My research looks at how knowledge is produced, who has control over that knowledge, and the implications of inequalities in these processes for people's lives. I explore these ideas in a few main substantive areas: inequalities in scientific careers, inequalities in factual knowledge, and — most recently — knowledge about climate change among people with disabilities. A natural accompaniment to these substantive interests is a focus on methodological and process questions around open and reproducible social science.
Below you can find my papers and reports grouped by topic. Click on a title to download a PDF of the publication (when available).
Gender & Scientific Careers
Producing and owning knowledge has great potential power to affect inequality through the control of these resources. An important component of understanding who "owns" knowledge is understanding who takes the credit for the creation of new knowledge.
With the support of a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, I worked with an interdisciplinary team to study gender inequalities in the academic workplace, using academic publishing as a case study. My network analyses of citation patterns in 1.5 million JSTOR research articles find that women academics are underrepresented in the prestige positions of first and sole author and significantly less likely to cite their own previous work. My findings have implications for academic career paths for women, through ramifications for cumulative disadvantage. Both articles on gender and science are in the top 5% of all research articles discussed by non-scientists (according to metrics from Altmetric.com) and both have been extensively covered by the news media, underscoring my commitment to public sociology.
Most recently, with collaborator Megan Frederickson at the University of Toronto, I have looked at gender disparities in academic scientist's productivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. We find that many academic women have experienced reduced productivity relative to men during the pandemic.
Currently, I am working on another project in this area. With collaborators Kjersten Whittington of Reed College and Isabella Cingolani of Elsevier, I am looking at the differences in men's and women's international research collaboration networks across time and fields.
King, Molly M. and Megan E. Frederickson. 2021. “The Pandemic Penalty: The gendered effects of COVID-19 on scientific productivity.” Socius 7: 1-24. [Data and files] [News & Twitter mentions]
King, Molly M., Carl T. Bergstrom, Shelley J. Correll, Jennifer Jacquet, Jevin D. West. 2017. “Men set their own cites high: Gender and self-citation across fields and over time.” Socius 3: 1-22. [Data and files] [Altmetric] [News & Twitter mentions]
West, Jevin D., Jennifer Jacquet, Molly M. King, Shelley J. Correll, Carl T. Bergstrom. 2013. “The role of gender in scholarly authorship.” PLOS ONE 8(7). e66212. [Data] [Altmetric] [News & Twitter mentions]
Never before has such a wealth of information been so immediately accessible to so many and yet the filtering demands so high. Information truly is power; who possesses it and wields it most effectively has profound consequences for inequality and human welfare.
This work assesses demographic groups' command over knowledge in a wide variety of domains of content, whether advantages are systematic across all groups, or whether certain groups specialize in particular domains. I investigate many domains of factual knowledge (e.g., health, religion, sports, history, politics, science) to ask: What do people know and how is that knowledge structured by the demographic characteristics of gender, race/ethnicity, and income? Are some groups systematically advantaged across all areas of factual knowledge? Or is there a knowledge division of labor, in which some groups specialize in certain areas? Rather surprisingly, we have no systematic accounting of who knows what.
My dissertation provides a comprehensive description of knowledge in the United States. To accomplish this, I compiled data on 513 factual knowledge questions from 48 nationally representative surveys fielded between the years 2005 and 2015. The first paper explores overall trends in the general knowledge of United States adults in 16 different domains. People know the most about current events and the least about economics. The second explores demographic patterns in differential knowledge attainment, providing concrete evidence on the size of knowledge disparities by gender. Social expectations and socialization shape the knowledge acquired by men and women, with dramatic consequences for inequality. Taken together, this research analyzes the social ecosystem of knowledge. I investigate many domains of factual knowledge from religion to language to science to war. I evaluate men's and women's command over factual knowledge in a wide variety of domains. I describe the present state of factual knowledge, and I present gendered patterns of inequalities.
King, Molly M. “Taking Stock of Knowledge in the U.S." Working paper, available on request.
King, Molly M. “Gender Gaps in Knowledge." Working paper, available on request.
Open & Reproducible Social Science
Advancing research on reproducibility and transparency in the social science community is a natural extension of my research on knowledge inequality.
As a scholar employing large data sets in my research, I have also conducted research on the challenges facing reproducible and open social science. Together with Jeremy Freese of Stanford University, I studied how institutions and research infrastructure constrain and enable efforts toward greater transparency in social science. We make numerous research-based recommendations for policy and institutional change at various levels to promote a healthy social science ecosystem. In "REDI for Binned Data," I develop a new method for empirical imputation to estimate continuous values for binned income data. This helps researchers use datasets that might employ different categories for income across time.
King, Molly M. 2022. “REDI for Binned Data: A Random Empirical Distribution Imputation method for estimating continuous incomes.” Sociological Methodology. [Data and files]
Health Inequality & Information
I have produced research reports on health disparities by race, gender, income, and intersections of these identities across the United States.
Prior to graduate school, I worked as a Research Assistant in the Department of Medical Informatics at Oregon Health and Science University. Our research focused on clinical team structures and information technologies that support higher quality, lower cost health care for patients with chronic conditions.
Burgard, Sarah A. and Molly M. King. 2015. “State of the States' Health.” State of the States Report, Stanford Center for Poverty and Inequality.
Burgard, Sarah A. and Molly M. King. 2014. “Health Inequality.” State of the Union Report, Stanford Center for Poverty and Inequality.
Dorr, David A. and Molly M. King. 2011. “Health Information Technology.” Comprehensive Care Coordination for Chronically Ill Adults, edited by Cheryl Schraeder and Paul S. Shelton. Ames, Iowa: Wiley-Blackwell.
Fagnan, Lyle J., David A. Dorr, Melinda Davis, Paul McGinnis, Jo Mahler, Molly McCarthy King, LeAnn Michaels. 2011. “Turning on the Care Coordination Switch in Rural Primary Care: Voices from the Practices - Clinician Champions, Clinician Partners, Administrators, and Nurse Care Managers.” The Journal of Ambulatory Care Management, 34(3). PMID 21673531.