I am an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rice University. In 2020-2021, I will be a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation.
My research examines how individuals make decisions in organizations and economic markets, how these decisions are influenced by interaction with others, and how these decisions reproduce existing demographic and geographic inequalities.
In my book, Upsold (to be published in August, 2020 by The University of Chicago Press), I investigate how people choose where to live and how much to spend in the housing market. Drawing on more than two years of ethnographic fieldwork analyzing interactions between real estate agents and prospective homebuyers, Upsold presents an in-depth account of the social influences that come together during the sales process. The book shows how interactions between agents and buyers created buyers' preferences, including their price preferences, and that agents’ assessment of neighborhoods and buyers matter for the cultural meaning and demographic make up of different places. Upsold offers a new perspective on markets, revealing how intermediaries like real estate agents set the terms for our most important economic decisions.
Other research focuses on discrimination in economic transactions, how recent changes in the production of news and the journalism labor market have affected the institutional pressures faced by journalism schools, and how sociology conceptualizes the self. A new project uses computational methods to examine the relationship between online advertisements for rental housing, housing prices, and various forms of residential segregation. Another tracks households' residential mobility and financial security in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and shows how disasters produce within neighborhood inequality,
My work has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Tow-Knight Center, and awards from the American Sociological Association, the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics, the Eastern Sociological Society, and the Society for the Study of Social Problems.
Boeing, Geoff, Max Besbris, Ariela Schachter, and John Kuk. 2020. “Housing Search in the Age of Big Data: Smarter Cities or Same Old Blind Spots?” Housing Policy Debate
Besbris, Max and Caitlin Petre. 2019. "Professionalizing Contingency: How Journalism Schools Adapt to Deprofessionalization." Social Forces
Besbris, Max, Jacob William Faber, and Patrick Sharkey. 2019. "Disentangling the Effects of Race and Place in Economic Transactions: Findings from an Online Field Experiment." City & Community 18: 529-55.
Besbris, Max and Shamus Khan. 2017. "Less Theory. More Description." Sociological Theory 53: 147-53.