Public Sociology

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Sociology course “Sex in the 6ix” covers everything from love, hookup culture to sexual harassment


Around the water cooler, on social media and the red carpet, the talk is about #MeToo and the wave of sexual misconduct allegations in the headlines. The conversation is also unfolding in university classrooms.

In a new sociology course, Associate Professor Jooyoung Lee encourages his students not to shy away from contentious topics like what constitutes consent. The course focuses on a subject everyone can relate to: love, sex and relationships.

The news often leads the discussion to the Time’s Up movement and the sexual assault and harassment allegations sweeping industries from show business to politics.

“I’m drawn to topics that people will have disagreements over,” says Lee, who also teaches courses on gun violence, serial killers and hip-hop culture. “I think that’s a healthy and good thing about a university setting. People should have debates, and they should be wrestling with questions for which there are no simple answers.”

Lee encourages participation the old-fashioned way, by show of hands, and by using TopHat, an electronic platform that students can use with their laptops. “Once someone generates an idea, it bounces back and forth,” says sociology major Maria Rocha Abello. “I feel like I wouldn’t be able to talk about this in another class.”

In a lecture last week, Lee addressed what he described as “the elephant in the room,” the accusation against comedian-actor Aziz Ansari, who is also the author of one of the course’s required texts, Modern Romance: An Investigation (co-written by the American sociologist Eric Klinenberg).

Students put up their hands to give their thoughts on the story, in which an anonymous woman who went on a date with Ansari says he ignored signs that she wasn’t interested. One student said the fact that many people had defended Ansari showed how sexual assault has been “normalized.” At one point, Lee asked the students – mostly women – how many of them had been in a situation like the Ansari date. More than half raised their hands.

Lee said later that he raised the topic to get the class to think beyond the popular understanding of consent, which he describes as basic enough to fit on a bumper sticker.

“There are many cases where people are guilty of harassment and assault because they didn’t respect a person’s wishes,” he says. “But there are also cases where it’s more ambiguous. That’s where the really interesting conversation happens, where students are forced to go beyond the kinds of things they’re hearing in the media.”

The course explores a variety of other subjects, including the differences in hookup culture between countries, such as how people flirt in Japan versus the way they do in Argentina. The second-year class is intended to teach qualitative research methods like direct observation and in-depth interviews.

In another lecture, the class discussed American sociologist Laud Humphreys’ study from the 1970s on homosexuality, “Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places.” Though considered groundbreaking for challenging stereotypes of gay men, the study is used as a prime example of unethical research because Humphreys obtained the information under false pretenses.

At the end of the course, the syllabus circles back to “#MeToo and the politics of sexual harassment.” Lee focuses on people who he says have mostly been left out of the conversation so far: people of colour and sex workers.

Although the course is timely, the inspiration for it had nothing to do with the Time’s Up movement. It came from Lee’s experience dating online on OkCupid. He tried the dating site after he moved to Toronto from Philadelphia, which is where he completed a postdoctoral fellowship after getting his BA and PhD from Berkeley and UCLA. Within three weeks he had found his match – and future wife.

Through talking to students, Lee has found much has changed in the world of dating and relationships since he was single. In some areas, his students are the experts. Last week, they schooled him on the meaning of the term, “Ting,” which they defined as a casual relationship with a sexual partner.

Another reason Lee wanted to teach the course was to show a more positive side of sociological research, demonstrating how one can do research on lighter subjects like flirting. When browsing academic journals, Lee says one gets the impression that sociologists only study inequality and suffering. “These are very important topics,” he says, “but I feel they don’t cover the spectrum of the human experience and the social world.”

The students have proposed independent studies ranging from a study of “Netflix and chill,” a modern euphemism for hooking up, and of curating selfies as a way to make yourself more attractive.

The goal of the course is for students to develop an understanding of qualitative methods, but Lee hopes his class – particularly the male students – learn more than that.

“I also hope that they walk out of the class armed with a critical understanding of what many women go through on a daily basis.  I hope they understand the challenges women in particular face navigating this time in their life when they’re trying to date, explore their own sexuality and meet a potential partner.”


By            :               Geoffrey Vendeville

Date         :               February 6, 2018

Source     :               University of Toronto

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Researcher finds TV’s powerful influence on pregnancy, childbirth


Surfing through cable TV channels often results in catching a glimpse of a woman giving birth or preparing for motherhood in one of the popular pregnancy and childbirth reality shows.

But how much do shows like “Maternity Ward,” TLC’s “A Baby Story” or Discovery Health’s “Birth Day” really influence how women perceive and manage their own pregnancies?

It’s a lot, according to a University of Cincinnati sociology study.

The project, funded by a National Science Foundation dissertation improvement grant and recently published in the journal Sociology of Health & Illness, assessed the TV viewing habits of a diverse group of pregnant women from the New York and Connecticut metropolitan areas.

Danielle Bessett, UC associate professor of sociology, and Stef Murawsky, sociology grad student, drew from a sample of 64 pregnant women from various educational, socioeconomic and racial backgrounds to understand the influence of television on their expectations of pregnancy and birth.

During their pregnancies, a number of women ranked shows such as “Maternity Ward” and “A Baby Story” among the highest for shows that influenced their perceptions of pregnancy and childbirth, but not everyone admitted to tuning in.

The ‘reality’ of TV

Early in the interview process, the women were all asked if they actually watched pregnancy-related programming. Those who reported watching these shows were then asked to distinguish whether or not they thought viewing was a valuable tool for gathering helpful information.

Of the 64 women surveyed, a sizeable minority (44 percent) –– mostly comprised of stay-at-home moms or those who were unemployed –– said they watched at least some pregnancy-related reality television. But the researchers reported that the participants who worked outside the home and had higher levels of education were less likely to admit to watching these shows.

“We found clear educational differences in how viewers believed television influenced their pregnancy knowledge,” says Bessett in the journal article. “Women with higher levels of education generally disavowed all television as an information source for themselves, but instead reported only using reality programming as entertainment or to educate their children about pregnancy.”

“Conversely, women who had less educational attainment were more likely to include reality TV programs as part of their comprehensive approach to gathering information and basically didn’t want to rule out any potential source of information.”

Bessett says this is important because previous studies of women’s means for seeking information about pregnancy primarily focused on interactions with clinicians, pregnancy books or the internet. “But TV is now seen by some as a resource for health information, and social class seems to play a role in that,” she adds.

Influential paradox

Bessett’s study revealed an even more surprising twist. Upon further questioning, those who claimed they didn’t watch or use reality TV to get their pregnancy and childbirth information seemingly contradicted themselves. When asked to describe where they gathered their information, they repeatedly referred to medical or ultrasound-related scenes they had seen in TV shows or movies.

“These were the same women that earlier in the interview process denied any connection to TV viewing and their expectations of their own pregnancy and childbirth,” says Bessett. “We found a real divide by class where women with less education could and would readily admit that they used TV as a source for learning about pregnancy and what they should expect.”

But Bessett points out that women who had higher levels of education initially admitted to only watching the reality pregnancy shows occasionally and only for entertainment.

However, in deeper interview questioning, this same group referred to specific television programs as a powerful information sources, ultimately revealing what Bessett refers to as a “tension and contradiction” when it comes to reality TV’s influence.

“We attribute this phenomenon to an unrecognized influence within the educated group,” says Bessett. Apparently “many women simply don’t want TV to have a strong influence medically because of a lack of credibility attached to television in general, so they have a hard time recognizing TV’s actual influence.”

To view or not to view

Whether the educated group did not recognize that they were as influenced as they were by TV viewing or simply wanted to downplay any influence because of TV’s perceived negative stigma is unknown.

“The literature already shows that women of a higher social class with more education are more likely to devalue TV, especially reality TV,” says Bessett. “And then there are cultural acceptability reasons for why they watch, which is to actually hate-watch or watch with tongue-in-cheek.”

According to Bessett this valuable new awareness suggests that scholars must not only focus on patients’ professed methods for seeking medical information, but also explore the unrecognized role that television plays in their lives.

Previous studies show how unrealistically these programs often portray normal pregnancy and birth. Bessett asserts that women are getting a much more dramatic and medicalized view of childbirth –– scripted more to grab attention and excite the emotions of viewers.

“Because of the higher portrayal of medical interventions in these programs than occur in real life, we feel television producers should assume a greater sense of responsibility to make sure that what they portray on the air is as accurate and contextualized as it can be and to make the public aware of any enhanced dramatization,” says Bessett.

“We argue that the sensationalizing of medical drama in reality shows is a critical issue and definitely something that television producers should be more conscious of, especially now that this study shows how strongly these representations do shape expectations.”

More information: Danielle Bessett et al. ‘I guess I do have to take back what I said before, about television’: Pregnant women’s understandings and use of televisual representations of childbearing, Sociology of Health & Illness (2017).


By            :               Melanie Schefft  (University of Cincinnati)

Date         :               February 13, 2014

Source     :               Medical Express

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60% of black women killed by police were unarmed


Black people, especially women, are more likely to have been unarmed when killed by police than non-blacks, according to a new study of nationwide data.

This risk also appears to increase in police departments with a greater presence of non-white officers, report the researchers.

A key finding of the study is that nearly 60 percent of black women killed by police were unarmed at the time of the interaction.

The study is the first in a series of reports from the ongoing Fatal Interactions with Police (FIPS) research project, which includes contributions from public health and biostatistics experts at hospitals and universities.

While the odds of being killed by police when unarmed were about the same for black and white males, the high percentage of unarmed black women killed by police significantly increased the overall odds for unarmed blacks.

“Our analysis finds that the ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ slogan of the post-Ferguson movement becomes most relevant when you also ‘say her name,’” says lead researcher Odis Johnson, associate professor of education and of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Nonetheless, the odds of an unarmed fatality for black Americans as a whole was a staggering 6.6-to-1, more than double the odds found in several other national studies completed in recent decades.”

The “say her name” social movement was launched in 2015 to draw attention to the death of Chicago resident Rekia Boyd and other unarmed black women killed during interactions with police. This study is the first to provide hard data to back up the movement’s assertion that black women face a high risk of being killed by police.

Efforts so far

The study also suggests that many tactics implemented to curb police violence, such as the use of body cameras and diversifying police forces by adding more non-white officers, have done little to reduce the number of people killed in police interactions.

“Agencies with more officers of color had significantly increased odds of committing unarmed fatalities, suggesting that current levels of agency diversity are not capable of achieving change,” Johnson says.

“We recommend caution in interpreting this result since our data does not track the race of the police officers connected to each fatality. Thus, we are unable to say whether the actions of officers of color directly increase the odds of unarmed fatalities for racial/ethnic groups.”

The project plans to issue two more reports on related findings in coming months.

1,700 deaths in 20 months

The FIPS database includes details on about 1,700 fatal interactions with police that occurred in jurisdictions across the United States during a 20-month time period from May 2013 to January 2015.

It estimates the demographic odds of a fatality occurring during an interaction with police based on the location of the interaction and the characteristics of the likely responding law enforcement agency.

Other findings from the first report include:

Nearly 94 percent of those killed by police are men; about 46 percent are white; about 22 percent had a history of drug abuse or mental illness.

The ages of unarmed people killed by police in the database range from 5 to more than 100 years old, including people who were 101, 103, and 107.

More than 57 percent of African-American women were killed while unarmed; white men were the least likely to have been unarmed when killed at just under 20 percent.

Much more than a listing of fatal police interactions around the country, the FIPS database also contains a wealth of related demographic and law enforcement data that allows researchers to analyze the deaths in the context of local conditions. Database researchers gathered background on each case through an array of public records, including media accounts, death certificates, and obituaries.

In addition to US Census statistics on the location where the fatality occurred, FIPS includes data about local law enforcement practices and police staffing drawn from the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Survey (LEMAS), and crime statistics from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program.

Collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics from about 2,800 state and local law enforcement agencies, the LEMAS data offers details on a wide range of topics: agency responsibilities, operating expenditures, job functions of sworn and civilian employees, officer salaries and special pay, demographic characteristics of officers, weapons and armor policies, education and training requirements, computers and information systems, vehicles, special units, and community policing activities.

Support for the FIPS database project came from the Public Health Cubed Seed Funding from the Institute of Public Health at Washington University. Other researchers involved in the project are from Washington University School of Medicine; New York University; Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Saint Louis University; SUNY Buffalo; and Wake Forest University.


Posted by  :             Gerry Everding-WUSTL

Date         :               February 9, 2018

Source     :     

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What Do Sociologists Do?


Every aspect of our lives is shaped by our relationship with society and its influences. Sociologists’ observations about society and how its influences affect us generates important information used to help us relate to one another, whether as consumers, citizens or community members.

Who are we and why do we do the things we do? How do people relate to one another despite their differences? What lies behind the conflicts that we can’t seem to move past? Sociologists endeavor to answer questions that perplex us when we look at not only individuals but society as a whole.

What Sociologists Study

Dr. Carolyn Paul, a sociologist and faculty member at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), said that sociology is a field of study not well understood and often confused with psychology. “While psychology receives a great deal of attention from the media, sociology does not,” Paul said. A broad social science, sociology is the study of human societies and the wide array of groups existing within them. Sociologists study the way society develops and functions on both large and small scales. From national government and cultural norms to local politics and family values, sociologists analyze the who and why of our society.

Paul explained how sociologists look at how the different societal aspects can be compatible or conflict with one another. Think about the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve. If an incident occurs, such as what the public views as an excessive use of force by a police officer against a citizen, these two components of society must deal with increasing tensions. Pew Research Center looked at the social components of how police officers view their jobs versus the public’s perception of the police officer’s role in their community, the incidents that lead to protests and the aftermath. “When components conflict,” Paul said, “social problems result, and this is an important aspect of sociological research.” Information learned from this research is used to educate members of the community, provide demographic information to governments, help businesses better market their products and more.

How Sociologists Conduct Research

The methods sociological researchers use to collect their information is similar to those of other sciences. Beginning with a question or a concept, researchers collect data using social experiments, surveys or participant observation. To give more substance their theory and how they plan to collect their information, researchers revisit existing sources available through academic or government research sites.

A Sociological Experiment

If a researcher wanted to explore the differences in how men and women take up physical space, how could she go about gathering data on this concept?

  • Finding the best way to test their theory.First, she could see if any similar experiments had been performed with results published in an academic journal. Finding an experiment about how people use space in public transportation, the researcher can not only refer to the data collected in that study, but it may help her decide how she moves forward in her exploration of the expectation that women are socially trained to take up less space.
  • Collect data. The researcher decides to create a survey to see how men and women think when it comes to physical space in different situations. While waiting for responses to come in from a population sample, she performs a simple experiment on their own. She walks down a crowded city sidewalk and, against social norms, does not move out of the way when approaching a man. The researcher counts how many men she passes, as well as how many times she bumps into the man instead of the man moving out of her way. If she wanted to have another angle to this experiment, she could have a male counterpart count number of women he passed by and the number of times women moved out of the way to avoid collision.
  • Analyze data. Once she has survey responses and data collected from her own experiment, the researcher can compare how people believe they would react in a situation versus what the results were from her observational experience.

The observations made by sociologists contribute to many fields, including social services, criminal justice, journalism and even politics. “Sociology contributes to these fields as a knowledge base on how social and cultural factors impact people in different ways. It also contributes expertise on research methodology and statistical analysis required in these fields,” Paul said.

Sociologists In The Field

An example of sociologists at work can be found in the collaboration between the justice system and community agencies. Sociologists and criminologists have been working for decades to find a way to reduce the number of repeat offenders and make it possible for the newly released to have a more positive transition back into society.

“Research demonstrates that offenders who earn a high school equivalency diploma while behind bars are more likely to get jobs after release,” said Joan Petersilia, co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center. “Those who receive vocational skills training are more likely to get jobs and higher wages after release. And those who go through intensive drug treatment programs in prison are less likely to relapse outside of it,” she said. “If we could implement effective programs, we could expect to reduce recidivism by 15 to 20 percent.”

Petersilia said an approach to help make this successful would have to include community partnerships. “An excellent example is the Boston Reentry Initiative (BRI),” she said. This interagency program has social services, law enforcement agencies and religious institutions coming together and working with prisoners prior to their release, with continued support from the day they get out of prison to help them get reinstated into the community.

With mentorship and treatment options available thanks to this community collaboration, researchers found those in BRI had a 30 percent lower rate of rearrest than those not involved in the program. Research on programs like BRI continue to make progress on the issue of how to use social services in conjunction with the justice system. These programs are helping to find ways to reduce taxpayer spending on prisoners and lower crime rates while helping rehabilitated citizens get a fresh start.

Careers in Sociology

  • Research. Sociologistshave worked to earn a master’s degree or a doctorate in sociology. Their training mainly consists of statistical procedures and methods for group research. “Some of their careers include working for government organizations running demographic studies, working for private sector corporations as corporate culture advisors and being employed by marketing firms seeking customer and client profiles for target marketing initiatives,” Paul said. “A sociologist at work is focused upon the social and cultural variables which can and have impacted people in their thinking and in their behaviors.”

There may be an opportunity for an entry-level position in the field, but most graduates with bachelor’s degree in sociology gain their initial experience by finding jobs in related fields.

  • Social services. Social workers help people within the community by serving schools, clinics and human services agencies. In schools, social workers can help with peer mediation programs. Social workers with clinical certification work in clinics as counselors. Within the human services sector, case workers help run programs in places such as halfway houses, mental health facilities or youth centers. Case workers also help in areas such as child services and domestic abuse. Rehabilitation counselorsaid members of the community who struggle with substance abuse.

The community and social services sector is an in-demand field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social services will see a faster than average growth through 2026.

  • Health. Efforts are being made to include social aspects of patients’ lives into their health care. Taking into consideration social factors such as socioeconomic status when diagnosing physical and mental health issues helps improve treatment plan options for patients. Sociologists have foundaccess to healthcare, options for social services, working conditions and home-life all contribute to mental and physical wellbeing.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a concentration in community health can give you the opportunity to help the public. Community health workers gather information from people in their service area to address specific concerns that may be present, such as an increase in substance abuse or a need for diabetes education. Health educators strive to inform the community of issues regarding physical and mental wellness. Health educators and community health workers will see a 16 percent increase in jobs through 2026, according to the BLS.

  • Justice. Working with courts and correctional facilities, correctional treatment specialists and probation officers help rehabilitate offenders, including juveniles. These positions typically require a bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS, and are expecting a 6 percent growth through 2026. Using concepts learned while earning your sociology degree, you’ll be able to understand how to help people become productive members of the community.
  • Media and Marketing.Marketing professionals use the advice of sociologists to improve the way they present products to the public and how they use branding. Market research analysts help companies understand their audience, what will sell and how to reach their target demographic. Knowing how consumers interact and respond to social media and advertising campaigns, a cultural marketing specialist can provide insight into how social media accounts would be most effectively used.

The research that sociologists do have far-reaching effects. Their studies direct the steps taken to improve results in health, justice, human services and marketing fields. Earning your bachelor’s in sociology opens up a wide range of opportunities to create change and impact the lives of people in the community.

Ashley Wallis is an Army veteran and writer with a bachelor’s in English language and literature from SNHU. She is currently living in the Denver area. Find her on Twitter @AshDWallis.


By            :               Ashley Wallis

Date         :               February 2, 2018

Source     :               Southern Hampshire University

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Oversimplifying Beliefs About Causes of Mental Illness May Hinder Social Acceptance


Stigma is linked to combinations of biological and non-biological beliefs about mental illness, a Baylor University study finds

WACO, Texas — Belief that mental illness is biological has increased among both health experts and the public in recent years. But campaigns to treat it as a disease and remove stigma may be lacking because other factors, such as bad character and upbringing, still are viewed as playing a role, a Baylor University study has found.

“Individuals who endorse biological beliefs that mental illness is ‘a disease like any other’ also tend to endorse other, non-biological beliefs, making the overall effect of biological beliefs quite convoluted and sometimes negative,” said lead author Matthew A. Andersson, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences.

The study, which focused on stigma toward individuals suffering from depression, schizophrenia and alcoholism, is published in the American Sociological Association’s journal Society and Mental Health. Findings suggest that beliefs about causes of mental illness could be addressed in public campaigns and by policymakers in different and more beneficial ways than they are now, according to Andersson and co-author Sarah K. Harkness, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology at the University of Iowa.

Although many in the mental health community — including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — see the shift in views toward genetic or chemical causes as encouraging, mental illness unfortunately still draws negative social reactions, researchers said. That reaction often is measured by how much people want to keep a distance from those dealing with mental illness or viewed as being potentially dangerous.

The study analyzed data from the 2006 General Social Survey administered by the University of Chicago. The survey presented a random sample of 1,147 respondents with theoretical situations involving individuals suffering from symptoms of depression, schizophrenia or alcoholism.

Respondents then completed six items from the General Social Survey about how likely they thought it was that certain factors had caused the mental health problem. Those factors included:

Bad character

  • A chemical imbalance in the brain
  • The way he or she was raised
  • Stressful circumstances in his or her life
  • A genetic or inherited problem
  • God’s will

Finally, to measure stigma, respondents were asked how willing they would be to have a person like the one in the vignette (1) move next door; (2) start working closely with them on a job; (3) marry into their family; (4) spend an evening socializing with them; (5) become their friend; or (6) move into a newly established group home in their neighborhoods for people in that condition.

“There’s a debate about whether biological beliefs in genetic causation or chemical causation lower stigma as long as we aren’t blaming bad character, too,” Andersson said. “That’s an unknown and part of the reason for this study. For all three illnesses examined here, how important is it to look at how multiple beliefs about the nature of illness combine to produce stigma? That’s what we were trying to figure out.”

What the study found was that the most common combination of viewpoints about both depression and schizophrenia was that they are caused by chemical imbalance, stressful life circumstances and genetic abnormality. Not included as root causes were bad character, upbringing or religious or divine causes, the authors said.

That combination of opinions was held by about 23 percent of respondents who considered the scenario about a depressed individual; and 25 percent of those who were presented with the scenario about a schizophrenic, the researchers said.

In contrast, among respondents who were presented with the scenario about an alcoholic, the most common combination of beliefs about causes included bad character, chemical imbalance, the way one was raised, stress and genetic abnormality. That combination — held by 27 percent of respondents — attributes alcoholism to all causes except for religious or divine forces.

“One specific piece of advice is clear for combatting stigma toward depression or alcoholism: Bad character or personal weakness needs to be absolved explicitly for biological explanations to reduce stigma effectively,” Andersson said. “But for schizophrenia, the role of an individual’s character in stigmatization is far less clear, likely because of the relative severity and rarity of the illness.”

The study adds to the knowledge of how subtle but widely held theories about mental health may contribute to stigmatizing the mentally ill, Andersson said.

“Re-working anti-stigma policy initiatives around the belief patterns we linked to lowered stigma may help increase the social acceptance of people who suffer from these illnesses,” he said.

While researchers focused on the six mental illness attributions used in the General Social Survey, future research delving into other, more specific beliefs about causes — such as marital or family troubles, work stressors, various brain dysfunctions or specific negative life events — could prove valuable, Andersson said.


Date : January 9, 2018
Source : Baylor Media Communications

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Why Education Matters to Your Health


Across America, people are falling ill and dying young.

These men and women have something in common. In fact, they stand out because of something they don’t have: a college degree.

A recent report, by the Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton, made the stakes clear: Men and women who haven’t been to college live shorter, less healthy lives, and are losing ground compared with college graduates.

This is about more than money — the findings suggest that pain, stress, and social dysfunction may all play a role. Here’s what you need to know about the research.

Ms. Case and Mr. Deaton found that less-educated Americans were dying younger. Is that really so striking?

In a word, yes. For decades, life expectancy for Americans has been improving, thanks to advancements in technology and medical care. Before 1999, middle-age mortality rates were declining by about 2 percent a year. But suddenly, starting in the late 1990s, rates of morbidity and mortality — in other words, of sickness and death — began to increase for white men and women between the ages of 45 and 54 who did not have a college degree.

Since then those rates have been climbing by about half a percentage point a year among the white working class. “In this historical context of almost continuous improvement,” write Ms. Case and Mr. Deaton, “the rise in mortality in midlife is an extraordinary and unanticipated event.”

The researchers originally noticed rising death rates among the middle-aged and now see a similar deterioration for less-educated adults of all ages. The one exception is the elderly.

At the same time, however, longevity has continued to improve for people who hold college degrees. The resulting disparity is striking: The mortality rate for 50- to 54-year-old men without a bachelor’s degree is 867 per 100,000; for their more-educated peers, it’s just 243. While there’s long been a gap in health outcomes based on education, it looks now more like a yawning gulf.

Is this just another way of saying that poor people are sicker?

Yes, but that’s not all that’s going on. People with steady, well-paying jobs tend to be in better health, and that’s especially true in the United States, where we have a system of employment-based health insurance. But the relationship between education and health is significant and independent of socioeconomic status.

So, what’s going on? Why does education matter?

That’s not an easy question to answer. Experts say there are all sorts of links between education and health, and whether there’s a direct relationship between the two isn’t entirely clear. People with degrees have more and better access to health care. They report greater job satisfaction and lower levels of stress. They read up on scientific breakthroughs and heed their doctor’s advice when it comes to behaviors like eating healthfully, exercising, and quitting smoking. They are less likely to live near factories or freeways that belch pollutants into the air and are more apt to be surrounded by people like them, who reinforce healthful living. As one public-health researcher put it, the well-educated have a deeper bucket of resources to draw on.

Ms. Case and Mr. Deaton, the Princeton economists, have their own idea, linking the increasing mortality rate to an uptick in deaths from drug and alcohol abuse and from suicide — what they call “deaths of despair.” Their theory goes like this: Over the past several decades, the economy has shifted, eliminating many of the jobs that once went to people without college degrees. The share of men in their prime working years, ages 25 to 54, who are not in the work force has more than tripled since the late 1960s. Those who do have jobs are unlikely to be pulling in the same sorts of wages as generations before them.

Unable to provide a middle-class life, they may put off marriage; their social ties are often weaker. People without college degrees report being less happy than those with more years of schooling. As a result, they may turn to alcohol or drugs to cope. Deaths from opioids, in particular, have been soaring, and most of those who overdose are white.

In short, the tough labor market may be at the root of the worsening mortality rates for those without higher education, but that’s not the only thing to blame. Instability, dysfunction, stress: these cumulative disadvantages add up, exacting a deadly toll.

You’ve mentioned several times that death rates have climbed specifically for white Americans. Why focus on white people? Wouldn’t members of minority groups be similarly affected by changes in the economy?

Fair point — if anything, black and Hispanic Americans suffer from greater educational and economic inequities than their white counterparts do. Yet they have continued to show improvements in health and longevity. Partly it’s that they’ve long suffered from ill health and earlier deaths. Even with progress, there’s still a long way to go.

In fact, a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that black and Hispanic young adults from poor backgrounds actually are in worse physical health if they complete college.

Experts like Andrew J. Cherlin, a sociologist at the Johns Hopkins University, speculate that racial differences also might be a matter of expectations. It wasn’t long ago that white working-class Americans could count on leading a comfortable life with just a high-school degree. Middle-aged men and women, the very group falling ill and dying, are the first generation without that guarantee. They compare themselves with their parents and find their lives falling short. For black and Hispanic Americans, if you haven’t got as much to hope for, you might just have less to lose.

Come to think of it, you keep talking about Americans. What about people in other countries who don’t have college degrees? Are they, too, getting sicker?

They’re not. Even right next door in Canada, longevity continues to improve. One reason might be that workers in other industrialized countries haven’t experienced the same wage stagnation as have those here. But it’s also the case that in Canada and throughout Europe, the social safety net is more pronounced.

If where you live in the world makes a difference, are there healthier places within the United States?

Ms. Case and Mr. Deaton play down geography in their work, saying that they spot the trend of increasing mortality across all regions of the country and in both rural and urban areas. But other researchers argue that location does matter. Rural America has been hit hard by the changing economy, and the people there tend to be older, white, and less-educated than those in the cities and suburbs.

What’s more, a lot of public policy that affects the poor and less educated is set at the state and local levels, points out Jennifer Karas Montez, an assistant professor of sociology at Syracuse University. That means there are places where it’s tougher to be poor and without a degree.

What’s the solution: Just send more people to college?

Few experts think that the answer is college for all. Instead they call for policy fixes that could help ease the disadvantage that comes from not having a degree. As a country, they argue, we should find more ways into the middle class that don’t require a four-year degree, such as more-robust apprenticeship or training programs.

They also call for strengthening the social safety net. States, for instance, could expand health coverage under the Affordable Care Act to help the working poor. They could raise cigarette taxes to make smoking cost-prohibitive for low-income residents. Education will still matter, but policy choices could mitigate its effect on health.

It’s true that more people today are earning college degrees, but perhaps that precisely why we ought to be worried about those who don’t. While this group may be smaller, the disadvantages they face are compounding, and they are falling further behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is widening.


By : Karin Fischer
Date : December 29, 2017
Source : The Chronicle of Higher Education


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New Book: The Sociologist’s Eye: Reflections on Social Life


Author : Kai Erikson
Date : August 22, 2017
Pages : 432 pages
Publisher : Yale University Press
A masterful introduction to and appreciation of sociology as a window into our world

The culmination of a distinguished career, this fascinating exploration into the nature of human social life describes the field of sociology as a way of looking at the world rather than as a simple gathering of facts about it. Kai Erikson notes that sociologists look out at the same human scenes as poets, historians, economists, or any other observers of the vast social landscape spread out before them, but select different aspects of that vast panorama to focus on and attend to. Erikson’s lively and accessible volume considers how sociology became a field of study, and how it has turned its attention over time to new areas of study such as race and gender and what Erikson calls “social speciation.” This book provides readers with new ways of thinking about human culture and social life—an exhilarating sense of what the world looks like when viewed with a sociologist’s eye.

Kai Erikson is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of Sociology and American Studies, Yale University. He is former President of the American Sociological Association, and has twice won the ASA award for writing the best book published in the year preceding.
“An Erikson classic. This remarkably ambitious book by one of sociology’s very best practitioners is a unique intellectual invitation into the sociological imagination. It is a marvelous way to be inducted into thinking sociologically.”—Eviatar Zerubavel, author of Social Mindscapes: An Invitation to Cognitive Sociology

“With rich detail, intellectual deft, and an extraordinary gift for storytelling, Erikson delivers a tour de force. It is stimulating, eloquent, comprehensive, yet accessible. A must read for every young scholar.”—Cecilia Menjívar, University of Kansas

“Expertly executed and highly engaging, The Sociologist’s Eye renders the complex history of our discipline more clearly and elegantly than any other book of its kind.”—Jennifer Johnson, Kenyon College

“The Sociologist’s Eye is an immediate classic in the company of Berger and Mills; Erikson’s elegant analysis within the framework of perspectives, places, and processes will captivate generations to come.”—Diane L. Pike, Augsburg College

“This is a book like no other. Read one way it is the most elegant of introductions to our field. Read another way it is an intellectual memoir by one of American sociology’s most respected scholars and leaders. And read in still another way it is a book that seasoned sociologists and other social scientists of all kinds will read to freshen a sense of what our work can be.”—Charles Lemert, author of Social Things: An Introduction to the Sociological Life

“Erikson draws the reader in, revealing how social scientists view the world via unexpected description and persuasive explanation. Even for an old hand like me, there were things I learned for the first time. Bottom line: a great book.”—Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University
“Erikson is a master of two sociological arts, gracefully guiding his readers through a global landscape to help us understand human beings and the myriad ways we live together. A beautiful book.”—Daniel F. Chambliss, Hamilton College

“More than a text for students, this is an overview of what sociology has to teach anyone. It is a joy to see good ideas and critical findings come alive in Erikson’s uniquely masterful renditions.”—Harvey Molotch, New York University

“With rich detail, intellectual deft, and an extraordinary gift for storytelling, Erikson delivers a tour de force. It is stimulating, eloquent, comprehensive, yet accessible. A must read for every young scholar.”—Elliott West, University of Arkansas

“A man who has devoted his life to studying society delivers a final report on everything he has learned . . . [Erikson] proves to be a wise guide to a broad field of study. A useful, illuminating analysis.”—Kirkus Reviews


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The promise of public sociology


Think of the era we are in. Do you some­times feel a sense of un­cer­tainty and dis­cord? It is un­der­stand­able if you do. How many of you worry about how you will pay back your stu­dent loans in a time of per­va­sive wage stag­na­tion and elu­sive mid­dle class em­ploy­ment? We are more cog­nizant these days of mass shoot­ings and gun vi­o­lence; it gives us fur­ther pause when we re­al­ize that the like­li­hood of gun vi­o­lence is far greater in the US than in other mod­ern na­tions. How do you feel about the state of race re­la­tions in a time of mass in­car­cer­a­tion and em­bold­ened white na­tion­al­ism? What crosses your mind when pow­er­ful men, from the pres­i­dent to Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­ers, en­gage in sex­ual as­sault and/​or ha­rass­ment? I would think such thoughts leave us with sad­ness, anger, and some­times even de­spair.

Hav­ing said that, we may also look on in won­der and awe at the de­ter­mi­na­tion and re­silience of the hu­man spirit, and ad­mire how changes to so­cial in­sti­tu­tions can in­deed pos­i­tively trans­form the lives of many. Just over a half cen­tury ago our na­tion held on to a re­gion­ally-based sys­tem of racial apartheid (i.e. Jim Crow seg­re­ga­tion) and the op­por­tu­ni­ties for women to live in­de­pen­dent lives were clearly blunted when com­pared to to­day. How do you feel know­ing that you can no longer be kicked off of your health in­sur­ance plan due to a pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion? I would think such changes give us hope that things can get bet­ter.

Of course, this is what hu­mans do: we col­lec­tively cre­ate these so­cial forces that en­able and con­strain us. We de­velop ideas and they be­come cod­i­fied into cus­toms, laws, and so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions; some­times these forces ap­pear as though they are cre­ated by an im­mutable force of na­ture and at other times we watch them col­lapse like a house of cards to see new sys­tems come into be­ing. This is a so­cial fact and it is ex­actly what the dis­ci­pline of so­ci­ol­ogy stud­ies—those in­sti­tu­tions and cul­tural sys­tems that cre­ate pat­tern so­cial re­la­tions and con­sti­tute our iden­ti­ties.

You would be mis­taken, how­ever, to see so­ci­ol­ogy as only an aca­d­e­mic method to bet­ter un­der­stand the hu­man con­di­tion. It is more. It is through so­ci­ol­ogy that we can both study the so­cial world and en­gage it—and with so­ci­ol­ogy we can take on the ma­jor so­cial is­sues of our time. This is what the great 20-cen­tury so­ci­ol­o­gist C. Wright Mills dubbed the “promise” of so­ci­ol­ogy. To­day, it is what we in the dis­ci­pline call “pub­lic so­ci­ol­ogy.” The prac­tice of pub­lic so­ci­ol­ogy is to take the dis­ci­pli­nary skills of so­ci­ol­ogy to the pub­lic for the ben­e­fit of the greater good. Pub­lic so­ci­ol­ogy is about shar­ing im­por­tant re­search to cit­i­zens that could trans­form their lives; it is about us­ing so­ci­ol­ogy to cre­ate so­cial and pub­lic pol­icy; and it is about show­ing how so­ci­ol­ogy can be used in non­profit and pri­vate en­ter­prise. This is ex­actly what the so­ci­ol­o­gist Matthew Desmond did. He stud­ied the low-in­come rental mar­ket where he found evic­tions are now com­mon. He then wrote the Pulitzer Prize win­ning book Evicted, cre­ated a non­profit called just­shel­ to help low-in­come renters gain ac­cess to so­cial and le­gal ser­vices, and now he writes for ma­jor me­dia out­lets and tours the na­tion talk­ing about the evic­tion cri­sis. Desmond has met with politi­cians and has in­no­v­a­tive ideas on how to re­duce both evic­tion and poverty. Does­n’t that sound like ap­peal­ing work? This is what so­ci­ol­ogy can do, and it is you who could be the next one to de­velop a non­profit or busi­ness to solve a ma­jor so­cial prob­lem.

If you share these con­cerns and har­bor such hopes, you should come ma­jor in so­ci­ol­ogy. Here at AC, you will find a newly de­signed cur­ricu­lum that is built around the tenets of pub­lic so­ci­ol­ogy. Our goal is to pro­vide you with the skills that will pre­pare you for both pro­fes­sional work and grad­u­ate school ed­u­ca­tion—so that you can help make a dif­fer­ence in the so­cial world. Please come visit us and learn more.


Pro­fes­sor Farough is a so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at As­sump­tion Col­lege. He is a staff writer for Le Provo­ca­teur.


By : Professor Farough (Sociology, Assumption College)
Date : November 17, 2017
Source : Le Provocateur  (

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Memoir of Growing Up Fat Forces France to Look in the Mirror


PARIS — When a fledgling alternative press published Gabrielle Deydier’s plaintive memoir of growing up fat in France, there was little expectation that the book would attract much notice. Frenchwomen are among the thinnest in Europe, high fashion is big business, and obesity isn’t often discussed.

“To be fat in France is to be a loser,” Ms. Deydier said.

So no one, least of all Ms. Deydier, expected “On Ne Naît Pas Grosse” (“One Is Not Born Fat”) to become a media sensation.

Using her life as a case in point, bolstered by scientific studies, Ms. Deydier exposes in 150 pages the many ways the obese in France face censure, as well as frequent insensitivity from the medical profession. Soon, the 330-pound author was being interviewed by a broad range of news outlets.

The coverage provoked a public reaction, and a variety of comments, including empathy and offers of support for those who are overweight, but also statements denigrating them. Some people complained Ms. Deydier was trying to normalize obesity.

“To be close to someone obese in a train or a plane haunts me,” Mathieu B. wrote in a comment on Le Monde’s website. “It’s like being close to someone who smells bad. One has a very bad journey, that’s a fact.”

In short, Ms. Deydier had touched a nerve. Her small publisher, which ran a limited first printing, has ordered a second.

“A book like this had not been done,” said Clara Tellier Savary, Ms. Deydier’s publisher at Éditions Goutte d’Or. “For an obese person to be aware of all the issues and step back is very rare.”

Unlike in the United States, where TV regularly features programs urging viewers to take a positive view of their bodies and where a plus-size clothing industry is booming, celebrating one’s girth is almost unheard-of in France.

Yet more and more French people are obese. A report published last year by Inserm, the National Institute of Health and Medical Research, found that 16 percent of the adult population was obese, up from about 12 percent eight years ago.

That is still low compared with the United States, where 36.5 percent of the adult population was clinically obese in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (International standards define being obese as having a body mass index of 30 or higher, and overweight as a B.M.I. of 25 to 29.)

Activists trying to increase public awareness about the problems the obese face, and demanding that the French Health Ministry disseminate more information about treatment options, are only beginning to get a hearing, said Anne-Sophie Joly, president of an umbrella association of groups representing obese people.

“Society is very harsh with women,” Ms. Joly said. “Women face the most demands: She must be beautiful, but not too much; she must be thin, but not too thin; she must be intelligent, but not too much because you mustn’t put the man in the shadows.”

Ms. Deydier, a native of the southern city of Nîmes, studied literature as well as a bit of politics and philosophy in Montpellier and has worked in journalism. In her book, she describes with sometimes caustic candor the daily humiliations of “grossophobie,” or fat-phobia, in France.

France is one of few countries prohibiting job discrimination based on physical appearance, in a 2001 law, but the measure appears to be more often ignored than observed.

Jean-François Amadieu, a sociologist at the Sorbonne in Paris who tracks public perceptions of obesity, said that obese men were three times less likely to be offered job interviews, and obese women six times less likely. (It is customary in France for job applicants to include photographs with their résumés.)

Ms. Deydier recalled applying for a job at McDonald’s as a university student, when she weighed around 200 pounds. The manager “didn’t want customers to see me working there,” she said, “because he didn’t want them to think they would look like me if they came often.”

Later, during a trial period working with autistic children, a senior teacher told her, “You are the seventh handicapped person in the class,” Ms. Deydier recalled. She was told that she made the children feel doubly like misfits because they were saddled with an obese teacher. At the end of her six-month trial period, her bosses suggested that she look elsewhere for a job.

“I was ashamed to bring a complaint,” Ms. Deydier said about filing a discrimination suit, adding that people had told her that she would never win one anyway, given her weight.

One indicator of French views on obesity is the rising rate of extreme treatments like bariatric surgery, in which part of the stomach or intestine is removed or bypassed. The number of such operations has doubled in France in the past six years, to 50,000 annually.

Ms. Deydier, who has tried dieting repeatedly and lost weight only to regain it, said she had considered having the operation but had been disturbed by the idea of choosing “to amputate a functioning part of my body.”

Of the possible complications, she added, the most upsetting was the risk of social isolation: It can be difficult to share a meal after such surgery, which leaves people needing five small meals a day instead of the traditional three.

Yet for many, the desire to be svelte prevails over health risks or discomfort.

“In France, people are much more invested in ideas about physical appearance” than in other places, said Mr. Amadieu, the sociologist. “Norms have changed from the 1960s and 1970s; they have become thinner and thinner.”

Ms. Deydier describes her reluctance to take trains or buses because of frequent derision from fellow passengers, the discomfort of being out of breath even after walking a short distance and the sense of having her eating habits watched hawkishly.

Over a cup of coffee far from the high-fashion redoubts of the Avenue Montaigne, Ms. Deydier described walking into a bakery in her neighborhood in Paris late one morning and, having missed breakfast, ordering two croissants.

Before she even had time to put away her change, she recalled, the woman behind her in line said to the attendant, “One will be enough for me, thank you.”

“She spoke as if I couldn’t hear her,” Ms. Deydier said, “but I was standing right there.”

Sociologists link such censure to a strong emphasis on appearance, to attachment to rules and to fears that order will dissolve if conventions are flouted.

Abigail Saguy, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has studied attitudes toward appearance in the United States and France, said that obesity is seen in France as a sign of being out of control.

“Even if you’re not heavy, you can receive criticism if you are eating in a way that is perceived as out of control, such as not at meal times,” she said, citing a book whose French author described with horror seeing Americans eating alone, or at any time of day.

“France is a very rules-based society,” Ms. Saguy said. “There are rules about eating in France, about mealtimes, and you need to follow the rules.”


By : Alissa J. Rubin
Date : October 21, 2017
Source : The New York Times (

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Why public sees foreign workers as more helpful than locals


In September, a group of foreign workers were hailed for helping to move a car that had been stuck on a flight of stairs at Waterway Point in Punggol – while Singaporeans looked on and snapped pictures with their phones.

After the video circulated online, there was an outpouring of goodwill from Singaporeans, many of whom compared the foreign workers favourably against locals.

The workers, The Straits Times understands, had in fact been asked to move the car. But public response was telling, with many Singaporeans saying that foreign workers here are helpful and friendly – perhaps even more so than locals.

People ST spoke to suggested reasons that foreign workers are seen in such a positive light, although they were cautious not to generalise.

Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser, from the National University of Singapore’s department of sociology, said: “It could be that we tend to be generous in our views of people who are no threat to us. Here, we are speaking of foreign workers who perform the menial tasks that we avoid doing ourselves.”

An unequal relationship of power could affect the way foreign workers interact with locals.

“Because the foreign workers see themselves as of lower status to middle-class Singaporeans, they may tend to display what could be deemed to be deferential, even subservient, behaviour, but manifested as friendly or helpful behaviour.

“Consequently, we may actually develop some positive stereotypes about them… along with some negative stereotypes. The latter could be activated should they, for instance, compete with us for public space or amenities,” Prof Tan added.

Citing a famous 2012 study published in PNAS journal that showed that underprivileged people tend to be more generous and ethical, Singapore Management University sociology professor Nicholas Harrigan said: “It could be this trend that people are noticing with foreign workers, but I am hesitant to draw conclusions because there are so many other potential factors.”

Mr John Gee, former president and current head of research at non-governmental organisation Transient Workers Count Too, said that Bangladeshi migrant workers here tend to come from rural areas in the neighbourhood of Dhaka.

In big cities like Singapore, people tend to mind their own business, he said. The sizeable Bangladeshi population here could also make it easier for the temporary migrantsto “perpetuate the tradition they brought from home”.

Bangladeshi construction worker Mahbub Hasan Dipu, 30, who hails from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, said he has many friends from villages in Bangladesh.
He described these village communities as “one big family… They are all very helpful”. But he said there could be another reason for such friendliness: “We need this job. We want to stay here. We are scared that if we are rude, bad things will happen.”

Another Bangladeshi, Mr Belal Hassan, 29, who helps manage a stainless steel shop, said: “There are so many workers on MRT trains, buses who give up their seats.” His desire to do good, he said, is driven by his Muslim values.

The upswelling of goodwill towards foreign workers, however, could be a reaction to some negative stereotypes that still persist.

Mr Gee noted that there are Singaporeans who think foreign workers are “dishonest”, or subscribe to “the idea that South Asian workers may be sexual predators”.

He hopes to see more open spaces and affordable cafes where locals and foreign workers can meet.

Meanwhile, Prof Tan said that aside from public education, there could be more opportunities for both groups to interact in “non-hierarchical, collaborative fun activities” such as games and sports.

Said Mr Belal: “Some people say we are smelly, sweaty, that we just come here for the money. But we also need your love, your appreciation because we are also human.”


By : Toh Wen Li
Date : November 13, 2017
Source : The Straits Time

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