why do some states have higher mass incarceration than others? comment on pamela oliver’s blog

with 4 comments

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.

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

Written by fabiorojas

October 6, 2016 at 12:29 am

book announcement: theory for the working sociologist


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.

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

Written by fabiorojas

October 4, 2016 at 12:01 am

Posted in books, fabio, uncategorized

bernie in the street: how occupy wall street fits in the democratic party

Mobilizing Ideas has a new forum where a scholars are discussing movements and elections. I’ll start with a few snippets from “Bernie Sanders and the Occupy Wall Street Wing of the Democratic Library,” written by my dear friend Michael T. Heaney:

While it is impossible to definitively establish what fraction of Occupy supporters also supported Sanders, it is possible to look to social media for clues of this support. To this end, I gathered a list of 374 Twitter handles and hashtags associated with the Occupy movement that were in operation between 2011 and 2013. From this list, I randomly selected 150 pages for the purpose of content analysis and coded Twitter feeds for these pages from April 2012 and April 2016. The purpose of this exercise was to understand the extent and nature of movement involvement in Democratic Party politics during two identical periods in the presidential election cycle.

The results of the content analysis reveal significant differences in the activities of the Occupy movement between the April 2012 and April 2016 periods. First, the sites examined became significantly less active over time. In April 2012, 59 percent of sites were active, while this fraction fell to 18 percent by 2016. Second, the level of engagement in electoral politics significantly increased from 2012 to 2016 on the Occupy sites that remained active. Third, the tweets shifted significantly from a more negative perspective on politics in 2012 to a more positive perspective in 2016. In 2012, each site had an average of 0.14 positive tweets about candidates/parties, in comparison to an average of 1.16 negative tweets. In 2016, however, tweets had become more balanced, with an average of 8.70 exhibiting positive valance and an average of 6.62 indicating negative valence.

Read the whole thing.

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


Written by fabiorojas

October 3, 2016 at 12:17 am

you stepped out of a dream, diva big band

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



Written by fabiorojas

October 2, 2016 at 12:02 am

bias in social movement research

Earlier this week, we discussed the need to study failed movements, not just the successes. Here, I want to draw attention to the general issue of bias in social movement research. The way I see it is that movement research is shaped by the following biases:

  • Survivor bias: We tend to focus only on movements that succeed in mobilizing.
  • Success bias: We tend to focus only on movements that get what they want.
  • Progressive bias: We tend to focus on movements that come from the left.

Of course, there are exceptions. For example, Rory McVeigh is a well known student of right wing populism and Kathleen Blee’s latest book looks at a random sample of Pittsburgh area movements.

But in general, the overall focus of movement scholarship reflects these tendencies. For every Ziad Munson who studies pro-life groups, we have five other scholars studying pro-choice groups. Collectively, movement scholars should supplement their individual case studies (including my own) with data sets like the NY Times/Doug McAdam/Stanford data set or Blee’s data that looks at larger samples.

Use the comments to discuss or praise research that works against these biases.

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

Written by fabiorojas

September 30, 2016 at 12:01 am

putting limits on the academic workday

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by katherinechen

September 28, 2016 at 7:16 pm

the pager paper, sociological science, and the journal process

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.

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

Written by fabiorojas

September 28, 2016 at 12:10 am