sociology in the atlantic
Two articles about sociology in four days, written by the sociologists themselves! These both look like great books. It’d be wonderful to see more projects like these excerpted/previewed in The Atlantic or similar magazines. Obviously Matt Desmond was working with a publisher that made those kinds of connections a bit easier, but I don’t see why this can’t be a more standard practice. It’s great for the authors, the discipline, and the reading public.
To the work! First, a few days ago Steve Viscelli had a piece related to his research on truckers, and the way that companies convince drivers to become contractors usually against their best interests:
So, truck driving has its appeal—for a few months anyway. The money is better than many workers can earn in service jobs, but in most cases that’s only because they are working the equivalent of two full-time jobs. There are laws that are supposed to limit how much drivers work, and they record their hours on paper or in an electronic log. The rules are complicated, but limit drivers’ working hours to roughly 60 hours per week. But those laws aren’t effective, partly because 90 percent of the typical driver’s compensation is based on the number of miles they drive, so they only count the hours they absolutely have to. While the number of hours they spend driving on public roads is counted relatively accurately, many, many of the hours drivers work are spent waiting while their trucks are loaded and unloaded, and doing all kinds of unpaid, non-driving work that ranges from filling out paperwork to fueling their truck. Considering all the unpaid work drivers are putting in, they tend to earn little more than minimum wage. Over the four months I spent on the road, I averaged less than $10 per hour worked.
Universities now rely, in part, on parents, particularly those with money, time, and connections, to meet their basic needs. Solvency is the most pressing one—net tuition now accounts for 47 percent of all public higher-education revenue, so schools necessarily prefer applicants who don’t require financial aid. Most public institutions, like the one I studied, are not need-blind, and take student funding into account. They particularly value out-of-state and international families who pay top dollar.
However, paying parents typically bring more than funds alone. They often help promote the university; conduct admissions interviews; interface with donating alumni; assist with their own students’ emotional, cognitive, and physical needs; and help place graduates (both related and not) in valuable internships and jobs. Competition to attract these parents is stiff—and administrators’ complaints about parental “meddling” are now tempered with interest in a “partnership relationship” with parents. As such, four-year schools structure their classes, activities, and living options around traditional students and expect parents to do the work of maintaining them, even as the financial, physical, and emotional costs of doing so continue to escalate.