Archive for the ‘sociology’ Category

arthur sakamoto discusses the sociology of asian americans

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The “Half-Hour of Heterodoxy Podcast,” run by orgtheory reader and guest blogger Chris Martin, interviewed Texas A&M sociologist Arthur Sakamoto. The topic is the diversity of Asian Americans. Sakamoto suggests that scholars are over-estimating the inequality of Asian America. For example, he argues that basic statistics on Asian American status attainment overstate poverty and non-completion of school. One example he offers is that some Asian Americans, such as Laotians, come from nations with minimal or no–high schools. So when you lump together 1st and 2nd generation people, you get some really low numbers.

The podcast is fascinating and worth listening to. Here, I’ll conclude with a thought about why researchers might trend toward reporting low-status attainment for Asian Americans. I think the main issue is the model minority myth, which basically says that Asian Americans have un-problematically assimilated into American society. People might use high educational attainment or (modestly) high income to over look anti-Asian or anti-immigrant racism, glass ceilings, and other challenges. This is a valid point, but that doesn’t mean we can’t develop a more accurate view of Asian Americans that recognizes both a history of anti-Asian racism and the fact that many groups have done relatively well in terms of conventional measures of SES.

Another issue is sociology’s preference for studying low status people in contrast to higher status people. Considering the very small number of papers on Asian Americans in our top 2-3 journals, my hypothesis is that it would be even harder to publish in those venues by focusing on populations that do relatively well. It’s not impossible of course, but harder than it might otherwise be.


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Written by fabiorojas

May 30, 2018 at 5:10 pm

robert bellah and people of color in habits of the heart

Habits of the Heart is simply a great book. Period. It’s not only a classic statement on American character, it’s also the first major book that employs a “cultural toolkit” framework, as developed by Swidler, Bellah, Tipton, and others. Still, that does’t mean that it’s without limitations. This post is a strong criticism of Habits‘ research methodology and how these problems lead to incorrect conclusions.

When I teach Habits, usually to graduate students, a common criticism is that the book only reflects the lived experiences of White Americans. One student said that after reading the book, you come away with the impression that the book is really about urban yoga fanatics.

I see what they mean. The book’s data is incredibly biased. In the preface to the first edition, the authors basically throw away standard social science data collection techniques. Each author did field work in a “community,” which is not specified. There is literally no discussion of how the field work was conducted (how long? auto-ethography? participant observation? field site selection?). Each author chose a “representative form” of public life, such as love and marriage.

They also offer therapy (page xliii) as a “increasingly important” aspect of middle class life. Wow! There is no argument or information presented about how common therapy is. Furthermore, there is a massive selection bias. If one of the issues you address is coping and pragmatic responses to particular life situations, then selecting therapy participants biases you towards a very specific kind of person. And don’t bother looking for descriptions of how interviews are conducted, or what the differences between populations might be.

When we read about data collection, it gets worse. Sample quote from the 1st edition:

“We do not claim that we have talked to average Americans or a representative sample. We have read a great many surveys and community studies, enough to know that those to whom we talked are not aberrant.” (page xliv)

Which studies? None mentioned. How did they measure the difference? No details, either.

Ok, now let’s get to racial differences. If you search the text for discussions of Blacks, you get very few, and only in reference to segregation or the Civil Rights movement (e.g., page 203). For a book about how people think about individualism, it is shocking to have so little discussion of how race may affect how people think about freedom and autonomy.

Someone drew  my attention to a 2007 Sociology of Religion article by Bellah where he answers critics. You can read it here. What he says on page 190 is that (a) he claims there is no difference and that (b) he addressed any differences in The Broken Covenant.

Let’s examine each point: (a) The critics are correct and Bellah is wrong. If you sample 200 people and interview them (see pages xlii-xliv), you will get about 30 Blacks – not enough statistical power to make any firm inference. It might be the case the he doesn’t understand statistical inference. With sample sizes that small, you simply will have a tough time picking up effects. But he admits he doesn’t have a representative sample to start with! Frankly, this is a mess.

(b) Bellah is wrong again. The Broken Covenant is a historical review of civil religion in America. To his credit, he does talk about race, a few times. But it is not an empirical examination of how Blacks and Whites deal with civil religion. There is nothing that I could find in this book that would lead me to believe that Whites and Blacks experience civic life in just about the same way. Heck, there are passages which suggest the opposite! A central message of The Broken Covenant is that civic religion has often come up short in America, which would suggest that some people feel left out.

Let me wrap up with a theoretical argument. One of the major innovations in the study of race and ethnicity is the application of habitus theories. This comes out with Bonilla-Silva and the “race without racism” school and it also comes out in more recent books like Emirbayer and Desmond’s treatment of race. If we understand habitus as being aligned with structures of inequality, our theoretical expectation is that whites and blacks would have very different situational responses to everyday problems. This theory may be wrong and maybe Bellah et al. might be right, but they simply don’t have the data to prove the null is true. Race (probably) matters.

Bottom line: Habit’s is commendable for many reasons, but research methodology is not one and it leads to some dodgy inferences.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

April 25, 2018 at 4:40 am

no echo chamber for contexts

When I was visiting UC San Diego a few weeks ago, I gave a talk on public sociology. One audience member asked, “how does Contexts, and public sociology more generally, avoid being an echo chamber?”

Great question. First, you have to recognize that there is an echo chamber and that it is worth getting out of. Like any other academic discipline, sociology has its own culture. Often, it is easier to appeal to the crowd than reach out to people who aren’t already invested in sociology.

Second, you need a concrete strategy. If you genuinely care about breaking out of an echo chamber, then you need to think about actually doing something. At Contexts, we are already working on it. For example, one barrier we are trying to break down is the disciplinary boundary. In Winter, we interviewed the eminent political scientist Melissa Harris-Perry. In Spring, we’ll have a super cool interview with a leading legal academic who works in government (I won’t spoil it). Summer and Spring will have amazing interviews with leading figures in areas outside of sociology. Trust me, it will be amazing.

Another boundary that I want to break is ideological. I’d like to have material that has appeal to both liberal and conservative readers. That’s a work in progress. We’ll see how it goes. But I do know one thing for sure. It won’t work if you don’t try it.

Do you want a public sociology that speaks beyond sociology? I do, too. If you have an idea, put it in the comments. I’d love to hear it.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

April 23, 2018 at 8:51 pm

submitted a paper for an ASA section award? submit it to SocArXiv and be eligible for a SOAR award too

If you’ve submitted a paper to be considered for an American Sociological Association section award – including a graduate student award – consider submitting it to SocArXiv as well. Any paper that is uploaded to SocArXiv by April 30 and wins a 2018 ASA section award will, upon letting us know, receive a supplementary SOAR (Sociology Open Access Recognition) award of $250 in recognition of your achievement. Support open access, gain recognition, and win money all at the same time!

Here’s how it works: You upload your paper to SocArXiv by April 30. If it’s a published paper, check your author agreement or the Sherpa/ROMEO database to see what version, if any, you’re allowed to share. Once you find out you’ve won a section award, email SocArXiv will send you a check for $250, as well as publicizing your paper and officially conferring a SOAR award. That’s the whole deal.

Sharing your paper through SocArXiv is a win-win. It’s good for you, because you get the word out about your research. It’s good for social science, because more people have access to ungated information. And now, with SOAR prizes for award-winning papers, it can be good for your wallet, too. For more information and FAQs visit this link.


Written by epopp

April 9, 2018 at 2:25 pm

SocArXiv highlights for march

SocArXiv has been up and running for a year and a half now, and has accepted well over 2000 papers to date. Although you can follow the SocArXiv bot on Twitter to see what’s coming down the transom, and this page provides a running feed of the latest papers and abstracts, it’s a lot to follow – last month more than 200 papers were uploaded.

Toward the end of making this firehose of research a bit more manageable, I thought I’d start to do a little curating. The intent at this point is to do this once a month, though clearly it could be a weekly feature.

Highlighted below are a handful of intriguing papers posted to SocArXiv recently. Selection criteria are totally idiosyncratic – sociology-centric and based on what looks intriguing to me, with some eye toward broader appeal. If you’re interested in helping to curate on a monthly basis, perhaps with a focus on a particular subfield, email me at

Disclaimer: I make no claim to peer review here or even to close reading of the papers to evaluate quality; some have been published and gone through peer review while others are working papers.

So, with no further ado:

The Emotional Labor of Surveillance: Evidence from the Fast Fashion Retail Industry

Madison Van Oort

This ethnography- and interview-based paper looks at just-in-time scheduling, biometric scanners, and point-of-sale metrics as forms of worker surveillance at two major “fast fashion” retailers. It details the ways these technologies shape work practices and require new kinds of emotional labor—the “emotional labor of surveillance.” I saw Van Oort present research from this project at ASA last year and it was fascinating – there is lots of room to understand how new technology is yet again restructuring the workplace through new forms of discipline than in turn produce their own resistance.

Exposure to Opposing Views can Increase Political Polarization: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment on Social Media

Christopher Bail, Lisa Argyle, Taylor Brown, John Bumpus, Haohan Chen, M.B. Fallin Hunzaker, Jaemin Lee, Marcus Mann, Friedolin Merhout, Alexander Volfovsky

This large-scale experiment got a lot of attention on (surprise) social media when it was posted a couple of weeks ago. Following a survey, authors randomly assigned Democratic and Republican Twitter users to follow a bot that would periodically tweet messages from the “other side”. After a month, they surveyed respondents again, finding that Republicans became substantially more conservative after following a liberal Twitter bot, and Democrats became slightly (but insignificantly) more liberal. Make of that what you will, but it’s interesting experimental evidence.

The Rise of the Randomistas: On the Experimental Turn in International Aid

Kevin Donovan

Speaking of experiments, this paper recently published online-first in Economy and Society looks at how randomized controlled trials became a newly dominant form of knowledge in international development. Promoted as a means of securing epistemic certainty, RCTs have reconfigured both development economics and international aid itself, yet still fail to achieve the closure hoped for by their proponents. This intriguing paper, part of a not-yet-published issue on evidence-based policy, builds on the work of scholars like Monika Krause and Gil Eyal to understand how networks of expertise are produced and maintained.

Leaving the Financial Nest: Connecting Young Adults’ Financial Independence to Financial Security

Megan Doherty Bea and Youngmin Yi

As someone with an interest in student loans and their effects, I found this paper on young adults and their reliance on family support intriguing. Clearly the ability of parents to continue to assist young adults is a difficult-to-measure but important mechanism for the reproduction of inequality. Using PSID data, this paper uses group-based trajectory analysis to identify four latent classes of young adults: consistently independent, quickly independent, gradually independent, and consistently supported. The consistently independent group, with lower average socioeconomic status, reports more financial worry and has a greater chance of being in poverty. This approach seems very promising for better understanding the mechanisms through which intergenerational advantage is transmitted and reproduced.

Too Many Papers? Slowed Canonical Progress in Large Fields of Science

Johan S. G. Chu and James Evans

Finally, and appropriate to the project of sorting through lots of papers, this short working paper uses a very large dataset (57 million papers and a billion citations) to look at how scientific fields develop as the number of papers in them grows large. Increasing size leads to “ossification” of the literature rather than increased citation of new papers, suggesting that new ideas may have trouble gaining hold as readers, overwhelmed by the literature, focus on canonical texts. This intriguing evidence could be interpreted in a number of different ways, and will doubtless generate debate over which story best fits the empirical citation patterns.

There’s lots of good stuff out there – I easily could have highlighted several times this number of papers! Again, if you’re interested in helping curate interesting work on SocArXiv, please let me know – with more people, and different tastes, we could conceivably do something a little more systematic here.

Written by epopp

April 2, 2018 at 1:46 pm

Posted in research, sociology

one more day till oow award deadlines

Last call — March 31st is the deadline to nominate your work for the ASA Organizations, Occupations and Work section awards: the Richard Scott Article Award, the Max Weber Book Award, and the James D. Thompson Graduate Student Paper Award.

And while you’re at it, submit your paper to SocArXiv as well, where it will automatically become eligible for the SOAR (Sociology Open Award Recognition) awards — any paper already submitted to SocArXiv that wins any ASA section award is eligible for a supplementary $250 cash prize. Support open science and win money too!

Written by epopp

March 30, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Posted in research, sociology

christian nationalism and trump

If you haven’t seen it yet, Andrew Whitehead, Joseph Baker, and Samuel Perry have an essay at the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage on why white Evangelicals largely continue to support Trump, despite his extramarital affairs with Playboy models and porn stars. The essay is an explanation of the authors’ really compelling Sociology of Religion article on Christian nationalism, which is very much worth reading. As they point out, while Christian nationalism certainly intersects with issues of racism and class resentment, the three are distinct phenomena.  White Evangelicals want “make American Christian again” and that motivation is another important piece to take into account. It’s one of many reasons why religion is more than an epiphenomenon and the sociological study of religion continues to be vitally important.



Written by jeffguhin

March 26, 2018 at 3:50 pm