Category Archives: Social Stratification

Legacies of The War on Poverty: A chat with Jill Quadagno on the 20th anniversary of The Color of Welfare

Jill Quadagno The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined The War on Poverty Eminent Scholar Florida State University

Jill Quadagno
The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined The War on Poverty
Eminent Scholar
Florida State University

In 1994 Jill Quadagno published The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty.  To celebrate the 20th anniversary of this highly influential text, Dr. Quadagno did a series of media interviews two days.  She also graciously sat down with me for an informal chat about what she believes to be the lasting outcome of The War on Poverty. (more…)

“No one likes being reduced to their genitals!” Positive discrimination, diversity and symbolic capital


My PhD compatriot, Jens* leans over to me, a glint in his eye and a bemused smile on his face that makes it difficult to work out whether this will be a joke, a statement, or something to deliberately challenge me. Past history tells me probably a combination of all three, but lets see.

“Can I ask you a question, before you go?” (I am just on my way out of the PhD office** we share, coat on, mug washed, ready).

He continues; “I know you are something of an expert on the subject…”

Oh here we go. This means one of two conversation topics are about to be raised: headhunting, or gender. Which means gender is about to be raised. I put on my metaphorical*** ‘Will Dispense Pertinent Gender-Related Critical Analysis For Food” T-shirt, and wait.


Mothering on the Margins: legislating first environments and the demand for maternal accountability


Photo by: Gabriel Flores Romero Found on: Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by: Gabriel Flores Romero
Found on: Flickr Creative Commons


“You put me in charge of Medicaid…”, the vice president of Arizona’s Republican Party and former state senator, Russell Pearce quipped on his weekly radio broadcast The Russell Pearce Show “the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants or tubal ligations”.  Medicaid is a program designed to provide health-related services for people who cannot afford healthcare in the private sector.  As Amanda Kennedy of Sociology Lens points out vividly here, “being valued as a parent is a white privilege…” and I would add, class privilege. (more…)

Is England’s World Cup failure symptomatic of Capitalism’s malfunction?

The Premiership Trophy

Football is England’s national sport. It’s played in every city, town and school in the country. The English Premier League is the richest league in the world. For millions of English fans who contribute this wealth, watching football either live or on TV is effectively a costly tax on their devotion to their club. Why then does England lose to smaller nations with fewer players and less money to invest in talent? (more…)

The Internet of Things: some implications for sociology



This week BBC News asked “can wearable tech make us more productive?”  The news package covered a research project which has the broader purpose of investigating impact of wearable connected tech on every aspect of our lives. The umbrella term that (albeit loosely) confederates connected technology is the ‘Internet of Things’. Its advocates believe the Internet of Things is one of the most compelling ideas of the twenty first century.  The original definition of the Internet of Things referred to inanimate objects that had an electronic product code so they could be inventoried. Now, thanks to IPv6 (which provides 3.4×1038 addresses on the Internet), as utility (or the market) demands it, all our everyday objects such as TVs, microwave ovens and cars can be allocated an address on the Internet and offer the potential to transmit and receive digital data. However, an IP address is not a prerequisite of the Internet of Things. The term can also refer to devices that have the potential to produce digital data for the Internet. This includes technologies of the ‘quantified self’, such as the GPS enabled sports watch I use for example. (more…)

Removing the homeless from the streets














The New York City Rescue Mission recently posted a video on their website of a social experiment examining whether or not a person would recognize his/her own family member dressed to appear homeless. To no surprise, the test subjects did not recognize their family member as they walked past them on the street. Watching the powerful video not only puts homelessness into perspective for those individuals who did not recognize their own family, but also raises questions for all of us as to whether we pay attention to the homeless. In the United States the homeless are often associated with negative connotations. Our constructed realities of the homeless consist of dirty, lazy individuals who are likely drunk, on drugs, and/or mentally ill who commits crime to survive. These negative meanings attached to have serious consequences for how we should respond to the homeless, typically guiding punitive policies that interweave narratives of homeless persons and public health issues (Amster, 2003). The associated negative connotations with the homeless provide the public with a basis to remove the homeless from public space in the name of safety. (more…)

The School-to-Prison Pipeline and the Minority Educational Gap

Retrieved from Getty images.

Retrieved from Getty images.

In a recent Sociology Lens post, Markus Gerke detailed the problem associated with President Obama’s rhetoric of individual responsibility for increasing opportunities for Latino and Black men. One component to President Obama’s initiative is to increase educational opportunities for these populations and Gerke correctly notes that the focus on individual responsibility ignores the structural barriers that limit these populations. Research suggests that a major factor in the educational achievement gap is the presence of the school-to-prison pipeline and the punishment of minority students at greater rates than white students. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Education notes that 5 percent of white students in the United States are suspended compared to 16 percent of black students.  Furthermore, researchers have documented racial disparities in school punishment for over 40 years with African-Americans accounting for 34 percent of suspensions nationwide, despite making up only 17 percent of the population (Browne, 2003).


Holiday Giving: The role of Charity in Capitalism

Black Friday shoppers at WalMart

Black Friday shoppers at WalMart

The holiday season is officially upon us as thousands of individuals woke up early on this Black Friday to score the best deals of the season. This time of year brings joy to the hearts of many, but also exposes one of the greatest contradictions in American society. Along with the excitement of holiday shopping and purchasing a 50 inch TV for half-price, this time of year is also supposed to be about giving. From Thanksgiving through Christmas more people volunteer and donate food and/or money than any other time of year. In 2012, to combat the popularity of consumption during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, more and more people are participating in Giving Tuesday (the day after Cyber Monday), a day to give to those in need. While we can certainly see the merits and benefits of giving a toy to a child who has none or a coat to someone who is cold, we should also ask ourselves why charity is needed in the first place and why charity is so intimately linked with consumption. (more…)

Social Class, Social Mobility and English Elite Universities



Elizabeth M. Lee’s article Elite Colleges and Socioeconomic Status (Lee, 2013) in September’s Sociology Compass is a sophisticated exploration of why elite colleges’ demographics remain “largely homogenous across generations”. The UK also exhibits this, seemingly, symptom of a malfunctioning meritocracy.

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major described Britain’s lack of social mobility as “truly shocking” and the current Foreign Secretary called it “disturbing” . It’s easy to see why; the upper echelons of our politics and culture are dominated by alumni from our two elite universities – the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge. The leading members of the government; the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary himself and the Deputy Prime Minister are ex- Oxbridge. So too are many of the politicians responsible for holding the government to account; for example the leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband and the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. Our prominent writers, journalists and commentators such as the Independent’s Owen Jones, the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, her editor Alan Rushbridger and our most popular political satirists including Jimmy Carr and David Mitchell (who work together on the UK’s version of Saturday Night Live, 10 O’clock Live) are also Oxbridge alumni. Even our new technological elites, digital entrepreneur Baroness Lane-Fox and the man who ultimately made this blog possible, inventor of the http protocol that facilitates the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, are Oxbridge. The message is clear:  if you want to be member of our elites get yourself to Oxford or Cambridge. (more…)

Using Monopoly to Teach Class Inequality


The recent contention over the United States budget has pitted the Democrats against Republicans and in doing so has hardened political ideologies for many but has also opened the minds of many to the hypocrisy of Congress. One central narrative in this battle is whether citizens should continue to receive entitlement programs such as Social Security or be allowed to get health care under the Affordable Care Act. The right considers anyone in poverty as lazy and handouts as a disincentive to work. Narratives were abound regarding individuals who are perceived as undeserving of healthcare and that people need to work for a living in order to receive healthcare.  Fox News went so far as too post a horrifically misrepresented graph suggesting that more Americans receive benefits than work. Of course the graph is extremely flawed with contradictory measures for those that receive benefits and those that work, and the Y axis makes the difference appear greater than what it is. The notion that Americans can pick themselves up by the boot straps and make something for themselves is a sensationalized myth at this point in time. The reality is that it is difficult to win the economic race when you are not even allowed on the track.  The 99% moniker of the Occupy movement is indicative of the gap between the rich and the poor, and the difference between the rich and the poor cannot be whittled down to work ethic. Rather, income inequality is a product of social structures that exploit the working class. (more…)