Allison Pugh is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. She writes and teaches about culture, care and inequality. Her work focuses on three broad areas: the impact of the marketization of family life on caregiving; children as active social agents in schools and other settings; and cultural change and continuity in the way people forge connections.
Her first book Longing and Belonging: Parents, Children, and Consumer Culture, from the University of California Press, seeks to make sense of the commodification of childhood, the penetration of markets into vast expanses of children’s lives. Through three years of intense research in Oakland, California, Pugh found that children negotiate with their peers in schools about what sort of possessions or experiences—from the latest gadget or movie to who can turn a cartwheel—have the power to confer social belonging. Pugh shows that affluent and low-income parents alike respond to their children’s fears of being different, and explores the factors enabling the (rare) parents who are able to truly resist children’s consumer desires.
Longing and Belonging won the 2010 William J. Goode award from the American Sociological Association (ASA) section on the sociology of family, and the 2010 Distinguished Contribution award from the ASA section on children and youth. It also was a finalist for the C. Wright Mills award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems, received an honorable mention for the best book in culture from the ASA's culture section, and has been widely reviewed.
Pugh’s research and writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other media outlets. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation and by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. She was a U.S. diplomat in Honduras, a writer for the Associated Press, and a founding trustee of the North Oakland Community Charter School in Oakland, California. With five other young sociologists, she writes for the blog careworklive.com.
In Longing and Belonging: Parents, Children, and Consumer Culture, Pugh illuminates the complex factors that contribute to what our children want and how we buy for them. She shows that at the heart of the escalating commodification of childhood is simply the fundamental desire to belong.