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Erin York Cornwell

Assistant Professor, Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow, Director of Undergraduate Studies
PhD 2008, University of Chicago
Curriculum Vitae

Areas of Interest: Urban Sociology, Sociology of Law, Health, aging, and social networks, Social Inequality

(607) 255-3261

364 Uris Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-7601


My research is driven by concerns about how social status and social contexts shape social action, social networks, and individual outcomes. I have expertise in designing, fielding, and analyzing social surveys, including smartphone-based ecological momentary assessments that allow the examination of social life in real-time.

I am currently pursuing research in three interrelated areas, which are described below.

Residential and Neighborhood Contexts

My research explores how the social contexts of everyday life, including one’s household, residential neighborhood, and other contexts of daily life, shape access to resources, social connectedness, and individual outcomes. One strand of my work in this area considers how conditions of the physical household context, such as the presence of household disorder, reflects and shapes social networks. Another recent study explores how the residential neighborhood context shapes individuals’ abilities to form and maintain personal network ties.

In ongoing research, I am using smartphones to track where older adults spend their daily lives, rather than presuming that the residential neighborhood context is the only important — or the most important — environment. Real-time exposure to social contexts may have profound consequences for individuals. For example, in a recent study I find that people who suffer medical emergencies in more socioeconomically disadvantaged areas are less likely to receive help or support from a bystander. Importantly, Black individuals are about half as likely as Whites to receive help from a bystander, regardless of their location. Findings from this study were featured in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Reuters, Daily Mail, Yahoo, and other media outlets.

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 jurors’ participation and influence. I am also concerned with the processes through which individuals access different types of legal representation, legal expertise, and legal assistance. In recent work, I consider legal expertise as a form of social capital that can be accessed through social network ties with family and friends who are lawyers. Such “informal” access to legal expertise may be an underexplored source of inequalities in legal outcomes.

In related research, I am exploring how criminal defendants attain legal representation, whether defendants who rely on the public defender are disadvantaged in jury trials, and how informal aspects of courts — such as networks among public defenders, prosecutors, and judges — shape case outcomes.

Health, Aging, and Social Networks

My research in this area is primarily focused around specifying the mechanisms through which social networks affect health. For this, I utilize survey 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 neighborhood context and social (dis)connectedness, along with biomeasures (e.g., blood and saliva for lab analysis, blood pressure, sensory function, mobility).

A key goal of my work is 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) separately affect health and disease management. In other research, I am considering how real-time social interactions — and the contexts within which they take place — shape aspects of health and well-being such as symptoms of distress (e.g., pain, fatigue).

For more information about my research, please see my profiles on Google Scholar and Research Gate.

Recent Courses

SOC 2560
SOC 3120
SOC 3160
SOC 5180
SOC 6160
SOC 6440

Sociology of Law
Urban Sociology
Social Context and Health
Social Inequality: Contemporary Theories and Debates
Survey Methods
Urban Structure and Process

Selected Publications

York Cornwell, Erin, Emily Taylor Poppe, and Meg Doherty Bea. Forthcoming. “Networking in the Shadow of the Law: Informal Access to Legal Expertise through Personal Network Ties.” Law & Society Review.

York Cornwell, Erin and Kathleen A. Cagney. Forthcoming. “Aging in Activity Space: Results from Smartphone-Based GPS-Tracking of Urban Seniors.” Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences.

York Cornwell, Erin and Matthew Hall. Forthcoming. “Neighborhood Problems across the Rural-Urban Continuum: Geographic Trends and Racial and Ethnic Disparities.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

York Cornwell, Erin. 2016. “Household Disorder, Network Ties, and Social Support in Later Life.” Journal of Marriage and Family 78:871-889.

York Cornwell, Erin and Alex Currit. 2016. “Racial and Social Disparities in Bystander Support During Medical Emergencies on US Streets.” American Journal of Public Health 106: 1049-1051.

York Cornwell, Erin and Rachel Behler. 2015. “Urbanism, Neighborhood Context, and Social Networks.” City & Community 14:311-335.

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.