My research broadly considers how and why states rely on violence and coercion to manage social problems. I am currently pursuing questions about the relationships between coercive social policy, population health and well-being, and racial politics through two major empirical projects.

Social policy regimes and family inequality

State policy choice plays a central role in expanding or ameliorating child poverty and inequality in family well-being across groups. This line of research assumes that policy interventions are not merely mechanical reactions to the incidence of a discrete social problem, such as child abuse. Policy interventions are the product of political and institutional arrangements that coherently structure the kinds of interventions states deploy.

This project broadly explores how politics and institutions structure welfare state and criminal justice interventions. I pay close attention to how race and colonization structure both the causes and consequences of state social policy choice. I show that policy systems as diverse as child protection, policing, and means-tested welfare programs are subject to similar sets of social forces. States package their social policies in ways that lead to more or less paternalistic, coercive, or generous approaches to responding to poverty across domains.

Related publications:

“Saving Children, Controlling Families: Punishment, Redistribution and Child Protection”. American Sociological Review 81(3): 575-595. 2016.  Frank Edwards. 2016. (pdf)

“Family Surveillance: Police and the Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect”. The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of The Social Sciences. Frank Edwards. Forthcoming.

Works in progress:

Edwards, Frank R. “Malign Neglect and Paternalistic Adaptation: Race, Migration and Social Policy Regimes in the US.”

Edwards, Frank R. and Theresa Rocha-Beardall. “Legal Violence and Sovereign Shields: Tribal Sovereignty and Exposure to Police Violence, Incarceration, and Child Removal.”

Edwards, Frank R., and Matthew Hall. “Left Behind: Deportation, Child Welfare and Family Complexity.”

Spencer-Suarez, Kimberly, Chris Uggen, Robert Stewart, Veronica Horowitz, Emmi Obara and Frank Edwards. “Dual Debtors: Child Support and Criminal Financial Legal Obligations.”

Wildeman, Christopher, Frank R. Edwards and Sara Wakefield. “The Cumulative Prevalence of Termination of Parental Rights for U.S. Children, 2000-2016.”

Policing, race, and public health

Police are a central component of American regimes of racial stratification. The interactions of place and race profoundly affect who is subject to violent interactions with law enforcement. I treat policing as a social determinant of health and explore how interactions with police affects mortality risk differentially by place, race, gender, and age. In this project, I rely on novel data and Bayesian methods to pursue two related goals.

First, I produce more comprehensive sets of estimates of the risk of being killed by police in the US by place, race, gender, and age. Second, I use new data and methods to explore the determinants of police-involved killings across places.

Related publications:

“Risk of Police-Involved Death by Race/Ethnicity and Place, United States, 2012-2018”. Frank Edwards, Michael Esposito, and Hedwig Lee. 2018. The American Journal of Public Health. (html)

Works in progress:

Edwards, Frank R., Hedwig Lee, and Michael Esposito. “Lifetime Risks of Being Killed by Police in the U.S. by Race and Gender.” Draft available.

Edwards, Frank R., Erin McCauley, and Emma Frankham. “Disability, Mental Illness, and Police Homicides.”

Edwards, Frank R. and Theresa Rocha-Beardall. “Legal Violence and Sovereign Shields: Tribal Sovereignty and Exposure to Police Violence.”

Edwards, Frank R. and Alexes Harris. “Punishing for Profit: Understanding the Connection between Fines, Fees and Forfeitures, Police Homicides and Racial Disparities.”