Amy L Best

Amy L Best

Amy L Best



Education, social inequalities, youth, identity and intersectionality, children's health, community sociology, micro sociology, cultural sociology, sociology of everyday life, consumer markets and commercial life, sociology of food, farm to school, food access and food insecurity, feminist and qualitative approaches to social research, ethnography, program evaluation

Amy L. Best is Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at George Mason University, where she also serves as the director of the Center for Social Science Research. Her research focuses primarily on the study of social inequalities, with specific interest in how gender, race and class differently shape the social experiences of contemporary American youth. She has published widely on unequal schooling, youth and childhood well-being, marketization, as well as community-based health disparities and food insecurity, drawing heavily on cultural and interpretive perspectives in sociology. Best has been awarded grants from National Science Foundation, Corporation for National Community Service, and U.S Department of Education. She is author of Prom Night: Youth, Schools and Popular Culture (2000 Routledge), which was selected for the 2002 American Educational Studies Association Critics’ Choice Award, Fast Cars: Cool Rides: The Accelerating World of Youth and Their Cars (NYU Press 2006), and editor of Representing Youth: Methodological Issues in Critical Youth Studies. (NYU Press, 2007). Her most recent book is Fast Food Kids: French Fries, Lunch Lines and Social Ties (NYU Press, 2017), which was selected for a 2018 Morris Rosenberg Award by the DC Sociological Society.

Best’s expertise is in qualitative and community-based approaches to social science research and has partnered with community-based non-profits and local government agencies in different research capacities. She has conducted program evaluation on farm-to-school and food education programs operating in public schools, as well as community-based interventions to address diet-related community health disparities, including mobile food markets and food voucher programs serving historically-marginalized communities in Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia. She is co-director of the Youth Research Council (YRC), a youth participatory action research program to improve equity in school. The YRC is a partnership of George Mason University’s Early Identification Program (EIP) and the Center for Social Science Research, in collaboration with local area school stakeholders.

Selected Publications

Best, Amy L. 2022. “The Role of Status in Bullying: On Murray Milner's Freaks, Geeks and Cool Kids.” The Sociology of Bullying: Power, Status, and Aggression Among Adolescents: Toward a Sociology of Bullying. Ed. Christopher Donoghue. New York: NewYork University Press. 

Best, Amy L., Katie Kerstetter, John Dale & Samantha Retrosi. 2021. “The Strength of Civic Ties: Connecting Civic Engagement and Professional Attainment among Educated Immigrants in the United States” Community, Work & Family, DOI: 10.1080/13668803.2021.2008876 

Best, Amy L. & Katie Kerstetter. 2020. “Connecting Learning and Play in Farm- to-School Programs: Children’s Culture, Local School Context and Nested Inequalities” Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition  15:2 DOI: 10.1080/19320248.2019.1588822 

Spalter-Roth, Roberta, Patricia White and Amy L. Best. 2018. “Bringing Sociology into the Public Policy Process: a Relational Network Approach”  American Sociologist 49:3 (434-447).

Best, Amy and J.L. Johnson. 2016. “Alternate Food Markets, NGOs, and Health Policy: Improving Food Access and Food Security, Trust Bonds, and Social Network Ties" World Medical and Health Policy. 8:2 (157-178).

Best, Amy L. 2014. “Youth consumers and the fast-food market: The emotional landscape of micro-encounters, Situations as guide for action.” Food, Culture and Society: An International Journal of Interdisciplinary Research 18:2 (283-300).
“Racing Men: Boys, Risk and the Politics of Race” 2014. reprinted in The Urban Ethnography Reader.  Eds. Mitchell Duneier and Philip Kasinitz, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Best, Amy L. 2013. “Racing Men: Cars, Identity and Performativity” Blackwell’s A Companion to Sport. David Andrews and Ben Carrington (eds.) New York: Blackwell-Wiley.
Johnson, J.L. and Amy Best. 2012. “Radical Normals:  The Moral Career of Straight Parents as Public Advocates for their Gay Children.” Symbolic Interaction 35:3 (321-339).
Best, Amy L. 2011. “Youth Identity Formation: Contemporary Identity Work.” Sociology Compass 5:10 (908-922).

Courses Taught

Qualitative Research Methods
Youth Culture and Society
Micro Sociology


Dissertations Supervised

Briana Leigh Pocratsky, Youth Identity and Media Use in Rural Pennsylvania (2023)

Marisa Allison, "Ph.inally Feminization, Resistance, and the Consequences of Neoliberal Erosion in Academe” (2022)

Hale Inanoglu, Gender and Diaspora in the Making of Pious Subjectivity (2020)

Erin M. Stephens, Making #BlackLivesMatter: A Social Media Ethnography of Cultural Trauma (2018)

Virginia D’Antonio, “Vetting” The American Dream: Nostalgia, Social Capital and Corvette Communities (2017)

Jeffrey Johnson, “Meet Them Where They Are”: Social Movement Communication in a Culture of Personal Politics (2017)

Randall Lynn, Hardware, Software, and "Peopleware": Educational Technology and Embedded Struggles in U.S. High Schools (2016)

Kathleen Kerstetter, School Reform, Care Work, and Social Reproduction in Two Public Elementary Schools (2016)

Sara Moore, The Moral Landscape of Modern Motherhood: Ideology, Identity, and the Making of Mothers (2013)