Bio


Florencia Torche is a social scientist with substantive interests in social demography, stratification, and education. Professor Torche’s scholarship encompasses two related areas. A longer-term area of research studies inequality dynamics -- the dynamics that result in persistence of inequality across generations -- with a particular focus on educational attainment, assortative mating (who marries who), and the intergenerational transmission of wealth. A more recent area of research examines the influence of early-life exposures –as early as the prenatal period– on individual development, attainment, and socioeconomic wellbeing. She has studied the effect of in-utero exposure to environmental stressors on children’s outcomes, and how these exposures contribute to the persistence of poverty across generations.

Torche’s research combines diverse methodological approaches including quantitative analysis, causal inference, experiments and natural experiments, and in-depth interviews. Much of her research uses an international comparative perspective. She has conducted large cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys, including the first national survey on social mobility in Chile and Mexico. Her work has appeared in journals in sociology and other disciplines, such as the American Sociological Review, the American Journal of Sociology, the Annual Review of Sociology, Demography, Sociology of Education, Human Reproduction, and the International Journal of Epidemiology. Her research has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation, among others.

Professor Torche holds a BA from the Catholic University of Chile and an MA and PhD in Sociology from Columbia University.

Academic Appointments


  • Professor, Sociology

Program Affiliations


  • Center for Latin American Studies

2018-19 Courses


Stanford Advisees


  • Doctoral Dissertation Reader (AC)
    Josh Gagné, Rebecca Gleit, Colin Peterson, Tamkinat Rauf
  • Doctoral Dissertation Advisor (AC)
    Catherine Sirois
  • Doctoral (Program)
    Amy Johnson

All Publications


  • Estimating Intergenerational Mobility With Grouped Data: A Critique of Clark's the Son Also Rises SOCIOLOGICAL METHODS & RESEARCH Torche, F., Corvalan, A. 2018; 47 (4): 787–811
  • Restrictive Immigration Law and Birth Outcomes of Immigrant Women. American journal of epidemiology Torche, F., Sirois, C. 2018

    Abstract

    Unauthorized immigration is one of the most contentious policy issues in the United States. In an attempt to curb unauthorized migration, many states have considered restrictive laws intended to make life so difficult for unauthorized immigrants that they would choose to leave the country. Arizona's Senate Bill 1070, enacted in 2010, pioneered these efforts. Using population-level natality data and causal inference methods, we examine the effect of SB1070 on infants exposed before birth in Arizona. Prenatal exposure to the bill resulted in lower birthweight among Latina immigrant women, but not among US-born white, black, or Latina women. The decline in birthweight resulted from exposure to the bill being signed into law, rather than from its (limited) implementation. The findings indicate that the threat of a punitive law, even in the absence of implementation, can have a harmful effect on the birth outcomes of the next generation.

    View details for PubMedID 30358825

  • Intergenerational Mobility at the Top of the Educational Distribution SOCIOLOGY OF EDUCATION Torche, F. 2018; 91 (4): 266–89
  • Prenatal Exposure to an Acute Stressor and Children's Cognitive Outcomes. Demography Torche, F. 2018

    Abstract

    Exposure to environmental stressors is highly prevalent and unequally distributed along socioeconomic lines and may have enduring negative consequences, even when experienced before birth. Yet, estimating the consequences of prenatal stress on children's outcomes is complicated by the issue of confounding (i.e., unobserved factors correlated with stress exposure and with children's outcomes). I combine a natural experiment-a strong earthquake in Chile-with a panel survey to capture the effect of prenatal exposure on acute stress and children's cognitive ability. I find that stress exposure in early pregnancy has no effect on children's cognition among middle-class families, but it has a strong negative influence among disadvantaged families. I then examine possible pathways accounting for the socioeconomic stratification in the effect of stress, including differential exposure across socioeconomic status, differential sensitivity, and parental responses. Findings suggest that the interaction between prenatal exposures and socioeconomic advantage provides a powerful mechanism for the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage.

    View details for PubMedID 30105648

  • Panel Conditioning in the General Social Survey SOCIOLOGICAL METHODS & RESEARCH Halpern-Manners, A., Warren, J. R., Torche, F. 2017; 46 (1): 103-124

    Abstract

    Does participation in one wave of a survey have an effect on respondents' answers to questions in subsequent waves? In this article, we investigate the presence and magnitude of "panel conditioning" effects in one of the most frequently used data sets in the social sciences: the General Social Survey (GSS). Using longitudinal records from the 2006, 2008, and 2010 surveys, we find evidence that at least some GSS items suffer from this form of bias. To rule out the possibility of contamination due to selective attrition and/or unobserved heterogeneity, we strategically exploit a series of between-person comparisons across time-in-survey groups. This methodology, which can be implemented whenever researchers have access to at least three waves of rotating panel data, is described in some detail so as to facilitate future applications in data sets with similar design elements.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0049124114532445

    View details for Web of Science ID 000397239500005

    View details for PubMedID 28025587

  • Compensation or Reinforcement? The Stratification of Parental Responses to Children's Early Ability DEMOGRAPHY Gratz, M., Torche, F. 2016; 53 (6): 1883-1904

    Abstract

    Theory and empirical evidence suggest that parents allocate their investments unequally among their children, thus inducing within-family inequality. We investigate whether parents reinforce or compensate for initial ability differences between their children as well as whether these parental responses vary by family socioeconomic status (SES). Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) and a twin fixed-effects approach to address unobserved heterogeneity, we find that parental responses to early ability differences between their children do vary by family SES. Contrary to prior findings, we find that advantaged parents provide more cognitive stimulation to higher-ability children, and lower-class parents do not respond to ability differences. No analogous stratification in parental responses to birth weight is found, suggesting that parents' responses vary across domains of child endowments. The reinforcing responses to early ability by high-SES parents do not, however, led to increases in ability differences among children because parental responses have little effect on children's later cognitive performance in this twin sample.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s13524-016-0527-1

    View details for Web of Science ID 000389347700009

    View details for PubMedID 27844397