Umm, you guys? Did you know July’s almost over? That’s… that’s too much to think about, really. So let’s talk about soc, baby.
“Of Carbon and Cash,” by Erin Hoekstra. Could reparations for environmental damage flow as easily as pollution from the Global North to the Global South?
“Chad Lavin on Eating Anxiety,” with Matt Gunther. On the politics of our food choices.
“When Child Migrants Weren’t an Unwelcome Problem,” by Lisa Gulya and Stephen Suh. While politicians are busy blaming each other (slash coming up with conspiracy theories) for a recent influx of minor immigrants, research shows times when the U.S. has happily welcomed such kids.
“Feminist Reflections,” by Chris Uggen. Welcoming our latest Community Page!
“The Overblown Myth of the Boomerang Generation,” by Amy August. Did the Baby Boomers birth a Boomerang Generation? Not really, says Rick Settersten.
“Marriage or the Baby Carriage,” by Andrew Wiebe. Andrew Cherlin takes a look at the connections between education levels and parenthood choices.
“In Dealing with Iran, the Best Option for Israel Is to Strike First—Diplomatically,” by Steven Weber. Make love not war! Or maybe just extend an olive branch? You don’t have to make out or anything. Unless you want to.
“Red States, Blue States, and Divorce: Understanding the Impact of Conservative Protestantism on Regional Variation in Divorce Rates,” by Stephanie Coontz. Adding to findings from the American Journal of Sociology, Coontz looks at why divorce rates are higher in religiously conservative “red states.”
San Diego’s Comic-Con feels like a huge, five-day carnival. Diverse attendees gleefully snap pictures, brave the crowds, and willingly wait in long (sometimes overnight) lines in this annual atmosphere of fantasy, science fiction, geekdom, and celebrity. The creative costumes and the variety of people in them adds to the buzz, and “The Floor” (where comics, games, and other paraphernalia are on display for purchase) pulses with fans who want to meet their artist idols, get autographs, try new games, and fill their swag-bags.
If cosplay (essentially, costuming) is the “face” of Comic-Con, giving it unique features, “The Floor” is more like its body—a massive, complicated space where attendees digest their cultural addiction of choice, whether it be purchasing a Dr. Who bobble-head or a game of Zombie Dice. Despite the dense, hard-to-navigate space of “The Floor”—it can occasionally feel like wading through the zombie-populated terrain of a Walking Dead episode—the space is suffused with a palpable sense of anxious excitement.
San Diego resident and long-time attendee of Comic-Con Melissa Molina describes the atmosphere as full of energy and commotion, noting that what really draws her to the event is “all of the people in the convention center” who “may not all agree on what they like” but who come together in a united devotion to all things Con: comics, science fiction and fantasy films, cult TV shows, video games, fandom culture, and, of course, cosplay.
The heady mix of possibilities at such conventions is described as “a megladon shark attacking Godzilla attacking Mothra attacking Tokyo” by blogger Curtis Silver, who notes that “The biggest of these monsters is of course the annual San Diego Comic-Con, where film, television, toys, video games and …comics explode into the pop culture consciousness on an annual basis.” Indeed, the often-quiet convention center oozes people from every door. For the long weekend of the convention, whether on the trolley or in the nearby Gaslamp quarter, one would be hard pressed to go more than 10 minutes without seeing a Con goer wearing one of their tell-tale badges.
There are many positive interactions surrounding the cosplay and nerd culture features of the Con. In lines, strangers become friends, offering water, holding places in line, sharing their passion for Show X or Movie Y. They trade mutual compliments about innovative, creative costumes, and you can see humans of all varieties taking photos of costumed attendees, a practice that is usually filled with appreciation and revelry. As professor Heidi Breuer describes it, the visual presentation gives the Con an atmosphere that allows for positive expressions of geekdom, sexuality, and gender expression.
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Isn’t it ironic that “much of our ‘independence,’ where it exists, is made possible by supports and resources that have been provided by others”? In an interview with the Washington Post, Oregon State’s Richard A. Settersten, Jr. calls attention to one important instance of this irony: the rigid tie between the “independence” of young people and leaving the home. For Settersten, Jr., common (and paranoid) misunderstandings about “permanent” and “alarming” generational trends in living at home are problematic not simply because they are inaccurate, but because they point to a misguided ideal of “independence.”
To clarify how patterns in young adult living arrangements have varied over time, he notes:
This isn’t new. If we look back over the last century, we can see that the rush out of the parental home was a post-World War II phenomenon, and proportions have been growing since 1970…. What’s remarkable about the early adult years today is not that young people live with parents but that they live without a spouse…. Marriage and parenting now culminate the process of becoming adult rather than start it.
Settersten, Jr. also clarifies who chooses to live at home and why. He indicates that men of every age group are more likely to live with parents, mentioning their higher rates of dropping out of school
unemployment, and a higher average age of marriage as possible reasons why. Individuals of disadvantaged groups also tend to live at home at greater rates—possibly because they are more likely to live in high-cost metropolitan areas or because young people in their culture are expected to contribute to family resources. Moreover, according to Settersten, Jr.,
For many families, living at home is a strategic choice that permits young adults to attend or reduce the cost of higher education, take internships, or create a nest egg. (It may also be necessary for paying down student loans.) For them, it’s not about being locked out of the labor market, but about building a more secure economic future.
So before tossing aside the “boomerang generation” as hopelessly dependent “failures to launch,” consider how peculiar it is “that we expect young people to somehow strive for complete independence when those of us who are no longer young realize that adult life is heavily conditioned by relationships with other people.” Settersten, Jr. has a point.
For a different take on the role of the economy in millenials’ living arrangements, see this article by Lisa Wade.
If you’re a teacher, here’s a great lesson by Kia Heise to start a class conversation about living alone as a ‘rite of passage’ into adulthood.
Differences in education level lead to dramatically different views on when to become a parent, according to new research. John Hopkins University sociologist Andrew Cherlin shows that millennial women with college educations are more likely to wait until they are married before they have children than women without a college degree. In an interview with Sarah Kliff of Vox, Cherlin explains:
“We’re seeing the emergence two very different paths to adulthood. Among young adults without college educations, most of their childbearing is in their twenties and the majority of it is outside of marriage. That includes people who have gotten a two-year associate’s degree. The dividing line is the four-year degree. The vast majority of people with that college degree are having children in marriage. We didn’t see this 20 or 30 years ago. We didn’t see these sharp differences between the college graduates and non-graduates.”
This trend concerns Cherlin, as it could lead to a more unstable family life for the children of unmarried parents with a high school education. He sees a lack of middle-skill jobs as the cause of their financial instability. This leads to their higher rate of breaking up and ultimately reinforces economic inequalities between education groups. Parents who have a college education are less likely to get divorced, since they are the couples who are more likely to have two steady incomes.
When asked if we could turn this worrisome trend around, Cherlin posits:
“It depends on if you think we can turn the middle of the job market around, and if we can find productive employment for high school graduates. If that happens, then I think we have a chance of reversing the instability we’re seeing in family lives. I also think that it might be a good idea to promote a message that one should wait to have children until one is in a stable marriage.”
That said, providing an alternative vision of a future where the high-school and college-educated alike can navigate the new economy could lead to greater family stability for their kids.
As Andy Ross told us in the previous chapter, climate debt refers to the harmful carbon emissions created by countries like the United States and the grave effects that climate change is having on poorer, developing countries in the Global South. First introduced in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the concept of climate debt has motivated politicians, scientists, academics, and advocates to look closely at how climate change is experienced by rich and poor countries. Climate debt, for them, represents another example of the persistent global inequality between the developed countries in the Global North and the developing countries of the Global South. Social scientists are playing an important part in documenting the social movements around climate debt and in developing methods to calculate and account for such debts.
Meanwhile, this persistent global inequality serves as the basis for several international debt relief movements. For instance, the Jubilee Movement, predicated on the biblical notion of the “jubilee” (when debts were forgiven every seventh year), is a global movement based in Britain and other Global North countries that advocates for forgiving and abolishing the debts that Global South countries supposedly owe from the colonial era. In this instance, the “creditors” are wealthy, developed nations who once colonized and extracted resources like gold, oil, coal, and diamonds from countries they later charged with “debt repayment.” In one alarming example, Haiti was forced to pay the French government from 1825 to 1947 to compensate for “property” lost to French slave owners when Haitian slaves successfully revolted. The Jubilee Movement uses the debt abolishment argument to pressure countries to forgive such debt rather than force other nations into bankruptcy. Jubilee has had some limited success, but wealthy countries continue to pressure poorer countries to pay outstanding debts.
The climate debt and climate justice movements share some similarities with the Jubilee Movement: both are based on the persistence and injustice of global inequality, both recognize that the high consumption in more wealthy countries hurts poorer countries, and both force us to consider the nature of legitimate and illegitimate debts. Like the Jubilee Movement, the broader concept of ecological debt, under which climate debt falls, draws from the legacy of the ecological exploitation of colonized countries. Andrew Simms draws out this similarity in Ecological Debt: Global Warming and the Wealth of Nations, arguing that in both climate debt and international debt, those who have played the smallest role in creating the problems have borne the greatest burdens. Those most responsible for climate crises have skirted responsibility.
In this episode, political scientist Chad Lavin discusses his new book, Eating Anxiety: The Perils of Food Politics. Chad’s work explores how our experiences with food shape popular ideas about identity, authenticity, and responsibility. He speaks with us about the political meanings of diet in a globalized society, and some limitations of the local food movement. Chad is a professor at Virginia Tech, where he teaches in the political science department and at ASPECT – the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought.
This week, TSP was pleased to welcome our latest Community Page, Feminist Reflections; to host Tristan Bridges (one of Feminist Reflections’ contributors) on Office Hours, and to talk baby contagions and blocking contraception at the Supreme Court. What else did we get up to?
“Tristan Bridges on Hybrid Masculinities and Sexual Aesthetics,” with Kyle Green. Being straight but not narrow and changing masculine norms along the way.
“Religion, Reproduction, and the Supreme Court,” by Jacqui Frost. Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College’s cases before the SCOTUS reveal just one facet of the constraints on women’s access to reproductive health services.
“Testing in the Trenches,” by Evan Stewart. In Sociology of Education, Jennifer Jennings and Heeju Sohn consider whether both high and low achieving kids are left behind when teachers have to do perform “educational triage” before high-stakes testing.
“Baby-onic Plague,” by Kat Albrecht. The Chicago Tribune considers international research identifying three reasons women seem to catch a “case of the kids” from their circle of friends.
“Gender Equality: Family Egalitarianism Follows Workplace Opportunity,” by Philip N. Cohen. Traditional male and female arrangements in housework became more balanced as the labor market opened up in the 1970s and ’80s. Why has it stalled since then?
Today we are joined by Tristan Bridges. Tristan is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at The College at Brockport, State University of New York. Tristan researches and blogs on issues related to gender, sexuality, inequality, and space at Inequality by (Interior) Design and Feminist Reflections, the newest Community Page at The Society Pages. We discuss Tristan’s recently published article “A Very ”Gay” Straight?: Hybrid Masculinities, Sexual Aesthetics, and the Changing Relationship between Masculinity and Homophobia,” that is part of his larger book project tentatively entitled “Othering Other Men: Transformations in Gender and Politics among Men.”
By now, it’s clear that in the United States and around the world, debt has come to shape people’s lives. Some use debt to get ahead, others buy debt to make a profit, and still others find their choices constrained by the weight of the debt they are dragging around. Andrew Ross,…
The recent Hobby Lobby, and subsequent Wheaton College, Supreme Court rulings that exclude organizations with “sincere religious objections” from the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate have raised a plethora of fears and heated commentary about access to birth control, women’s rights, and the slippery slope of religious exemption. Sociological research, however, suggests that this ruling’s infringement on access to reproductive services and women’s rights is far from straightforward.
The Chicago Tribune reports on the study of women’s friendships and potential child birthing saying,
…After one of the women in each friendship pair had a baby, the likelihood that her friend would also have her first baby went up for about two years, and then declined.
Balbo and Barban focus on high school friends, analyzing 1,170 women in a longitudinal study beginning in the 1990s. During the study, 820 of the participants became parents, having their first child at an average age of 27.
Balbo identifies three mechanisms that might contribute to the seemingly significant amount of influence between friends. First, she discusses social influence. This hinges on the idea that we constantly compare ourselves to people around us, including friends, and may be pressured to conform to their behavior. The second mechanism Balbo proposes is social learning. Watching a friend go through parenthood may arm prospective parents with knowledge and make them more comfortable fulfilling the parent role themselves. The third mechanism focuses on cost-sharing dynamics. Being in a similar life circumstance with friends can help reduce both costs and stress.
The study has been critiqued for not incorporating larger social networks and assuming that friendships can be studied in dyads. Either way, I’ll think twice the next time I find a baby shower invitation in my mailbox!
A lot can happen in just a couple of weeks. While we entertained illustrious guests (the incoming editors of Contexts magazine) and worked on developing new Community Pages, we saw the arrival of the paperbacks of our third W.W. Norton volume (this time on race and ethnicity in the U.S.), a plaudit as a great Twin Cities blog from the fine folks at The Tangential and Vita.MN, and, of course, the winning of the World Cup. We didn’t do that last one. But here’s the stuff we did do.
“Economic Decline and the American Dream,” by Kevin Leicht. The second in a three-part series reveals that the U.S. has the lowest rate of social mobility in the industrialized world.
“Old Narratives and New Realities,” by Kevin Leicht. Why old-school parents really just don’t understand the financial precarity of modern early adulthood in the conclusion to Leicht’s series.
“Andrew Ross on the Anti-Debt Movement,” by Erin Hoekstra. A conversation with a scholar-activist about the whys and hows of dumping debt.
“Virginia Rutter, Love, and Scholarly Generosity,” by Chris Uggen. On appreciation and respect in the academic world.
“The Morning After,” by Doug Hartmann. The World Cup is over. Now what?
“Modern Mormonism: Kicking Out and Keeping In,” by Allegra Smith and Evan Stewart.
“Pantene Urges Women to Stop Being Sorry—But Were They in the First Place?” by Hope Uggen. #NotSorry? What about #WasntSorryButThatsTheEasiestWaytoMoveItAlong?
“Starbucks Brews Plan to Fund College Tuition,” by Molly Goin. Now offering more than a caffeine boost, Starbucks takes a step that may let their workers take many.
“New Measures Reveal the True Impact of America’s Anti-Poverty Programs,” by Jane Waldfogel. Because science usually means measurement, social science needs metrics to evaluate social programs.
“Using Alternatives to School Suspension Can Improve Student Success and Community Safety,” by Jenni W. Owen. Suspension is, by design, isolating. What might work better?
“Greater Acceptance, Persisting Antipathy: 50 Years of Religious Change,” by Jerry Park, Joshua Tom, and Brita Andercheck. “Even today, nativist hate groups perpetuate hostilities between Catholic and Jewish Americans.”
“The State of Latino Children,” by Rogelio Saenz. “It is essential that Latino children be seen as an asset rather than a liability, as our children and our future.”
By now, it’s clear that in the United States and around the world, debt has come to shape people’s lives. Some use debt to get ahead, others buy debt to make a profit, and still others find their choices constrained by the weight of the debt they are dragging around. Andrew Ross, author ofCreditocracy and the Case for Debt Refusal is convinced that finances have become modern shackles and that only an effective, equality based social movement can loosen those bonds.
Erin Hoekstra: What do you mean by “creditocracy”?
Andrew Ross: A creditocracy is a society in which the majority of people are so deeply in debt that it can never be repaid. Creditocracy emerges when the cost of access to social goods is privately debt binding for individuals. These social goods are not just things that improve quality of life, but basic requirements of life, including housing, education, healthcare, and even putting food on the table, which for many people requires going into debt. In this kind of society, our society, the creditor’s goal is to wrap debt around every single possible asset or income stream, ensuring a flow of interest. In a particularly advanced stage of a creditocracy, debtors have to seek out fresh sources of credit simply to service their existing debt. One of the bumper stickers I cite summarizes that condition: “I use MasterCard to pay Visa.” For the working poor, this has long been a familiar arrangement, but in recent decades, the position of permanent indebtedness has moved up into the higher reaches of social strata and now affects at least one, maybe two, generations of college educated middle class. That is the more advanced phase of creditocracy.
A difficult, reflective (if not reflexive) weekend that saw the TSP crew scattered about the country was rewarded, at least to some small degree, this morning, when we arrived at TSP’s HQ to find a squat little box containing our latest volume with W.W. Norton & Co., Color Lines and Racial Angles. The third in our series of readers, this book brings in big names like Douglas Massey, Jennifer Lee, David Pellow, Charles A. Gallagher, and Michelle Alexander with core contributions, cultural contexts, and critical takes on the construction, understanding, and functioning of race in American society. Perfect for an intro class, the slim volume literally fits in a roomy pocket and serves as an accessible entry-point for developing the sociological imagination. For everything else, hop right on in to this week’s roundup!
“The TSP Debt Series,” by Chris Uggen. Introducing a summer’s worth of readings on debt, inequality, and the life course in the United States today. From student debt to credit cards, legal debt, the return of the debtor’s prison, climate change, and reparations, these pieces comprise an incredible introduction and will be released in a volume, Owned, this fall. For now, they’re free online, of course!
“Has Borrowing Replaced Earning?” by Kevin Leicht. The first in a three-part series, this article explores the growth of and change in credit in the U.S. over the past three generations, as measured against wage growth.
“John Skrentny on Racial Realism and Civil Rights,” with Sarah Lageson. The author of After Civil Rights: Racial Realism in the New American Workplace joins us to discuss how racial diversity works at work.
“A New Kind of Kryptonite,” by Kat Albrecht. As Dustin Kidd muses, “What are you supposed to wear to a convention if your comic book idol’s costume is a corset and a thong?”
“Religion and Your Resume: Even More Hiring Discrimination,” by Evan Stewart. To the extent it’s legal to withhold, don’t mention your race, criminal record, finances, height, age, or religion—even in the most glancing reference—on your job app. Trust us.
“New Measures Reveal the True Impact of America’s Anti-Poverty Programs,” by Jane Waldfogel. How well is welfare?
“From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend: What Unions Do for Women,” by Ruth Milkman. Why women today still need unions.
How and why people of color are included in advertising: 2nd in a series.
Non-white people are increasingly being featured in advertisements and a principled interest in “diversity” is not the only, or likely even the main motivation.
In this series, I share some ideas about why and how people of color are included in advertising aimed primarily at whites. This post is about the inclusion of people of color in ads to invoke the idea of “color,” “flavor,” or “personality.”
Consider, this ad for Absolute Vodka Peach (“Find Your Flavor”) includes two white and two brown people, plus a set of silhouettes.
Holly F. and Lafin T.J. sent in the three Life cereal box covers above. Notice that “regular” Life has white people on the cover, while cinnamon and maple and brown sugar flavors have people of color on their covers:
In this pro-diversity ad, spice is literally used to represent diversity (via MultiCultClassics). (Just a bit misguided too: Just a teaspoon or less of color, please.)
This ad for Samba Colore by Swatch also uses a model of color:
“Welcome to the Color Factory.” These two ads for a color photo printer and a color printer cartridge both use models of color alongside white models in order to express how “colorful” their product is.
Bri sent in these four images (three from Gap and one from United Colors of Benneton). Each Gap ad is advertising a different product, with an emphasis on how many colors they come in (bottom right corner). They all, also, feature models of color. Here’s just one of them:
And, of course, the United Colors of Benneton is famous for its use of models of color in its ads, blending quite purposefully the idea of clothing colors and skin colors:
Finally Joshua B. sent in this photo of two french fry holders, one with a black and one with a white woman, reading “never a dull moment, only tasty,” and “Is it wrong to think Arby’s all the time.” The black woman, then, is presented alongside the ideas of excitement and flavor:
There is also this Crystal Light ad campaign that compares water to a “pale” white woman and crystal light to a “pumped” black woman and these ads for an Australian bread company that use Blackness to argue that their bread is not bland.
This kind of advertising can easily be explained away as coincidence, but I think it’s a pattern. Feel free to send in examples and counter examples if you see them.
Next up: Including people of color so as to make the product seem “hip,” “cool,” or “modern.” Don’t miss the first in the series: Including people of color so as to associate the product with the racial stereotype.