Institutional Drift of the Working Class

Has something happened to our working class? While much of my research has focused on racial inequalities in America, these investigations usually don’t leave me too far from the broader matter of social class inequalities. When sociologists talk about social inequalities we usually are referring to those who are making low wages or those who are classified in poverty. In class I tend to refer to them as a vulnerable population since many students are working minimum wage jobs and don’t always connect their experience with the concept of being part of the working class.  For the most part the “returns on education,” particularly college education, is still better than no college education-so for many of these students they intuitively know, or hope, that their job at Ann Taylor or as library assistant is temporary until they land a “real job,” the one that their college degree promises.

The message regarding those in poverty and the working poor is usually the same: life is pretty hard, as this online experiment shows (very useful by the way in teaching). Your pay is just sufficient enough to get by as long as you never get sick, don’t get your hours cut, or have a major transportation problem that leaves you showing up for work late (and potentially fired as a result). You’re more often exposed to natural elements, harsh chemicals, and dangerous machinery which can cause bodily harm if you’re not careful. Typical examples include: migrant agrarian workers, waste management, restaurant staff, valet parking workers, fast food employees, building custodians. Millions of Americans who won’t attain a college degree earn their livelihood from these jobs.

When I read about the recent finding that more than 50% of births to women under 30 occur outside of marriage, (which fellow blogger Mark Regnerus described), [Read more...]

Harvard, Hoops, Hope, and Hype: America’s Lin-fatuation

My Facebook newsfeed is suffering from Linsomnia. Discovering a new celebrity like Jeremy Lin for someone in my line of research interests is enough to throw every other project off the desk and spend long nights keeping track of what is happening to America’s favorite new point guard, and what people are saying. Like a lot of writers who have commented on Lin, I too have not been an avid NBA watcher much less the Knicks (although mentioning them has helped break the ice a couple of times: “So uh, how ‘bout those Knicks?” Try it sometime.)

So what are people saying about him? While normally I prefer to make the best of data that has already been collected through a survey, every once in a while I’ll try my hand at collecting and creating data. Believe it or not there is an actual science to this but for the purposes of this blog I confess I didn’t apply the same kind of rigor that would make my findings publishable. One way to create data on Jeremy Lin is to do what’s called content analysis. I have been bookmarking every possible news article, blog and other written work about him that has been shared with me and have systematically coded for themes and key phrases that repeatedly show up on an excel file.  Admittedly, there may be bias in the articles that are shared with me.

You know how some ideas seem really good at the time? [Read more...]

The End of Expressing Faith in Public Spaces?

As a young college student, one of the appeals of participating in an evangelical group was the fairly humble settings that often accompanied the singing and praying and fellowshipping (it’s one of those terms I heard first among evangelicals, and I think it’s another way of saying “socializing.”). For those us that grew up Christian, I think most of us are familiar with the interiors of traditional church structures, some have steeples, stained glass, pews, some are even shaped like a cross.  

In traditional church structures you’re invited into a space that is set apart, another word for “holy.” But for many Christians, such holy spaces are not feasible or even desirable. The church is not a building, it’s a people. The location, the space is of little relevance.


Some evangelical Christians in college (and perhaps other groups too) embody this by setting up temporary gathering spaces in places like classrooms and auditoriums at public and private universities. For someone like me, somewhat unaware of what evangelical Christianity was enjoyed this experience because it seemed authentic. [Read more...]

The Real Taboo: Forget Sex, Let’s Talk About Money (and How Much We’re not Giving)

As the 2012 campaigns are under way, we sociologists are paying close attention to the rhetoric and public responses to the rhetoric. Of particular note are the religious overtones in that rhetoric as the most likely Republican candidate (from what I can tell) is a religious minority (Mormon or Latter-Day Saints) and the Democratic candidate is still viewed as Muslim in some quarters (also a minority religious group). Recently Mitt Romney’s charitable donations were under question and as it turns out he gives a heckuva lotta dough to charity, somewhere on the order of $3 million LAST YEAR ALONE. As the New York Times article shows, that’s a whopping 13.8% of his income that went to charity. For his part, Barack Obama gave 14.2% of his income to charity, which amounts to about $245,000. Its a lot less than Romney’s donation but still, could you imagine letting go of that much money in your account?

This brings me to the bigger point. [Read more...]