Matthew Clair is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and (by courtesy) the Law School. His research interests include law and society, race and ethnicity, cultural sociology, criminal justice, and qualitative methods. He is the author of the book Privilege and Punishment: How Race and Class Matter in Criminal Court.

Learn more at his personal website:

Academic Appointments

Program Affiliations

  • American Studies

Professional Education

  • Ph.D., Harvard University, Sociology (2018)
  • A.M., Harvard University, Sociology (2015)
  • A.B., Harvard College, Government (2009)

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • Blood, Powder, and Residue: How Crime Labs Translate Evidence into Proof (Book Review) SOCIAL FORCES Book Review Authored by: Clair, M. 2021; 100 (1)

    View details for DOI 10.1093/sf/soab056

    View details for Web of Science ID 000687760100026

  • Being a Disadvantaged Criminal Defendant: Mistrust and Resistance in Attorney-Client Interactions SOCIAL FORCES Clair, M. 2021; 100 (1): 194-217

    View details for DOI 10.1093/sf/soaa082

    View details for Web of Science ID 000687760100033

  • Unequal Before the Law NATION Clair, M. 2020; 311 (13): 32–36
  • Jurors' Subjective Experiences of Deliberations in Criminal Cases LAW AND SOCIAL INQUIRY-JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN BAR FOUNDATION Winter, A. S., Clair, M. 2018; 43 (4): 1458–90

    View details for DOI 10.1111/lsi.12288

    View details for Web of Science ID 000452022500013

  • Racialized legal status as a social determinant of health SOCIAL SCIENCE & MEDICINE Asad, A. L., Clair, M. 2018; 199: 19–28


    This article advances the concept of racialized legal status (RLS) as an overlooked dimension of social stratification with implications for racial/ethnic health disparities. We define RLS as a social position based on an ostensibly race-neutral legal classification that disproportionately impacts racial/ethnic minorities. To illustrate the implications of RLS for health and health disparities in the United States, we spotlight existing research on two cases: criminal status and immigration status. We offer a conceptual framework that outlines how RLS shapes disparities through (1) primary effects on those who hold a legal status and (2) spillover effects on racial/ethnic in-group members, regardless of these individuals' own legal status. Primary effects of RLS operate by marking an individual for material and symbolic exclusion. Spillover effects result from the vicarious experiences of those with social proximity to marked individuals, as well as the discredited meanings that RLS constructs around racial/ethnic group members. We conclude by suggesting multiple avenues for future research that considers RLS as a mechanism of social inequality with fundamental effects on health.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.03.010

    View details for Web of Science ID 000429514500002

    View details for PubMedID 28359580

  • Destigmatization and health: Cultural constructions and the long-term reduction of stigma SOCIAL SCIENCE & MEDICINE Clair, M., Daniel, C., Lamont, M. 2016; 165: 223–32


    Research on the societal-level causes and consequences of stigma has rarely considered the social conditions that account for destigmatization, the process by which a group's worth and status improve. Destigmatization has important implications for the health of stigmatized groups. Building on a robust line of stigma reduction literature in psychology, we develop a sociological framework for understanding how new cultural constructions that draw equivalences and remove blame shape public and structural stigma over time. We examine historical transformations of cultural constructions surrounding three stigmatized groups in the United States: people living with HIV/AIDS, African Americans, and people labeled as obese. By tracing this process across cases, we find that the conditions that account for destigmatization include the credibility of new constructions, the status and visibility of actors carrying these constructions, the conclusiveness of expert knowledge about stigmatized groups, the interaction between new constructions and existing cultural ideologies, and the perceived linked fate of the stigmatized and dominant groups. We also find that the reduction of structural and public forms of stigma often depend on distinct processes and constructions. To conclude, we propose a framework for the comparative study of destigmatization as an essential component of promoting a culture of health.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.03.021

    View details for Web of Science ID 000383296400026

    View details for PubMedID 27020492

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5758051

  • What is missing? Cultural processes and causal pathways to inequality SOCIO-ECONOMIC REVIEW Lamont, M., Beljean, S., Clair, M. 2014; 12 (3): 573–608

    View details for DOI 10.1093/ser/mwu011

    View details for Web of Science ID 000344417500005