computer.jpgA new report from the Crimes Against Children Center at the University of New Hampshire debunks previous stereotypes about internet sex offenders as “adults who target young children by posing as another youth, luring children to meetings, and then abducting or forcibly raping them” according to the APA. Instead, the authors of the study suggest that “most online sex offenders are adults who target teens and seduce victims into sexual relationships. They take time to develop the trust and confidence of victims, so that the youth see these relationships as romances or sexual adventures.”

Sociologist and lead author Janis Wolak argues, “most Internet-initiated sex crimes involve adult men who are open about their interest in sex. The offenders use instant messages, e-mail and chat rooms to meet and develop intimate relationships with their victims. In most of the cases, the victims are aware that they are talking online with adults. A majority of the offenders are charged with crimes such as statutory rape, that involve non-forcible sexual activity with adolescent victims who are too young to consent to sexual intercourse with adults.”

After reviewing an ESPN report on the hometowns of professional basketball players, demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution concluded that the “NBA is much more of a suburban population than most would have thought.” The average player hails from a city that is 59% white, which is significantly lower than the nation as a whole. On other dimensions, however, NBA players’ hometowns are quite comparable to U.S. averages: their average population is 112,017, 79% of their adult residents have a high school degree, and their average income is $38,127. Professor Frey concludes, “there’s a broad spectrum of areas the players come from, and a significant number come from white, middle class suburbs.”

Discussions about inequality and access to the internet are one thing, but if you look only at people who already have access, are there differences in online behavior? Eszter Hargittai found that race, ethnicity and education level predict whether young people are more likely to use the social networking site MySpace or its competitor Facebook.

TechCrunch points to a study by Hitwise (a marketing company that tracks internet usage) that suggests class, geography and other factors shape whether people use Google or Yahoo! as their search engine of choice:


They include “lifestyle” indicators like “Urban Essence,” “American Diversity” and “Small-town Contentment” that I’m not sure how to react to, and of course, as a private consulting company, it’s not like they’re giving their data away here for social scientists to scrutinize. (Though I admittedly have no idea what it would take to get the data…I got impatient with their website very quickly!) Nonetheless, pretty interesting.

Emerging reports about the shooting at Northern Illinois University indicates that the shooter had once been a sociology graduate student. Read more from the New York Times.

fight.jpgThe New York Sun review of Randall Collins‘ new book Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory, highlights Collins’ distance from macro-level analysis based on history and demographics in favor of a method which seeks out individual cases to identify the conditions present at the time the violence was committed.

Review author Graeme Wood highlights Collins’ tentative conclusions:
“Mr. Collins concludes with recommendations: Educate soldiers about forward panic and how easily it can feed its own appetite (addictively, ‘like eating salted nuts’). Learn how to defuse dangerous situations by matching an aggressor’s bluster without seeming to top it. And, most interesting of all, he urges us to consider reviving the practice of dueling — which was, during its heyday, a way to reduce and contain violence, not a way to encourage it.”

A report released this week from the Council on Contemporary Families addresses recent childbearing trends among American women with commentary from University of Maryland sociologist Steven Martin.

Steven Martin explains:

  • “Although fertility rose in 2006, we are NOT witnessing the start of another baby boom. But we have reached the level at which the population is reproducing itself without added immigration.
  • Love, baby carriage, and no marriage? Almost all the increase in births was accounted for by non-marital births, although educated women and very rich women, who are more likely to be married, also increased their birth rates.
  • There has been a significant rise in the proportion of 3 and 4 child families among the super-rich, but this is confined to such a small sliver of the population that it does not affect national fertility rates.
  • Women are increasingly delaying childbearing, and the fertility rates of educated and uneducated women seem to be undergoing a slow convergence.
  • Higher birth rates of immigrants account for only a small part of the recent fertility rise.
  • American women are more successful than women in most other industrial countries in being able to pursue higher education and develop careers without foregoing childbearing.” — (full report)


A New York Times article on the recent steroid scandals among professional baseball players seeks explanations from sociologists as to the nature of male friendships and the implications for those bonds when trainers testifying against players. Evoking Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, this depiction of male friendship benefits from a sociological perspective.

“‘These are moments when there’s a clash between two conflicting values connected to masculinity,’ said Michael S. Kimmel, a sociologist at State University of New York at Stony Brook and author of ‘The Gendered Society.’ ‘No. 1, you always do the right thing. And the second is, you never betray your friends.’”

“’There’s a tendency to protect a teammate or the organization, even at the expense of higher moral principles,’ said Faye L. Wachs, a professor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona who specializes in sports sociology.”

Miller-McCune reports on University of Texas sociologist, Arthur Sakamoto’s new report on paying top dollar for the best service providers. Sakamoto cites the example of a top-rated prostate surgeon in the country having a potentially negligible difference from his colleague ranked 50th, while the difference in cost could be staggering. This, Sakamoto argues, is an example of how individuals seeking services will pay top dollar for a formally or informally ranked provider because of a lack of expertise on the part of the consumer.

“‘The top people in their fields are getting much higher salaries than they used to get,’ he said. ‘That’s most obvious among lawyers and doctors. But it also applies to the person who gave John Edwards his $200 haircut.’
Sakamoto believes that star-power phenomenon is one important reason economic inequality is growing within occupations — the subject of the just-published paper he co-wrote with ChangHwan Kim of the University of Minnesota. Usually, the term “wage inequality” brings to mind headlines about chief executive officers — unions like the AFL-CIO ruefully note that the average S&P 500 CEO averaged $15 million in total compensation in 2006. Sakamoto agrees the disparity between white-collar and blue-collar salaries is very much a reality, citing a 2002 study that reports the wage gap between high school graduates and college graduates increased 15 percent from 1979 to 1999.”

At Racism Review, Jessie describes a fascinating study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:

The findings reveal that whites subconsciously associate blacks with apes and are more likely to condone violence against black criminal suspects as a result of their broader inability to accept blacks as ‘fully human.’…And, in what I can only call a genius research design, they combine the lab studies of implicit bias with archival content-analysis research of the language used in newspaper accounts from criminal cases

To read more about the study’s nice mixed method design, see Jessie’s post, the original article and the authors’ lab website. Personally, I’ve been interested in the potential of briding sociological research and cognitive psychology for some time, and a 2005 article by Jennifer Eberhardt, one of the authors of this current study, called “Imaging Race” was key in piquing my interest. It’s about using new tools from neuroscience like fMRI to gain insight into how people think & feel about race. A fascinating read.

Diverse: Issues in Higher Education reports on the results of a new survey from the Pew Foundation which reveals Black perceptions of a deepening social split between poor and middle-class Blacks.

Sociologists Earl Wright and Darnell Hunt were asked to weight in on the results.

“We’ve seen over the past 20 years now a rolling back of many of the advances and gains of the civil rights movement, plain and simple. Attacks on affirmative action, attacks on welfare programs and not only welfare programs, but programs designed to benefit individuals who are among the working poor. And, add to this, the deteriorating economic structure in America,” says Dr. Earl Wright, the chair of the sociology department at Texas Southern University in Houston.

“My reading of that is that they probably are worse off. The economy has tanked. Look at the news right now; the housing market, the financial markets, the Iraq war has siphoned off resources away from the infrastructure and the domestic economy. I think that’s a reflection of what people are really feeling,” says Dr. Darnell Hunt, a professor of sociology and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African-American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.