Photo by Veld Music Festival, Flickr CC

Music festivals are a popular part of the summer experience and can often last days at a time. As the seasons change and real life comes crashing back, however, some people find themselves feeling depressed after leaving their favorite festival atmospheres. Vice’s Noisey talked to Lindfield College’s Rob Gardner, a sociologist who has studied music concerts, festivals, and traveling fans extensively, about why post-festival blues are not an simply an individual phenomenon, but a social one.

As Gardner describes, music festivals are about more than simply the music or the atmosphere — they provide a sense of community for a lot of people from different walks of life. Gardner says,

“We may be incredibly connected to people via social media, but there’s something missing there. That intimate, visceral experience of sharing the same physical space with another human being, or thousands of human beings is something that’s missing from our daily lives … I think that there’s something that people are trying to get back in touch to, whether consciously or unconsciously, through that festival experience.”

These spaces provide a unique opportunity for individualism, expression, and freedom from mundane, everyday life. So, when someone leaves the festival environment and returns to constraints such as work, school, and family, it’s unsurprising that they hit a low note. Gardner notes,

“I think it has a lot to do with the structure of these events. Because festivals create this temporary community that is physically, socially, and experientially separate from our daily lives, when we enter them they allow us to do things and meet people we wouldn’t otherwise encounter. When we leave and re-enter our normal lives, it throws certain features of our lives into relief.”

Be sure to check out the full interview in which Dr. Gardner discusses other aspects of festival-going, including drugs, crowd dynamics, and partying on ships!

Photo by Joka Madruga, Flickr CC

Following food shortages and civil unrest in Venezuela, President Trump has vocalized the possibility of US military intervention in the South American country, and has also taken steps to impose harsh sanctions on Venezuela as part of a general critique of Venezuela’s President Maduro. In an article in The News Observer, Tulane sociologist David Smilde explains how the costs and benefits of sanctions aren’t just economic, they are also social  — a large part of the Venezuealan story involves Maduro’s supporters’ ability to rally the general populace against perceived enemies. From the article:

David Smilde, a Tulane University sociologist who has spent decades researching Venezuela, said blanket economic sanctions that cut off the government’s cash flow and hurt the population are likely to strengthen Maduro in the short-term.

“They would bolster his discourse that Venezuela is the target of an economic war,” said Smilde.

However … action from an increasingly concerned international community represents the best chance of reining in Maduro, he added.

Photo by Mark Dixon, Flickr CC

Americans’ views on race and racism have changed in many ways from those during the Civil Rights movement in the Jim Crow era. Today, most Americans agree that racism is not acceptable, and social norms have generally dictated that racist ideologies should not be part of the mainstream of American culture. Social norms are supported by institutions and leaders, however, and recent controversies over organized white supremacist groups call their stability into question. In The New York Times’ Upshot blog, sociologists Tina Fetner and Sarah Sobieraj describe how quickly these norms can change, especially amid criticism that the Trump administration has been slow to condemn white supremacist groups. From Fetner:

“It’s not because all of a sudden there is more racism now than there was a few weeks ago. It’s that the absolute condemnation of those most abhorrent views is crumbling away…”

And from the article:

“When norms of acceptable behavior and speech start to shift, it can disturb the shared beliefs, values and symbols that make up our culture.”

Leaders and institutions have the power to respond to controversy or to ignore it. Either way, their actions can change whether ideas appear to be part of the mainstream or the fringes of a society.

Photo by Nicki Dugan Pogue, Flickr CC

Companies like Ancestry.com use DNA samples to educate people about their genetic ancestry. This relatively new service is used by a growing number of people, and a recent article on STAT explains how has caused some uncomfortable moments for white supremacists who learn of their non-white ancestry. The article covers research by Aaron Panofsky  and Joan Donovan who studied posts on Stormfront, a white nationalist website, wherein users discuss their genetic ancestry results.

While one might assume that white nationalists would avoid posting their non-white ancestry online, Panofsky and Donovan found that members of Stormfront are quick to support each other in the face of genetic testing results which show non-white heritage.

“Instead of rejecting members who get contrary results, Donovan said, the conversations are ‘overwhelmingly’ focused on helping the person to rethink the validity of the genetic test. And some of those critiques — while emerging from deep-seated racism — are close to scientists’ own qualms about commercial genetic ancestry testing.”

Users discuss the potential failings of genetic testing, or posit that individual knowledge of one’s history is more useful than some findings in a remote laboratory. In other cases, individuals were told that they could remain in Stormfront so long as they didn’t “mate” and spread their non-white genes, and others even claimed that a sprinkling of non-white ancestry bolstered the community’s “diversity”. In sum, though genetic ancestry testing undermines the narratives that white supremacists utilize, users on Stormfront are negotiating their community boundaries with each new genetic test, and “rethinking who counts as white” in the process.

Photo by Ted Eytan, Flickr CC. Mural by Anieken Udofia in Adams Morgan Neighborhood, Washington, DC

“White flight” describes the uncomfortably common phenomenon in the mid-to-late 20th century wherein whites would quickly move out of a neighborhood once blacks started moving in. This would often lead to neighborhoods that were mostly-white, but quickly ended up mostly-black. Today, American neighborhoods are not as mono-ethnic as they once were, and the picture has expanded beyond blacks and whites to other populations, such as Latinos and Asians.

That said, however, segregation within neighborhood contexts is still present. A recent article in Slate detailed research showing that at the aggregate level, neighborhoods and residential areas are becoming more diverse in the U.S. However, this diversity does not necessarily mean that multicultural, cross-racial social relationships are thriving. Derek Hyra conducted research in parts of Washington, D.C. and found that even in a diverse neighborhood, people’s social associations—such as choice of church, schools, and restaurants—is often in a mono-ethnic context, leading to microsegregation or “diversity segregation.” 

This isn’t to necessarily suggest, however, that diverse neighborhoods have no potential to become more integrated.  Camille Z. Charles tells Slate that consistent exposure and contact with people of different races can foster integration. Places like public schools and community centers provide the opportunity for these kinds of relationships to develop and lead to diverse neighborhoods where people have diverse friends. Charles explains,

“We are often friendlier with people we actually interact with. We do find there is lasting benefit to that, which is why we think it is important to have [diversity] in schools because kids spend so much time in classrooms and on school campuses.”

Photo by © Jose Luis Pelaez, Inc./Blend Images/Corbis

While previously male-dominated factory jobs have been on the decline for decades, today the fastest-growing occupations are those that are typically female-dominated — occupations like nursing and physical therapy.  So, it would make sense if we begin to see men entering into traditionally female-dominated occupations at higher rates, but a recent article in the New York Times discusses why many men are hesitating to do so. 

Ofer Sharone studies middle-aged, white collar workers who are struggling to find a place in the current labor force.  He found that many men avoid these jobs because they fear it will be a blow to their masculinity, but several men who are willing to take a pay cut and do the work were persuaded not to by their wives and significant others who encouraged them to keep looking for other forms of work. He explains, 

“Marriages have more problems when the man is unemployed than the woman. What does it mean for a man to take a low-paying job that’s typically associated with women? What kind of price will they pay with their friends, their lives, their wives, compared to unemployment?”

However, it’s not just that men and their families are less enticed by these “pink collar” jobs. Sharone and sociologist Janette S. Dill have found that pink collar employers are often biased towards women. Negative stereotypes about men as at best poor care workers and at worst as potentially dangerous create biases against them in jobs like child and elderly care. And Dill also suspects that this bias has something to do with keeping wages low in these types of jobs, which hurts both men and women. She states,

“I sometimes wonder if health organizations don’t want men to come into these jobs because they’ll demand higher wages … They’re happy to have a work force of women they can pay $8 or $9 an hour.”

Photo by United Soybean Board, Flickr CC

As the Senate vote on the American Healthcare Act quickly approaches, many concerns remain among Americans as to what this repeal and/or replacement of Obamacare entails. Drawing from University of Vermont sociologist Shoshanah Inwood’s research, a recent article from Vermont Public Radio suggests that healthcare affordability is a top concern among farmers concerned about the viability of their business.

In 2017, Inwood conducted a survey with more than 1,000 farmers from 10 states. Her findings indicate that 23 percent of the farmers surveyed bought a plan on the health exchange marketplace. Nationally, nearly three-quarters of farmers live with a household member who has an outside job to contribute additional income and healthcare benefits. Farmers are also older—the average national age is 58—so they face a heightened risk of increased premiums.

As Inwood’s survey findings demonstrate, more than half of farmers surveyed stated that they “are not confident they could pay the costs of a major illness such as a heart attack, cancer or loss of limb without going into debt.” Farmers’ appear to be so unsettled by healthcare prices that 74 percent in Inwood’s survey takers indicated that the U.S. Department of Agriculture should advocate for their health concerns in national policy discussions. Thus, the shaky future of healthcare costs looms large over the future of agriculture in the U.S. Inwood states,

“And with all of the pressures that are already existing on farm businesses, and with many operating on very razor-thin margins, health insurance could become the straw that breaks the camel’s back…There’s an opportunity to talk about how do farmers fit into national health insurance policy, but also what mean for the 2018 farm bill coming up.”

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr CC

Since his time in office, President Trump has put in place a travel ban on Muslim immigrants from seven different nations in the Middle East, has increased the number of border agents at the Mexican border, and has high hopes of building a new wall at the US-Mexican border.  Despite all of this attention being paid to immigrants, Trump has yet to fully address the issue of businesses and individuals who keep hiring illegal immigrants. A recent article in the Huffington Post looks to sociologist Tanya Golash-Boza to explain this disconnect. 

In her research, Golash-Boza explains that Trump dumping more resources into border patrol is a complete waste of resources, as the average border agent apprehends about only two people a month. She states, “it’s like pouring money into a sieve…They’re mostly just sitting there.”

Golash-Boza has written extensively on the “immigration industrial complex,” which refers to the revolving door of business practices, law enforcement tactics, and cheap labor from immigrants of color. Businesses hire illegal immigrants and pay them a cheaper wage, but before they can make a respectable income, the immigrants are dismissed or reported to law enforcement (where border patrol, prison systems, and local law enforcement all benefit). Meanwhile, businesses simply replenish this cheap labor force with new immigrants.  

For more on the immigration industrial complex, check out this TROT on for profit prisons and immigrant detention rates. 

Photo by Francis Storr, Flickr CC

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently suggested that panhandlers are scamming well-meaning passersby. In a recent article from The Conversation, Columbia economist Brendan O’Flaherty and CUNY sociologist Gwendolyn Dordick describe their research on panhandling in downtown Manhattan. In doing so, they provide important context to the Mayor’s concerns and propose an unconventional solution.

O’Flaherty and Dordick’s findings suggest that there is not a huge spike in panhandling following increases in pedestrian traffic during different times of the day, indicating that the people panhandling are not targeting the busiest times with the highest potential for cash. This would indicate that notions of people dressing up in costumes to go scam innocent pedestrians out of their money is overstated. In other words, the research suggests that people panhandling actually need the money. The researchers explain,

“We also counted the number of people who panhandle at a time in downtown Manhattan. Teaming up with some of our students, we found an average of eight to ten panhandlers actively asking for donations at any given time during peak summer hours. Despite de Blasio’s concerns, that’s not a lot, considering that this small area generates as much economic activity as the state of Wyoming and includes some of the world’s richest pedestrians.”

Of course, de Blasio is far from the first person to suggest that people looking for alms on the street are up to something sinister or are going to great lengths to deceive others and make a quick buck. In response, O’Flaherty and Dordick offer an intriguing new approach: credentials for panhandlers. In order to receive these credentials, which would be easily displayed by the panhandlers and verifiable by pedestrians, someone would have to work with non-profits or other groups to prove that they need them.

“These worn items would include ID numbers that potential donors could verify, and a system could be established to report counterfeits. These ID numbers might also make way for cashless panhandlingas Sweden now allows, and they might also assist in reporting and discouraging ‘aggressive panhandling.'”

Such a policy would likely cause a stir from both sides of the aisle, as it would simultaneously expand bureaucracy while policing the poor. Nevertheless, it does raise the question of what it means to live in a society where we often donate to charities, churches, or political organizations but are quick to accuse panhandlers of just pretending to be poor.

Photo by Steve Baker, Flickr CC

The 2018 mid-term elections are seeing more women than ever before expressing interest and taking steps to run for office. Some people suggest that this is the result of Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, as well as a response to the numerous ways that President Trump has been criticized for his sexist behavior. One might think that this means that women will vote for female candidates in droves, but sociologists Leah Ruppanner of University of Melbourne and Kelsy Kretschmer of Oregon Sate University, along with political scientist Christopher Stout of Oregon State University, caution against such sweeping predictions in a recent article for RawStory.  

Using data from the American Election study to describe relationships between marriage and behavior at the polls, the researchers find that white and Latina women who are married are less likely to see their own fates as tied to that of other women. By contrast, single white and Latina women, and black women in general, are more likely to see themselves and other women as interconnected. As a result, women who are married and feel less connected to other women are more likely to vote for conservatives, while single women and those who feel more connected to other women are more likely to vote for liberals. The researchers explain,

“Some married women perceive advances for women, such as lawsuits to mitigate pay discrimination, as coming at the expense of their male partners. In part, this captures the shift in married women’s alliances from the individual to the marital union. Women who depend on their own income are more supportive of feminist issues such as abortion, sexual behavior, gender roles and family responsibilities, which widens the political gap between single and married women.”

They discuss how marriage has been shown to alter people’s behaviors and beliefs, and they suggest that married women can think less about women’s issues such as abortion and gender norms than single women do. However, an important caveat to their findings is that they did not observe significant differences between married and single black women. The researchers warn,

“Don’t assume that married women will connect to other women based on a notion of shared womanhood. Rather, feminist messages of discrimination and sexism may be more compelling to women who shoulder disproportionate levels of inequality, poverty and job insecurity – single, divorced and black women.”