Brian Powell

Brian Powell

James H. Rudy Professor, Sociology


  • Ph.D., Emory University, 1984
  • M.A., Emory University, 1980
  • B.A., Hobart College, 1976

About Brian Powell

Brian Powell is James H. Rudy professor and co-director of the Preparing Future Faculty program in the department of Sociology at Indiana University. He also is affiliated faculty in the Department of Gender Studies and the Kinsey Institute. He served as department chair and was a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation.

Professor Powell's research focuses on family, education, gender, and sexuality. With grants from the National Science Foundation, American Education Research Association, and the Spencer Foundation, he has examined how families confer advantages (or disadvantages) to their children and how family structure influences parental investments in children. He is especially interested in several increasingly visible groups of "atypical" family forms: families with older parents, bi/multiracial families, adoptive families, and gay/lesbian families. His research has appeared in American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Sociology of Education, Social Psychology Quarterly, the American Journal of Public Health, and the Harvard Education Review, among others.

Professor Powell's award-winning book, COUNTED OUT: Same-Sex Relations and Americans' Definitions of Family, co-authored with IU PhDs Catherine Bolzendahl and Claudia Geist and Lala Carr Steelman from the University of South Carolina, documented the transformation in how Americans define family and, in turn, their views regarding same-sex families. His recent book, WHO SHOULD PAY? Higher Education, Responsibility, and the Public, co-authored with IU PhD Natasha Quadlin, explores Americans' views regarding the role of parents, children, and the government in college funding. He also is completing a series of studies that consider Americans views regarding same-sex parenting, transgender youths and adults, and denial of services to same-sex and interracial couples.

Professor Powell currently is completing a term as chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the General Social Survey, the most comprehensive national survey on public attitudes.  He also has served as president of the Sociological Research Association; vice-president of the American Sociological Association (ASA); chair of the Social Psychology section and the Sociology of Education section of the ASA; board member of the Council on Contemporary Families; and Deputy Editor for American Sociological Review, Sociology of Education, and Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Professor Powell has been recognized for his scholarship, including the Distinguished Career Award from the ASA Family Section, the Willard Waller Award for Lifetime Achievement from the ASA Sociology of Education Section, the Distinguished Faculty Award from Indiana University's College of Arts and Sciences, and Indiana University’s Distinguished Faculty Research Lecture. He also is the recipient of multiple article/book awards, including the ASA Family Section's Goode Book Award, the North Central Sociological Association Scholarly Achievement Award, the Midwest Sociological Society's Distinguished Book Award, the ASA Sex and Gender Section Distinguished Article Award, the ASA Section on Sexualities Distinguished Article Award, the ASA Section on Emotion Recent Contribution Award, the ASA Section on Sociology of Religion Distinguished Article Award and the ASA Section on Aging and Life Course Outstanding Publication Award.

Professor Powell also has been recognized for his teaching and mentoring. Among his teaching awards are Indiana University's Presidents Award for Distinguished Teaching, the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Mentor Award, the Indiana University Wilbert Hite Award for Mentoring, the IUB FACET Carol Hostetter's Lifetime Teaching Career Award, the North Central Sociological Association's John F. Schnabel Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award, and the ASA's Carla B. Howery Award for Developing Teacher-Scholars (the last two awards with his departmental colleague Bernice Pescosolido). He is the 2020 recipient of the American Sociological Association Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award.