Trained as a sociologist of education, Broton studies how students pay for college and the implications of college unaffordability. She uses multiple methods to examine the role of poverty and inequality in higher education, as well as policies and programs designed to minimize related disparities and promote college success. Broton is best known for her work on basic needs security, including the book Food Insecurity on Campus: Action and Intervention. In 2021, she was recognized as the Early Career Scholar of the Year at the University of Iowa. Her work has appeared in Educational Researcher, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, and The New York Times, among others. The National Science Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and others have supported her research. She teaches graduate courses on research methods, finance in higher education, and higher education policy.