Photo by miss_millions via flickr.com
Over the past few years, Oklahoma has locked up its place as the state with the highest rates of female incarceration. In a recent article for The Oklahoman, Andrew Knittle interviewed University of Oklahoma sociologist Susan Sharp about the state’s “mean” laws that lead to this trend.
Sharp explains that Oklahoma has tough-on-crime sentencing guidelines that cause offenders to serve abnormally lengthy terms in prison. Sharp points specifically to overly punitive drug laws for these high incarceration rates. Possession of small amounts of drugs, which in most states would have little to no punishment, can lead to some serious jail time in Oklahoma. Sharp argues against
drug traffickers being forced to serve 85 percent of their sentences when drug rehabilitation would do more good at a lower cost to the state. “It’s the way we define drug trafficking (in Oklahoma) … if you’re arrested with five grams of crack cocaine, you can be charged with trafficking,” Sharp said.
Sharp also explained that women generally enter into a criminal lifestyle after going through one of three “pathways”:
coming from a poverty-stricken background, being in relationships with men who engage in criminal behavior, and suffering from a long history of abuse.
On a side note, the prison mentioned in this article is the same one featured in the documentary, “Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo.” Links to the film can be found at the TSP documentary page at http://thesocietypages.org/specials/documentaries/ !
Photo by Gideon Tsang via flickr.com
After the recent shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, mass murders have once again occupied the attention of the American news media. From Aurora to Newtown to Washington, DC, one obvious trend among rampage shooters is that they are almost exclusively male. In a recent article for NPR, Linton Weeks asked members of the Homicide Research Working Group why women are so underrepresented among these shooters.
According to Lin Huff-Corzine of the University of Central Florida, women simply don’t kill as much as men. Examining FBI data, she and her colleagues found that:
Between 2001 and 2010, less than 8 percent of mass murder offenders in the U.S. were women, she says, adding that some of the women included in the statistics assisted in a crime but did not pull a trigger.
Candice Batton, the director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska, Omaha explained that about 90-91% of homicide perpetrators were male. Men are more lethally violent than women in part due to their tendency to externalize blame for their personal problems, leading to “anger and hostility toward others.”
Batton says that women, on the other hand, “are more likely to develop negative attributions of blame that are internal in nature, that is: ‘The cause of my problems is some failing of my own: I didn’t try hard enough, I’m not good enough.’ And this, in turn, tends to translate into feelings of guilt and depression that are targeted toward oneself.”
Photo by zeevveez via Flickr.com
Social networks allow instant access to friends and family, and let you show the world what’s going on in your life. Maybe a bit narcissistic, but harmless. Studies, however, have been all over the place on the question of whether SNS (social networking systems) are “good” or “bad” for individuals and society. Are we more connected than ever or more disconnected than ever? A recent study by the Public Library of Science went with the bad news: it found that the more you use Facebook, the more miserable you’ll be.
A recent article in The Economist describes the work of Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan, and Philippe Verduyn of Leuven University in Belgium. In response to generally short-term, “cross-sectional” studies of SNS, their study was done over an extended period of time. Subjects would answer surveys reporting their mental and emotional states multiple times a day. The more they were on Facebook, the more they reported being dissatisfied with life.
Others studies have associated the use of social networks like Facebook with depression, social tension, and envy. The article states:
Endlessly comparing themselves with peers who have doctored their photographs, amplified their achievements and plagiarised their bons mots can leave Facebook’s users more than a little green-eyed.
On a positive note, the same study found that the more in-person contact the subject had, the more satisfied they were. Digital dualism aside, a well-rounded life of on- and off-line interaction—that good old “moderation”—seemed to do the trick.
We hope it won’t come to that. Photo by DigitalGirl via flickr.com.
When things start to get crazy, the “bystander effect” can kick in. As seen in many public incidents (notably when bystanders took photos of a man about to be killed on NYC train tracks), the bystander effect is generally considered a powerful force in determining whether someone intervenes in a dramatic indecent. Basically, people are less likely to intervene if others are around—they assume someone else will deal with the problem. That said, a recent study by graduate student Michael Parks of Penn State shows that the bystander effect may not be as strong as was once thought. In an interview for MedicalXpress, Parks explains what he saw in observing bar fights:
These bystanders used nonaggressive interventions to break up about 65 percent of the fights between two aggressive males. Most bystander interventions were classified as nonviolent interventions, which included verbally stopping the fight, or separating the fighters.
Parks worked with Wayne Osgood and Richard Felson, both professors of Penn State; Samantha Wells of the University of Ontario; and Kathryn Graham of the University of Toronto. The team’s study found that bystanders were most likely to intervene when they felt the violence was getting “too severe.” Bystanders were most likely to step in when it was male-to-male aggression, since most assume the violence escalates most quickly. Surprisingly, bystanders generally avoided breaking up male-to-female aggression (though, anecdotally, police officers do say intervening in partner violence is risky, since both partners may turn their aggression on the interloper).
“It seems a little upsetting that people didn’t intervene in incidents that involved a man harassing a woman, but the results showed that this was indeed the case,” said Parks. “Our data showed that this type of violence had the lowest level of severity, so one explanation for the lack of intervention in these incidents is that third parties perceived that the events won’t escalate into higher levels of violence, something that does not have the potential to be dangerous or an emergency.”
Egyptian workers march on May Day 2013. Photo by Gigi Ibrahim via flickr.com.
With ouster after ouster, Egypt has undergone constant changes in leadership in recent years. The situation may look like utter chaos, but political scientist Mark Abdollahian and his team of researchers believe they have a good idea of how the events will play out: They wrote a program. In a piece for CNN, Tara Kangarlou describes their work:
Abdollahian’s team used complex computer algorithm logic games that measure how people interact with one another to draw different scenarios of how segments of Egyptian society, power brokers, religious sectors and other sociopolitical variables would affect the outcome of the transition.
Abdollahian had earlier predicted that the Egyptian military would take an important role in watching over the restructuring of the nation and would serve as an important safety net in keeping good relations with the U.S. and its allies like Israel—important because of the massive amounts of American aid the Egyptian military relies on.
These researchers and others saw Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood as the best answer during the “Arab Spring,” but even at the time, they predicted that the Egyptian people would expect change within a year. Since true change is extremely difficult to achieve in such a short span, the team predicted Morsy’s rejection.
Asked what they think might unfold now, Abdollahian and his colleagues predict that the military will support elections and a revamping of the constitution. But first, they believe there’s a strong possibility of continued violence in which “regular Egyptians are the casualties.”
Not pictured: oil derricks, influx of young males, Hispanic residents.
The United States Census produces massive amounts of data that can be combed through to learn more about our population and how it changes over time. In her piece for US News, Danielle Kurtzleben highlights some of the major findings from the latest Census data release.
Depending on the way you look at it, Asians or Hispanics (or both!) were the fastest growing population in the United States from 2011-2012. Hispanics had the largest growth in terms of population numbers, while Asians saw the largest rate of population growth each year. Meanwhile, the white birthrate was very low. More white people died than were born, and the population would have seen a net decrease if not for immigration. Further, among the elderly (over 80 years old), nearly 80% were white. The majority of children under age two are now minorities.
And then there’s North Dakota. An outlier in the data, the “upper Dakota” is actually getting younger. It is also majority male and has the fastest growing Hispanic population in the nation. All of this is largely a result of the state’s booming oil and gas industry, coupled with its relatively low past population (increases seem bigger when they’re building on a smaller population base). The new oil rush has also shored up North Dakota’s shockingly low unemployment rate of just 3.3%. For over a century, the Census has shown a nation in flux, but right now, it’s solid old North Dakota that’s hardest to pin down.
Smog hangs over the Great Wall in China. Photo by Thomas Galvez via flickr.com.
China is suffering an environmental crisis, and it’s become a health hazard. Using social media, young activists are now disseminating shocking photos and information. Through their lenses, we see Beijing’s air, thick with smog, and rivers lined with hundreds of rotting animal carcasses. For Chinese and world citizens, it seems clear these environmental problems can’t be ignored, and protests have sprung up across China, especially on its Eastern seaboard. In an interview in Dissent Magazine, Jeffery Wasserstrom asks Duke anthropologist Ralph Litzinger to discuss China’s new environmental movement.
One of Litzinger’s most interesting research findings is that there is a major class discrepancy in reacting to the environmental issues:
Much of the publicity about deteriorating air conditions came from a new kind of middle-class activist citizen who took to the streets to monitor the air, posting findings and images on weibo (the Chinese version of Twitter) and other social networking platforms. [...]But head out into the outer rings roads of Beijing, where the poorest of Beijing’s migrants and residents live and work, and you experience a very different situation. You see fewer people wearing masks, and hear much less complaining about the air. It is not that migrant and urban fringe communities in Beijing don’t care about health and environmental issues; it is just that they haven’t received the same kind of attention that the middle-class urban resident has received.
In China, the middle and upper classes are able to assess their environmental situation and adapt. They may shop for organic foods, build protection from the poisonous air, stay home from work or school on bad air days, or even leave the country. The poor are merely left to brave their new, toxic environment—at least until their richer countrymen make major changes.
Soccer player Hope Solo covers Sports Illustrated in 2011
Title IX has had 40 years to flex its muscles in helping make sport a less gendered venue, and, indeed, more women are participating in and watching sports than ever before. Oddly enough, the media representation of sports has not followed suit. A new study from sociologists Jonetta Weber and Robert Carini of the University of Louisville reconfirms a long line of research in media representations of athletes by looking at the covers of every issue of Sports Illustrated from the last decade. In an article for the website Jezebel, Madeleine Davies explains the scholars’ troubling results:
Researchers found that of the 716 SI issues published between 2000 and 2011, a mere 35 of them had covers featuring female athletes. That’s only 4.9%.
It’s extra bizarre since 12.6% of the covers from between 1954 and 1965 featured female athletes. And that’s not even the worst part. Only 18 of the recent covers actually had the female athlete as the primary image on the cover—that’s just 2.5%—and only 11 of the 35 issues showed non-white women on the cover. Despite a marked increase in women’s sport participation, one of the best-known sporting news outlets has been gradually phasing out female athletes and their accomplishments.
For more on SI’s troubled history of representing female athletes, check out The Atlantic’s 2011 piece “9 Ways Women Get on the Cover of ‘Sports Illustrated’.”
Might be time for an academic Hollaback! Image by Ihollaback.org.
A recent study has exposed rampant sexual harassment in one of the most unlikely of places: anthropological fieldwork. In his article for Science Magazine, John Bohannon describes the work of Kathryn Clancy, a professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. After being shocked by the horror stories of her colleagues’ fieldwork, Clancy collaborated with Katie Hinde (Harvard), Robin Nelson (University of California, Riverside), and Julienne Rutherford (University of Illinois, Chicago) to create an online survey that could gauge the experiences of fieldworkers.
The survey results were troubling. About 30% of male and female respondents reported witnessing frequent or regular verbal abuse. A startling 63% of women (and 39% of men) reported personally experiencing inappropriate or sexual remarks. Of the women surveyed, 21% reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact or physical sexual harassment. That means more than 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted during their fieldwork. Bohannon writes:
“Less than 20% of abuses involved people from the community around a field site. Instead, most of the abuse happened within the team of researchers, usually perpetrated by someone higher in the professional hierarchy. Perhaps most troubling, some said that they had been victimized by their own fieldwork mentors.”
It is worrisome, ironic, and frankly embarrassing to think that those perpetrators behind such unsavory statistics are also the ones producing our social knowledge.
One survey participant’s “coat-of-arms” generated by taking the Great British Class Survey. Click for image source.
Step aside, Downton Abbey, the British social hierarchy is astir again. The BBC Lab UK, with Manchester University’s Fiona Devine and Mike Savage from the London School of Economics, has conducted a class study of more than 161,000 people: the Great British Class Survey. In addition to studying each individual’s economic capital, the researchers also looked at respondents’ social capital (their social status and connections) and cultural capital (the nature and extent of their cultural interests and activities). According to Devine, this extensive survey allowed for “a much more complete picture of class in modern Britain” than previous work has captured.
The team’s results found that the traditional model of class was losing its relevance, with only 39% fitting into the working, middle, or upper class. According to the BBC, the team proposes “a new model of seven social classes ranging from the elite at the top to a ‘precariat’—the poor, precarious proletariat—at the bottom.”
The researchers believe the working and middle classes have waned because of the rise of the information age:
They say the new affluent workers and emergent service workers appear to be the children of the ‘traditional working class,’ which they say has been fragmented by de-industrialisation, mass unemployment, immigration and the restructuring of urban space.
In other words, information-age Britons don’t fit into industrial class structures. The people aren’t obsolete, but the categories may be.