Kelsey D. Meagher

Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Sociology, UC Davis

Kelsey Meagher is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Davis. Her areas of specialization include environmental sociology, organizations and the economy, risk and disasters, health and social welfare, and food and agriculture systems.

Kelsey’s dissertation research seeks to explain cross-national differences in food safety management and outbreak response. She combines qualitative and quantitative methods to examine organizational responses to two of the largest E. coli outbreaks in recent history (California, 2006; and Germany, 2011).

Kelsey contributes to the economic sociology website Systems of Exchange. You can reach her at

Curriculum Vitae

Download Curriculum Vitae


Dissertation: Cross-National Differences in Food Safety Governance

Large-scale foodborne illness outbreaks over the past two decades have prompted growing public concerns over food safety. However, responses to these outbreaks have varied substantially across institutional and national contexts. My study seeks to explain institutional and cross-national differences in risk perception and governance in the context of two major E. coli outbreaks in the last decade (California, 2006; and Germany, 2011). I employ mixed methods to explore how growers, regulators, and consumers in the U.S. and Germany defined and pursued food safety following the outbreaks. I am conducting semi-structured interviews with stakeholders in each country and analyzing archival media to examine how the outbreaks and subsequent reforms were understood by different groups during the crisis. Additionally, I am conducting a multilevel analysis of survey data on consumer risk perceptions in order to understand the broader context for food safety governance regimes. My study contributes to contemporary theoretical debates regarding risk society, management practice, and public responses to risk, highlighting the role that governance processes and public expectations play in both consumer health policy formation as well as public debates.

Other Projects

Attitudinal Influences on Low-Income Americans’ Food Aid Receipt. (Under Review)

This study investigates the extent to which state-level differences in welfare attitudes influence the use of food stamps and food pantries among low-income Americans. An earlier draft of the paper was presented at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Trade-Offs between Meeting Utility and Housing Expenses in the United States. (With Ryan Finnigan)

We estimate the extent and distribution of trade-offs between utility and housing expenses for low-income households in the United States using two nationally representative surveys: the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and the American Housing Survey (AHS). This paper was presented at the 2016 annual meeting of the Population Association of America.

Beyond the Stalled Gender Revolution: Historical and Cohort Dynamics in Gender Attitudes from 1977-2014. (With Xiaoling Shu)

We test three structural explanations for historical dynamics in American gender attitudes in order to explain the mid-1990s “stalled revolution” in egalitarian gender attitudes. An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Natural Resource Meanings and Water Allocation: Social Welfare and the Systems of Exchange Typology. (With Nicole Woolsey Biggart)

We develop an analytical approach to understanding the social foundations of contestations over natural resource allocation and highlight several case studies on water governance. This paper was presented at the 2014 conference for the World Interdisciplinary Network for Institutional Research (WINIR) and the 2016 Colloquium for the European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS).


Associate Instructor

Introduction to Social Research (Summer 2015 and Summer 2016). Syllabus.

This course aims to provide students with a fundamental understanding of how social science is designed and conducted. Students are exposed to a variety of research methods, including experimental design, survey research, qualitative field research, and unobtrusive research. By the end of the course, students understand the logics of social inquiry and the benefits and challenges of different research methods. Even if students don’t plan to pursue careers in research, they will still consume a great deal of research over their lifetimes. This course helps students become critical consumers of research studies published in popular media and academic literature. Course activities help students develop widely applicable skills in critical thinking, project design, and writing.

Teaching Assistant

Political Sociology (Spring 2016)

Environmental Sociology (Winter 2012, Spring 2014)

Intermediate Social Statistics (Spring 2012, Fall 2012)

Introduction to Social Research (Fall 2011)