Sara Zobl is a fifth-year PhD student in the sociology department on a National Institute on Aging fellowship and is a Population Studies Center trainee.  Sara is also the Michigan RDC’s research assistant, and in that role she has obtained Special Sworn Status and is available to support Michigan RDC research projects with cleaning and analysis of data as well as related tasks.  

Sara’s ongoing research focuses broadly on inequality, social stratification mechanisms, the life course, and health and aging in the United States. In her current project, which is the foundation of her dissertation, she maps and compares the life event sequences of Baby Boom and Millennial women to determine how the rapid and significant social and political changes that occurred during the second half of the 20th century—changes that were intended to boost the life chances of all women by giving them access to a wide range of life options not available to prior generations—have played out over time.

Recently, we asked Sara how she became interested in her research. She told us: “As a sociologist, I’m keenly interested in how socioeconomic inequalities are produced and maintained within a society that purports to highly value equality of opportunity, and in the complex relationship between individual agency and structural constraints. My research interests and dissertation topic grew from my own experiences as a first-generation college student and nontraditional student; my interest in the implications of life course disorder is a nod to my (and other women’s) difficulty managing out-of-sequence student-, employee-, and parent roles within educational institutions and workplaces that remain inflexible and fail to accommodate women following nonnormative life paths.”

Sara’s work so far has given her extensive experience with manipulating large, nationally-representative longitudinal datasets and with sequence analysis techniques and has served as a great opportunity for her to hone her Stata skills.  She has also presented her findings at the Population Association of America’s annual meeting in Chicago; at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in Seattle; and at the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies in Stirling, Scotland.

When we asked Sara where she hopes to take her research in the future, she said: “After completing this work, I plan to explore whether women following nonnormative life paths experience worse physical or mental health outcomes in old age compared to their peers who completed major life events in a more-common order.”

In her free time, Sara enjoys ornamental and vegetable gardening, cooking and baking, and soap making.  She also mentioned, “working with my partner Ken on restoring our new (to us!) old house.”

Researchers interested in hiring Sara to assist on a project should make an inquiry via our online form.