My areas of specialization include political sociology, comparative and historical sociology, and social theory. I am particularly interested in the sociology of citizenship, including the historical development of citizenship rights and obligations, changing levels and forms of democratic participation, the role of social movements in citizenship struggles, and shifting patterns of civil inclusion and exclusion. My work explores these aspects of citizenship in relation to social class, gender, race, ethnicity, and religion.

My first book, Citizens and Paupers: Relief, Rights, and Race, from the Freedmen’s Bureau to Workfare (University of Chicago Press, 2007), examines social spending policies as sites of contention over citizenship rights during three critical junctures in American political development. By means of comparisons across policies and over time, the book shows that policymakers sometimes treated civil and political rights as an alternative to social rights rather than a foundation for them. Thus, its main contribution is to reorient the sociology of the welfare state from levels of social spending, class abatement, or decommodification to varying configurations of civil, political, and social rights for different groups of welfare-state claimants. The book rests on original archival research and engages with scholarship by historians and political scientists as well as sociologists. It won the Outstanding Book Award from the Theory Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems and received honorable mention for the Barrington Moore Book Award from the Comparative and Historical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association in 2010.

My second book, Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought (University of Chicago Press, 2017), investigates how Jews became an important cultural reference point for defining modernity and national identity among French, German, and American social scientists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its main contribution is to show that the historical opposition between Jews and gentiles served as a basis and background condition for the production of the modern/tradition binary. The book’s conclusion proposes a novel explanation for why Jews were such an important  reference point and came to signify such varied and inconsistent meanings; it suggests a rethinking of previous scholarship on Orientalism, Occidentalism, and European perceptions of America; and it argues that history extends into the present with Jews—and now the Jewish state—continuing to serve as an intermediary for self-reflection in the twenty-first century. The Jewish Book Council selected the book as a finalist for the 2017 National Jewish Book Awards in the category of Modern Jewish Thought and Experience; the Association for Jewish Studies selected it as the finalist for the 2018 Jordan Schnitzer Book Prize in the category of Social Science, Anthropology, and Folklore; the Midwest Sociological Society selected it as the winner of its 2018–19 Distinguished Book Award; and the American Sociological Association’s History of Sociology Section selected it as the co-winner of its 2020 Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award. You can read more about my research for this book in an interview by Stefanie A. Jones, “Chad Goldberg on sociology of culture, Jewish studies, and collaboration” (May 21, 2014).

My research has been generously supported by the Library of Congress and American Historical Association, the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, the Advanced Research Collaborative at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg and the European Institutes for Advanced Study, and the Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien.