orgtheory.net

Archive for the ‘fabio’ Category

lunch with gary

Update: Bryan Caplan also discusses this lunch at Econlog.

There have been a lot of wonderful tributes to Gary Becker, who passed away this weekend. In the blogosphere, you have commentary at Marginal Revolution, Econlog, and Mankiw’s blog. Organizations and Markets posted two tributes. Kieran has a very insightful discussion, which draws on Foucault’s reading of the rise of economic thinking, and Brayden’s commentary is worth reading as well.

Here, I’ll relay a story that is a little more personal. In my first or second year of grad school at Chicago, my friend Bryan Caplan was invited to give a talk at an economics department workshop. He came at the invitation of Sam Peltzman. While showing Bryan around campus and getting him to his next meeting, Peltzman said that it would be ok if Bryan’s friend could come to lunch at the faculty club. I readily accepted the invitation.

After we sat down, and I ordered the trout, Peltzman indicated that his friend would be joining us. It was Gary Becker. He just came in and ordered his meal. Now, since Becker was a presence in my building and my econ friends where taking micro with him, I wasn’t surprised. I saw him all the time. But Bryan was a huge Becker fan and was star struck. So much that he fumbled his glass and spilled some water on himself. He denies it to this day, but this is truth.

The conversation started out in a way that kills all your dreams about hanging out with star faculty. Peltzman, I think, was talking about weddings. Bleh. Then, Becker, I think, talked about some home repair. Maybe it was a broken appliance. Double bleh. I was bored silly. Is this what Nobel prize winners talk about over lunch?

I was totally lost in my trout when, finally, the conversation shifted. Things perked up a bit when Becker and Petlzman started to assess some other economist. Some junior professor whose work left them totally unimpressed. This was the first moment that I realized that academia is, at its core, about evaluation. I had never heard professors talk this way about each other. It was all lovey dovey in the class room. But, here, right in front of me, these two professors were shaping the career of some other colleague. Humbling moment.

Then things got really testy when Peltzman and Becker, and Bryan to a lesser extent, started arguing the merits of this funky new paper they’d just read. They were kind enough to summarize it for me: This economist was arguing that abortion legalization resulted in lower crime rates. Really? Why? The people who tend to get abortions are low SES are also the people who tend to have children who grow up to commit crimes. Then, they started thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of the argument. As usual, Becker focused on inter-temporal  utility issues. He was worried that abortion didn’t reduce crime because getting abortions didn’t necessarily reduce the number of low SES kids. It might just shift them in time. Peltzman, I think, focused on the econometrics.

As this debate went on, I finished my trout and a few thoughts crossed my mind. First, wow. It’s pretty cool that I can hear such talented people debate such a novel hypothesis. Second, whoever wrote this paper must be a real clever person. The claim is designed to make everyone angry. Liberals would hate it for its implied eugenic policy implication. Conservatives would hate any paper that had a good thing to say about abortion. Third, I was fascinated by the way that Becker and Peltzman picked at the paper in a dispassionate, but sharp, way. It was a real model of critical thinking.

That was the last (and only) time I ever had any serious interaction with Gary Becker. A brief encounter, but one that was that was instructive and memorable. You can read orgtheory articles that are about Becker here.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

May 5, 2014 at 3:53 am

Posted in economics, fabio, the man

windows (not 7)

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

May 4, 2014 at 12:28 am

Posted in fabio

upcoming books

Books that will be discussed:

  • The Moral Background by Gabriel Abend.
  • From Social Movement to Moral Market by Paul-Brian McInerney
  • Shaping Jazz by Damon Phillips

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

May 3, 2014 at 12:24 am

Posted in books, fabio

hip hop, rap and glee club

I recently attended the IU Hoosiers show, the Indiana musical review. What struck me is that the performance covered an enormous range of American music – doo-wop, commercial jingles, jazz, disco, and a whole lot more. But what struck me is that rap was completely absent in a two hour show that strives to give something to everyone. Then, I noticed that rap is absent from nearly the entire world of glee clubs/school musicals, even though it is obviously the most important pop music innovation post-1980.

Here are some hypotheses:

  • Race – I find this hard to be believe since other Black art forms get a lot of attention in these revues.
  • Pedagogy establishment – Choral instructors, for some reason, just don’t like hip hop.
  • Musical technique – a lot of glee club/choir music relies on the “American song” broadly construed. Hip hop has way different musical sources.
  • Teaching techniques – perhaps people would like to teach it, but there isn’t a common method yet.

Other thoughts?

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

 

Written by fabiorojas

May 2, 2014 at 12:15 am

lawyers who defend the state against society

A little while back, I got into a discussion with a student about the role of lawyers in society. As usual, I explained my position that lawyers mostly work at facilitating transactions and wealth transfers (e.g., settlements and damages). While there is value in rule enforcement and reducting transaction costs, they don’t increase the size of the pie.

I also opined that lawyers don’t drive social change. It’s misleading to think that desegregation ended because of a lawsuit. Rather the lawsuit is about institutionalizing policies that are made possible by shifting public opinion. My student then pointed out an interesting thing: one thing that lawyers do is defend the state against society. In other words, when public opinion changes and people litigate, the lawyers often act as “institutional workers” to help the state maintain its legitimacy through the courts.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

May 1, 2014 at 12:07 am

minorities and academia: some further thoughts

When thinking about increasing the presence of under represented minorities in the professoriate, I think of the pipeline process model. Roughly speaking, a pipeline process suggests that something happens in multiple stages. The immediate consequence of the model is that if you want X to happen you have to make sure that all the stages that make X are working properly. In terms of faculty diversity, that means recruitment to graduate school, professional training, job placement, career development, and the tenure process.

A while ago I reviewed evidence from ASA reports showing that the pipeline is leaky. On the one hand, graduate programs seem to recruit a fair number of minority students. Then, once training is complete people seem to do well getting the jobs. Then, there is a massive drop in the pipeline as people go up for promotion.

Now that I’ve been on the job for a while, I think the following is happening: the core faculty of the PhD programs are not working with minority PhD students. They are admitting students, awarding degrees, and writing letters of recommendation, but they are not collaborating with students in ways that lead to publications and grants. In other words, most successful students work with faculty who “get them started” while their own research takes a little time to develop. My hypothesis is that if you looked at PhD minority students they are way less likely to co-author with faculty and that they are less likely to receive an offer of co-authorship. I’d also hypothesize that this gap is largest for top tier journal publications. This will be small or non-existent in areas focused on race and ethnicity. In other words, when faculty build teams to shoot for that ASR or AJS publication, the minority students come last for invitations, except in race & ethnicity areas. I didn’t think this is conscious, but this might be happening and explains the drastic leaking throughout the later stages of the pipeline.

Am I right? If you are a faculty member at a top 20 or 30 program in your field, the test is simple. Look at your list of co-authors for your big papers. Look at your list of minority students. Look at the overlap. Use the comments section.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

April 30, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, education, fabio

artists and professional vagueness

Guest blogger emerita Jenn Lena and Danielle Lindemann have a forthcoming article in Poetics analyzing the self-identity  of artists. The issue is that people often question whether they are artists. From the paper “Who is an Artist? New Data for an Old Question:”

Employment in the arts and creative industries is high andgrowing, yet scholars have not achieved consensus on who should be included in these professions. In this study, we explore the ‘‘professionalartist’’ as the outcome of an identity process, rendering it the dependent rather than the independent variable. In their responses to the 2010 Strategic National Arts Alumni Project survey (N=13,581)— to our knowledge, the largest survey ever undertaken of individuals who have pursued arts degrees in the United States—substantial numbers of respondents gave seemingly contradictory answers to questions asking about their artistic labor. These individuals indicated that they simultaneously had been and had never been professional artists, placing them in what we have termed the ‘‘dissonance group.’’An examination of these responses reveals meaningful differences and patterns in the interpretation of this social category. We find significant correlation between membership in this group and various markers of cultural capital and social integration into artistic communities. A qualitative analysis of survey comments reveals unique forms of dissonance over artistic membership within teaching and design careers.

When you get into the nitty gritty, the authors focus on embededness in institutions as decreasing ambiguity. There’s probably an Abbott side of the story where people in specific orgs or art systems successfully getting the high position in the field.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

April 29, 2014 at 12:22 am

republicans and their presidents

If you were to summarize the Republican party’s collective memory about its leadership, it would go something like this:

  1. This dude named Lincoln totally ruled and crushed his enemies, but his one flaw was that he trampled state’s rights.
  2. [empty space]
  3. [empty space]
  4. [empty space]
  5. Jesus Christ, Reagan was awesome. Especially that part where exhumed Lenin’s body and spiked it atop the Brandenburg Gate.
  6. [empty space]
  7. [empty space]
  8. Mitt Romney the guy we just nominated and who is the least insane rocks!

This is in contrast with the Democratic collective memory. You can’t expect people to remember every leader from 200 years and they’ll get some stuff wrong, but they actually remember the big ones. Jackson. Wilson. FDR. Kennedy. Even Carter and Clinton get the love. This isn’t to say that Democrats always get history right, but, at the very least, they seem to have a normal, flattering understanding of their history.

A few factors are at work in explaining the GOP’s collective amnesia. First, they’ve elected some real clunkers. Nixon, for example. Bush II will go down as a clunker and is already banned from polite conversation in the GOP. Second, there have been some insanely boring dudes in the GOP, like Calvin Coolidge.

But there’s a deeper reason, one that explains a lot of the memory loss. The GOP of 2014 is a radically different beast than the party of Lincoln. The original GOP was wealthy Northern interests + freedmen and their descendants. Thus, what used to be cool is no longer cool. For example, the presidential Republicans of the 1920s were relatively pro-Black. Not pro-integration in the modern sense, but they did believe that Blacks should have access to Federal jobs, education, and other resources. Also, the GOP wasn’t populist in the Palin/Cruz sense. You had some effective but insanely boring people like Dwight Eisenhower, who was popular at the time but now forgotten among the masses.

So, then, what’s the deal with Reagan? I think Reagan combines two traits: some genuine policy triumphs (e.g., nuclear disarmament) and he was willing to be populist. He also benefited from a historical accident. He happened to be president during the end of communism, an event he shaped but certainly didn’t cause. Thus, in the GOP’s collective memory, he comes off as a successful warrior and a populist.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz 

Written by fabiorojas

April 28, 2014 at 2:27 am

frozen/MJ

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

April 27, 2014 at 12:01 am

centrism and sociology – guest post by chris martin

This guest post on the politics of sociology is written by Chris Martin, a doctoral student in sociology at Emory University.

Conservativism doesn’t seem to be a unipolar thing, according to much of the social psychological research on political attitudes. Rather, you can be conservative by being high in either social dominance orientation (SD) or right-wing authoritarianism (RWA). Of course, the two dimensions are moderately correlated but they’re not the same thing: high-SDO people dislike socially subordinate groups, and high RWO dislike socially deviant (or unconventional) groups. As a centrist, however, I’ve found that there’s a lack of research on the opposite poles of these scales even though there clearly seem to be a subset of liberals who like socially subordinate groups and a subset who like socially deviant groups.  Again, there’s considerable overlap between these two subsets. And there’s a small subset of libertarian liberals who don’t lean toward either pole.

This comes across in social psychological work on religious freedom. Early research showed that high-RWA people are more supportive of Christian than Muslim mandatory prayer, while low-RWA people oppose both types of prayer equally. However, if you change “mandatory” to “voluntary,” you find that low-RWA people no longer disfavor both types. Rather, they more strongly favor Muslim than Christian school prayer space.

To some degree, I’ve found that sociology has become so ideologically homogenous that it’s now the disciplinary norm to avoid using “inequality” to describe preferential treatment of subordinate or deviant groups. In the race domain, in fact, centrists can get accused of supporting colorblind ideology or denying White privilege, even if they have a well-reasoned critique of preferential treatment. And in the gender/sexuality domain, the norm is for 50% of the research to focus on people who are deviant by conventional standards. But this skewness of focus isn’t termed inequality. My point isn’t about race or gender, though, but the large issue of whether there’s place for centrists in sociology—people who neither valorize nor condemn subordinate and deviant groups. Psychological social scientists have begun to address this issue—see Jonathan Haidt and Lee Jussim in particular—focusing on how this political homogeneity harms science. Where does sociology stand?

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

April 26, 2014 at 12:18 am

most academic papers are not cited and that’s ok

A classic result in the social analysis of science is that most papers are poorly cited. For example, the classic deSolla Price paper in Science (1965) found that the modal citation count in his sample was zero. Low mean and modal citation counts remain the standard in contemporary studies of scientific behavior. So, what gives?

Scientific research is a type of creative pursuit. By definition, journal articles are supposed to report on what is new or novel. Once you buy that, the low citation rates in science make sense. First, creativity (or importance) is a scarce commodity. Anyone trained in a psychology  graduate program can do an experiment, but few can do a novel experiment. Second, new results are themselves scarce. Fields quickly get covered and only obscure points remain. Third, even if you have a creative scientist who found a genuinely important problem, they might not have an audience. Perhaps people are focused on other issues, or the scientist is low status or publishing in a low status journal.

In principle, we should expect that few articles will deserve more than token citation. But still, why can’t journals just stick to important stuff? The answer is imperfect knowledge. Once in a while we encounter obvious innovation, but usually we have a limited ability to predict what will be important. It is better to over publish and let history be the judge. Considering that the cost of journal publishing is low (but not the subscription!), we should be ok with a world of many uncited and lonely articles.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

April 24, 2014 at 12:01 am

the effects of slavery on economic performance

Nathan Nunn has a paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics estimating the effect of slavery on long term growth:

Can part of Africa’s current underdevelopment be explained by its slave trades? To explore this question, I use data from shipping records and historical documents reporting slave ethnicities to construct estimates of the number of slaves exported from each country during Africa’s slave trades. I find a robust negative relationship between the number of slaves exported from a country and current economic performance. To better understand if the relationship is causal, I examine the historical evidence on selection into the slave trades and use instrumental variables. Together the evidence suggests that the slave trades had an adverse effect on economic development.

Check it out.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

April 23, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in economics, fabio

book review: black against empire by joshua bloom and waldo martin

The American Historical Review published my book review of Black Against Empire by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin. BAE is the first book that gives a comprehensive account of the Black Panther Party. Oddly, nobody had ever sat down and just wrote the blow-by-blow history of the Panthers:

For the first time, one can read, in a single volume, a well-researched history that explains the origins of the Panthers in the context of Oakland neighborhood politics and the group’s transformation into a social service organization. For that reason alone, the book will become a classic in the growing black power scholarship.

Even though I was highly impressed, I felt that the book relies on a framing of Black Power history that contemporary historical and sociological writing is drawing us away from. A lot of early Black Power literature employed what one might called the “tragic hero” narrative – courageous activists created a powerful movement that was quickly undermined by factionalism and state suppression. As Carson Byrd and I argued in the Black Diaspora Review, that narrative only captures one dimension of the Panthers and the broader Black Power movement. Also, I think that some tough questions needed to be asked about the efficacy of the Panthers that Bloom and Martin fail to ask. Was the type of activism employed by the Panthers really an effective use of resources? My take away: excellent narrative and an important contribution, but there are still important debates about the Panthers that need to happen.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz 

Written by fabiorojas

April 22, 2014 at 12:15 am

Posted in fabio, social movements

charismatic organizations: the case of alcoholics anonymous

The media covered a new book by Lance Dodes called The Sober Truth. In the book, Dodes surveys the evidence on rehab and finds that there is literally no evidence that rehab, AA or other popular methods for kicking drugs are effective. From a recent Alternet article:

Peer-reviewed studies peg the success rate of AA somewhere between 5 and 10 percent. That is, about one of every fifteen people who enter these programs is able to become and stay sober. In 2006, one of the most prestigious scientific research organizations in the world, the Cochrane Collaboration, conducted a review of the many studies conducted between 1966 and 2005 and reached a stunning conclusion: “No experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA” in treating alcoholism. This group reached the same conclusion about professional AA-oriented treatment (12-step facilitation therapy, or TSF), which is the core of virtually every alcoholism-rehabilitation program in the country.

What I find interesting is that I was told this before by physicians and social workers. These programs work for very few people and this is common knowledge. But why didn’t I draw the logical conclusion? If it’s expensive ($200,000 for a stint in a fancy rehab center) and it doesn’t work, why not just stop doing it?

Two answers: The Robin Hanson answer is that it’s a signal of morality. We do it to show that we care, even if the evidence is dodgy. Another (not unrelated) answer is that charismatic orgs get less scrutiny. AA is trying to be nice to people and help them overcome serious problems, so I am less inclined to search for evidence that assesses their effectiveness. This is different than, say, a think tank that is pushing a policy that I don’t like. Then, I’ll search high and low for all the evidence I can find to fight them.

Bottom line: We should probably get tougher on organizations that claim to do good. We’re probably giving out too many free passes.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

 

Written by fabiorojas

April 21, 2014 at 12:01 am

fred ho (1957-2014)

Performing Free New Afrika! Boogaloo. He was a cutting edge figure in As Am improv and a unique voice on baritone.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

April 20, 2014 at 12:43 am

Posted in fabio, the man

stacks by robin dluzen

Turq-series-stacks-full

I very much enjoyed this work on paper ( Turquoise stacks) by Chicago artist Robin Dluzen. She also tweets at @ROBINDLUZEN.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

 

Written by fabiorojas

April 19, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio

gabriel marquez (1927-2014) and the small world of colombian writers

The great author Gabriel Marquez died and he left a treasure of great literature. Here, a few notes about the smallness of networks inspired by Marquez’ passing. One of my uncles was a lawyer and literature professor named Eduardo Pachon Padilla. He is probably best known for El Cuento Colombiano, an important anthology of Colombian fiction.

Throughout my life, he would go on and on about Marquez and I never understood why. One day I got the story. It turns out that Eduardo and Marquez where from the same region of Colombia, and they studied the same subject (law) in Bogota. The world of novelists and literary critics is small. They knew each other. This was before either had achieved much, but Marquez was competitive and smart and people knew it. So there was that. Later, it came to a head when my uncle was on the jury of a literary contest and, according to Eduardo, Marquez submitted this absolutely brilliant manuscript. Perhaps it was some version of Cien Años, or another work. It was about thirty or forty years after the fact, the memory was not fresh. Regardless, people could tell it was brilliant but still, the jury liked one other book a teensy bit better. He never did regret the award and always argued that, on some technical ground, this other book was better. Perhaps. I also wonder if the friction between Marquez and some his contemporaries was translated into the texts and that Eduardo and his buddies exists as characterization in one of Marquez’ short stories or novels.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

April 18, 2014 at 12:59 am

Posted in culture, fabio, the man

the shifting landscape of elite american sociology

I was having dinner with a Team Fabio affiliate who was making the choice between two really excellent sociology programs. In discussing his choice, we got into the issue of who is now on top in terms of status. In Ye Olden Days, elite sociology meant the following: the Chicago/Columbia/Berkeley axis + massive public flagship schools (UNC, Wisconsin, UCLA, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana). Now, the landscape has changed a bit. The major change seems to be the rise of smaller private schools. While these schools have always been the home of good scholars, it is only recently that they’ve boosted their status by gathering critical masses of elite scholars, consistent publication in top presses and journals, and consistent placement of PhD students in competitive programs. Here the examples are well known – Princeton, Harvard, and Duke in the top ten. Slightly lower down the ranking would be Northwestern, NYU, and Cornell. Certainly well known, but not considered powerhouses of sociology 20 or 3o years ago. Similarly, there’s been sliding among the elites with Chicago and Columbia no longer at the top. The (flawed) 2011 NRC ranks also bumped some prominent flagships (Madison, Bloomington).

Why the change? There are many factors. There’s always complacency and in-fighting. But I think the change is more profound. First, the big flagships had the comparative advantage because 20th century American sociology was built on big surveys. No longer the case. Second, some programs “woke up.” My impression in reading history books is that elite private schools weren’t terribly interested in sociology. Deans were content to let a sociology program be dominated by one or two “big names,” but not invest in the infrastructure needed for high visibility sociology. For some reason, things just changed. Supporting sociology was on the agenda at these schools. Third, along the same line, my sense is that there’s been a real change in training. Princeton for example seems to fit the model. No graduate has ever described it as a fun, cuddly place, but almost every grad has reported that they have enough financial support, almost all students have an adviser, and there is *lots* of prof/student co-authorship. Not much falling through the cracks. That translates into jobs and high visibility.

I encourage older faculty to comment. Does this match your perception? Counter evidence? Alternative explanations?

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

April 17, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, fabio, sociology

confidence, gender, and the social psychology of inequality

The Atlantic has a new article called “The Confidence Gap.” Katty Kay and Claire Shipman review the academic literature to discuss one source of gender inequality – the systematic differences in confidence. Roughly speaking, Kay and Shipman suggest that one reason that men are more likely to rise faster through careers is that men are simply overconfident. The fortune cookie version of the argument is that women will apply for a job only if they are sure that they 100%  qualified, while men will take a shot if they are half qualified.

A few comments: While I believe that sexism exists, the article is consistent with a “sexism without sexists” style argument as well. In other words, if A and B compose half the population but A applies for raises 66% of the time and B applies 33% of the time, you will very quickly get inequality even when bosses do not consider gender.

A policy observation from some of the experimental work. Kay and Shipman describe an experiment where men and women subjects try to solve a puzzle and initially men do better because they answer almost all questions. Women will try only when they are sure of the answer. When women are required to do the puzzles, the scores equalize. The policy implication is that raises and promotions should be routine. People are automatically considered for raises and promotions, or everyone will be considered if the situation arises.

The article has a lot to think about for folks interested in gender and inequality.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

April 16, 2014 at 12:01 am

common grounds politics

In political life, we tend to see a few strategies. First, we see partisanship, which is simply a word for “I do what my team does and fight my team’s enemies.” That sets up life a zero-sum status contest. Second, we see ideological politics. People argue for politics from an abstract argument about what is demanded by their belief system. It also leads to a sort of zero sum politics as well. Any deviation from your belief is a decrease in the value in the policy. Also, ideological politics is tough unless you happen to have an already popular ideology. Ideologies entail lots of consequences that other people might not buy. Third, there is incrementalism, which is to find small, moderate policy improvements that are hard to dispute. Success is likely, but you can easily miss the big issues.

There is a fourth approach to politics that people don’t seem to take often: “common grounds politics.” Here’s how it works – survey the range of ethical systems that you are likely to encounter, such as liberalism, socialism, etc. Then focus on important issues that are fairly straightforward consequences of many, or even all, of these theories. In other words, common grounds politics is when you focus on important issues that are logically consistent with the stated ethical systems of most people you will encounter.

Let me give you an example of a policy that is common grounds and one policy that is not common grounds. I think that open borders is common grounds. It is an obvious application of egalitarian theory because we allow poor people to decrease inequality by getting jobs in industrialized nations. It should also be intuitively appealing to libertarians who favor free markets.  It is not hard to come up with arguments from conservative, socialist, and utilitarian perspectives. Also, you will notice that arguments against migration tend to invoke violations of most political belief systems. For example, should an egalitarian treat people differently just because they happen to be born in a different nation? Should a “social values” conservative support policies that make it hard for families to stay together? It’s not hard to see that open borders is a good candidate for common grounds politics.

In contrast, school privatization is not a common grounds issue. The reason, I think, is fairly obvious. The policy violates the principles of many ethical systems. For example, liberals are comfortable using the tool of taxation to redistribute resources in society and school spending is one way that is done. Conservatives are happy to use schools to promote religious values. You can come up with a utilitarian argument for why public schooling has positive benefits. I am not making a point about the validity of school privatization as a policy. I am only noting that you would need to do a lot of ethical argument in order to make most people buy into that policy.

I claim no originality for common grounds politics. In fact, this argument is a modification of Huemer’s meta-ethical position in The Problem of Authority. Huemer argued for radical libertarian politics from common grounds. He is trying to appeal a number of standard philosophical positions (e.g., Rawlsianism, Kantians, etc) to make a strong policy argument that is counter-intuitive to most people. I take a different approach. Start with people’s “folk morals” and then see what policies are consistent with that. There is no attempt to smuggle in an entirely new ethical system. Instead, look for that rare policy that is both important and obviously consistent with most people’s basic intuitions.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

April 14, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in ethics, fabio, philosophy

ingrid jensen w/trudel trio

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

April 13, 2014 at 12:23 am

visualizing migration

immigr

From Fast Coexist.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

 

Written by fabiorojas

April 12, 2014 at 12:18 am

Posted in fabio, sociology

return on college investment: it’s about the variance, people

When I argue that we have too much college, people quickly fall on the well established fact that college graduates make a lot more than non-college graduates. But you don’t need to be an education skeptic to ask a sensible question: what’s the variance? Are some people not making the college premium? How many? Well, turns out that a firm has been calculating the rate of return for college and it varies a huge amount. There are folks who don’t make it back. Some college graduates are making a *negative* rate of return. From the economist:

A report by PayScale, a research firm, tries to measure the returns on higher education in America (see article). They vary enormously. A graduate in computer science from Stanford can expect to make $1.7m more over 20 years than someone who never went to college, after the cost of that education is taken into account. A degree in humanities and English at Florida International University leaves you $132,000 worse off. Arts degrees (broadly defined) at 12% of the colleges in the study offered negative returns; 30% offered worse financial rewards than putting the cash in 20-year Treasury bills.

None of this matters if you are rich and studying fine art to enhance your appreciation of the family Rembrandts. But most 18-year-olds in America go to college to get a good job. That is why the country’s students have racked up $1.1 trillion of debt—more than America’s credit-card debts. For most students college is still a wise investment, but for many it is not. Some 15% of student debtors default within three years; a startling 115,000 graduates work as caretakers.

In other words, before we rush more people into the college, we have to make it cheaper, much cheaper. And we shouldn’t facilitate degrees that massively bad consequences for your economic life chances.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz 

Written by fabiorojas

April 11, 2014 at 12:06 am

Posted in economics, education, fabio

standardizing ethnography

On the Soc Job Rumor Board, there was a discussion of the non-replicability of ethnography. I think this is mistaken. Ethnography is easily replicable, it’s just that ethnographers don’t want to do it. For example, ethnographers could:

  • Stop making everything anonymous so others can verify and check. Mitch Duinier is right about this.
  • Group ethnography. Have multiple observers and do inter-coder reliability.
  • Standardize data collection – how field codes are done and recorded.
  • Encourage others to revisit the same population (which is actually done in anthropological ethnography)

Of course, no single study can strive for replication in the same way and some folks do a good job addressing these issues. But still, the anti-positivist framing of much ethnography probably prevents ethnographers from developing intuitive and sensible things to create standards that would move the field away from the solo practitioner model of unique and non-replicable studies.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz 

Written by fabiorojas

April 10, 2014 at 12:01 am

silly social movements #5: the anti-dungeons and dragons movement

Silly social movements #1 #2, #3, #4

The website  io9 has an article on the anti-D&D panic of the 1980s and the pro-gamer activists who fought them. From Annalee Newitz:

Thirty years ago, a war raged between the dorks who played Dungeons & Dragons, and the conservative parent groups who believed that gaming was debauched at best and Satanic at worst. Lives were ruined. People died. And now that war is over. I still can’t believe we won.

And:

We heard rumors about how some kids weren’t allowed to play D&D. There was a pretty big evangelical Christian community where I grew up, and it wasn’t uncommon for other kids to point out that we were probably worshiping the devil. Which — I think one of my friends was a lawful evil cleric, so maybe there was some devil appreciation when a spell went right. But I classed these accusations in the same category as my friend’s evil cleric status. They were fantasies.

Still, unlike my fantasy of being a hot half-elf, the Christians actually had some control over our lives. My best friend got kicked out of Catholic school for playing D&D, which we counted as a win because it meant she could come to our shitty public school and play D&D with us. Outside our southern California town, however, D&D players weren’t getting off so easily. They were ostracized by their peers, kicked out of public schools, and sent to glorified reeducation camps by parents who feared their children were about to start sacrificing babies to Lolth the spider demon.

Fortunately, geeks won out – D&D is now just a hobby. There is also an archive site with anti-D&D literature. I actually know Newitz from way back. If I had known of here gamer side, I would have invited her to geek out!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz 

Written by fabiorojas

April 9, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, social movements

so, have things changed at the asr?

Last year, we discussed a specific policy at the American Sociological Review (and me getting booted from the reviewer pool for complaining!). What appears to be happening is the papers are being sent out for 3rd and 4th reviews, to new reviewers, and then getting rejected after years of review. Since I haven’t submitted in about a year and a half, I have no idea – have things have changed? I ask in all seriousness. I’m just a believer in not jerking people around.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz 

Written by fabiorojas

April 8, 2014 at 12:20 am

Posted in fabio, the man

show me the benjamins!!!

I am not well read in Benjamin’s ouevre, but I’ve always been semi-impressed. Moments of brilliance, but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the big contribution. Well, Walter Laquer makes the argument that Benjamin is an over-rated thing. From the Mosaic:

Yes, his ideas (as in his best-known essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”) were often original, and there were flashes of genius. But in what precisely did his genius consist? Had he produced a new philosophy of history, proposed a fundamentally new approach to our understanding of 19th-century European culture, his main area of concern, or revolutionized our thinking about modernity? The answers I received weren’t persuasive then, and the answers provided in the vast secondary literature of the last decades have done no better.

And:

Wherein lay its originality? The figure of the flâneur had been “discovered” earlier in the novels of Honoré de Balzac and others, and the main themes of Baudelaire’s poems had been studied even by German academics, some of whom had offered analyses not dissimilar to Benjamin’s. Were the Parisian arcades, with or without Baudelaire, the right starting point for a new understanding of modernity? Even the most detailed Benjamin biography, by the distinguished French professor Jean Michel Palmier, reaches no satisfying conclusion on this point. (Palmier’s mammoth book, almost 1,400 pages long, remains, like Benjamin’s work, unfinished—which is a comment in itself.)

Defenders – show me the Benjamins!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz 

Written by fabiorojas

April 7, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, just theory

orgtheory is back!!!

washington

George Washington vs. Kim Jong-Un by Aaron Needham

In case you were wondering, George Washington represents American positivist sociology and Jong-un represents critical realists, post-modernists, and the other counter-positivist forces. I’ll let you choose who Lincoln represents. In other words, orgtheory is up an running!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz 

Written by fabiorojas

April 6, 2014 at 2:59 am

blogcation april 2014

I got some good books in the mail and some stuff to complete. I will also go outside and enjoy the Midwestern spring. Posting will be light in the next week or so.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

March 31, 2014 at 4:40 pm

willie colon

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz 

Written by fabiorojas

March 30, 2014 at 12:01 am

immigration crime rate question

On Facebook, Vipul Naik asked the following question about research on crime rates of immigrants vs. natives:

It’s well known among scholars of crime that in the US, immigrants have somewhat lower crime rates than natives (both before and after controlling for ethnicity), whereas, in Western and Northern Europe, immigrants have somewhat higher crime rates than natives.

Various explanations have been posited, such as Western and Northern Europe being worse at assimilating immigrants.

But it seems to me that the simplest explanation is that the US has a higher base rate of native crime, so it’s easier for immigrants to “do better” than natives, whereas the native rate of crime in Western and Northern Europe is so low that the same immigrant crime rate looks worse in comparison. My impression (based on some quick look at the statistics) is that immigrants to Western and Northern Europe don’t have crime rates (substantially) higher than immigrants to the US.

This perspective doesn’t seem clearly articulated in discussions of the “do immigrants commit more crime than natives?” question. Why might that be so? And should we care about the relative crime rates, rather than whether the crime rates are high in absolute terms?

Criminology scholars?

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

March 29, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, mere empirics

org survey response rates

Bleg: What tricks do we have for increasing response rates for people working in organizations? The older literature suggests that org surveys have widely varying response rates. For example, this 1999 review in Human Relations finds that top  management journals publish studies with an *average* response rate of 36%. This 2008 Human Relations article finds a response rate of 35%.  So, how can we pop up the response rate? We have the Dillman method (letters), payment and multiple contacts. How else can we reach orgs?

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz 

Written by fabiorojas

March 28, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, mere empirics

should pediatricians treat un-vaccinated children? sure, but you should add a “surcharge”

I am an extremely strong believer in vaccinations. Vaccinations are low cost, low risk interventions that save millions of lives. After sanitation, you can’t find a procedure that is so effective and so important to our collective and individual well being. Still, there is a growing anti-vaccination movement, which is discussed in a recent Slate article about whether pediatricians should treat unvaccinated kids.

My answer: Sure, but pediatricians should parents of un-vaccinated kids the same way that professionals treat other “difficult” clients – a surcharge for being a difficult and increasing costs. In other words, by exposing other children in the clinic and at school to disease, you are increasing the costs of healthcare.  Thus, the parent should bear the cost of healthcare. If each life of a child who dies from preventable infection is worth, say, a few million dollars, then it wouldn’t be unreasonable to charge a parent a few thousand extra dollars.

Bottom line: People are entitled to their own erroneous beliefs, but when it causes real harm to others, they should bear the cost. To do otherwise is folly.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz  

Written by fabiorojas

March 27, 2014 at 12:07 am

Posted in current events, fabio

homeland security does not think sociology is a science

This guest post on Federal government’s classification of sociology is written by Bogdan State, a doctoral student in sociology at Stanford University.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Sociology is not a true science.  Among its many attributions, the Department of Homeland Security is in charge of separating, for immigration purposes, the imposter from the “real” sciences. Seemingly, our discipline does not pass muster.

The story is – by now – a familiar one. The DHS divides academic disciplines into two categories: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and non-STEM. The former get a lot of attention and dominate the immigration debate while the latter are relegated to marginality. The official list is available here [http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/stem-list.pdf]. Needless to say, the very idea of such a blunt distinction between science and non-science is problematic and misguided. Nonetheless, it’s a distinction that has very important consequences, which I am currently sorting through myself.

I am a doctoral student in a Sociology PhD program. About a year ago I decided to give industry a try and I was lucky enough to be offered a job at a major tech company, headquartered in the US. For someone who thrives on data and short publication cycles the job is a dream come true. And even though my title says I do “data science” (already derided by some naysayers as “not a science”), even though my days are spent defending the idea that Sociology can and should be a science at least as rigorous as Biology, Homeland Security seems to have a clear message: no way.

My problem is a common one for international students. I need permission to work outside of my University while in the US. Since my landing here for the first time in 2005 I have become ever more painfully aware of the difficulties involved in staying in the country post-graduation.

International students have twelve months during which they can work in the US in a job related to their specialty under what is called Optional Practical Training. Past those twelve months their options for continued employment in the US usually revolve around the H1B visa, which allows them to work for a US company while seeking a green card through a lengthy and costly process of “labor certification” (which is supposed to ascertain the wholly-undecidable claim that the “alien” is not taking an American’s job). H1B visas are hugely controversial and their issuance has been capped at 85000 per year for most of recent memory (20000 of which are reserved for people holding graduate degrees). Last year the cap translated into the DHS refusing to process (and thus practically denying) about a third of H1B applications filed. This year the ratio may be closer to one in two.

Compared to what comes after, Optional Practical Training is a relatively benign period during which the “alien” can focus on doing their job rather than on learning the regulatory alphabet soup inflicted on them by contradictory and sometimes outright hostile acts of Congress. The Government itself recognized the self-defeating nature of forcing international students – otherwise content to stay and contribute to the US economy – out of the US after American entities had invested huge amounts in their education. As a stopgap measure, foreign STEM graduates of American higher education institutions were granted a one-time, 17-month extension to their Optional Practical Training.

Sociology falls on the wrong side of the arbitrary divide imposed by the DHS (examples of some disciplines considered to be sciences by DHS: Archeology, Social Psychology, Management Science). Interestingly, the NSF does consider Sociology to be STEM. This would be funny were it not the source of a lot headaches, dislocation, uncertainty and plain misery.

In my own case, this policy has meant that I have not been able to access these extra 17 months of headache-free OPT extension that typically serve as a bridge to the much-desired (and irredeemably broken) H1B visa. It is part of why I have to leave the US and go pay taxes somewhere else. But our discipline’s location outside the STEM divide may have far more important consequences in the future.

Specifically, there has been a lot of talk about “stapling” green cards to STEM degrees, or of other important facilities afforded to the immigration of STEM graduates. Presumably, Congress will eventually pass an immigration law, and Sociology will be left on the outside of an admittedly artificial divide.

Let me emphasize that I do not believe for a moment in the validity of a division of the academic world made by government bureaucrats. But while fighting the idea of this division would be quixotic (given the current fixation on STEM), I believe that there is a sufficient number of Sociologists who do not have US citizenship or permanent residency and who would be affected by this omission in the future.

The ASA has come up against this issue before (http://www.asanet.org/footnotes/feb13/vp_0213.html), but it does not look like they have ever addressed it on the immigration front. This is of course more than a matter of immigration policy: it also concerns our discipline’s being recognized as a bona fide science. As Sociologists we often deride the shortcomings of our methods, and that is certainly a healthy attitude. But we cannot let cocktail-party observations about “true” and “fake” sciences be enshrined into government policy.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz 

Written by fabiorojas

March 26, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, fabio, sociology

grad skool rulz #35: co-authoring

I was recently asked about co-authoring. How does a graduate student co-author? Is it good to do so? What are the rules?

1. In general, co-authoring is a good thing. You’ll see that most successful graduate students publish with faculty or student co-authors. Brian Uzzi’s work shows that co-authorship (vs. solo authorship) is correlated with citations and impact. There are exceptions. For example, many hiring and promotion committees will want to see at least one article sole authored. Of course, much qualitative work is also single authored.

2. How to find co-authors: Usually, people in most fields are used to co-authoring. You can ask faculty for help, they might approach you, or you can recruit buddies. In general, c0-authoring is serious business. Research is time intensive and it can shape your career. So choose partners who are (a) reliable and (b) bring something to the table. With respect to (b), the co-author can have a technical skill, area of knowledge, or simple be a good “sounding” board that writes/co-writes the article.

3. How to do it: This varies a great deal. I’ve done the full range. In some cases, you write most of it and co-authors do a little extra work. Other cases, the work is equally divided. In yet other cases, you do a modest amount.  But it really helps to lay it out early. For example, in my work with Michael Heaney, we always jointly work out the argument and data analysis, but the actual writing shifts back and forth.

4. Author order: Every discipline has different rules. These include alphabetical, by seniority, the biomedical model (lead author firsts, senior person last, and fighting for middle sports) and “higher is better” (i.e., the more work you do, the more toward the top you get). In sociology, we do “higher is better” unless it’s clear that it’s alphabetical. So it is important to not get buried as author #6. Though, in some cases, there is such a premium on top journals that even author #6 on an ASR or AJS article will get a huge career pay off.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz 

Written by fabiorojas

March 25, 2014 at 12:34 am

Posted in fabio, grad school rulz

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,080 other followers