(Paul W. Kingston, (Ph.D. Columbia University, 1980) is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Virginia.
Prior to 2017, Kingston was Professor of Sociology, and by courtesy, Professor in the Curry School of Education. He finished a three-year term as Chair of the Department of Sociology in August 2007. His primary interests are stratification; the sociology of education, especially the connection between schooling and stratification; the family, particularly the connection between work and family lives; and political sociology.
Kingston's recent work has been directed to the question, "Are there classes?" The Classless Society (Stanford University Press) draws on a large body of research to demonstrate that presumed 'classes' are diverse in family backgrounds, divided in their political and cultural orientations, and unconnected by common sentiments or interaction. And so class theory fails, he argues. This critique draws a sharp distinction between class structure and inequality (a persistent reality) and insists on a realist conception of class that treats class structuration as a multidimensional variable.
Kingston has analyzed, with four graduate student collaborators, why educational attainment is associated with so many social outcomes ("Why Education Matters," Sociology of Education). This research has developed from his earlier work on credentialism in the labor market (e.g., The High Status Track: Studies of Elite Schools and Stratification). He has just completed an analysis, "How Meritocratic is the U.S.?" He is currently working with Steve Nock on a NSF funded project, "The Distribution of obligations" - - a study of who feels obliged to help whom, with a particular concern for the relation between private and public responsibilities.
Kingston has previously served two terms as Chair of the department and has been actively involved in University affairs. He has served as an associate editor for Social Forces, Sociology of Education, and Journal of Family Issues. He frequently teaches Introductory Sociology.