Over at Race, Politics, and Justice, Pamela Oliver asks why her home state of Wisconsin has such high rates of Black imprisonment in comparison to other states, even in times when rates are falling:
Wisconsin has stayed at the top of the pile in Black incarceration even though its Black incarceration rate has been declining. How can this be? The answer is that all the other states have been declining faster. By putting a scatter plot of state imprisonment rates on consistent axes, I’ve been able to produce a really cool animation effect. The data source is the\ National Corrections Reporting Program public “in custody” file. Rates are calculation on entire population (all ages). States voluntarily participate in this data collection program and appear and disappear from the plot depending on whether they reported for the appropriate year. States are also eliminated if more than 10% of their inmates are recorded as having unknown race. You’ll see if watch long enough that the relative positions of most states stay the same, but the whole distribution starts moving downward (lower Black incarceration rates) and to the left (lower White incarceration rates) in the last few years. You may download both these images and explanatory material in PDF format using this link.
Interesting. This is a classic example of the “dog that didn’t bark.” What happened in other states that did not happen in Wisconsin? A few hypotheses: Wisconsin reflects particularly bad conditions in segregated places like Milwaukee; fixed effects of prosecutors – Wisconsin district attorney’s are notoriously bad; police enforcement is unusually harsh. Add your hypotheses or explanation in the comments.
Dear friends and readers,
This coming Winter, Columbia University Press will publish my next book, Theory for the Working Sociologist. The book is my attempt to present social theory in a way that is accessible to upper division social science students, graduate students, and any reader who just wants to know what sociology is up to these days.
The book has an intuitive organization. I choose four major themes of social theory and explain the general ideas (“theory”) that motivate concrete empirical studies and explanations (“mechanisms”). For example, the first section of the book is about power and inequality theory. I illustrate how theoretical ideas about habitus and intersectionality are represented in empirical research and how they grow from earlier approaches to power and inequality. I also have sections on social construction, values/structures/institutions, and strategic action theory (i.e., social capital, structural holes, rational choice and other ways sociologists talk about purposeful action).
The book is short and designed to be used in many contexts. In my undergraduate theory course, I used the draft of the book to supplement original texts. After reading various inequality theorists from Marx to Patricia Hill-Collins, I assigned chapter 2 to provide an overview of how inequality theory has developed.
Due to its short length, it is also well suited for a quarter course on contemporary theory or as the text you read after you plow through the classics. I can also imagine that graduate students might enjoy it because it offers a brief survey of the major theories of sociology. Many sociologists start in related fields, like political science or economics, and need a “tour guide” to help them find their place.
Finally, I want to thank the readership of this blog. I acknowledgments list many readers who read the text and improved it and the readers who encouraged me to write it in the first place.
If you are thinking of assigning this book in your course, please email me and I will send you the (almost) final draft.
Today, among the various administrative tasks of scheduling meetings with students and other responsibilities, I decided to RSVP yes for an upcoming evening talk. I didn’t make this decision lightly, as it involved coordinating schedules with another party (i.e., fellow dual career parent).
With the use of technology such as email, increasing job precarity, and belief in facetime as signalling productivity and commitment, the workday in the US has elongated, blurring boundaries to the point that work can crowd out other responsibilities to family, community, hobbies, and self-care. However, one Ivy institution is exhorting its members to rethink making evening events and meetings the norm.
In this nuanced statement issued to department chairs, Brown University’s provost outlines the stakes and consequences of an elongated workday:
This burden [of juggling work and family commitments] may disproportionately affect female faculty members. Although data on Brown’s faculty is not available, national statistics indicate that male faculty members (of every rank) are more likely than female faculty members (of every rank) to have a spouse or partner whose comparably flexible work schedule allows that spouse or partner to handle the bulk of evening-time household responsibilities. Put differently, male faculty members are more likely than female faculty members to have the household support to attend campus events after 5:30. We must be attuned to issues of gender equity when we think about program scheduling. We must also take into consideration the particular challenges faced by single parents on the faculty when required to attend events outside the regular hours of childcare.
Last week, we discussed Devah Pager’s new paper on the correlation between discrimination in hiring and firm closure. As one would expect from Pager, it’s a simple and elegant paper using an audit study to measure the prevalence and consequences of discrimination in the labor market. In this post, I want to use the paper to talk about the journal publication process. Specifically, I want to discuss why this paper appeared in Sociological Science.
First, it may be the case that Professor Pager directly went to Sociological Science without trying another peer reviewed journal. If so, then I congratulate both Pager and Sociological Science. By putting a high quality paper into public access, both Professor Pager and the editors of Sociological Science have shown that we don’t need the lengthy and cumbersome developmental review system to get work out there.
Second, it may be the case that Professor Pager tried another journal, probably the ASR or AJS or an elite specialty journal and it was rejected. If so, that raises an important question – what specifically was “wrong” with this paper? Whatever one thinks of the Becker theory of racial discrimination, one can’t critique the paper on lacking a “framing” or have a simple and clean research design. One can’t critique statistical technique because it’s a simple comparison of means. One can’t critique the importance of the finding – the correlation between discrimination in hiring and firm closure is important to know and notable in size. And, of course, the paper is short and clearly written.
Perhaps the only criticism I can come up with is a sort of “identification fundamentalism.” Perhaps reviewers brought up the fact discrimination was not randomly assigned to firms so you can’t infer anything from the correlation. That is bizarre because it would render Becker’s thesis un-testable. What experimental design would allow you get a random selection of firms to suddenly become racist in their hiring practices? Here, the only sensible approach is Bayesian – you collect high quality observational data and revise your beliefs accordingly. This criticism, if it was made, isn’t sound upon reflection. I wonder what, possibly, could the grounds for rejection be aside from knee jerk anti-rational choice comments or discomfort with a finding that markets do have some corrective to racial discrimination.
Bottom line: Pager and the Sociological Science crew are to be commended. Maybe Pager just wanted this paper “out there” or just got tired of the review process. Either way, three cheers for Pager and the Soc Sci Crew.