Other Research

Nelson, Jennifer L., Grissom, Jason A., and Margaux Cameron. 2021. “Performance, Process, and Interpersonal Relationships: Explaining Principals’ Perceptions of the Quality of Principal Evaluation.” Educational Administration Quarterly.

How do principals feel about the process by which they are evaluated? In a new article in EAQ with Jason Grissom and Margaux Cameron, we find that it depends on individual and school characteristics, but also on elements of the process itself. We bring insights from organizational justice theory – which highlights the importance of employees’ perceptions of fairness in distribution of rewards, evaluation processes, and how they are treated by their supervisors – to bear on this question. Using longitudinal survey data from Tennessee principals paired with administrative data about their evaluation ratings and the backgrounds of their evaluators, we find that high school and more experienced principals have more negative attitudes towards their evaluations; observation scores of performance had a positive relationship with attitudes; and working longer with one’s evaluator and perceiving they were evaluated more frequently benefits principal attitudes about evaluation.


Grissom, Jason A., Jennifer D. Timmer, Jennifer L. Nelson, and Richard S.L. Blissett. 2021. “Unequal Pay for Equal Work? The Gender Gap in Principal Compensation.” Economics of Education Review.

In this article, we use longitudinal administrative data from the state of Missouri and SASS/NTPS data to document systematic lower salaries to female principals in each context. We explore different supply-side explanations for this gap – human capital differences, differences in choice of hours work (via “extra duty pay”), differences in mobility across schools over their careers, differences in performance ratings –  and find that while some of these explain a portion of the gap, an outstanding gender pay gap remains, suggesting evidence of demand-side drivers of the wage gap.


Nelson, Jennifer L., Karen A. Hegtvedt, Jennifer L. Hayward. 2019. “Trust and Respect at Work: Justice Antecedents and the Role of Coworker Dynamics.” Work & Occupations 46(3): 307–338.

In this project, with Karen Hegtvedt, Regine Haardoerfer, and Jennifer Hayward, we use survey data from my dissertation to examine how teachers’ reported perceptions of organizational justice in treatment from their managers (i.e., administrators) and colleagues impact their outcomes of relational trust and respect. We seek to answer the research questions: Which type of justice (distributive, procedural, interactional) affects lateral trust and respect the most, and do teacher dynamics mediate these contextual effects?


Puckett, Cassidy, and Jennifer L. Nelson. 2019. “The Geek Instinct: Theorizing Cultural Alignment in Disadvantaged Contexts.” Qualitative Sociology 42(1): 25–48. DOI 10.1007/s11133-019-9408-4

In this project, we build on cultural mismatch literature to address dynamics across home and school spheres among adolescents in an economically disadvantaged school context. Using in-depth ethnographic data from students in a Chicago public middle school, we propose a cultural alignment framework that considers the interaction between organizational routines, cultural practices, and the habits children carry across spheres to produce varying degrees of technological competence.


Nelson, Jennifer L. 2017. “Pathways to Green(er) Pastures: Reward Bundles and Turnover Decisions in a Semi-Profession.” Qualitative Sociology 40(1):23–57. doi:10.1007/s11133-016-9348-1

In this study, my Master’s thesis, I conducted 40 structured interviews with urban school teachers and used Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) to examine how work rewards bundle together and influence these workers’ staying and leaving decisions. This study received the Blyler Graduate Student Research Award from the Department of Sociology at Emory in 2013.


Nelson, Jennifer L., and Amanda E. Lewis. 2016. “‘I’m a Teacher, Not a Babysitter:’ Workers’ Strategies for Managing Identity-Related Denials of Dignity in the Early Childhood Workplace.” Research in the Sociology of Work 29: 37-71.

In this study of how workplace context impacts early childhood educators’ identity strategies, my co-author and I conducted and analyzed ethnographic interviews with a sample of 27 preschool and preK teachers in the metro Atlanta area. We found that teachers navigate and solve identity problems they encounter in the course of doing their jobs by creatively converting these problems into resources with which to protect their occupational identities. However, the problems, resources, and identity strategies vary by work context (sector and school type).


Nelson, Jennifer L., and Anand Swaminathan. “A State-by-State Study of Policy and Program Diffusion in Alternate Certification Programs, 1985-2012.” In progress.

This diffusion study, with Anand Swaminathan, seeks to understand what social-economic-political factors in each U.S. state predict its time of adoption of different forms of alternate route teacher certification laws. We use event history analysis to examine intrastate propensity factors versus interstate contagion factors that facilitate policy spread. Our unique dataset is drawn from annual volumes published by the National Center for Education Information (NCEI) for the years 1990-2010, and NCES, DES, Census, BLS, Statistical Abstracts, and Klarner for various state-level educational, social, economic and political statistics for those years.