Call for Articles – The Social and Political Impact of COVID-19 in the United States

RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences

The Social and Political Impact of COVID-19 in the United States

Edited by

Beth Redbird, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University;
Laurel Harbridge-Yong, Associate Professor of Political Science, Northwestern University;
Rachel Davis Mersey, Associate Dean for Research and Jesse H. Jones Centennial Professor, University of Texas at Austin

Note: This will be the first of three COVID-19 related calls. The second call, in spring 2021, will focus on socio-economic impacts and will be edited by Steven Raphael (University of California, Berkeley) and Daniel Schneider (John F. Kennedy School). The third call, in fall 2021, will focus on educational impacts and will be edited by Dominique Baker (Southern Methodist University), Michal Kurlaender (University of California, Davis), Susanna Loeb (Brown University), and Ruth N. López Turley (Rice University).

The COVID-19 pandemic is quickly leading to broad changes in society and upending ways of life across the globe. It is important to begin to understand the social and political factors that shape the response to the pandemic, as well as how the pandemic alters subsequent political and social dynamics for individuals, groups, communities, and institutions. While the COVID-19 pandemic is a clear public health challenge, it also has social, political, and economic problems of interest to social scientists. We recognize that we are at the beginning of a full and deep understanding of the relationships between COVID-19 and U.S. society, but it is evident that immediate issues are emerging. For example, public adoption of advised health behaviors relies on a successful interplay of public policy, personal and mass communication, and public attitudes toward government and fellow citizens. For a pandemic response to be effective, policy makers must devise strategies, information must be conveyed to the public, and individual attitudes and behaviors must change. The rise of diseases such as SARS, MERS, H1N1, and COVID-19 underlines the need to understand these phenomena—not just epidemiologically, but as socially and politically important events. Social and political factors impact government and individual responses to the pandemic, and the pandemic also alters the political and social fabric of the country. That means issues of power, status, resources, culture, politics, and social structures play center stage as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, unfolded and continues.

The magnitude of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the governmental responses that follow, have sweeping political and social consequences, which we are just beginning to study. Additionally, citizens’ experiences with the pandemic may shape subsequent behaviors, such as strategies for collecting and processing of information, trust in government, voting behavior, and civic engagement. Likewise, the pandemic and related governmental responses have important consequences on existing social and political inequalities, including race, class, and region of residence.

In this issue, we invite theoretical and empirical papers which enhance our initial understanding of the social and political impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. Our aim is to highlight outstanding early research on: (1) how social and political dynamics shape responses to the pandemic; and (2) how the pandemic itself alters social and political dynamics for individuals, communities and institutions. This includes research exemplifying the interplay among politics and policy; information exchange; economics; psychology; social structures, including networks and institutions; power and status; and public behavior in the United States. We welcome research from across the social sciences, including communications, economics, education, organizational behavior, political science, psychology, and sociology. Papers may employ a variety of methods and data, including both quantitative and qualitative. We are particularly interested in studies that deepen our understanding of social institutions in times of crisis and change. In the United States, the decentralized nature of the pandemic response created cleavages between regions, urban and rural areas, demographic populations, and other groups leading to significant power and status differentials. Papers that analyze geographic, racial, socioeconomic, political, or other status and power inequalities are welcome, as are papers that leverage key events, geographic variation, or temporal differences. Papers with an international focus will be considered only if they have clear comparison with, or direct implications for, the United States.

Please click here for a full description of the topics covered in this call for articles.

Anticipated Timeline

Prospective contributors should submit a CV and an abstract (up to two pages in length, single or double spaced) of their study along with up to two pages of supporting material (e.g., tables, figures, pictures, etc.) no later than 5 PM EST on November 3, 2020, to:

(NOTE that if you wish to submit an abstract and do not yet have an account with us, it can take up to 48 hours to get credentials, so please start your application at least two days before the deadline.)

All submissions must be original work that has not been previously published in part or in full. Only abstracts submitted to will be considered. Each paper will receive a $1,000 honorarium when the issue is published. All questions regarding this issue should be directed to Suzanne Nichols, Director of Publications, at and not to the email addresses of the editors of the issue.

A conference will take place at the Russell Sage Foundation in New York City on June 11, 2021 (with a dinner the night before). The selected contributors will gather for a one-day workshop to present draft papers (due a month prior to the conference on 5/11/21 ) and receive feedback from the other contributors and editors. Travel costs, food, and lodging for one author per paper will be covered by the foundation. Papers will be circulated before the conference. After the conference, the authors will submit their revised drafts by 9/30/21. The papers will then be sent out to three additional scholars for formal peer review. Having received feedback from reviewers and the RSF board, authors will revise their papers by 3/10/22. The full and final issue will be published in the fall of 2022. Papers will be published open access on the RSF website as well as in several digital repositories, including JSTOR and UPCC/Muse.

Please click here for a full description of the topics covered in this call for articles.