Archive for the ‘sociology’ Category

book spotlight: playing to win by hilary levey friedman


Guest blogger emeritus Hilary Levey Friedman has just released her new book, Playing to Win, which is a thoughtful account of competitive children’s activities. Drawing from fieldwork done in three competitive youth circuits (chess, dance, soccer), Hilary provides us with an engaging treatment of the topic. She raises important questions about how we’ve reshaped childhood in response to the growing importance of higher education for young adults.

The core strength of the book is that it successfully explains how two organizational fields – higher education and children’s leisure – collide. Since colleges are the “key” for mobility, we recreate childhood in ways that reproduce status via college entrance. Thus, the book is an extension of Bourdieu’s approach to stratification, as expressed through Lareau and her school. This attempt at social reproduction is seen when parents strategize about how much effort to expend and how these activities teach the right life lessons. And, of course, as with all good ethnography, there are lots of juicy bits, such as the discussion of female chess players, which is a great discussion of counter-signalling theory in childhood.

The biggest question I had when reading the book is “does it matter?” In the final chapter, Hilary alludes to arguments made by Dalton Conley (and myself, by the way) that the specific school doesn’t matter much.  In other words, if it doesn’t matter which college you go to, then why should you torture your kid with violin lessons so he’s get into Yale?

Even if I’m wrong, and there is an Ivy League treatment effect, it’s still puzzling. Higher education researchers know that only about 50 colleges in the United States are hard to get into (consistent admit rates below 50%). About 18  million people a year enroll in college, but very competitive schools like the Ivies and the public flagships account for a small fraction of that number. Being a chess champ may be helpful for the smartest kids who have a shot at an elite school but this whole scene is irrelevant for most people who are trying to get into college.

My guess is that parents probably know, on some level, that these activities usually have marginal effects on admission when compared to GPA or SATs, but they still want to show that they are invested in their children. And of course, many of this activities are enjoyable. So in many cases, no harm no foul. If you buy this argument, you can skip soccer camp with a clean conscience.

Overall, great job and a pleasure to read. Recommended!

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Written by fabiorojas

August 26, 2013 at 12:11 am

ess now accepting abstracts for 2014 annual meeting in Baltimore

“Invisible Work

2014 Annual Meeting


Baltimore Hilton

February 20-23, 2014

The online abstract submittal system for the ESS annual meeting is now open at or through the website at The ESS welcomes submissions addressing any and all issues of interest to sociologists, drawing on methods of every sort. In addition, the 2014 meeting will have a special focus on “Invisible Work.”

Work is central to collective life.  But which work is recognized and valued?  Paid jobs are only part of the picture.  People also work to find and keep jobs and homes; to nurture others; to build communities; to access services; and more.  Migrants and refugees work to sustain transnational families and build new lives.  People work to establish and transform identities, protect privileges, and resist the indignities of marginalization.  They work to make change.  Children work, in the informal economy, as well as at home, in school, and in their communities.  Many people have long worked in shadow economies; some have begun to create new kinds of local economies.  And new technologies are producing novel forms of work that are only beginning to be understood.

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Written by katherinechen

August 21, 2013 at 12:10 am

Posted in sociology

Tagged with

samples and social movement research

This post is both intellectual and self-interested. Throughout my career, I have chosen to focus on specific movements and treat them like a “laboratory” for social change. My work on Black Studies uses Black Power as starting point for studying institutionalization. My more current work on the anti-Iraq War movement examines how parties interact with movements.

One problem that persistently comes up during peer review is that people have problems with the selection of the movement. The complains often say (a) “Why study one movement?” or (b) “Your sample is too limited/has issues.” For example, I am currently having a paper reviewed that has a sample of nearly 700 activists drawn from the largest convention of social movement activists in recent years. The reaction from prior reviews? “Meh.” Here, I refer only to the sample, not criticism of the paper’s theoretical argument, which has been revised in subsequent versions.

The touchiness about the sample puzzles me because many of our most enduring works on social movements rely on samples of activists from a single organization or movement. For example, many of McAdam’s papers on Civil Rights movement participation often rely on extremely specific samples, like the paper with Paulsen that uses data from the Freedom Rides – a very specific phase of the Civil Rights movement. Snow et al. 1986′s article on framing uses a hand full of interview snippets from Christian activists to illustrate the function of framing within movements. Meyer and Whittier’s spill over paper uses illustrative cases from the women’s movement.

So, why the push back on the sample? A few hypotheses:

  • That’s just sociology. We have inconsistent standards.
  • The field has shifted. We no longer tolerate samples from one organization or movement. The norm is just different.
  • Outsiderness. Perhaps, papers that analyze a sample of activists is just not what is expected from a movement paper, so people are hyper-critical.

Aside from being personally frustrated on this issue, I find it puzzling. If one really wants to understand activists and movements participation, then it would be normal to generate data from a sample drawn from, say, protests, or an organizational roster, or participants in a movement convention or conference. As long as your question is about internal comparisons, and not comparing participators with non-participators, then this seems obvious – at least to me.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 31, 2013 at 12:00 am

dear asr: stop it, please just stop it

Update: Olderwoman reminds me that she did not single out the ASR in her original post. I have revised this post to reflect that. Regardless, we agree that journal norms are broken, especially at our beloved flagship journal.

This morning, I read olderwoman’s blog post about problems with journals that request too many revisions, or that invite revisions too easily (“inflated R&Rs”). This issue has arisen with respect to the American Sociological Review, the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association. The ASR has been giving R&R’s to many submitted articles, much more than average, and they are soliciting many reviews per article. It has also been sending articles through multiple rounds of revisions, leading to articles being held at the journal for years. Since they seem to accept to same number of articles per year (about 40), that implies that the multiple rounds of revision do not lead to publication for many authors. Here is my response to that post:

I am asking the American Sociological Review to curtail this practice. In writing this, I have no personal stake in this matter. I do not have any papers under review, nor has the ASR accepted my previous submissions. I only write as a member of the profession, senior faculty at a top 20 program, a former managing editor of an ASA journal (Sociological Methodology), former associate editor of the American Journal of Sociology, occasional board member for various journals, author, and reviewer.

The inflated R&R policy is damaging sociology in a few ways. First, by continually R&R’ing papers that have little chance of publication, the ASR is “trapping” papers that may be perfectly suitable for specialty journals or other outlets. Thus, inflated R&Rs keep good research out of the public eye for years. You are suppressing science.

Second, inflated R&Rs damage the reputation of the ASR itself. The goal of a flagship journal is to be very picky. When people hear that a paper has been invited for revision, they believe that the editors think that the paper is of great merit and wide relevance. Inflated R&Rs undermine that perception.

Third, you are damaging people’s careers. By trapping papers, you preventing papers from being resubmitted to other journals that can help their careers. Also, R&R invitations are often seen as signs of intellectual progress, especially for doctoral students and junior faculty. By lumping together strong and weak papers, you are debasing the “currency” of the R&R. When people see “R&R at American Sociological Review,” they no longer know what to think and that pollutes the junior level job market.

Fourth, you are wasting precious time. Reviewers are usually full time faculty who teach, mentor graduate and undergraduate students, do administrative work, conduct research, and have full family lives. Thus, when you ask for a fourth reviewer, or a invite a paper for a third round of R&R, you are taking up many, many scarce resources.

If a typical professor earns $50/hour, and it takes about 3 hours to read and write comments, then three rounds of R&R with four reviewers each, creates a cost of $50 * 3 * 4 *3 = $1800 for each paper . By doing that for hundreds of papers, you’ve burned up almost a half-million dollars in faculty time. I did not to mention the ill feeling generated when reviewers see yet another request for a review.

So, please, implement policies then ensure an efficient, reliable, and highly selective e review process. It’s the right thing to do.



Written by fabiorojas

July 25, 2013 at 12:02 am

Posted in academia, fabio, sociology

are we a post-racial society? See Vilna Bashi Treitler’s new book The Ethnic Project: Transforming Racial Fiction into Ethnic Factions

Sociologist Vilna Bashi Treitler has a new and especially timely book coming out about race and ethnicity in the US.  Look for The Ethnic Project: Transforming Racial Fiction into Ethnic Factions at your local bookstore or at the Stanford University Press table at ASAs.

The Ethnic Project analyzes changing depictions of race relations to help readers understand the development and perpetuation of a racial hierarchy in the US.

The cover of Harpers Weekly from 1876 depicting the status of African-Americans and Irish-Americans

The cover of Harper’s Weekly depicts the status of African-Americans and Irish-Americans using racial stereotypes in 1876

A contemporary cartoon and summary after the jump.
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Written by katherinechen

July 23, 2013 at 5:00 pm

christakis 1, gelman 0

The plaintiff: Andrew Gelman – fellow blogger and poli sci pugilist. The defendantNicholas Christakis – sociologist, physician, tweeter.  The claim: Christakis wrote the following, which made Gelman, like, really mad:

The social sciences have stagnated. They offer essentially the same set of academic departments and disciplines that they have for nearly 100 years: sociology, economics, anthropology, psychology and political science. This is not only boring but also counterproductive, constraining engagement with the scientific cutting edge and stifling the creation of new and useful knowledge. . . .

I’m not suggesting that social scientists stop teaching and investigating classic topics like monopoly power, racial profiling and health inequality. But everyone knows that monopoly power is bad for markets, that people are racially biased and that illness is unequally distributed by social class. There are diminishing returns from the continuing study of many such topics. And repeatedly observing these phenomena does not help us fix them.

Gelman’s complaint? It’s a little hard for me to understand, but he doesn’t like the fact that Christakis said that we have really beat some topics into the ground and that maybe we should expand a little:

Regarding the question of illness being distributed by social class: Is it really true that “everybody knows,” for example, that Finland has higher suicide rates than Sweden, or thatforeign-born Latinos have lower rates of psychiatric disorders. These findings are based on public data so everybody should know them, but in any case the goal of social science is not (just) to educate people on what should be known to them, but also to understand why. Why why why. And also to model the effects of potential interventions.

Christakis is making a point about the maturity of research topics, not public knowledge of specific results. For example, the “SES gradient” is one of the most well established results in all of health research. It appears in every single sociology of health class and it is not easy (though certainly not impossible) to find a health condition where SES (or income or status) doesn’t affect the likelihood of contracting the condition or recovering. In other words, if you know anything about sociology or health, you know this finding and it is very, very, very well established.

Of course, within any field, there are notable puzzles, like the finding that immigrants (in the US) tend to be healthier than second generation people. I’m a bit puzzled by the importance of  the suicide fact. Perhaps suicide is an exception, but I believe the SES gradient enough that I’d wager that for many important health conditions that (a) SES within Finland (or Sweden) makes a big difference or (b) that wealthy countries do better on the condition that poor countries (e.g., Finland v. Sweden is probably not as important as Finland v. Gambia or Guatemala).

Gelman raises the issue of causation, and once again, it seems like he’s missing the point. Christakis is not suggesting that people stop investigating causes. Rather, it’s about the relative amount of effort. Hundreds of papers have attempted to explain the SES gradient in one way or another. In fact, it’s come to the point that if I see a talk that is about SES and health, I can nearly always predict the tables and coefficients – and I’m not even a specialist on the topic. This suggests that the marginal benefit of yet another study on the SES gradient is likely to be small. Instead, maybe people should look into new areas of inquiry unless you have a really, really, really amazing way to get at causation.

Judgment: The Court of Orgtheory finds against the plaintiff and in favor of meeting some new people.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 22, 2013 at 4:53 am

Posted in blogs, fabio, research, sociology

what do sociology majors do?

According to Neal Caren, the most common employment outcomes:

Social workers (9%), elementary and middle school teachers (6%), counselors (4%), managers, all other (4%), lawyers (3%), secretaries and administrative assistants (2%), postsecondary teachers (2%), police and sheriff’s patrol officers (2%), human resources workers (2%), first-line supervisors of office and administrative support workers (2%), social and community service managers (2%), sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing (2%), and education administrators (2%).

Summary: a lot of “helping” jobs and generic management/sales/retail. Also, check out the graph mapping major to jobs. Nice.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 20, 2013 at 12:31 am

Posted in education, fabio, sociology

why are there no asian american colleges?

Puzzle for higher ed folks and organizational theory types: If you look at US higher education, you’ll notice that there are institutions that serve nearly every niche. Rich students , poor students, historically black colleges, tribal colleges, Biblical colleges, Hispanic students, etc. Heck, even the transcendental meditation movement has an accredited school – Mahavishnu University in Iowa.

But I really had a hard time trying to think of a college that was aimed primarily at Asian Americans. Why is that? Did I overlook something? If not, what is it that prevents such a college from existing? According to wiki, there are roughly 18 million Asian Americans. You’d think that at least a few schools would be aimed at them. If nothing else, perhaps an old liberal arts college in Oakland founded in the early 20th century, aimed at helping Asian Americans get jobs, in a way analogous to the HBC’s like the Tuskegee Institute that helped freedmen and their descendants.


  • Cultural – perhaps attitudes toward education somehow make the concept of such an institution seem odd and out of place.
  • Density – outside of the West Coast, maybe they simply weren’t present in large enough number to justify such an institution
  • Cultural heterogeneity – “Asian American” is a catch all label, there’s a lot of groups and no cohesion needed to pull a college together
  • Satisfaction – Maybe Asian Americans simply are satisfied with American institutions
  • Vintage – since the bulk of Asian America is post-1965, they simply haven’t had the time to create such an institution.

Other ideas?

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Written by fabiorojas

July 16, 2013 at 12:08 am

social conservatives and immigration

A little while ago, I got into a debate with Vipul Naik of Open Borders over the link between social conservatism and open borders. My hypothesis was that social conservatives would oppose open borders because they are defending in-group privilege. Also, being socially conservative correlates with Republican party identification, which correlates with negative views of immigrants. In contrast, Vipul thought that the opposite might be true. Social conservative ideas (e.g., anti-abortion) do not logically entail anti-immigrant views. Immigration attitudes might be decoupled from social attitudes.

Here is what I found out when I used the General Social Survey to explore this issue. First, you have to identify an immigration question. The GSS has a few. The most general is “527. Do you think the number of immigrants from foreign countries who are permitted to come to the United States to live should be increased a lot, increased a little, left the same as it is now, decreased a little, or decreased a lot?” 1 – increased a lot. 5 – Decreased a lot.  Roughly speaking, 8% increase, 37% stay the same, 54% decrease immigration.

Ok, let’s crank through some measures of social conservatism:

  • Ideology: “66 A. We hear a lot of talk these days about liberals and conservatives. I’m going to show you a seven-point scale on which the political views that people might hold are arranged from extremely liberal–point 1–to extremely conservative– point 7. Where would you place yourself on this scale?” Correlation? .094 – p-value <.001. n=2598.
  • Abortion attitudes: “251. Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or never legal under any circumstance?” 1 – Always. 3 – Never. Correlation? .016, not significant. N=1497.
  • Gay Rights: “219. What about sexual relations between two adults of the same sex–do you think it is always wrong, almost always wrong, wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all?”  1- Always wrong, 4 – not wrong at all. Correlation? -.138, p <.001. N=1702.
  • Affirmative action for blacks/women: “153/552. A. Some people say that because of past discrimination, blacks/women should be given preference in hiring and promotion. Others say that such preference in hiring and promotion of blacks is wrong because it discriminates against whites. What about your opinion — are you for or against preferential hiring and promotion of blacks?” 1. strong support to 4 strong oppose. Correlations? .198/.091 . p<.001/p =.07. N= 383 (each).
  • Biblical literalism: “120A. Which of these statements comes closest to describing your feelings about the Bible? a. The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.  b. The Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, word for word. c. The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by men.” 1 – word of God, 3 – book of fables. Correlation? .071, p=.16. N=383.

Bottom line: Anti-immigration views are always positively correlated with what we’d consider indicators of being socially conservative. In some cases, the correlation is strong, in other cases not significant. However, there are no cases where being conservative is correlated with having pro-immigration views.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 15, 2013 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, sociology

open thread on the zimmerman acquital

Consider this an open thread on this evening’s accquital of George Zimmerman. When I see cases like this, I try to remember that criminal trials, especially murder trials, are highly complex. While I do believe that the shooting was not justified self-defense – especially since police told Zimmerman not to pursue – I also know that the media doesn’t always accurately portray what happens in a court room. Perhaps the prosecution bungled the case, or maybe there simply wasn’t enough compelling evidence relating to the interaction between Zimmerman and Martin. I’m especially interested in hearing from readers who have legal expertise.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 14, 2013 at 5:06 am

sociology 2043 – guest post by graham peterson

This is a guest post by Graham Peterson. He has just finished up his master’s degree in economics at UIC and will begin the PhD program in sociology at the University of Chicago. He is interested in economic sociology and extended blog comments.

It’s a shame sociology took its final-swoop quantitative turn just about the same time economics reissued its permissions to do comparative history and started publishing discourse studies in its mainstream journals.  It’s as if estranged siblings would be forever doomed to blow past one another and reissue each other’s mistakes.  Politics.

The turn for sociology was of course both theoretical and empirical, but that damned dissertation in 2021 really sealed it: Foundations of Sociological Analysis (Paul Samuelson glowed proud from his grave).  It was as if sociologists had been waiting for someone to come along and resolve all the definitional issues in theory and compose an axiomatic graph-theoretic derivation of sociological principles.  Now all the theorists do is applied combinatorics on graphs.  Useless.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 12, 2013 at 12:01 am

congratulations to Omar!

Earlier this week the Theory Section of ASA announced in an email that Omar Lizardo is this year’s winner of the Lewis Coser Award for Theoretical Agenda Setting. Congratulations!  According to the Theory Section’s website, the award is “intended to recognize a mid-career sociologist whose work holds great promise for setting the agenda in the field of sociology.” This is a well-deserved recognition for Omar, whose research covers a diverse range of theory and empirical substance. It’s unlikely that you’ve read everything interesting that Omar has written lately (including his fantastic book reviews). My advice is just to dig in and start reading. You’ll learn something.


Written by brayden king

July 11, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Posted in just theory, omar, sociology

data science is engineering – a guest post by karissa mckelvey

This is a guest post by Karissa McKelvey. She is affiliated with the Complex Systems PhD program at Indiana University’s School of Informatics. She works on the intersection of social media and political mobilization and has co-authored papers on Occupy Wall Street and the More Tweets/More Votes phenomenon.

Why Data Science is just a fad, and the future of the academy

We expect students to write research papers as well as do statistics in R or STATA or Matlab on small datasets. Why don’t we expect them to deal with very very large datasets? We are told that “Data Science” is the answer to this “Big Data” problem.

I’d like to redefine Data Science: it is the act of gluing toolkits together to create a pipeline from raw data to information to knowledge.There are no innovations to be made in Data Science. The innovations to be made here are in Computer Science, Informatics, Statistics, Sociology, Visualization, Math, etc. — and they always will be.

Data Science is just engineering.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 10, 2013 at 12:01 am

Y u no cite me?


Two uncomfortable, if not disconcerting, realizations of academic publishing is that (1) people don’t read, or (2) if they do read and write, they don’t cite relevant or appropriate work. A hard-working academic’s day can be quickly sent down the dark hole of despair or rage face when reading a manuscript or publication that doesn’t properly cite relevant work or (ahem) one’s own seminal work. Worse, if cited, the work may be cited wrongly, or the minor points override the major takeaways in subsequent research and citations. In these situations, the imperative that one should contribute to standing on the shoulders of giants calls to mind the bleak image of a whale fruitlessly calling out for colleagues in an endless sea.

More whale-calling, channeling Andy Abbott, below the fold…
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Written by katherinechen

June 27, 2013 at 8:45 pm

flexible ethnicity

Aliya Saperstein and Andrew Penner have some new research exploring the topic of how ethnicity changes. A few clips, from their write up in the Boston Review:

The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth has been following a group of about 12,000 Americans since they were teenagers and young adults in 1979. From 1979 to 1998, the survey interviewers had to identify the race of the people they interviewed, even when those people had been repeatedly interviewed. At the end of each session, interviewers recorded whether they thought a respondent was “Black,” “White,” or “Other.” Here is the surprise: nearly 20 percent of respondents experienced at least one change in their recorded race over those 19 years.

These changes were not random, as one might expect if the interviewers were just hurrying to finish up or if the data-entry clerks were making mistakes. The racial classifications changed systematically, in response to what had happened to the respondent since the previous interview.

All else being equal, including how they had been racially classified before, respondents who were unemployed, had children outside of marriage, or lived in the inner city were less likely to be classified as white and more likely to be classified as black. Having been incarcerated, unemployed, divorced, or impoverished each reduced the chances by a percentage point or two that someone who was recorded as white by an interviewer one year would be seen as white again the next year.

Read the whole thing.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 23, 2013 at 12:18 am

Posted in fabio, sociology

sociology blog list

The website “Best Sociology Programs” has a list of 30 soc blogs. The list covers some of the usual suspects (like this blog, Kieran’s blog, or Phil Cohen). I also learned about some bloggers that are new to me, like Deborah Lupton (“This Sociological Life“), Zero Anthropology, which focuses on postcolonial communities, and Neuroanthropology, which is self-explanatory and run by PLoS  One.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 16, 2013 at 12:39 am

Posted in blogs, fabio, sociology

racial formation theory – recent developments

Ethnic and Racial Studies has a symposium on racial formation theory. It’s focused on an essay by Faegin and Elias, with responses by Omi & Winant, Hughey & Byrd, Dennis, Wingfield, Golash-Boza, & Banton. Interesting reading for the strat crowd.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 14, 2013 at 12:25 am

Posted in fabio, sociology

Organization Studies special issue on social movements, civil society, and corporations

I’m happy to announce that the Organization Studies special issue on social movements, civil society, and corporations is finally being published. The online version of the issue is already here! What began as a small workshop in southern France in which scholars from all over the world (literally, we covered every continent except for Africa) got together to share their empirical research and talk about ideas has now turned into a published work. I’m very excited about the final product. The issue has an interesting set of articles from authors on both sides of the Atlantic and covering diverse empirical settings, from the 19th Century creation of the limited liability corporation in Britain to the astroturfing of an anti-corporate movement in modern day India. The studies illustrate various ways in which civil society penetrates corporate entities via social movement mobilization and how civil society, in turn, is being shaped by movement-corporate interactions. I won’t discuss each paper here, but if you’d like an overview, feel free to read the introduction to the special issue.

Thanks to the reviewers, many of whom are orgheads, and authors for your contributions to the issue.

Written by brayden king

June 12, 2013 at 4:58 pm

silly social movement moment, #3


Silly social movement #1 and #2.

According to the International Business Times, UK edition – a gathering of right wing extremist was chased off – by women in badger suits. The article explains:

A rally by extremists from the British National Party and the English Defence League was dwarfed by opposition campaigners staging rival protests in London on Saturday 1 June.

Shortly after lunch, a die-hard core of around 50 BNP and EDL supporters was confronted outside parliament by hundreds of activists from anti-extremist groups including Unite Against Fascism and Hope Not Hate.

But in the event, both groups were upstaged by agitators of a different stripe. Decked out from head to toe in black and white, the group that won the day were campaigning neither for race war nor ethnic equality, but an end to the government’s cull on badgers.

And it was the pro-badger campaigners who appeared to steal a march on the political activists.

Young women dressed in fake fur were seen chasing doughty nationalist supporters down London’s Whitehall as a large number of security forces in iridescent jackets looked on from police lines.

Led by Queen guitarist Brian May, protesters in fancy dress demanded an end to the government’s cull of badgers, brought in to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

No comment needed.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 5, 2013 at 12:29 am

raise your hand if you’re a functionalist… neo-functionalist? … anyone? anyone?

Now that I’ve been on faculty for almost ten years, I’ve spent a lot of time reading journal articles, manuscript submissions, book proposals, tenure files, and hundreds (!) of job applications. I’ve notice that almost no-one self-describes as a functionalist or neo-functionalist, except a few senior scholars like Jeffrey Alexander or Paul Colomy. This is surprising because sociologists still do research on social norms, social systems, and social differentiation, which are issues of central importance to classical structural functionalism. Why?

  1. Maybe people still do neo/functionalism, but they just don’t use the old jargon. Since Parsons got banished in the 1970s, maybe people don’t even know they are functionalists since they aren’t exposed to it. Call it functionalism on the “down low.”
  2. Maybe people simply migrated out of American sociology. Luhmann is clearly a neo-functionalist but he’s more popular in areas like media studies. He’s also a Big Deal in European sociology.
  3. Maybe there is a notable crowd of functionalists, but they simply don’t run in my circles.
  4. Functionalist ideas were imported/distorted by modern sociologists. A lot of folks have argued that institutionalism is a sort of modern day functionalism.
  5. Redefinition: The topics of interests to functionalists (e.g., norms) are better analyzed when recast in other theories. For example, the rational choice theory of norms has more appeal than Parson’s theory.
  6. Elite abandonment: Maybe it is just the structure of the profession. The elites killed functionalism by not hiring them in leading programs. With only a few functionalists (any other than Alexander?) in top 20 programs, it is nearly impossible to train a self-sustaining cohort of functionalist scholars.

Other ideas? Can any neo/functionalists enlighten me?

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Written by fabiorojas

May 22, 2013 at 12:13 am

Sociological Science is coming

Jenn Lena broke the news before I could.  I’ll add my excitement and say that creating an open source sociology journal with a fast and limited review process that allows online comments and community engagement is something that needed to happen. And it IS happening. In Fall 2013 you can submit your papers to Sociological Science and, if you get through the evaluation process, you can see your paper published within months of submission.  One of the most exciting aspects of the journal is how reviews work. Rather than forcing authors to go through months (or years) of agonizing back-and-forth with reviewers, the editors will make an up-or-down decision based on an initial review. The reviews will be evaluative, not developmental. Once published, readers can respond to articles and “challenge or extend other people’s work.” Publication will be continuous, and so as soon as your article has been accepted and edited, it will go online as a published article.

I think the journal is going to fill an important niche in sociology. I hope that one consequence of the journal will be to pressure other journals to speed up the process and to make publications be more interactive.  It’s still too early to tell how the journal will fare in attracting high quality papers. I sincerely hope that people will send some of their best stuff to the journal. If they do, then I wonder what consequence this will have for the vast set of secondary/specialist journals in our field. Journals like Social Forces and Social Problems will be those most likely to take hits.

Written by brayden king

May 7, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Posted in brayden, research, sociology

attention stratification researchers: we now have seven social classes, i repeat: we now have seven social classes

From the UK, a new survey, conducted by the BBC and six universities, asserts that there are now seven social classes in Britain. The Guardian has a humorous take, using example from UK sitcoms:

Elite: General Melchett from Blackadder Goes Fourth. Braying, bellowing, incompetent and utterly contemptuous of the lower orders, Melchett would naturally expect to find himself at the top of the pecking order.

Established middle class: Margot and Jerry Leadbetter from The Good Life. As the establishment pillars of comfortable and conservative 1970s suburban society, the couple existed in pointed contrast to their more free-thinking neighbours Tom and Barbara Good.

Technical middle class: David Brent from The Office. Despite his supposedly rock’n’roll past, Ricky Gervais’s fist-gnawingly embarrassing general manager was resolutely middle class.

New affluent workers: Miranda from Miranda. Miranda Hart herself may be established middle class, but the heroine of her eponymous sitcom sits comfortably in a slightly lower category.

Traditional working class: Jim Royle from The Royle Family. Could Ricky Tomlinson’s armchair-bound, TV-addicted patriarch be anything other than proudly working class? My arse!

Emergent service workers: Maurice Moss from the IT Crowd. Young, nerdish and living at home with his mum, Moss could fit the emergent service worker class but probably needs a little work to increase his social and cultural capital levels.

Precariat: Rab C Nesbitt. Gregor Fisher’s much-loved and enduring sitcom creation has assumed the status of folk hero despite his resolutely unglamorous life.

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Written by fabiorojas

April 28, 2013 at 12:34 am

Posted in fabio, fun, sociology

mothers in male dominated, overworked fields

From my colleague, Youngjoo Cha, a new paper in Gender and Society on the the tendency of mothers to not stay in overworked male dominated fields:

This study investigates whether the increasingly common trend of working long hours (“overwork”) perpetuates gender segregation in occupations. While overwork is an expected norm in many male-dominated occupations, women, especially mothers, are structurally less able to meet this expectation because their time is subject to family demands more than is men’s time. This study investigates whether the conflicting time demands of work and family increase attrition rates of mothers in male-dominated occupations, thereby reinforcing occupational segregation. Using longitudinal data drawn from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, I show that mothers are more likely to leave male-dominated occupations when they work 50 hours or more per week, but the same effect is not found for men or childless women. Results also show that overworking mothers are more likely to exit the labor force entirely, and this pattern is specific to male-dominated occupations. These findings demonstrate that the norm of overwork in male-dominated workplaces and the gender beliefs operating in the family combine to reinforce gender segregation of the labor market.

Good stuff.

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Written by fabiorojas

April 26, 2013 at 12:18 am

Posted in fabio, family, sociology

more tweets, more votes: social media as a quantitative indicator of political behavior


Unit of analysis: US House elections in 2010 and 2012. X-Axis: (# of tweets mentioning the GOP candidate)/(# of tweets mentioning either major party candidate). Y-axis: GOP margin of victory.

I have a new working paper with Joe DiGrazia*, Karissa McKelvey and Johan Bollen asking if social media data actually forecasts offline behavior. The abstract:

Is social media a valid indicator of political behavior? We answer this question using a random sample of 537,231,508 tweets from August 1 to November 1, 2010 and data from 406 competitive U.S. congressional elections provided by the Federal Election Commission. Our results show that the percentage of Republican-candidate name mentions correlates with the Republican vote margin in the subsequent election. This finding persists even when controlling for incumbency, district partisanship, media coverage of the race, time, and demographic variables such as the district’s racial and gender composition. With over 500 million active users in 2012, Twitter now represents a new frontier for the study of human behavior. This research provides a framework for incorporating this emerging medium into the computational social science toolkit.

The working paper (short!) is here. I’d appreciate your comments.

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* Yes, he’ll be in the market in the Fall.

Written by fabiorojas

April 23, 2013 at 2:41 am

religion and immigration rights in the US

Yesterday’s WSJ featured an interesting (gated) front page article on growing support among some evangelical congregations for extending immigration rights to undocumented immigrants. Drawing on the Bible to justify “welcoming the stranger,” leaders have urged outreach efforts and political mobilization for overhauling immigration reform, even though these activities may alienate some congregants and politicians. According to the WSJ, one opposing politician has countered supporters’ assertions with the claim that “The Bible contains numerous passages that do not necessarily support amnesty and instead support the rule of law. The Scriptures clearly indicate that God charges civil authorities with preserving order, protecting citizens and punishing wrongdoers.” Clearly, groups and individuals are tapping logics of religion and the state to offer various rationales for the status quo versus change.

Sociologist Grace Yukich has conducted research on a similar movement for immigration rights among Catholic groups. Her forthcoming book One Family Under God: Religion and Immigration Politics in the New Sanctuary Movement (Oxford) examines how supporters simultaneously engage with a larger social movement at the grassroots level and reshape the composition of their flock. Check out more about Yukich’s work via her blog posts on Mobilizing Ideas and The Immanent Frame.

Written by katherinechen

April 10, 2013 at 5:55 pm

meet me in mississippi!!! + blog break


This Friday, I will be giving a talk at Millsaps College. This will be part of their “Friday Forum.” It will be at the Gertrude Ford Academic Complex, Room 215, Millsaps College from 12:30 to 1:30pm.

I will speaking on my research about the anti-Iraq War movement and its abatement during the Obama administration. Please email me if you want to meet personally on Thursday or Friday.

Since I’ll be travelling this week, I will take a break from the blog. Next Monday, I will resume blogging with Part 2 of our discussion of Reinventing Evidence. (Part 1, book review at Scatterplot.)

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Written by fabiorojas

April 8, 2013 at 3:03 am

regnerus, bellesiles, and duesberg

Three scientific controversies worth comparing:

  1. Mark Regnerus publishes a study in Social Science Research claiming that having gay parents is correlated with worse outcomes for children. This is an example of a conservative attacking a belief held by liberals. The subsequent controversy focuses on the actual findings of his survey and the extremely expedited review process.
  2. Michael Bellesiles published Arming America, a book claiming that colonial Americans owned very few guns. This is a liberal attack on a conservative belief.  The subsequent controversy revealed that Bellesiles had almost certainly made up a lot of data, which lead to his dismissal from his university position.
  3. Peter Duesberg is a microbiologist who does not believe that the AIDS is caused by the HIV virus. He believes it is caused by other factors. This, as far as I can tell, not political on his part. He fervently believes in a different hypothesis. There was a controversy which resulted in Duesberg being ostracized by other microbiologists but otherwise retaining is position at UC Berkeley. Duesberg has not changed his opinion, but most other researchers are convinced he is wrong.

Commentary: In academia, you will get attacked if you puncture a widely held belief, regardless of the politics. Somebody will want the credit of taking you down – and that’s not always a bad thing. However, what happens during the controversy is complex. The Regnerus controversy shows that you can survive charges of favoritism and charges of really, really stretching what the data says. The Duesberg controversy shows that you can survive being wrong.* The Bellesiles incident shows that you can’t survive fraud.

A deeper issue is that Regnerus and Duesberg survived because of tenure. They are able to continue teaching and working despite their hugely unpopular opinions because of privilege we give to our senior faculty. However, tenure will only help you though if you play by academic rules. While we may disagree with what these scholars say, I’d chalk up these three example of tenure living up to its promise.

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* There’s a subtle issue with Duesberg. You may not survive if you are associated with a controversial figure. For example, the editor of Medical Hypotheses quit his job after publishing an opinion piece by Duesberg.

Written by fabiorojas

April 5, 2013 at 12:01 am

Posted in ethics, fabio, sociology

new article in public opinion quarterly

I have a new article coming out in the journal Public Opinion Quarterly. It’s called “Correcting for Postmortem Bias in Longitudinal Surveys.”  I think you might enjoy it. Here’s the abstract:

Ever since the pioneering work of Heckman (1965), social scientists have been acutely aware of selection bias in surveys. This is especially true for longitudinal studies where respondents may drop out of the survey after the first wave due to deceasement. This paper proposes a solution to this problem through postmortem follow up interviews. We illustrate this technique with the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics. Through postmortem interviews, we are able to increase the response rates by approximately 15% and we can identify biases in the original PSID data. For example, we find that employment was over reported in the original PSID. Interestingly, we find that voting increased once the dead were included, an effect attributable to deceased respondents in the Chicago metropolitan statistical area. These results show the promise of including the dead in all future social research. This study was supported by NSF grant 123-666.

Check it out.

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Written by fabiorojas

April 1, 2013 at 3:41 am

regnerus follow up

Think Progress has been digging further into the back story behind the Regnerus/gay parents paper. The news site got one of the study’s funders to admit that the conclusion was predetermined:

Tellez confirmed to The American Independent that he was referring to same-sex marriage cases. In April 2011 — a year before the study was complete — Tellez wrote in a letter that “we are confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study as long as it is done honestly and well.” He also suggested that no prior study had properly compared children raised by a mother and father and those “headed by gay and lesbian couples, but of course the Regnerus study doesn’t even do that.

The study was submitted for publication in February 2012 before Regnerus had even completed all of the data collection and accepted just six weeks later, while many other articles published in the same issue took a year between submission and acceptance. Peer review was similarly hurried, with one social demographer admitting that he only had two weeks to review the study and offer a commentary — without even having access to all the data.

Previous Regnerus discussion on orgtheory.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 30, 2013 at 12:42 am

sociology don’t pay nuthin’ had one of those lists of majors that don’t pay very well. #8? You guessed it – sociology:

People who enter the field of sociology generally are interested in helping their fellow man. Unfortunately, that kind of benevolence doesn’t usually translate to wealth. Here are three jobs commonly held by sociology majors (click on job title and/or salary for more info):

… social worker

… corrections officer

… chemical dependency counselor

This is one of those cheesy magazine articles on careers, but it is consistent with prior research on college majors and income. Sociology is a feeder into service professions. That’s a good thing, though I do wonder how my sublime lectures on the differences between structuralism and post-structuralism help people get off of drugs.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 29, 2013 at 12:34 am

the complete marcel mauss – free!

The complete works (in French) of Mauss.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 28, 2013 at 12:01 am

Sociology Rankings and the Fabio Effect

When I posted the Sociology Department Rankings for 2013 I joked that Indiana made it to the Top 10 “due solely to Fabio mobilizing a team of role-playing enthusiasts to relentlessly vote in the survey. (This is speculation on my part.)” Well, some further work with the dataset on the bus this morning suggests that the Fabio Effect is something to be reckoned with after all.

The dataset we collected has—as best we can tell—635 respondents. More precisely it has 635 unique anonymized IP addresses, so probably slightly fewer actual people, if we assume some people voted at work, then maybe again via their phone or from home. Our 635 respondents made 46,317 pairwise comparisons of departments. Now, in any reputational survey of this sort there is a temptation to enhance the score of one’s own institution, perhaps directly by voting for them whenever you can (if you are allowed) or more indirectly by voting down potential peers whenever you can. For this reason some reputational surveys (like the Philosophical Gourmet Report) prohibit respondents from voting for their employer or Ph.D-granting school. The All our Ideas framework has no such safeguards, but it does have a natural buffer when the number of paired comparisons is large. One has the opportunity to vote for one’s own department, but the number of possible pairs is large enough that it’s quite hard to influence the outcome.

It’s not impossible, however.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Kieran

March 27, 2013 at 2:34 am

Sociology Department Rankings for 2013

Update: I updated these analyses (fixing the double-counting problem). The results changed a little, so reload to see the new figures.

Last week we launched the OrgTheory/AAI 2013 Sociology Department Ranking Survey, taking advantage of Matt Salganik’s excellent All Our Ideas service to generate sociology rankings based on respondents making multiple pairwise comparisons between department. That is, questions of the form “In your judgment, which of the following is the better Sociology department?” followed by a choice between two departments. Amongst other advantages, this method tends to get you a lot of data quickly. People find it easier to make a pairwise choice between two alternatives than to assign a rating score or produce a complete ranking amongst many alternatives. They also get addicted to the process and keep making choices. In our survey, over 600 respondents made just over 46,000 pairwise comparisons. In the original version of this post I used the Session IDs supplied in the data, forgetting that the data file also provides non-identifying (hashed) IP addresses. I re-ran the analysis using voter-aggregated rather than session-aggregated data, so now there is no double-counting. The results are a little cleaner. Although the All Our Ideas site gives you the results itself, I was interested in getting some other information out of the data, particularly confidence intervals for departments. Here is a figure showing the rankings for the Top 50 departments, based on ability scores derived from a direct-comparison Bradley-Terry model.

"Top 50."

The model doesn’t take account of any rater effects, but given the general state of the U.S. News ranking methodology I am not really bothered. As you can see, the gradation looks pretty smooth. The first real “hinge” in the rankings (in the sense of a pretty clean separation between a department and the one above it) comes between Toronto and Emory. You could make a case, if you squint a bit, that UT Austin and Duke are at a similar hinge-point with respect to the departments ranked above and below them. Indiana’s high ranking is due solely to Fabio mobilizing a team of role-playing enthusiasts to relentlessly vote in the survey. (This is speculation on my part.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Kieran

March 25, 2013 at 3:58 pm

meet in me in chicago!!! again!!!!

Yo: I will be in Chicago for the Midwest Sociological Association meeting on Thursday. Want to chat? Hang out? Talk about sociology? I’ll be on a panel discussing The Handbook of Sociology and Human Rights edited by David Brunsma, Keri Smith, and Brian Gran. Pls email/tweet/facebook/smoke signal me.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 25, 2013 at 4:02 am

spring book forum coming up: reinventing evidence

Reminder: Our spring 2013 book forum will be on Richard Biernacki’s Reinventing Evidence.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 24, 2013 at 12:01 am


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