Who is Left Behind and Why? Rural-Urban Inequalities in Postsecondary Enrollment by Gender and Race/Ethnicity
April Sutton

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, San Diego

Primary Discipline

Deepening rural-urban divides and recent scholarship on the geography of opportunity have renewed attention on rural youth’s educational attainment. Despite evidence that local contexts interact with gender and race to shape inequality, national analyses on rural-urban disparities in students’ postsecondary outcomes neglect this intersectional perspective while studies on gender and racial stratification tend to center urban education or overlook the role of place altogether. Using the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) and a nationally representative sample of high school students (HSLS:09), this project examines rural-urban differences in two- and four-year postsecondary enrollment across gender and ethnoracial groups, focusing on how disparate educational opportunities across place—reflected in access to and participation in advanced academic courses—contribute to stratified opportunities in higher education. Using regression, spatial, and decomposition analyses, I will assess whether disparities in school resources, coursework, and other factors help explain observed rural-urban inequalities in postsecondary enrollment for students across gender and ethnoracial groups. In addition, I will investigate whether these rural-urban gaps are strongest among high-achieving students, who may be best positioned to enter and succeed in college. This study’s intersectional lens will highlight the educational opportunities and outcomes of rural students of color and offer new insights on ethnoracial, gender, and geographic stratification.
About April Sutton
April Sutton is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and a faculty affiliate of the Critical Gender Studies Program at the University of California, San Diego. Her primary areas of research are education, stratification, gender, and geographic inequalities. Using quantitative research methods, Dr. Sutton’s research investigates how communities, schools, and other institutional contexts maintain or mitigate inequalities in education and work. ​Her research highlights the spatial dimensions of enduring gender and ethnoracial educational disparities and the academic and policy debates surrounding them. Dr. Sutton’s studies have been published in the American Sociological Review, Sociology of Education, Social Problems, and the American Journal of Public Health, among other journals. Her scholarship has also been covered by a number of news outlets, including The Atlantic, Forbes, and U.S. News and World Report. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a predoctoral trainee at the Population Research Center, and she earned her bachelor’s degree in Sociology and American and Southern Studies at Vanderbilt University. Prior to joining UCSD, Dr. Sutton was a Frank H.T. Rhodes postdoctoral fellow at the Cornell Population Center at Cornell University.

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