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Matthew joined the University of Cambridge in 2014 and now works as Assistant Professor in Sociology and a Director of Studies and Fellow in HSPS at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. He is the course organiser for Global Social Problems (SOC3) and Sociology Dissertations, and the organiser of the Social Class Reading Group.

Before entering academia, Matthew worked as a Debt Advisor for StepChange Debt Charity. He earned his PhD in Sociology and MPhil in Social Research at the University of York, and his BA in Sociology from Leeds Metropolitan University.

Matthew grew up in the northern English town, Wakefield, and has first-hand experience of working-class work and classism. His academic scholarship has been greatly influenced by his background and experiences, and he is a passionate advocate of initiatives that foster equality, diversity, and inclusivity, particularly through his work at Lucy Cavendish College.

Research interests

As a working-class scholar, Matthew draws from a wide range of disciplines to study and challenge social inequalities. His research is centred on examining neoliberal political economy, its origins and associations with financialisation, and the class, gender and cultural dynamics of these processes. His work makes use of a variety of research methods, and cuts across social science scholarship in sociology, cultural studies, economics, politics, geography, and labour history.

Currently, Matthew's research interests lie in two main strands. The first strand focuses on the way politicians and the media utilise narratives to influence policy, particularly in moments of crises, and the consequences of these processes. The second, and more dominant, strand extends his enquires into social stratification processes within credit markets, and how they shape social inequalities.

Publications (selected)

Sparkes, M., Wang, S., and Wels, J. (2023). Debt, credit payment holidays, and their relationship with mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom. Society and Mental Health.

Wood, D., Ausserladscheider, V. and Sparkes, M. (2022). The manufactured crisis of COVID-Keynesianism in Britain, Germany and the USA. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, rsac030. 

Sparkes, M. (2020). 'I just felt responsible for my debts': Debt stigma and class(ificatory) exploitation. In J. Gardener, M. Grey, K. Moser (Eds.). Debt and Austerity: Implications of the Financial Crisis. London: Elgar Publishing.

Sparkes, M. and Wood, J. (2020). The political economy of household debt and the Keynesian policy paradigm. New Political Economy

Sparkes, M. (2019). Borrowed identities: class(ification), inequality, and the role of credit-debt in class making and struggle. The Sociological Review

Sparkes, M., Gumy, J. and Burchell, B. (2017), “Debt: Beyond Homo Economicus”, in A. Lewis (ed), Cambridge Handbook of Psychology and Economic Behaviour (Second Edition), pp. 198-233, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sparkes, M. (2016). Teaching through leadership. The Sociology Teacher, 5(3), 10-15