Virtual Book Talk | Soaking the Middle Class: Suburban Inequality and Recovery from Disaster

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NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to a book talk on Soaking the Middle Class: Suburban Inequality and Recovery from Disaster, featuring the authors Anna Rhodes and Max Bresbis in conversation with Daniel Aldana Cohen and Lori Peek, moderated by Amy Chester. This event is co-sponsored by Rebuild by Design.

Extreme weather is increasing in scale and severity as global warming worsens. While poorer communities are typically most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change, even well-resourced communities are increasingly vulnerable as climate-related storms intensify. Yet little is known about how middle-class communities are responding to these storms and the resulting damage. In Soaking the Middle Class, sociologists Anna Rhodes and Max Besbris examine how a middle-class community recovers from a climate-related disaster and how this process fosters inequality within these kinds of places.


Moderator: Amy Chester, Rebuild by Design

Anna Rhodes is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rice University and is a faculty affiliate at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research. She studies how social contexts matter for household residential decision-making, and the ways that housing, neighborhoods, and schools shape opportunities and outcomes for children and families. Her most recent work examines the residential decisions of households in the wake of disaster, highlighting how climate-related disasters increase economic vulnerability and inequality among residents in affected communities. Her book “Soaking the Middle Class: Suburban Inequality and Disaster Recovery” with Max Besbris was recently published by the Russell Sage Foundation. Her scholarly work can also be found in Social Forces, Social Problems, Urban Education, and the American Educational Research Journal, and she has contributed to the New York Times.

Max Besbris is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where is also a faculty affiliate of the Center for Demography and Ecology and the Institute for Research on Poverty. He studies various housing market dynamics like valuation, segregation, and discrimination. His first book, Upsold (2020, University of Chicago Press) examined how real estate agents affect homeseekers’ decisions like where to buy and how much to pay. His writing has appeared in numerous academic journals and media outlets including The New York TimesJacobin, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Daniel Aldana Cohen is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is Director of the Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative, or (SC)2, and and serves as a member of the Graduate Group of the Designated Emphasis in Political Economy. He is also Founding Co-Director of the Climate and Community Project. He is a CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar (2021-23). In 2018-19, he was a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He is the co-author of A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green Deal (Verso 2019). He is currently completing a book project called Street Fight: Climate Change and Inequality in the 21st Century City, under contract with Princeton University Press. Cohen works on the intersections of the climate emergency, housing, political economy, social movements, and inequalities of race and class in the United States and Brazil. As Director of (SC)2, he is leading qualitative and quantitative research projects on Whole Community Climate Mapping, green political economy, and eco-apartheid. He was also co-founder and co-PI of the Superstorm Research Lab, in New York City.

Lori Peek is director of the Natural Hazards Center and professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is recipient of the Fred Buttel Distinguished Contribution Award for Environmental Sociology. She wrote the award-winning book Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans after 9/11, co-edited Displaced: Life in the Katrina Diaspora and the Handbook of Environmental Sociology, and co-authored Children of Katrina and The Continuing Storm. Peek also helped develop and write school safety guidance for the nation, which resulted in the publication of FEMA P-1000, Safer, Stronger, Smarter: A Guide to Improving School Natural Hazard Safety. In 2021, she was nominated by President Joseph Biden and approved by the U.S. Senate to serve on the Board of the National Institute of Building Sciences.