• While conversations on gun violence often focus on the need for federal policy changes, new research from Patrick Sharkey (Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton) and Megan Kang (PhD Student in Sociology at Princeton) estimates that stricter state gun laws passed from 1991 to 2016 prevented about 4,300 gun deaths in 2016 (approximately 11% of the nationwide total). Laws requiring background checks and waiting periods reduce access to guns. “The challenge of gun violence is not intractable,” Sharkey commented. “In fact we have just lived through a period of enormous progress that was driven by public policy.” This story was covered by The New York Times. In Maine, Michael Rocque, Associate Professor of Sociology at Bates College, recently wrote on gun laws in the state in a recent article in the Boston Globe. He highlighted the importance of balancing gun laws and rights with safety.
  • Adia Harvey Wingfield (Professor of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis) wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review on how organizational culture – a “critical part of how companies set norms, values, and expectations” – affects Black employees. She highlights elements of organizational culture that can make the workplace more inclusive for Black employees, including: 1) encouraging collaboration and teamwork, 2) recognizing distinct experiences, and 3) engaging in conversations about race and inequality.
  • An article in The Washington Post examined the record-low U.S. birth rates, quoting multiple sociologists. Karen Benjamin Guzzo (Director of the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina) noted that millennials have faced significant economic hurdles that put them behind on perceived “prerequisites” to having kids. Alison Gemmill (Demographer at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) discussed how access to birth control options allows millennials to delay or avoid pregnancy. Sarah Hayford (Director of Ohio State’s Institute for Population Research) noted that “a big part of the uptick in childlessness is delay rather than permanent childlessness. Even among women in their thirties, a lot will go on to have a child.”
  • Pete Simi (Professor of Sociology at Chapman University) recently testified in a trial seeking to bar Former President Trump from appearing on the 2024 Colorado ballot. Simi studies extremist groups, and testified that repeated references by Trump supporters to “1776” were “a violent call for revolution” and an example of doublespeak (a tactic used to “urge violence while maintaining deniability”). This story was covered by the Ohio Capital Journal.
  • In a new survey funded by ArtTable, Gillian Gualtieri (the project lead and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Barnard College) examined worker experiences in the U.S. arts and culture industry. She found widespread low compensation and high employment-related costs. Overall, women were paid less than men and invested more money in employment expenses, particularly expenses related to personal appearance. One participant reported spending thousands on work clothes because “you can’t show up in a Zara dress when meeting with major clients.” This story was covered by Hyperallergic.
  • A recent opinion piece in The Washington Post argued that the Speaker of the House Mike Johnson will ignore calls to ban assault weapons because he is a Christian nationalist. The piece cites multiple studies by Samuel L. Perry (Professor of Sociology at the University of Oklahoma) and colleagues that show that Christian nationalists tend to oppose federal gun control and favor “righteous violence” (specifically the idea that “the best way to stop bad guys with guns is to have good guys with guns”).
  • El País ran a story on sexualized social media content. The article quotes Carolina Are (Research Fellow at Northumbria University Newcastle; PhD in Criminology) on how social media shows or hides women’s bodies: “The most artificial and more mainstream form of involuntary sexualization is represented by celebrities and pushed by the algorithm. But more personal content and content from people who come from more marginal contexts are censored. So, in the end, we see that sexualized content reflects power dynamics.
  • The Washington Post ran a story on the increasing number (an 85% increase over the past decade) of Americans claiming Indigenous heritage in the U.S. Census. Carolyn Liebler (Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota) is quoted, as attributing the increase to “very important changes in the race question and especially in the way they coded the responses that they received.” In 2020, the Census included a free-response line for each racial category checkbox. Individuals who noted indigenous heritage in the free-response lines were counted, even if they did not check the “American Indians and Alaska Natives” box.
  • A recent study by Amin Ghaziani (Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia) and Andy Holmes (PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto) examined recent coming-out experiences of LGBTQ adults in Vancouver. They found that “neither a narrative of struggle and success nor emancipation fully captures what it’s like to come out today. Instead, we found that people are deeply ambivalent.” The study was covered by SciTechDaily.
  • In response to excerpts from Britney Spears’ upcoming memoir that revealed she had an abortion, USA Today ran a story on how access to abortion care benefits male partners. The article quotes Bethany Everett (Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Utah): “Abortion is a highly stigmatized form of healthcare, and women almost always bear the brunt of the stigma and shame around abortion. Yet, there are likely many people, including male partners, who don’t want to become parents or have another child, who also benefit from abortion access — benefits that are rarely recognized by the broader public or policymakers.” 
  • Daniel Jaffee (Associate Professor of Sociology at Portland State University) wrote an article for The Conversation discussing the role of bottled water as a stopgap solution to natural or human-made drinking-water crises. Jaffee notes that “communities can end up relying on bottled water – often at great expense – for years after a crisis” and that existing inequalities are worsened by placing the costs on individuals. Jaffee recently published Unbottled: The Fight against Plastic Water and for Water Justice.
  • LeanIn.org and McKinsey released the annual Women in the Workplace report, which claimed that the “broken rung” – rather than the “glass ceiling” – is the biggest barrier to women’s advancement. Within the metaphor of careers as ladder, the “broken rung” occurs at the beginning of corporate careers, between entry level positions and managerial positions. “The thing that’s important to understand about the broken rung is that those people at that stage of career are earlier in their career, so they don’t have a really big track record,” explained sociologist Marianne Cooper (co-author of the report and Senior Research Scholar at Stanford University’s VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab). “Men are getting it on potential, whereas women are held to a higher standard of performance[.]” This story was covered by Human Resources Director.
  • A recent study by Katie Spoon (PhD student in Computer Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder) and colleagues revealed that “workplace climate/atmosphere” was the most common reason that women leave academic positions (over both professional reasons and work-life balance). Compared to men, women were 44% more likely to feel pushed out of academia. Kimberlee Shauman (Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Davis) commented that the study provides a rare picture of trends in the overall academic field, rather than focusing on individual institutions. This story was covered by Nature.
  • Sociologist Margee Kerr (Faculty Lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh) was quoted in an Axios article on why people either love or hate horror movies. Kerr discusses how personal experience can affect how people respond to a jump scare. If you have positive memories of Halloween fun, you may have many “environmental context cues that tell you that in this situation, [the fear response] feels good,” Kerr explains. However, people who have experienced life-threatening situations may avoid fear in any situation. 
  • In rural Norway, a haunted grocery store (reportedly plagued by flying potatoes, electrical mishaps, and ghostly figures) captured the attention of sociologist Lars Birger Davan (PhD Candidate at Oslo Metropolitan University). Questioning how the unexplainable experiences of the staff and customers affected their relationship to society, Davan found that they were cautious in divulging details of experiences so as to not appear “crazy.” However, conversations with others who also had unexplainable experiences provided reassurance. Other sociologists weighed in on the effects of brushes with the paranormal. Marc Eaton (Associate Professor at Ripon College) noted that saying you’ve seen a ghost often comes with an assumption of irrationality or mental illness, making people hesitant to share paranormal experiences. Dennis Waskul (Professor of Sociology at Minnesota State University Mankato) stated that while paranormal experiences can be terrifying, they can also add intrigue into “a world that’s overly mechanized and a world that’s dominated by very predictable outcomes… a world of monotony where every day is just like the next damn day. And suddenly now, you’ve got a ghost in your house. Well, that is really friggin’ interesting.” This story was covered by Atlas Obscura.
  • The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released a new report including recommendations to help the United States achieve significant carbon emission reductions. A key recommendation is that the energy transition should help people and communities most affected by climate change–particularly poor communities and communities of color–and address historical harms. Multiple sociologists were authors on the report. Patricia Romero-Lankao (Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto and one of the report authors) noted that the focus on equity is important because energy transitions are “social, and political, and institutional” and require community support. This story was reported by NPR.
  • Alexei Levinson (Head of the Socio-Cultural Department at the Levada Center) was interviewed by The Bell on public opinion in Russia regarding Putin and the war in Ukraine. Levinson noted that the war is generally popular, as many Russians see it as an indirect conflict with the West. While Putin remains popular in Russia (in part due to his informal use of jokes), Levinson speculates that losing the war would end Putin’s career.
  • On Oct. 3rd, Kevin McCarthy was voted out as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Theda Skocpol (Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University) was interviewed in Politico, discussing the history of the Tea Party movement and how it connects to McCarthy’s removal. “It represents the culmination of [the tea party movement],” said Skocpol. “All the research that I and other political scientists have done on the movement shows that by the 2010s — just before Donald Trump emerges — the tea party had taken the shape of a just-say-no, blow-it-all-up, don’t-cooperate, do-politics-on-Twitter faction — and this is the perfect expression of it. This is where it leads.”
  • Noura Insolera (Assistant Research Scientist at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan) wrote a piece for The Conversation on the benefits of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) – a federally funded nutrition program. In 2019, at its peak, WIC helped feed over half of newborn babies in the U.S. Children who received benefits from WIC or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from 1984-2019 “were four times more likely to report improved food security years later, as young adults.” Insolera notes that WIC assistance could be jeopardized by a government shutdown.
  • David Schieber (Assistant Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University) wrote an opinion piece for The Daily Northwestern in response to the recent allegations of racialized hazing in the Northwestern football program. Schieber discusses sociological work on rituals and group initiation processes, noting how small groups with initiation processes can “easily become sites of insidious abuse and hazing.”
  • Karida L. Brown (Professor of Sociology at Emory College) and visual artist Charly Palmer are releasing The New Brownies’ Book: A Love Letter to Black Families – a contemporary take on W.E.B. Du Bois’ monthly children’s magazine which centered on Black children. The new book is “an anthology showcasing the power of community and the foundations of the Black family via drawings, poetry, short stories, and other artistic formats.” Brown hopes the book will “put out that bat signal to Black children: we are thinking about you and you are not forgotten.” This story was covered by Publisher’s Weekly.
  • In response to the ongoing conflict, Maha Nassar (Associate Professor of Modern Middle East History and Islamic Studies at the University of Arizona) wrote a brief history of the Gaza Strip for The Conversation.
  • ABC’s new season of The Bachelor centers around a 72-year-old “Golden Bachelor.” Deborah Carr (Professor of Sociology at Boston University) wrote an opinion piece for CNN on what dynamics we may see unfold over the season based on her expertise on aging. Carr anticipates that: 1) discussions of health will be important bonding moments, as managing health is salient in older adults’ lives; 2) family approval of the relationship will be crucial, as older adults are often merging two families in romantic relationships; and 3) marriage may be less of a focus, as increasing numbers of older adults are cohabitating or “living apart together.” To learn more on this subject, read a recent TSP Discovery on Older Adults on the Dating Market.
  • The New York Times featured new research from Nick Graetz (Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Princeton University Eviction Lab), Carl Gershenson (Project Director at the Princeton University Eviction Lab), Peter Hepburn (Assistant Professor at Rutgers University), Matthew Desmond (Professor of Sociology at Princeton University), and additional colleagues from the Census Bureau. The study found that children – particularly children under 5 – are disproportionately affected by eviction filings. The article suggests that both the financial effect of having young children and discrimination from landlords (who often see children as an unwanted risk) contribute to this trend.  “When I started writing about these issues, I kind of thought kids would shield families from eviction,” Desmond commented. “But they expose families to eviction.”
  • David Roediger (Historian and Professor of American Studies at the University of Kansas) wrote a piece for Mother Jones on the “mirage of the middle class.” Referencing C. Wright Mills’ work on the new middle classes of the 1950s, Roediger discusses how the imprecision of the term “middle class” is mobilized by politicians in election seasons.
  • For Hispanic Heritage Month, Mark Hugo Lopez (Director of Race and Ethnicity at the Pew Research Center) and Christina Mora (Associate Professor of Sociology at Berkeley) appeared on PBS News to discuss the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” and how identity language has shifted over time. Mora discussed the push from Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban populations in the 1960s/70s to get the United States to establish a panethnic census category. Lopez discussed how Latino adults use country of origin terms in discussing their identities.
  • Aarushi Bhandari (Assistant Professor of Sociology at Davidson College) wrote an article for The Conversation, reflecting on how news of the strike-ending deal between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers was eclipsed by celebrity headlines. Six conglomerates own 90% of media outlets, giving them significant power over media narratives. Bhandari argues that the limited coverage of the WGA deal “fits into a longer historical pattern of tension between labor movements and corporate media” in which “corporate media has framed disproportionately negative narratives about strikes and union activities.”
  • Janet Vertesi (Associate Professor of Sociology at Princeton University) wrote an article for The Conversation discussing how NASA’s robotics can provide an example of an ethical future for AI. Vertesi notes three aspects of “strong human-robot teams”: technology that augments or extends human capabilities instead of replacing human work, respectful data harvesting and use, and a sense of care for the technology.
  • Matthew Desmond (Professor of Sociology at Princeton University) appeared on the ACLU’s At Liberty podcast. In conversation with Sandra Park (Senior Staff Attorney of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project), Desmond discussed the complexities of American poverty. “There’s a lot of propaganda out there about poverty, and […] it organizes us. It shapes our conversation, right, or kills the conversation. […] And so I think that means for me, shifting the aperture away from-from poor families and poor communities to us, to a lot of us who are living our lives, often unwittingly, in a way that contributes to poverty in our midst.”
  • Juliet Schor (Professor of Sociology at Boston College and lead researcher on the 4 Day Week Global trial studies) appeared on NPR’s TED Radio Hour to discuss the four-day workweek. Schor described how a four-day workweek can have positive well-being and climate outcomes without lowering worker productivity. 
  • Neil Gross (Professor of Sociology at Colby College) wrote an article for Time, arguing that three “myths” about police reform are limiting productive conversation and policymaking: 1) the police can’t prevent crime; 2) police reform compromises public safety; and 3) because of policing’s racist origins, there is nothing we can do to improve it. Gross discusses how policing in combination with poverty reduction efforts can reduce crime, the complex connections between police defunding and crime, and his belief that “institutions can evolve beyond their origins.”
  • In Philadelphia, a former police officer is facing trial for over 200 sex crimes. While on the force, the officer was the subject of 12 citizen complaints. Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve (Associate Professor of Sociology at Brown University), commented on the difficulty of creating accountability for police officers: “This officer, while he looks like ‘one bad apple’, a whole lot of players had to participate in emboldening such an egregious criminal activity that went on for years. That shows the flagrant nature. He knew there were no levers of accountability.” This story was covered by WHYY.

Photo of a large crowd of people, with no space in between.
Photo by James Cridland, Flickr CC

For most of human history, the world population has been much smaller than it currently is — the population has grown substantially only in the last two centuries, as technological and medicinal advances increased life expectancy. Social scientists now say that this growth will end within this century, according to a recent article in The Atlantic. By 2100, when the world population will be approximately 11 billion, growth rates and death rates will be relatively equal; while the population will continue to grow in some parts of the world, other regions will bear aging, smaller populations. Thus, though the numbers seem to equalize, human demographics could look quite different than they do now. Based on these population considerations, the 2100 world could witness many social, political, and cultural shifts, both on a local as well as a global level.

To begin, shifting populations could shape family structures and cultural production.

  • Traditional family structures may change in places where most people currently have large, extended families. Sociologist Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue explains that some of these places will experience smaller fertility rates, leading to smaller families. This could change traditional family structures in some countries as large, extended families give way to smaller, nuclear families. The family reunion may be less lively, but it’s not all bad; as families get smaller, parents can invest more time and resources into their children, whether it’s being able to afford better schools or giving the kids their own room.
  • Art, music, theater, and other forms of culture are often clustered around larger, urban environments with youthful populations. As demographics change and certain parts of the world become relatively younger than others, we could see a shift in dominant produces or culture and entertainment. For example, marketing and producing sports has already changed as certain parts of the world have grown while others have shrunk. For several parts of the world that have been often overlooked in global culture and entertainment, this could be their big break; break a leg!

At the same time, the population plateau of 2100 could spark tensions and challenges, particularly for economics, political interests, and social policy. 

  • The world population will be collectively older than it is now, and a much larger proportion of people will be of retirement age. This could cause political and policy shifts in many countries, particularly those with social spending programs that support the retired and elderly. Often, these are paid for by the employed persons in the labor force, a group that will be comparatively younger and smaller in the future; this will likely cause shifts in how social services operate and receive funding. Furthermore, since such programs are often key political issues, changing populations could spark shifts in the political arena based on different interests and agendas across age groups. 
  • By 2100, the global environment and climate could look much different than it does now, and the population is estimated to plateau just below 11 billion people. Climate change affects different parts of the world in a variety of ways. Across the world, some populations will shrink and age in comparison to others. Thus, different countries’ social and political responses to environmental issues will likely reflect considerations of their different population needs. 

Of course, these population predictions are just predictions, but they are informed by complex tools and methods in demography; such analyses are built on hard data regarding the world population and trends in fertility and birth. Thus, even if there are some fluctuations in the numbers, the general trend towards an aging population in some regions and a younger population in others will remain. Overall, this could lead to many social, cultural, and political changes.

The world may stop growing, but the population plateau could still cause many shifts and shake-ups; change really is the only constant.

Photo of two men sticking their tongue out for a selfie
Photo by Andy Rickman, Flickr CC

A growing number of couples are meeting through online dating, while for much of history couples met through friends and family. According to new research by sociologist Michael Rosenfeld and colleagues — cited in a recent article in The Atlantic — online dating shows no evidence of slowing down. As online dating grows, individuals shoulder more of the burden of finding a mate. Sociologist Jessica Carbino points out that expectations of potential partners are also shifting, sometimes toward “unrealistic.”

Rosenfeld doesn’t see this state of affairs as a major cause for concern:

“I don’t see anything to worry about…For people who want partners, they really, really want partners, and online dating seems to be serving that need adequately.”

In addition, online-dating has been helpful for minority communities, including LGBTQ people. Rosenfeld points out that in the past, even families who were supportive of their queer children were unlikely to know other queer people to introduce them to, whereas online dating sites certainly do. Rosenfeld and colleagues’ research supports this: the proportion of gay couples who have met online has risen greatly in recent years.

Online dating can feel daunting and overly critical at times, but clearly there are good things to swipe right about.

Photo by Elicus, Flickr CC

It seems like everyone has a side-hustle these days. Yet, according to a recent article on CNBC, research shows that these side gigs may not be all they’re cracked up to be. Sociologists, Arne Kalleberg and Alexandrea Ravenelle explain there are caveats to consider before you invest time and energy into a side hustle.

Side hustles seem like easy and fun ways to make a quick buck. According to Kalleberg:

“Side hustles always sound like they’re going to be this cool, entrepreneurial activity…That’s part of the PR and the lure of these platform companies — that you can work and make money whenever you want and be flexible. But that’s not always the case.”

Research shows that side hustles require lots of time, energy, and money up-front, and it can be a while before your side hustle turns into a profitable endeavor. Turning your hobbies and passions into cash may sound like fun, but it actually make your favorite pastimes into tedious, energy-sapping hours on the job. As Ravenelle reminds us,

“Every hour that you spend working is an hour that has to come from somewhere else in your life, whether that’s sleep, leisure time or your time with family and friends.”

Finally, but importantly, it’s not as easy as you’d think to keep your side-job and full-time job separate; sometimes, you find yourself managing your side-gig during work hours. Though there’s a lot of pressure to have a side-job these days, it just might not be worth it.