Trainee Profile: PhD Student Ankit Rastogi

Ankit Rastogi

Silver Spring, MD

Educational background
BA, Biology, Dartmouth College; MSc, Biostatistics, Harvard University

Can you describe your research interests? Current research projects?
I study racial residential integration in the suburbs. It’s an exciting time to study the suburbs because they are experiencing unprecedented racial diversification. As shares of populations of color continue to grow across the nation, I want to understand how the local expansion of racial diversity influences the life chances of people of color. Segregation fundamentally harms people of color, but new patterns of multiethnic racial integration may improve opportunity structures and thus outcomes. Current projects include identifying racially-integrated communities and the local features that support them, examining how Asian and Latinx populations mediate anti-blackness in multiethnic contexts, and how population aging may or may not produce racially-integrated communities.

How did you get into your field of research? What sparked your research interest in health and aging issues?
First, health and aging are excellent avenues to understand how racism and white supremacy play out in American society. Geographer Ruth Wilson Gilmore defines racism as “the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.” Blacks in the US have a notably lower life expectancy than whites stemming from slavery and its afterlife (e.g., policing and police killings, incarceration, segregation, etc.). Residential integration may provide people of color access to quality resources like education and healthcare as well as better physical environments. These factors may mitigate the effects of racism and sum up to better health outcomes and life expectancy.

The second reason I am particularly interested in aging is that aging directly contributes to the growing racial diversity of the nation. As whites continue to age with below-replacement fertility, the US may become majority people of color within 25 years. By studying aging in place, I seek to understand the equitable distribution of resources across race and ethnicity within integrated communities as white wealth potentially becomes concentrated among fewer individuals.

What attracted you to UW–Madison?
After working in office settings for several years, I wanted to conduct research that combined my quantitative background with critical frameworks around space, place, and race. I knew I would have great guidance at the UW because of its strong sociology program, and specifically, my advisor Katherine Curtis.

What’s one thing you hope people who are exposed to your research will come away with?
I hope people come away with an understanding that the American suburbs are an exciting site of racial transformation, and that they shape American society in ways that have yet to be investigated. As of the 2010 census, most people of color live in the suburbs and immigrants often bypass the city and settle directly into the suburbs. Urban sociologists often focus on segregated big cities like Chicago, LA, and New York, but there is an entire vibrant world beyond the limits of these cities.

What’s new and exciting about your research?
I like to believe that I’m flipping (or at least, playing with) the narrative around segregation. I feel that there is a large theoretical bias in sociology that centers on the ubiquity of segregation in the US. However, segregation isn’t ubiquitous and there are all sorts of places across the nation that support cross-racial interaction in communities, schools, and jobs.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how.
I think so! My work highlights places where things might be going right, specifically where people of different races and ethnicities live next to each other in communities. By paying attention to these communities, we can identify actionable features of places that inform policy and mitigates the problems of segregation. Milwaukee constantly vies for the title of the most segregated metropolitan area in the nation, and Wisconsin has some of the worst racial disparities in health and incarceration. Let’s figure out a way to change that.

Hobbies/other interests
I dj and I’m learning footwork styles of dance that come from Chicago, Baltimore, and Jersey. I also train muay Thai (Thai kickboxing), which kind of feels like a type of dance.