Contexts

My research explores neighborhoods and households as nested and interpenetrating environments. For example, I study how the physical household context reflects and shapes social networks and the extent to which the household provides a buffer from physical and social conditions of the neighborhood. A recently-funded pilot study in this area will equip respondents with smartphones that track their movements, activities, and social network interactions. My goal is to identify the geographic boundaries of activity space (which may or may not coincide with administratively-defined neighborhoods) and explore how features of activity space shape social interactions and health.

Sociology of Law

My research on the sociology of law focuses on the social structure of urban courts and inequalities in the criminal justice process. One strand of this work explores how social status structures jury deliberations -- leading to disparities in participation and influence. I am also concerned with legal expertise as a form of social capital that can be accessed through social ties with family and friends who are lawyers. My work indicates a growing racial gap in this kind of access to legal advice. In related research, I am analyzing how criminal defendants attain legal representation and how informal aspects of courts -- such as networks among public defenders, prosecutors, and judges -- shape case outcomes.

Health, Aging, and Social Networks

My work in this area is primarily focused around specifying the mechanisms through which social networks affect health. This includes distinguishing between network characteristics and social support (which are often conflated), and exploring how social disconnectedness (e.g., small network size, infrequent network contact) and perceived isolation (e.g., loneliness) affect health. More recent work examines the specific roles of social networks and support in disease management.

Most of my research in this area utilizes data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP). This longitudinal, population-based study of older adults is innovative in its collection of data on social networks and relationships along with biomeasures (e.g., blood and saliva for lab analysis, blood pressure, sensory function, mobility). I am currently analyzing how aspects of social isolation affect physiological indicators of stress, inflammation, and infection.


The following is a list of some recent publications. A complete list is available here.

York Cornwell, Erin and Rachel L. Behler. Forthcoming. “Urbanism, Neighborhood Context, and Social Networks.” City & Community.

York Cornwell, Erin. 2015. “The Trials of Indigent Defense: Type of Counsel and Case Outcomes in Felony Jury Trials.” Albany Law Review 78(3):101-121.

York Cornwell, Erin and Kathleen A. Cagney. 2014. “Assessment of Neighborhood Context in a National Survey.” Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences 69 (Supplement 2):S51-S63.

York Cornwell, Erin. 2014. “Social Resources and Disordered Living Conditions: Evidence from a National Sample of Community-Residing Older Adults.” Research on Aging 36(4):399-430.

York Cornwell, Erin and Linda J. Waite. 2012. “Social Network Resources and Management of Hypertension.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 53: 215-231.

York Cornwell, Erin and Valerie P. Hans. 2011. “Representation through Participation: A Multilevel Analysis of Jury Deliberations.” Law & Society Review 45: 667-698.

Cagney, Kathleen A. and Erin York Cornwell. 2010. “Neighborhoods and Health in Later Life: The Intersection of Biology and Community.” Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics. 30:323-348.

York Cornwell, Erin. 2010. “Opening and Closing the Jury Room Door: A Socio-Historical Consideration of the 1955 Chicago Jury Project Scandal.” Justice System Journal 31(1):49-73.

York Cornwell, Erin and Linda J. Waite. 2009. “Measuring Social Disconnectedness and Perceived Isolation Using Multiple Indicators from the NSHAP Study.” Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences. 64B:i38-i46.

York Cornwell, Erin and Linda J. Waite. 2009. “Social Disconnectedness, Perceived Isolation, and Health among Older Adults.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 50(1): 31-48.

York Cornwell, Erin and Benjamin Cornwell. 2009. “Access to Expertise as a Form of Social Capital: An Examination of Race- and Class-Based Disparities in Network Ties to Experts.” Sociological Perspectives 51(4):853-876.

York, Erin and Benjamin Cornwell. 2006. “Status on Trial: Social Characteristics and Influence in the Jury Room.” Social Forces 85(1):455-477.