The Miami Herald reports the recent recommendation from sociologist Michele Dillon to use lent as a time of financial sacrifice.

“Lent is traditionally a period of self-denial, so this might a good time to also focus on economic austerity, said Michele Dillon, a University of New Hampshire sociology professor who studies religion, particularly Roman Catholicism.

‘What’s different this year is many people who feel under economic pressure to give up things can at least use the season of Lent as an opportunity,’ Dillon said.

‘They can think, “I’m also doing this for religious purposes as well as lifestyle and economic purposes.””’


Playbill recently announced that sociologist Eric Klinenberg‘s 2002 book, Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago will hit the stage on February 21st in at the Live Bait Theater featuring actors from the Pegasus Players.

Playbill writes: According to Pegasus, “this moving new play looks at the heat wave of 1995 which took the lives of 739 Chicagoans. Chicago playwright and published author, Steve Simoncic recreates the hot air that swirled between medical examiners, health officials, reporters, mayoral staff, and sweaty Chicagoans.” It “examines one of the country’s worst weather-related disasters from all perspectives, creating a vivid portrait of a city in crisis, but with its resources and humanity firmly intact.”

On February 1st, Newsweek covered the release of Sudhir Venkatesh‘s latest book, Gang Leader for a Day. The book details Venkatesh’s experiences studying the lives of crack dealers in some of the most notorious housing projects in Chicago.

Newsweek writer Jessica Bennett remarks:
“For the most part, Venkatesh atones for his clichéd reflections with raw detail of what life inside these projects—at the height of the crack epidemic—is really like. And he’s not oblivious to his own naiveté; he notes frequently that life in the projects is vastly different from his own upbringing in the suburbs of Southern California. “

There’s an interesting discussion going on at scatterplot about racial & ethnic names: first a post about “black” vs. “African American,” and then another post about “caucasian” and “European American.” In the comments on the first post, a reader pointed out an article from Public Opinion Quarterly reporting survey results on the preference of “black” vs. “African Americans” for, well, blacks/African Americans. The article summary:

Our respondents are nearly equally divided in their preference for the label “black” versus “African-American.” Significant correlates or predictors of terminological preference include the racial composition of the grammar school that respondents attended, respondents’ degree of racial group consciousness, and age, region, and size of city of residence.

BBC News reports on a new Social Science and Medicine article, showing that rates of depression peak in mid-life, around age 44.

Sociologist Duncan Watts is getting some press for his challenge to science journalist Malcolm Gladwell’s famous “Tipping Point” argument, in particular Gladwell’s “Law of the Few”: the idea that a few well-connected people, dubbed “Influentials,” make or break trends.

Fast Company’s Clive Thompson describes Watts’ work:

[Watts] has analyzed email patterns and found that highly connected people are not, in fact, crucial social hubs. He has written computer models of rumor spreading and found that your average slob is just as likely as a well-connected person to start a huge new trend. And last year, Watts demonstrated that even the breakout success of a hot new pop band might be nearly random. Any attempt to engineer success through Influentials, he argues, is almost certainly doomed to failure.

Ars Technica’s Julian Sanchez recounts an interview with Watts from 2004:

“We knew 50 years ago that this model was wrong. After the fact, and this is why Gladwell’s book is so beguiling, you see that crime rates dropped or Hush Puppies took off and then you can always find the people with whom it started,” he told me. “But if it’s something about them, why aren’t they driving all the other trends? What turns out to be the deciding factor is not the ‘influentials’ but the people who are easily influenced. You might have someone who influences five times as many people as the average, but the total numbers relative to a population are still very small. Almost all of the action is away from the center.”


According to the San Francisco Chronicle, David Grusky, sociology professor and founding director of Stanford University’s Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, announces the inaugural publication of Pathways, a new quarterly magazine dedicated to contemporary public policy. This issue features essays from candidates Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama on how each would approach a new ‘war on poverty.’

What the candidates say:
“The candidates’ policy recommendations include: tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit (Obama), creating at least 5 million “green collar” jobs (Clinton) and repealing the Bush tax cut for families earning more than $200,000 per year (Edwards).”

KissesInside Higher Ed recently published an interview with Kathleen A. Bogle, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at LaSalle University, on her new book Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus which explores the ‘hookup culture’ of college life through the study of two East Coast universities. Her in-depth interviews reveal varying effects for men and women and the relationship of this pattern of behavior to issues of alcohol use and sexual assault. Risky sex? No as much as you might think…

Obama is trying to be proactive about the email chain letters containing falsehoods about his religious background:

The Obama campaign announced the debunking effort with an e-mail barrage from John Kerry of Massachusetts, in which the former presidential candidate urges supporters to “e-mail the truth” to everyone on their address books, to print out the facts about Obama’s background and post them at work, and to call local radio stations and talk to neighbors.

Wired talked to Gary Alan Fine about whether this strategy would work and Fine was skeptical. “It underlines the attack,” Fine says. “Sometimes defenses against rumors work; sometimes they backfire…What you want to do, when you deny the rumor, you only want to deny it to the people who originally heard it.”

Jerry Burger, psychologist at Santa Clara University, redid the famous Milgram experiments. Here is an ABC Primetime video of the results.