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Caitlin Patler


  • Ph.D., Sociology, UCLA
  • M.A., Sociology, UCLA
  • B.A., Sociology and Chicana/o Studies, UCLA


Caitlin Patler, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Sociology at University of California, Davis. She is an Executive Committee Member of the Global Migration Center, a Faculty Affiliate at the Center for Poverty Research and the Human Rights Program, and an Advisory Committee member of the Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement. For more, see Dr. Patler's website: 

Research Focus

Dr. Patler’s research addresses the origins and reproduction of inequality in the U.S. through an examination of laws, legal statuses, and law enforcement institutions as drivers of socioeconomic and health disparities. She is particularly interested in variations and changes in legal statuses and legal positionality—e.g., gaining/losing rights, experiencing increased/decreased levels of law enforcement—and how those changes impact mobility and wellbeing. Empirically, she focuses on individuals whose lives are deeply intertwined with the law—e.g., noncitizens and individuals with immigration and/or criminal law enforcement system contact. Dr. Patler also studies the spillover and intergenerational consequences of legal vulnerability for children’s health and wellbeing.

Dr. Patler uses multiple methodologies to answer research questions, most commonly designing, fielding, and analyzing original surveys and in-depth interviews in legally vulnerable populations that are unidentifiable in secondary data. To complement these original data collection efforts, she draws from population-level survey and administrative data. Dr. Patler recently co-authored an Op-Ed in the New York Times on child detention and an Amicus Brief for the US Supreme Court summarizing empirical research on DACA.

Dr. Patler has received multiple grants and awards for her research, including support from the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, National Science Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, Sociological Initiatives Foundation, and the American Sociological Association. Dr. Patler received the 2019 Pacific Sociological Association Distinguished Contribution to Sociological Perspectives Award for her paper, “To Reveal or Conceal: How Diverse Undocumented Youth Navigate Legal Status Disclosure.” In 2018, she received the Distinguished Contribution to Research Article Award from the ASA Latina/o Sociology Section for her paper (co-authored with Whitney L. Pirtle) for, “From Undocumented to Lawfully Present: Do Changes to Legal Status Impact Psychological Wellbeing Among Latino Immigrant Young Adults?”.

Prior to joining the UC Davis faculty, Dr. Patler was a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the UC Irvine Department of Criminology, Law and Society. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology, and her B.A. with College Honors in Sociology and Chicana/o Studies, from UCLA.

Dr. Patler’s research is informed by two decades of research-practice partnerships with legal and civil rights organizations focused on immigration detention, access to education for undocumented youth, and low-wage labor markets. She is currently a Special Projects Advisor for Immigrant Defense Advocates. She has volunteered with No More Deaths, a humanitarian aid organization on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Selected Publications

See CV for updated publication list.


SOC 4: Immigration and Opportunity

SOC 4H: Immigration and Opportunity with College Honors

SOC 103: Evaluation Research Methods

SOC 195: Crimmigration