I am interested in inequality, culture, health, family, and the sociology of food. My research examines how parents across the socioeconomic spectrum decide what to feed their children at a time of growing income inequality and increasing dietary disease. In particular, I examine how parents' food choices arise not just from their material circumstances, but also from the meaning they ascribe to food, family, and childhood. I write about why healthy eating is more expensive than estimates suggest; why low-income parents have an unexpected economic incentive to cater to their children; how food becomes meaningful amidst both poverty and plenty; and how parents judge the food choices of their peers and themselves. This work integrates insights from cultural sociology, public health, and behavioral economics, and will appear in a book entitled Taste and Necessity: Feeding the Next Generation in an Unequal America.
My new research projects delve more deeply into food as a source of social judgment and status distinction. The first study uses a survey experiment to examine how the public judges the food choices of low- versus high-income parents. It asks: do we judge poor parents more harshly than their higher-income peers for the same food choices? If so, why, and how does this judgment shape public support for nutrition policies? The other project seeks to understand how food acts as a status marker in the contemporary United States. Using the highly detailed Nielsen Homescan data, it documents similarities and differences in grocery purchases by income, education, race, and gender.
My research received the 2020 postdoctoral award from the Interdisciplinary Association of Population Health Science and has appeared in journals including Social Science & Medicine.
Caitlin Daniel. 2020. “Is Healthy Eating Expensive?: How Low-Income Parents Evaluate the Cost of Food.” Social Science & Medicine.
Matthew Clair, Caitlin Daniel, and Michèle Lamont. 2016. “Destigmatization and Health: The Role of Culture.” Social Science & Medicine 165: 223–232.
Caitlin Daniel. 2016. “Economic Constraints on Taste Formation and the True Cost of Healthy Eating.” Social Science & Medicine 148: 34–41.
Caitlin Daniel. 2021. “Boosting SNAP Will Put More Food on Millions of Tables. It Will Also Prevent Depression and Anxiety.” Civil Eats November 5.
Caitlin Daniel. 2016. “A Hidden Cost to Giving Kids Their Vegetables.” New York Times February 16.