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Charlie Eaton

Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of California, Merced

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About Charlie

Eaton's research investigates the roles of organizations in the interplay between economic elites and disadvantaged social groups. What forms of organization strengthen elite efforts to consolidate power in politics and the economy? What are effective organizational strategies by which non-elites can achieve more equitable distributions of power, wealth, and status?

Financialization, the growing importance of financial markets, financial organizations, and financial ideas, has elevated U.S. financial elites to the pinnacle of power in recent decades. At the same time, the transition to a post-industrial economy has made a college degree an increasingly necessary prerequisite for Americans to attain economic success and security. Eaton's primary current research project therefore examines relationships between financialization and growing inequalities in U.S. higher education. His research has been covered in The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, Newsweek, Forbes, The Nation, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Inside Higher Ed. 


In the News

Research discussed by Rick Seltzer, in "Rural Colleges' Lender of Last Resort," Inside Higher Ed, January 2, 2019.
Research discussed by LaMont Jones, in "Skepticism in Higher Ed of Gainful Employment Rescission," Diverse, August 13, 2018.
Opinion: "How Elite Colleges Hide Their Cash," Charlie Eaton, New York Times, November 10, 2017.
Research discussed by "The Financialization of U.S. Higher Education," Debt & Society, February 2016.
Research discussed by Leighton Woodhouse and Armando Aparicio, in "Affluent Private Universities are Tax Shelters for the Rich...and the Rest of Us are Picking Up the Tab," Capital & Main, February 13, 2015.
Research discussed by Josh Freedman, in "The Hidden College Problem: When Universities, Not Just Students, Take On Debt," Forbes, March 19, 2014.
Opinion: "Napolitano's Test: UC's Shaky Finances," Charlie Eaton, San Francisco Chronicle, July 18, 2013.
Guest on KALW Local Public Radio: Your Call, January 16, 2012.
Regular contributions by Charlie Eaton to Debt and Society.


"The Financialization of U.S. Higher Education" (with Jacob Habinek, Adam Goldstein, Cyrus Dioun, Daniela Garcia Santibáñez Godoy, and Robert Osley-Thomas). Socio-Economic Review (2016): 1-29.

Illuminates the case of US higher education, we consider financialization as both increasing reliance on financial investment returns and increasing costs from transactions to acquire capital. Discusses the implications of the findings for resource allocation, organizational governance and stratification among colleges and households.

"The Power of Coalitions: Advancing the Public in California’s Public-Private Welfare State" (with Margaret Weir). Politics & Society 43, no. 1 (2015): 3-32.
Examines this transformation of California’s health care policy field from a business-dominated, closed-door pattern of decision making to an open political arena in which a wide-ranging and diversely resourced coalition advocating on behalf of beneficiaries had become an accepted partner in policymaking, considering this change’s broader implications for the political dynamics of the public-private welfare state and the role of advocacy groups in defending beneficiary interests
"Swapping Our Future: How Students and Taxpayers are Funding Risky UC Borrowing and Wall Street Profits" (with Jacob Habinek, Mukul Kumar, Tamera Lee Stover, and Alex Roehrkasse). Berkeley Journal of Sociology (2013).
Examines the role of interest rate swaps in the University of California’s massive expansion of borrowing from Wall Street over the last decade, and highlights the costs to students and taxpayers of UC’s interest rate swaps and debt-driven profit strategies.