For many, the "American Dream" seems beyond possibility. Zhang Yu, Flickr CC.
For many, the “American Dream” seems beyond possibility. Zhang Yu, Flickr CC.

Immigration is a hot topic, especially with elections coming up. Donald Trump has called immigrants “rapists” and “criminals”, perpetuating anti-immigration rhetoric. Common immigration myths include that immigrants are taking Americans’ jobs, burden the economy, and refuse to speak English. The Washington Post covers a report written by a group of Harvard professors, led by sociologist Mary Waters.

  1. “Immigrants are picking up English just as quickly as their predecessors”
In fact, today’s immigrants are learning English faster than their predecessors. This is partially due to how global English is, which means that immigrants are more likely to have been exposed to it or to have taken English classes already. Additionally, American schools are becoming better at teaching English to immigrant students.
  1. “Immigrants tend to have more education than before”
Historically, immigrants were low skilled workers from southern and eastern Europe in the early 1900s. Recently, however, immigrants are more likely to have four years of education on average. Approximately, 28% of recent immigrants hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, which is a 19% increase since 1980.
  1. “Immigrants are much less likely to commit crimes—but they soon learn”
In fact, immigrant neighborhoods are considered to be some of the safest neighborhoods as immigrants are least likely to commit crimes. Native-born men aged 18-39 are 5 times more likely to end up in jail than immigrants. While immigrants are initially fearful of picking up criminal influences, by the second and third generation, they are more likely to engage in criminal behavior.
  1. “Immigrants are more likely to have jobs than the native-born”
Immigrants are determined to find employment, and they are more likely to be employed than their native-born counterparts. Between 2003-2013, 86% immigrants were employed compared to 82-83% native-born Americans. This also holds true for men who have not earned a high-school diploma, where 84% immigrants are employed compared to 58% native-born Americans.

While the report combats common myths about immigration, it does not give a concrete answer as to whether today’s immigrants have the same opportunities earlier generations of new Americans found, despite being educated, staying away from crime, holding jobs, and paying taxes.

An Italian State Television interview with Dr. Orsini.
An Italian State Television interview with Dr. Orsini.


In light of recent terrorist attacks by Da’esh (ISIS, ISIL) on Paris, Beirut, Yola, and many more cities, the world is paying attention to the terrorist organization’s activities outside of Iraq and Syria. Conversations have focused topics from who these terrorists are, whose deaths we mourn, and what these attacks are meant to accomplish.

Alessandro Orsini, a political sociologist at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, told Sputnik Italia News that Da’esh is choosing to launch foreign attacks because they want to split societies and public opinion, causing civic and political arguments around military interventions. The group is very intentional about which countries it chooses to terrorize. Vergata references the attack on Madrid by Al Qaeda in 2004, which resulted in Spain withdrawing from Iraq (and a reprieve from Al Qaeda in Spain).

Additionally, Vergata points out a change in Da’esh’s approach to recruitment. Where initially they were focused on “importing” terrorists to fulfill their goal of creating a Caliphate, now the group is also “exporting” terrorists to attack foreign cities. Vergata concludes with some hope: he believes the changes in recruitment and stretch to attack European cities is proof of Da’esh’s weakness as a terrorist organization.

Via Netflix.
Via Netflix.

It’s an exciting day when a sociologist and a comedian write a book together, and even more so when that book turns into a Netflix series. To be clear, Aziz Ansari recently stated that his new series, Master of None (which premiered November 6th on Netflix) is not simply Modern Romance (the book he wrote with sociologist Eric Klinenberg) on the small screen. However, a recent Vogue review highlights how the show incorporates many of the ideas Ansari and Klinenberg present in their book.

Master of None is brilliant, insightful, and hilarious, the perfect vehicle for Ansari to animate the ideas and sociological concepts that he wasn’t quite able to make jump off the page earlier this year.

The show explores the dating world of New York City through the main character Dev, a 30-year-old actor. Readers of Modern Romance will notice overlaps, including when Dev takes a cue from a study cited in the book’s section, “The Effects of Non-Boring-Ass Dates,” by flying a date to Nashville. He confronts questions about monogamy when a woman wants to hook up with him to get back at her husband. And he laments that he is not “just a bubble in a phone” when he is blown off by a potential date.

Read the full article here.

Read a TSP Clipping on Modern Romance.

Mizzou's players have power on the field and off. Photo by Mitch Bennett, flickr.
Mizzou’s players have power on the field and off. Photo by Mitch Bennett, flickr.

Social science can help us make sense of activism and the dynamics behind it and within it as protests break out at schools across the country. One article by Dave Zirin in The Nation borrows concepts from sport sociology to discuss Mizzou’s football player protests in particular.

As described in the article, University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe resigned after weeks of racial tension on campus, including a hunger strike and protest, was met with institutional denial of lived realities. The pivotal moment came when the school’s football team refused to practice until Wolfe was gone. It’s estimated that their refusal to play could have cost the school up to a million dollars. Zirin highlights how often student athletes are characterized as powerless or exploited, and so their capability for activism can be overlooked. At Missouri, however, the players showed their power to affect change as agents rather than mere actors for change.

Zirin’s article draws on research from UC-Berkeley emeritus professor Harry Edwards, a pivotal name in sport sociology, on the racial dynamics of college football, in which teams are often much more black than their fan bases. As #BlackLivesMatter and similar initiatives continue, Zirin believes we can expect more activism in such sites, where institutional racism is stark.

15-052 S16-1.4
Photo via Flickr

“Sketchfactor,” “,” “,” and “Operation GroupMe” are just a few of the digital services available to city dwellers hoping to monitor their neighborhood’s crime rates and connect business owners and community members to law enforcement with greater ease. But are they just a more efficient method of racial profiling and criminalization?

That’s the question that Leslie Hinkson, associate professor of sociology at Georgetown University, grapples with in a recent interview in a Washington Post article that investigates the effect of these surveillance applications in D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood:

The group has codified its own language and operating culture. African Americans are referred to as “aa.” Hundreds of images of unaware African Americans circulate in the group.

“We should be honest here,” Hinkson continued:

Crime does occur in Georgetown. And quite often when people describe the perpetrators of those crimes, they’re usually young men of color. But that doesn’t mean every person of color is an automatic suspect.

Read the article here.

A barbecue restaurant menu in Greenville, NC. Photo via Flickr, Alan Pike for the Southern Food Alliance.


Barbecue is to the American south what wine and cheese are to Europe. That is, a deeply ritualistic cultural practice that differs greatly by region and, more subtly, by micro-locality. Travel across the south and one will find different cuts of meat, cooking techniques, sauces, side dishes and beverages. Or so says John Shelton Reed, Sociology Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in Calvin Trillin’s recent article “In Defense of the True ‘Cue,” for The New Yorker. The article zeroes in on the “Campaign For Real Barbecue,” an effort to preserve traditional North Carolina barbecue and what Professor Reed believes to be it’s vital role in North Carolina social life.

In his darker moments, he sees his beloved barbecue joints being replaced by the soulless outposts of some franchise operation he calls the International House of Barbecue, which uses “barbecue” to mean meat with bottled barbecue sauce on it—your choice of meat, your choice of sauce. Just as the Campaign for Real Ale believes in “well run pubs as the centres of community life,” John Reed believes that the traditional barbecue joint is a place in the South where people from all walks of life and all races, from the sheriffs’ deputies to the construction workers to the town bankers, gather to eat the local specialty at a price just about anybody can afford. (A barbecue sandwich at Stamey’s goes for three dollars and twenty-five cents.) A passage in “Holy Smoke” [one of Reed’s books] says, “North Carolina barbecue is an edible embodiment of Tradition. For many of us, barbecue symbolizes Home and People.”

Read the full article here.

Seattle's first-in-line for the 2007 iPhone release. Eli Duke, Flickr CC.
Seattle’s first-in-line for the 2007 iPhone release. Eli Duke, Flickr CC.

Black Friday is around the corner… as will be the long lines of people waiting for hot retail deals. This queuing up isn’t uncommon; we see people line up for grand openings, new gadgets, concert tickets, and even for free burritos and ice cream. Americans stand in line (often voluntarily) for approximately 37 billion hours a year. Why?

David Gibson, a sociologist at Notre Dame, draws our attention to the human desire to be part of a niche community,

these are people whose identities and stories about themselves are very much tied to being foodies, on being on the cutting edge of fashion and style, or being Apple device lovers. They get recognition, status, and buzz among their friends by showing up at these places and being the first person with a new iPhone.

Additionally, Gibson told CityLab that humans are more concerned with the length of the line than with how fast it is moving. To pass the time, he suggested that people should try to make friends with others; “If you’re actually queuing up for something which is coveted and exciting, then you’re kind of a member of a community to start with.” It would be easy to strike up a conversation because you already know what you have in common.

When it comes to cutting the line and saving spots, Gibson adds,

The important thing is that [others] see that you are tied to someone, and they’re willing to think that person was standing there on behalf of you. If there’s a limited number of devices or seats, and the people behind you think that an addition of a person is going to make a difference [in the wait time], that’s the only time that it will matter.

Protest at the closing of the Chowchilla Valley State Prison for Women in CA, 2013. Daniel Auraz, Flickr CC.
Protest at the closing of the Chowchilla Valley State Prison for Women in CA, 2013. Daniel Auraz, Flickr CC.

Women account for about 7% of the U.S. prison population. Compared to men, they are much more likely to experience poverty, mental health issues, and various forms of victimization prior to being incarcerated. And while they’re in prison, women are more likely to experience mental health problems, chronic medical conditions, and sexual misconduct by staff members. These issues do not disappear after release, but are coupled with difficulty finding adequate employment, public assistance, and health care.

Sociologist Susan Sered was recently featured in Sojourners, which explored her advice to faith communities helping formerly incarcerated women. Drawing on eight years of research with criminalized women in the Boston area, Sered suggests churches and communities of faith can provide shared knowledge and support in the form of information about housing, employment, health systems, and social networks. She believes faith communities can help women make meaning out of their suffering by reframing their incarceration as experience that can provide them with special insight, rather than a reason to blame or ostracize them. Sered says, “criminalized women need to hear these powerful messages from religious communities.”

Read the full article here.

Dean Hochman, Flickr CC.
Dean Hochman, Flickr CC.

Amid presidential candidate debates and national conversations surrounding gun violence and police brutality, issues and positions are often framed as conservative versus liberal (and those are equated with Republican and Democrat, respectively). While we recognize that both parties have moral values that guide their beliefs and support of certain political agendas, a debate must necessarily leave some room for a change of heart. But how can you change an opponent’s mind?

Sociologist Robb Willer, one of the authors of a paper published in Personality and Social Psychology, is quoted in Quartz: “Morality can be a source of political division, a barrier to building bi-partisan support. But it can also be a bridge if you can connect your position to your audience’s deeply held moral convictions.” Make sure your foe knows the morals behind your position, and they’ll be more likely to give it a careful listen. After all, the rationale for changing their mind—making the moral choice—is already clear.

Wikipedia is the largest source of free information on the Internet. According to the digital analytics website Alexa, it’s is the 6th most popular website in the United States and 7th in the entire world. What is troubling is that between 84 and 91% of its editors are male, and the site’s few female editors face regular harassment and marginalization. This imbalance means the content often reflects a strong gender bias. Emma Paling recently explored the problem for The Atlantic, interviewing Julia Adams, a professor of sociology at Yale University.

“Most people look at Wikipedia, and see the text, and assume that it’s unproblematically produced by volunteers and always on a trajectory to improvement,” said Adams. “But that is simply not the case.”

Read the full article here.