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why focus on elite program so much?

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Over the years, commenters have often asked, “why focus on the most elite programs in academia?” The answer is simple: students and faculty in elite programs get  disproportional attention, rewards, and influence. Is that fair? No, I definitely think we can more equitable. But, as an empirical matter, academia is a super star market and I have to deal with that.

For example, when it comes to gender and racial diversity, I always tell people that the action happens around elite programs. Why? Graduates of elite programs are the most likely to stay in academia, get good academic jobs, and continue publishing. A lot programs will simply not hire people below a certain PhD rank, at least not until they amass a massive academic record to “compensate” for their PhD program.

I have no animus against people with non-elite backgrounds and I do think we need to help scholars across the academy. But if you want your local university to have a more diverse faculty, you will have the best shot by focusing your efforts on the fancier programs. Just sayin’!

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Written by fabiorojas

September 11, 2018 at 4:01 am

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black codes (from the underground), live

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Written by fabiorojas

September 9, 2018 at 4:01 am

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the time i got booted from the asr reviewer pool

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A tale of two journals: A couple of years ago, I got into a situation where I was asked to review a 2nd R&R for a couple of journals. One was the Journal of Theoretical Biology (not the current editor) and the other was the American Sociological Review (not current editors). In each case, I humorously told each editor that I didn’t approve of having many revision rounds. If the author can’t get it right after a revision, just let them go and they can always try again.  At JoTB, I got a brief thank you and then the paper was accepted as is.

The second case, I got a note from the ASR saying they no longer needed my opinion because they couldn’t accept feedback with “conditions.” I thought that was interesting and was happy I didn’t have to do another review. A few years later, I submitted a paper to the journal and noted in the computer system that I was recused from reviewing until 2018. That means someone, not me, removed me from the reviewer pool for about four years.

Now, I am obviously grateful to that person. I was getting about about 3 review requests per month from journals and having a major journal drop me opened up a lot of spare time. I took a cooking class and went went water skiing. On a deeper level, though, it was a little sad. All the time, editors say that people aren’t doing enough reviewing, but my work was no longer needed. I was gently complaining about triple and quadruple rounds of revision.

On a brighter note, the current ASR editors are doing a great job. They’ve gone back to a traditional model of a single revision. They’ve also started to desk reject tons of papers. Good for them. It may hurt when it happens to you, but it means that the papers that have a shot will have a smoother ride.

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Written by fabiorojas

September 6, 2018 at 4:20 am

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an uncomfortable truth about faculty diversity

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Over the weekend, an NBER working paper about faculty diversity was making the rounds. It’s called “The Impact of Chief Diversity Officers on Diverse Faculty Hiring” Bradley et al. Here is the abstract:

As the American college student population has become more diverse, the goal of hiring a more diverse faculty has received increased attention in higher education. A signal of institutional commitment to faculty diversity often includes the hiring of an executive level chief diversity officer (CDO). To examine the effects of a CDO in a broad panel data context, we combine unique data on the initial hiring of a CDO with publicly available faculty and administrator hiring data by race and ethnicity from 2001 to 2016 for four-year or higher U.S. universities categorized as Carnegie R1, R2, or M1 institutions with student populations of 4,000 or more. We are unable to find significant statistical evidence that preexisting growth in diversity for underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups is affected by the hiring of an executive level diversity officer for new tenure and non-tenure track hires, faculty hired with tenure, or for university administrator hires.

Not surprising to me. After 20 years doing higher ed in one way or another, there is little reason to believe CDO’s have much of an effect. Faculty diversity relies on four things:

  1. Professors need to admit under represented students into high prestige programs.
  2. Professors need to graduate under represented students from their programs.
  3. Professors need to train under represented students so that they have “the right” publications.
  4. Professors need to hire under represented stuents who have done #1-#3.

CDO’s, and most other initiatives for diversity, really fail to understand this process beyond Step #1. While admission to graduate school is a logical precondition for faculty diversity, it is not enough. The faculty really have to prep students and make sure they have the right portfolio – and this is where a lot of the failure happens.

Ironically, what CDO’s can influence, hiring, is relatively easy. Extra funds can be provided by an administration for interviews or to help with salaries. But that can only happen when there is a pool of students with the right publications. Sadly, few of us are willing to sit down with students and do the messy work of mentoring them, or co-authoring. Until that happens, faculty diversification will be slow.

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Written by fabiorojas

September 5, 2018 at 4:01 am

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intersectionality and the dimensional curse

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Ok, so this guy on Twitter asks me:

Ben, I’m here to help. So here’s the deal: intersectionality is an approach to inequality in sociology that focuses on how inequality emerges from multiple, overlapping categories. Rather than being a set of specific empirical claims, intersectionality is about how you think about inequality in general. You think about which of your multiple social categories is relevant in a particular institutional environment and how they combine in particular ways.

What is the curse of dimensionality? Roughly, it means that when you have data with lots of dimensions, you get goofy mathematical problems. For example, if you need to solve a problem by considering different combinations of things, then lots of dimensions is bad. Why? The more dimensions, the slower the solution. The wiki has other examples.

The link between sociological intersectionality and the curse of intersectionality? Not much, I’m afraid. In practice, most sociological research on intersectionality may focus on two or three forms of status (race and gender, for example). So you don’t get the sorts of things mentioned in the wiki. If you have a larger number of categories (race, gender, class, religion, nationality), then interaction effects will all be statistically insignificant unless you have a really massive data set. But most people don’t have data to really sort through this anyway, so it is moot.

There’s a family resemblance, but that’s it.

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Written by fabiorojas

September 4, 2018 at 4:01 am

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more segovia

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A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!

Written by fabiorojas

September 2, 2018 at 4:01 am

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dude, when did sociologists stop giving a hoot about rational choice theory?

Here’s a simple exercise. Go to the website of the journal Rationality and Society and look at the authors of recent articles. What do you notice? Here’s what I noticed – tons of the authors are not sociologists. Current issue? We have Cass Sunstein (law), Bertrand Crettez and Regis Deloche (lists public choice as a specialty – economics),  Ennio Piano (GMU econ), and Daniel Arce (Texas economics). The previous issue is similar. Seven authors and I spotted 2 sociologists, 3 economists, and 2 business school profs. The issue before that? Very similar: 3 sociologists out of 10 authors. For the year so far, 22 authors and 5 sociologists.

This is bizarre because Rationality and Society is a journal created and run by sociologists. Yet, most authors are not sociologists. This speaks to a discipline wide decline in interest. There are a few rational choice sociologists here and there. For example, there is Ivan Ermakoff at Wisconsin, Washington’s Ed Kiser, and Kaz Yamaguchi at Chicago. Beyond these folks, it gets pretty thin pretty fast. Finding a sociological rational choicer under 45 is hard.

One could ask why sociologists essentially abandoned RCT. A few hypotheses:

  1. It was a fad. Few people, except a few high status disciplinary leaders like Jim Coleman, were ever really invested in it.
  2. Intellectual merit. Maybe sociologists are right. People don’t have preferences and incentives don’t matter. Economic models really are a bourgeois sham ideology. Sociologists should totally avoid RCT.
  3. Cost-benefit ratio. Most social scientists are “mom and pop positivists.” They just want to crank out papers with real pretty charts and tables. The effort needed to understand, much less apply, RCT isn’t really needed.
  4. The hard turn to stratification. Since sociologists has gone hard on social stratification, the demand for other types of research has dropped.
  5. Migration. The people who used to do RCT in sociology have all gone to b-schools and applied micro-economics. Pays better and you’ll get your PhD in 5 years instead of 8.

I really don’t know how to judge these hypotheses, but the de facto death of RCT is sad. We really could use more theoretical diversity in sociology.

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A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!

Written by fabiorojas

August 31, 2018 at 4:01 am

Posted in uncategorized