Megan Austin

Megan Austin

Areas of Study

Stratification, Education, Organizations, Quantitative Methods


I am a sixth-year PhD candidate and am currently a Visiting Scholar at the University of Minnesota. 

My research interests include education, statistics and methods, policy, stratification, and organizations. My dissertation, which is supported by an AERA/NSF Dissertation Grant, investigates changes over time in access and returns to college-preparatory academic course taking in high school, with a focus on how high school course taking shapes college success for low-income students and first-generation college goers. Over the past 35 years as income inequality has risen and the college-for-all mentality has helped motivate increasing academic intensity of high school curricula, access to college has expanded dramatically but college completion rates remain low, especially for disadvantaged students. Using quantitative methods and drawing on theories of maintained inequality, I examine how socioeconomic gaps in access to advanced high school courses and in the importance of high school courses for college success have changed since the early 1980s.

Another strand of my research examines school choice programs from a school organizational perspective. In a paper based on my master's thesis, which won the Maureen T. Hallinan Award for Best Graduate Student Paper at AERA, I examine how a school voucher-driven influx of students into Catholic schools affects school academic and organizational practices. I find that schools increase remediation and test preparation in response to both new academic needs and disciplinary challenges. In a Journal of School Choice article, I find that school organization influences schools' perceptions of voucher policy and their decisions to participate in a voucher program. I am also working with Dr. Mark Berends on several projects, including a mixed-methods book project examining schools' experiences with the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program.

A third strand of my research brings together my interest in school organizational practices with research in social psychology and stratification. In a paper with a fellow graduate student, we examine the influence of academic track and school context on the extent to which high school students from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds form positive math identities. 


2017   Austin, Megan J. and Mark Berends. (Forthcoming). “School Choice and School Partnerships.” In Handbook of the Sociology of Education, edited by Barbara Schneider. New York: Springer.

2017   Berends, Mark and Megan J. Austin. (Forthcoming). “The Promises and Pitfalls of Research-Practice Partnerships.” In Doing Good Social Science: Trust, Accuracy, Transparency, edited by Jonathan Plucker and Matt Makel. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Austin, Megan J. 2015. “Schools’ Responses to Voucher Policy: Participation Decisions and Early Implementation Experiences in the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program.” Journal of School Choice9(3):354-379.

Stuit, David, Mark Berends, Megan J. Austin and R.D. Gerdeman. 2014. “Comparing Estimates of Teacher Value Added Based on Criterion- and Norm-Referenced Tests.” Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.


Megan Austin was awarded the Maureen T. Hallinan Student Paper Award from the American Educational Research Association.

Austin CV