Most of us familiar with Down‘s Syndrome know that it brings characteristic facial features and delayed or impaired cognitive development. People with Down, however, are also more vulnerable than the general population to diabetes, leukemia, and infectious and autoimmune disease, and about 40% are born with heart defects.
For most of history, then, the life expectancy of people with Down was very low. But, with advances in knowledge and access to health care, life expectancy has risen dramatically… especially for white people:
The Centers for Disease Control explain that severity of Down does not vary by race, so most likely the cause of the gap in life expectancy is differences in the quantity and quality of health care.
Possibilities include differences in factors that may be associated with improved health in the general population such as socioeconomic status, education, community support, medical or surgical treatment of serious complications, or access to, use of, or quality of preventative health care.
In my and Gwen Sharp’s advice for new college grads, we advise against trying to find a job that you love. ”This sets young people up to fail,” we wrote. Instead:
…it’s ok to set your sights just a tad below occupational ecstasy. Just find a job that you like. Use that job to help you have a full life with lots of good things and pleasure and helping others and stuff. A great life is pretty good, even if it’s not perfect.
This has gotten us quite a bit of feedback, both positive and negative, and helped spark a Huffington Post Live segment exploring the topic, featuring two young entrepreneurs, a career development counselor, and “the requisite” economist (his words!).
I try (largely unsuccessfully) to keep the conversation grounded in a class analysis, reminding the group that using ourselves as examples was sampling on the dependent variable. And I suggest that, instead of telling young college graduates to “find the thing they were meant to do,” we should help them see that they are likely looking at 100 different satisfying futures. All they need to do is find one of them.
The full segment is longish, but the best part is the first minute, a compilation of wildly successful people giving commencement speeches about how everyone should just find their passion and follow their dreams.
In the 3-minute video below, sociologist Jennifer Lee explains her research on “stereotype promise,” the idea that being viewed through the lens of a positive stereotype can act as a performance booster and enhance outcome. You can imagine how it might be applied to African Americans and certain sports like track or basketball, or how it might facilitate men’s acquisition of math ability.
Lee’s research is on Asian Americans and academic performance. Asians, she explains, are stereotyped as “smart, high achieving, and disciplined” and this might help explain why they are so academically successful.
It can also, however, have harmful effects. She discusses the way that some young Asian Americans will say that an A- counts as an “Asian fail,” an example of how much pressure stereotype promise can bring. She also notes that Asian Americans are often disadvantaged in college admissions because of an assumption that a school can have “too many” Asians and, accordingly, accept only students with the most extraordinary academic credentials.
Sociologist Alexandria Walton Radford has some new research that is rather disheartening. Radford was interested in the college choices of ambitious and high-performing high school students from different class backgrounds. Using a data set with about 900 high school valedictorians, she asked whether students applied to highly selective colleges, if they got in, and whether they matriculated.
She found a stark class difference on all these variables, especially between high socioeconomic status (SES) students and everyone else. Over three-quarters of high SES valedictorians (79%) applied to at least one highly selective college. In contrast, only 59% of middle SES and 50% of low SES valedictorians did the same. Admission and matriculation rates followed suit.
Interviews with a smaller group of these valedictorians shed light on why we see such dramatic differences in the application choices of low, middle, and high SES students. Radford explains that most students applied to schools with which they were already familiar. High SES students were much more likely to know people who had attended highly selective colleges, so they were more comfortable applying. They also felt more confident that they’d be successful at such an institution; less affluent students were more intimidated by these schools.
Radford concludes by arguing that it’s a mistake to leave decisions about whether and how to apply for college admission to families. Doing so, she writes, “allows the advantages (and disadvantages) of one generation to be passed on to the next generation.” School-based college guidance would go some way towards evening out the differences and making higher education admissions more meritocratic.
The Census Bureau has a new report on nonmarital births. Based on the American Community Survey — the largest survey of its kind, and the only one big enough to track all states — the report shows that 35.7 percent of births in 2011 were to unmarried mothers.
Beneath the headline number, two patterns in the data will receive a lot of attention: education and race/ethnicity. I have a brief comment on both patterns.
The education patterns show a very steep dropoff in nonmarital births as women’s education increases. From 57 percent unmarried among those who didn’t finish high school to just nine percent among those who have graduated college.
Given the hardships faced by single mothers (especially in the United States), it looks like women with more education are making the more rational decision to avoid childbearing when they’re not married. And I don’t doubt that’s partly the explanation. But we need to think about marriage, education and childbearing as linked events that unfold over time. The average high-school dropout mother was 26, while the average college-graduate mother was 33. Delaying childbearing and continuing education are decisions that are made together, based on the opportunities people have. And completing more education increases both the likelihood of marriage and the earning potential of one’s spouse.
So I think you could tell the story like this: Women with better educational opportunities delay childbearing, which increases their marriage prospects, and makes it more likely they will be married and financially better off when they have children in their 30s.
The differences in nonmarital birth rates between race/ethnic groups in the U.S. are shocking, from about two-thirds for black and American Indian women to 29 percent for whites and 11 percent for Asians.
This pattern is related to the education trend, naturally, but that’s not the whole story. One aspect of the story is race/ethnic geography of opportunity in this country. I’ve written before about the shortage of employed men available for women to marry, a particular expression of racial disparity first popularized by sociologist William Julius Wilson a quarter century ago.
Using the new numbers on nonmarital birth rates for each state from the Census report, I compared them to the male non-employment rate — specifically, the percentage of unmarried men ages 22-50 that are not currently employed. Here’s the relationship:
The states with more single men out of work have higher rates of nonmarital births. Single mother, meet jobless man.
My conclusion from these patterns is that unmarried parenthood is primarily a symptom of lack of opportunity, especially for education and employment. Surely that’s not the whole story. Maybe we should be persuading people to marry younger or shaming them into avoiding parenthood. But I think those approaches increase stigma more than they change behavior or improve wellbeing — Pew surveys show that 77 percent of people already say raising a family is easier if you’re married and only 12 percent of single people say they don’t want to marry. So who needs convincing? Meanwhile, if we addressed the problems of education and employment, is there any doubt family security and stability would improve, and with it the wellbeing of children and their parents?
Philip N. Cohen is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, and writes the blog Family Inequality. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.
This past semester I had the genuine pleasure of giving my talk about hook up culture to students at my own institution, Occidental College. This was a treat — and also a little bit scary — not only because I was talking to my own community, but because many of the students in the audience had been part of the two studies that informed my talk (here’s one). I wanted to do them justice and make them feel good about their contribution, even if they had mixed feelings about the stories of theirs that I was telling.
In the end, it felt like an incredible catharsis. The students, who I adore, seemed genuinely thrilled that I was there to bring their experiences into the light; whether they were a part of the study or not, they knew that on some level this was about them. Their response was overwhelming. So I post this talk — with relatively bad video and decent audio — but an amazing audience response, as evidence of how receptive college students are to interesting analyses of their lives by (relatively) impartial analysts. And, also: I love you, Oxy! Y’all are my favorite!
It’s been six months since we’ve discovered evidence of another racist party or antic on a college or high school campus. I guess it was about time for another… well, three more. Updated and re-posted.
This post is a collection of racially-themed parties and events at college and high school campuses. They’re examples of one kind of simple individual racism that still perpetuates daily life in the U.S.
April 2013: This still is from a video celebrating the spring semester induction of new recruits into UC Irvine’s Asian-American fraternity Lambda Theta Delta (via Colorlines). It features a fraternity member in blackface. The entire video can be seen here.
February 2013: Three hockey fans in the audience of a North Dakota high school semifinal donned Ku Klux Klan-ish hoods as a “joke,” they later said:
October 2012: The photograph below depicts the members of the Chi Omega sorority at Penn State (source). It was taken during a Mexican fiesta-themed party around Halloween. The signs read: “will mow lawn for weed & beer” and “I don’t cut grass I smoke it.”
The Vice President of the college’s Mexican American Student Association, Cesar Sanchez Lopez, wrote:
The Mexican American Student Association is disappointed in the attire chosen by this sorority. It in no way represents our culture. Not only have they chosen to stereotype our culture with serapes and sombreros, but the insinuation about drug usage makes this image more offensive. Our country is plagued by a drug war that has led to the death of an estimated 50,000 people, which is nothing to be joked about.
The president of the sorority sent out an apology. Penalties are under discussion as of this posting.
May 2012: The University of Chicago’s Alpha Delta Phi fraternity required pledges to wear ”Mexican labor outfits” and sombreros while mowing the frat house lawn to Mexican ranchera music (source).
UPDATE: A University of Chicago student involved in reporting this incident wrote it to say that the photograph we originally published is likely unrelated to the Alpha Delta Phi incident (that is, a fake or a photo of a different event). In other words, the incident happened, but the photograph was not of the incident. Accordingly, we’ve removed the photo.
September 2011: Students at Hautes Etudes Commerciales, a Montreal business school, were filmed “wearing black makeup [and] chant[ing] with mock Jamaican accents about smoking marijuana” as part of a skit (source). A student explained that it was part of a skit in honor of Jamacian Olympian Usain Bolt. A spokesperson for the school explained that Francophone Canadians were unaware of the racial history behind blackface.
Anthony Morgan, a law student at McGill University, caught the students on film. He welcomed an apology from the school, is eager to follow up on their own investigation of the incident and, in the meantime, is filing a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission (source). He explained:
[Being black] is not a costume that you put on… This is not just about a few bad apples. This is about a greater problem about what we think about, how we value, how we understand, how we discuss — if we discuss — black history, culture and contribution.
Race-themed events at colleges and universities are a yearly ritual. I include our collection of such parties and “celebrations” below.
February 2010: Members of the Athletics Union at the London School of Economics painted their faces brown and “dressed up as Guantanamo Bay inmates and drunkenly yelled ‘Oh Allah’…” At least 12 students were found to have dressed up in costumes that were deemed “racist, religiously insensitive and demeaning.”
October 2009: University of Toronto students decided to dress up like the Jamaican bobsled team from Cool Runnings for Halloween (source). Their costume, which earned them a “Costume of the Night” award at this college-sponsored party, included blackface.
February 2007: Pictures from a “South of the Border” party at Santa Clara University in California. Indeed, that IS a pregnant woman, cleaning ladies, and a slutty gang member.
January 2007: A party in “honor” of Martin Luther King Day at Tarleton State University in Texas:
January 2007: A party in “honor” of Martin Luther King Day at Clemson College in South Carolina:
January 2007: A party in “honor” of Martin Luther King Day at University of Connecticut School of Law:
Some of you may know that there is a wave of colleges and universities filing complaints with the Office for Civil Rights, claiming that their institutions are failing to protect women from sexual assault. This (first) wave includes Amherst, Yale, the University of North Carolina, Swarthmore, and Occidental among others.
Well, last night many of the details of the stories of the students whose cases have been mishandled — right down to exact quotes from their lives — found themselves in an episode of Law&Order SVU. They didn’t ask for permission, offer a “consulting” fee, or even warn them that it was coming.
This just leaves a this-is-so-wrong-I-don’t-even-know icky feeling in the pit of my gut. I know that Law & Order has been ripping stories from the headlines for three decades, but it stuns me that it can claim to be fiction and not compensate the real women who’s lives are clearly and unequivocally depicted in this show.
Let me put this in stark terms: Law & Order is brazenly capitalizing on the pain and trauma of young women and not only failing to compensate them for stealing their stories, but actually denying that they exist by claiming that the “story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.” Stunning.
Alexandra Brodsky, a survivor who filed the complaints against Yale, told Jezebel:
The SVU episode strikes me as an extreme example of the risk of going public as a survivor: your story is no longer your own.
I’ve not seen a more obvious example of this fact.
The teaser for the episode, plus a list of 15 ways the episode copied real life, collected by Katie J.M. Baker at Jezebel, is after the jump.