Joe Merry

Joseph Merry

Associate Professor, Sociology

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Joseph J. Merry is an Associate Professor of Sociology. He received his M.A. (2012) and Ph.D. (2015) in Sociology from The Ohio State University and his B.A. (2010) in Sociology and Spanish from John Carroll University. He is married to Emma, a licensed psychologist practicing in Greenville.

Joe joined the Furman University Sociology Department in 2015. He regularly teaches courses on Sociology of Education, Social Class in America, Introductory Sociology, Research Methods, Quantitative Analysis, and Comparative Social Policy. He has also taught two May Experience courses – ‘Family Tree Sociology’ on campus and a Study Away course, ‘International Perspectives on Public Education’ in Finland and the Czech Republic.

His research agenda covers three main areas. 1) Sociology of Education – previous work in this subfield focuses on a broader contextualization of the role schools play in society. Published articles investigate early child social conditions, private tutoring and supplementary educational services, and seasonal comparison studies that contrast student learning patterns during the school year with learning gains/losses that occur during the summer months. 2) Sibling Effects – this part of his research agenda examines the long-term social outcomes of growing up with (more) siblings. Publications document the role siblings play for relationship formation and dissolution, trust, and socio-political beliefs. 3) Inequality Beliefs – this line of research investigates the social determinants of attitudes and beliefs toward economic inequality, redistributive social policy, and meritocracy.

Joe appreciates the many opportunities provided on campus to collaborate with peers and students. He regularly advises student researchers and internship experiences and has worked closely with colleagues in the Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities, the Osher Lifelong Learning Program, the Riley Institute, the College Advising Corps, and the Shucker Leadership Institute.


  • Ph.D., Ohio State University
  • M.A., Ohio State University
  • B.A., John Carroll University

(* denotes student coauthor)

  • Merry, Joseph J., Dennis J. Condron, and Nick Torres*. 2020. “A Comparative Analysis of Early Childhood Socioeconomic Conditions and Educational Achievement Fifteen Years Later.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology.
  • Dirlam, Jonathan and Joseph J. Merry. 2020. “Challenges in Isolating the Effect of College Attainment and Debt Accumulation on Young Adult Self-Concept.” Sociological Forum 36 (1): 111-133
  • Merry, Joseph J., Donna Bobbitt-Zeher, and Douglas B. Downey. 2019 (online first, in print 2020). “Number of Siblings in Childhood, Social Outcomes in Adulthood.” Journal of Family Issues 41(2): 212-232.
  • Merry, Joseph J. and Maria Paino. Forthcoming. “Sociology of Education.” in the Wiley Blackwell Companion to Sociology, edited by George Ritzer and Wendy Wiedenhoft Murphy. Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Kelly, Katie, Joseph J. Merry, and Madeline Gonzalez*. 2018. “Trust, Collaboration, and Well-Being: Lessons Learned from Finland” Southeast Regional Association of Teacher Educators (SRATE) 27(2): 34-39.
  • Yoon, Aimee and Joseph J. Merry. 2017. “Understanding the Role of Schools in the Asian-White Gap: A Seasonal Comparison Approach.” Race Ethnicity and Education.
    • 2016 Research Paper Award, Asia and Asian America Section of the American Sociological Society
  • Kołczyńska, Marta and Joseph J. Merry. 2016. “Preferred Levels of Income Inequality in a Period of Systemic Change: Poland 1988-2003.” Polish Sociological Review 194(2): 171-189.
    • Reprinted as “Preferred Levels of Income Inequality in a Period of Systemic Change” Pp. 205-226 in Dynamics of Social Structure: Poland’s Transformative Years 1988-2013, edited by Kazimierz M. Slomczynski and Irina Tomescu-Dubrow. Warsaw, Poland: IFiS Publishers
  • Merry, Joseph J., Claudia Buchmann and Dennis J. Condron. 2016. “Learning Outside of School: The Implications of Shadow Education for Seasonal Learning Patterns.” Pp. 131-145 in Summer Slide: What We Know and Can Do About Summer Learning Loss, edited by Karl Alexander, Matthew Boulay, and Sarah Pitcock. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
  • Park, Hyunjoon, Claudia Buchmann, Jaesung Choi, and Joseph J. Merry. 2016. “Learning Beyond the School Walls: Trends and Implications.” Annual Review of Sociology 42: 231-252.
  • Bobbitt-Zeher, Donna, Douglas B. Downey, and Joseph J. Merry. 2014 (online first, in print 2016). “Number of Siblings During Childhood and the Likelihood of Divorce in Adulthood.” Journal of Family Issues 37(15): 2076-2094.
  • Merry, Joseph J. 2013. “Tracing the U.S. Deficit in PISA Reading Skills to Early Childhood: Evidence from the U.S. and Canada.” Sociology of Education 86 (3): 234-252.
    • Stevenson Graduate Student Paper Award, Sociology of Education Section of the American Sociological Association.
    • Maureen T. Hallinan Graduate Student Paper Award (2nd Place), American Educational Research Association.