Elena G. van Stee

Elena G. van Stee

2019 Cohort Exchange Scholar, Harvard University (2023-2025)


Hello! I’m a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and an Exchange Scholar at Harvard University. I’m also the Blog Editor for Contexts, the public-facing magazine of the American Sociological Association, and co-host of a sociology podcast called Moral Matters.

I study culture and inequality, focusing on social class, families, higher education, and the transition to adulthood. My dissertation, which received the ESS Rose Laub Coser Dissertation Proposal Award, examines how young adult college graduates (aged 27 – 33) and their parents understand and negotiate parental support at this life stage. My advisors are Hyunjoon Park, Wendy Roth, Emily Hannum, and Michèle Lamont.

The inspiration for my dissertation stemmed from my previous study, which looked at college students’ relationships with their parents in the wake of COVID-19 campus closures (you can find my JMF article here and watch an interview with Contexts here). These interviews also inspired two collaborative projects that use data collected during the pandemic to examine (1) intergenerational co-residence as a private safety net for young adults (with Arielle Kuperberg and Joanie Mazelis) and (2) the racialized consequences of a restrictive COVID-19 behavioral policy at a liberal arts college (with Alanna Gillis). Articles from these projects are currently under review.

Another line of my research examines culture and inequality through the lens of religious institutions. One ongoing project with Evan Stewart examines the intersections of religion, race/racism, and vaccine hesitancy. Another collaborative project (with Melissa Wilde and Tessa Huttenlocher) uses historical census data to quantify wealth inequality across religious groups. In previous work, I studied multifaith chaplaincy on elite college campuses (with Wendy Cadge) and interfaith dialogue in the wake of the 2016 presidential election (with Roman Williams).


Research Interests

Culture, social class, morality, parenting, economic sociology, higher education, transition to adulthood, religion.

Courses Taught

Sociological Research Methods (TA)

Intro to Sociology (TA)

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

van Stee, Elena G. 2023. “Privileged Dependence, Precarious Autonomy: Parent/Young Adult Relationships Through the Lens of COVID-19.” Journal of Marriage and Family 84(1): 215-232.

Roth, Wendy, Elena G. van Stee, and Alejandra Regla-Vargas. 2023. “Conceptualizations of Race: Essentialism and Constructivism.” Annual Review of Sociology 49: 39-58.

van Stee, Elena G. 2023. “No Place Like Home?” Contexts [Feature Essay] 22(3):12-17.

van Stee, Elena G. 2022. “Parenting Young Adults Across Social Class: A Review and Synthesis.” Sociology Compass 16(9): 1-16.

van Stee, Elena G., Taylor Paige Winfield, Wendy Cadge, John Schmalzbauer, Tiffany Steinwert, Shelly Rambo, and Elizabeth Clifford. 2021. “Assessing Student Engagement with Campus Chaplains: A Pilot Study from a Residential Liberal Arts College.” Journal of College and Character 23(3): 215-238.

van Stee, Elena G., Wendy Cadge, and Rebecca Barton. 2021. “How Do Colleges and Universities Support Multifaith Chaplaincy? The Causes and Effects of Different Institutional Approaches.” Journal of College and Character 23(2):134-155.

Barton, Rebecca, Wendy Cadge, and Elena G. van Stee. 2020. “Caring for the Whole Student: How Do Chaplains Contribute to Campus Life?Journal of College and Character 21(2):67-85.


Book Chapter

Williams, Roman R., William L. Sachs, Catherine Holtmann, Elena G. van Stee, Kaitlyn Eekhoff, Michael Bos, and Ammar Amonette. 2019. “Through One Another’s Lenses: Photovoice and Interfaith Dialogue.” Pp. 253–274 in Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion Volume 10: Interreligious Dialogue: From Religion to Geopolitics, edited by G. Giordan and A. P. Lynch. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.


Under Review

van Stee, Elena G., Arielle Kuperberg, and Joan Maya Mazelis. “Activating Family Safety Nets: Understanding Undergraduates’ Pandemic Housing Transitions.” R&R.

Wilde, Melissa J., Tessa D. Huttenlocher, and Elena G. van Stee. “Religious Wealth Inequality in America: The View From 1916.” R&R .

Stewart, Evan, and Elena G. van Stee. “Racialized Religion & Vaccine Hesitancy: Evidence from the General Social Survey.” Under Review.

Gillis, Alanna, and Elena G. van Stee. “The Pact: Exploring the Racialized Consequences of Colorblind COVID-19 Campus Policies.” Under Review.


In Preparation

van Stee, Elena G., “Social Class and Help-Seeking in College: Pandemic Insights and New Research Directions.” In preparation for Handbook of Generation COVID: Global Perspectives on Development with Implications for Social Work, Policy, and Practice, edited by R. Dimitrova and L. Ferrer-Wreder. Cambridge University Press

van Stee, Elena G., “The Meaning of Support Not Given: Rethinking Financial (In)Dependence in Young Adulthood.” Manuscript in preparation.


Academic Book Reviews

van Stee, Elena G. 2019. “Amplifying Islam in the European Soundscape: Religious Pluralism and Secularism in the Netherlands, by Pooyan Tamimi Arab.” Fieldwork in Religion 14(2):220-221.

van Stee, Elena G. 2019. “Keeping it Halal: The Everyday Lives of Muslim American Teenage Boys, by John O’Brien.” Fieldwork in Religion 14(1):99-100.

van Stee, Elena G. 2018. “The Urban Church Imagined: Religion, Race, and Authenticity in the City, by Jessica M. Barron and Rhys H. Williams.” Fieldwork in Religion 13(2):241-2.


Public Writing

van Stee, Elena G. In Press. “Okay, Boomer.” Contexts 24(2):4.

van Stee, Elena G. In Press. “Who’s on Top? Contexts 24(2):5.

van Stee, Elena G. 2024. “Making Mom Proud.” Contexts 23(1):4.

Flores, Gabriela, Elena G. van Stee, Ariel Chan, and Angelica Qin. 2023. “Getting Both Sides of the Story: The Benefits of Dyadic Interviewing in Studies of Young Adulthood.” Contexts Blog (here).

van Stee, Elena G. 2023. Who’s the grown-up here?” Contexts Blog (here).

van Stee, Elena G. 2023. “Why Bella went home (and why Lexie didn’t): Intergenerational authority, entitlement, and obligation through the lens of COVID-19.” Council on Contemporary Families blog, hosted by The Society Pages. (here).

van Stee, Elena G. 2023. “3 things the pandemic taught us about inequality in college — and why they matter today.” The Conversation. (here). Reprinted in The Conversation on Education (Johns Hopkins University Press, forthcoming 2025).

van Stee, Elena G. 2023. “Unplugging from Politics.” Contexts 22(4):9.

van Stee, Elena G. 2022. “Social class matters at college. What happened when campuses shut down?” Work in Progress: Sociology on the Economy, Work, and Inequality (here). Reprinted in the ASA Children & Youth Section Newsletter, January 2023.



Exchange Scholar, Harvard University (2023 - present)

Blog Editor, Contexts Magazine (2023 - present)

Predoctoral Fellow, Institute of Education Sciences Predoctoral Training Program, University of Pennsylvania (2021-present)

Graduate Research Fellow, Center for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, and Immigration, University of Pennsylvania (2020-2021 & 2023 - present)

Research Associate, Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, Brandeis University (2018-2020)

Research Fellow, Office of Institutional Research and Analysis, University of Pennsylvania (2022)

CV (url)