Archive for the ‘sociology’ Category

how to increase sociology’s paycheck

On Twitter, Elizabeth noted that the typical economics assistant professor makes 50% more than the typical sociologist. Rather than twist our hands and foam at the mouth, I’d like to start a more constructive conversation about how sociology might increase its paycheck.

To start, you have to understand how academic salaries are set. It goes like this: every year, your college gets a big chunk of money and part of that chunk goes to faculty salaries. Roughly speaking, the faculty salary chunk has a few major chunks – one for part timers/adjuncts; grad students; professional school faculty; and all other faculty. Within each segment, people get “around” the same amount. I am not saying that older faculty aren’t paid more. Rather, most older faculty make what younger people make plus a third, at most. At some schools, full profs make only a tiny bit more than associates or assistants. What you don’t see is senior faculty making double or triple what entry level professors make. The only exception are faculty of world class reputation (e.g., Nobel prize winners).

So how does one improve the overall economic standing of your academic discipline? How does one not get paid the same salary that the rest of the university is getting paid? One strategy is to move to a professional schools. For example, economists in business schools usually make more than those in arts and sciences. But that begs the question – why do they get paid more? Why aren’t MD’s paid what arts and sciences biologists get paid?

Answer: provide actual value to outsiders. If you can do this, you will increase the value of your discipline in two ways. First, outsiders will compete for professors in your area. Second, outsiders will pay academics and increase their salaries through grants, donations, and sponsored research. They will provide an independent pool of income in addition to what your college gives you and it won’t be taken by competing groups (e.g., the Spanish Department).

I think sociology has a lot to offer – we have invented a fair number of things that the wider world uses like focus groups and network analysis. Also, sociologists were pioneers in survey analysis. But nobody seems to know that. So here are some suggestions:

  • Change our public image from “critical” to “we know social behavior.” Note: that doesn’t mean we stop being critical, it’s about packaging.
  • Emphasize our advantage: we are the cool jack of all trades social science.
  • For the BA degree, create a track for applied (e.g., ethnography at work or big data).
  • At the PhD level, celebrate and encourage students who go to the private sector. That ethnographer who is now working in tech? Invite them for a talk!
  • At the faculty level, create “pathways” between high level policy and private jobs. For example, in economics, economists who work at the Fed frequently find their ways back to top econ programs.
  • Break out of the arts and sciences. The pool of income is highly constrained. ASU, for example, has had some success in being a stand alone social science school of sociology.

I think sociology is great, but it is not wise to take things for granted. We should innovate where we can and try to create a new niche for ourselves.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

July 21, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, sociology

the hookup scene: good or bad?

Let’s start with a thought experiment. Assume we want to sell widgets but we haven’t developed any mechanism for coordinating buyers and sellers. Then, you read a proposal for setting up a widget exchange. It will have the following properties:

  • Low information – the buyers and sellers don’t really have a lot of accurate information about widgets. Many customers are first time buyers. Some are minors.
  • 1 shot interaction – the buyers and sellers will only interact with each other briefly and many will never see each other again.
  • Low visibility – widgets will be bought and sold in secret locations and their will be no record of the transaction.
  • Coercion is allowed/No complaints – There will be very little punishment for people who break the terms of widget trading. Many who steal widgets go unpunished. Widget sellers are consistently bigger and stronger than widget buyers.
  • Inebriation – Widget exchange frequently occurs when traders are drunk.

What would be your ex ante evaluation of the propsoed widget exchange? You would be justified in saying that the widget exchange would be inefficient. You might also be justified in saying that the widget exchange facilitates criminality. It is hard to find many reasons to support the proposed widget exchange.

Claim: Modern hookup culture is very close in practice to the dysfunctional widget exchange. In private spaces, young and often sexually inexperienced people meet, drink, and engage in short term relationships. If you think the widget exchange proposed above is bad, then it follows that hookup culture is bad as well.

Social conservatives are often critics of hookup culture because they often pick up on the inefficiencies of that institution. However, they often make a mistake – the rejection of hookup culture does not entail a return to more traditional approaches to the organization of sexuality. We can ask about the institutional design of more traditional sex and apply the same criteria. For example, in a regime of no-premarital sex and unbreakable martial contracts, we would expect suboptimal performance because you have low information customers who commit to a single unbreakable transaction.

One might counter that the a no-premarital sex/no divorce regime might be preferable to hookup culture. If the only option is the hookup scene, then that might be a strong argument. However, there is a lot of unexplored space between hookup culture and more traditional sexual institutions. The hookup scene is only one extreme point on a continuum. It is not hard to imagine other sexual institutions that try to address the problems of hook up culture as I’ve outline them. For example, it might be possible that liberalizing alcohol on campuses might decrease the demand for hookup scenes.

The bottom line in hookup culture is that it is a very bizarre institution with a lot of very bad built-in features. But that doesn’t mean one should revert to an older institution that had its own problems. In an age where people have sex for both procreation and enjoyment, and where birth-control is cheap and common, we should be able to think about the unexplored territory between highly regulated sexual interaction and the false freedom of the hookup scene.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

June 22, 2015 at 12:01 am

cracked magazine discusses how the media makes people hate protestors

Cracked is one of the best mainstream media sources for good social science analysis (no joke). From their article about why people hate protestors:

Wait For One Of Them To Break The Law, Then Talk Only About That…

This might literally be the oldest trick in the book. I’m thinking powerful people have been doing this to protesters and activists since the days when getting gored by a mammoth was a leading cause of death. It plays out like this:

A) A certain group has a complaint — they’re being discriminated against, had their benefits cut, whatever — but they are not the majority.

B) Because the majority is not affected, they are largely ignorant and uninterested in what is going on with the complainers. The news media does not cover their issue, because it’s bad for ratings.

C) To get the majority’s attention, the group with the complaint will gather in large numbers to chant and block traffic, etc. This forces the media to cover the demonstration (since huge, loud groups of people make for good photos and video) and cover the issue in the process (since part of covering the protest involves explaining what is being protested). In America we’ve seen this tactic used by everyone from impoverished war veterans, to women seeking the right to vote, to the protests about police violence you’re seeing all over the news right now.

D) To counter this, all you need to do is simply wait for a member of the activist group — any member — to commit a crime. Then the media will focus on the crime, because riots and broken glass make for even more exciting photos and videos than the demonstrations. The majority — who fears crime and instability above all else — will then hopefully associate the movement with violence from then on.


Convince The Powerful Majority That They’re The Oppressed Ones… Last year a billionaire investor said criticism of the rich today is equivalent to the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust. He’s not having a stroke; he’s under the influence of one of the most powerful techniques the system has in its arsenal. To get the majority to ignore complaints by any disadvantaged group, you simply insist that disadvantaged group has the real power and that the powerful majority is thus the underdog.

Mobilization should ask for reprint rights.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

June 10, 2015 at 12:01 am

internet shaming and african american studies

This post is a commentary on the controversy around Saida Grundy’s tweets. Recently, Grundy, posted tweets about the legacy of racism. The gist of Grundy’s tweets was that there is a legacy of racism and privilege that is not addressed in American society. At the AAUP blog, Arianne Shavisi summarizes the tweets well: “Grundy … an incoming sociology faculty member at Boston University, tweeted a set of remarks and rhetorical questions regarding white supremacy, slavery, and misogyny in the US.” The tweets generated controversy because they were written in an informal fashion and were interpreted by some as racist.

I want to focus on a few issues that have so far have not received much attention. Before I do, I want to be explicit about my own views. There is nothing wrong in asking if the majority in this country have enjoyed privilege or if people have truly acknowledged the history of racism in America. It is also not controversial to note that some ethnic groups, such as Whites, may be over represented on some issues. In terms of style, I would have been more careful. Twitter is the type of media where things can easily be taken out of context. What is funny, or witty, in person can go bad online. There is also a bit dispute over the administration’s response. My view is that university administrators should support an environment of academic free speech, but remain agnostic on particular faculty members.

There are two issues that I’d like to address: the history of controversy in African-American Studies and internet shaming. I’ve written previously in the Teachers College Record, and a little in my book, about the pattern of controversy around African-American Studies. This is relevant since Grundy is jointly appointed in African-American Studies and sociology. Since the beginning, the field has been the target of conservative critics who periodically use African-American Studies as an example of all that is wrong on higher education. During the 2012 Naomi Schaefer Riley incident, a journalist plucked titles of incomplete dissertations and made fun of them. One can go through the pages of conservative opinion journals and books to see periodic critiques of African-American Studies from the likes of John Derbyshire and Dinesh D’Souza (see page 238p, note 5 of the book). In an earlier era, scholars like Martin Kilson would go to the mainstream press to air complaints.

What is new is that these critics now have access to the social media output of African-American Studies scholars. An enterprising critic could comb Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to find the most outrageous things. They can quickly go viral and trigger a wave of outrage overnight. Still, one should keep in mind that it still fits an overall pattern of external critics obsessing over African American Studies as a symbol of the liberal rot of academia. The only difference is the speed at which this can happen. Thus, as I noted above, it is wise to exercise prudence in such a hostile environment.

Second, there is an element of Internet shaming happening here. The journalist Ron Jonson has a new book called “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” that describes how in the modern age people can use comments and social media to instantaneously tarnish a person’s reputation. The normal punishment for an off-color joke or poorly worded remark is a mild reprimand. Now, the very same minor offense can lead to losing one’s job and a potentially irreparable mark on one’s reputation. Jonson also notes that Internet shaming often is highly unequal in that Internet rage is often directed at women. Here, the insult is compounded. Grundy is an early career scholar and this incident has already been a serious burden.

This incident reflects a number of factors coming together. Twitter can translate wit into rancor; social media magnifies mistakes; and there is a ready to go outrage machine just waiting for the jarring statement from an ethnic studies professor. I hope in the future that we can better deal with this phenomena and that this scholar can start a fruitful research career.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

May 22, 2015 at 12:01 am

junior theorists symposium 2015

As usual, the Junior Theorists Symposium has an amazing line up. Day before the ASA. Check it out!

Junior Theorists Symposium
University of Chicago
Social Sciences Room 122

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Written by fabiorojas

May 20, 2015 at 12:01 am

commentary on social problems (the journal)

I recently reviewed a paper for Social Problems. The decision letter noted that they accept 8% of papers. That is roughly in the ball park of ASR, AJS and other journals. On the Facebook page, I asked if Social Problems is so competitive, then why doesn’t it get the same profile or respect as ASR/AJS in the sociology job market/promotion system? Some answers make sense. For example, there could be self-selection and people send stronger papers to the association’s journals. Another issue is that Social Problems simply accepts different types of papers. For example, Social Problems does not publish “pure theory” as would be found in AJS or Sociological Theory and it rarely publishes methods papers, which can be big citation generators.

Still, it seems like there is quite a bit of overlap between Social Problems and AJS/ASR/SF. See for your self. Can you identify which papers are Social Problems from the following list?*

  • Race, Space, and Cumulative Disadvantage: A Case Study of the Subprime Lending Collapse
  • Is Love (Color) Blind? The Economy of Race among Gay and Straight Daters
  • The Best Laid Plans: Social Capital in the Development of Girls’ Educational and Occupational Plans
  • Work-Family Context and the Longevity Disadvantage of US Women
  • Executive Compensation, Fat Cats, and Best Athletes
  • The Dynamics of Opportunity and Insurgent Practice: How Black Anti-colonialists Compelled Truman to Advocate Civil Rights
  • Emergent Ghettos: Black Neighborhoods in New York and Chicago, 1880–1940
  • The Paradox of Legitimacy: Resilience, Successes, and the Multiple Identities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey

My point isn’t to say that all journals are publishing the same stuff, but even a casual perusal of the journals suggests a lot of overlap. I think self-selection and the prestige orders creates different pools that lead to actual differences in quality. My point is more modest: the difference between AJS/ASR and other journals is probably exaggerated. I’d like to see sociology move to a system of top 4 journals (or more), like most other disciplines.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

* Answers: SP, SF, SP, SF, ASR, ASR, AJS, SP.

Written by fabiorojas

May 19, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, fabio, sociology

book spotlight: in defense of disciplines by jerry jacobs

Sadly, I could not be present at the SSS meetings, so I wrote out my comments about Jerry Jacobs’ wonderful In Defense of Disciplines. Go buy the book!

I want to start by thanking Sarah Winslow and the Southern Sociological Society for organizing this session. Jerry is a leading sociologist of higher education and his work merits sustained attention and critique. It is an honor to be allowed to participate in this event.

In a way, this is an awkward critique to write because I agree with much of what In Defense of Disciplines has to say. For example, on the basic conceptual issue of what counts as a discipline, Jerry’s definition is very close to my own feeling on the subject – disciplines are closed social fields of self-certifying intellectuals who are institutionalized in universities. In my work on the Black Studies movement, I found this approach to be very useful in that it identifies how interdisciplinary fields like Ethnic Studies are different than older fields like history or sociology. They haven’t yet achieved closure and rely on allied disciplines for personnel. I call fields like Black Studies “permanent inter-disciplines” because they can’t quite reach the status of a discipline and they don’t seem to be going anywhere.

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Written by fabiorojas

May 15, 2015 at 12:01 am


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