Respondents who saying that the effects of global warming have already begun, by party. Taken from the article in Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development. Click on the chart for more figures and data from the article.
Respondents who say that the effects of global warming have already begun, by party. Taken from the article in Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development. Click on the figure for more figures and data from the article.

Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax, while Hillary Clinton has said she believes in climate science and supports efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Partisan divides on climate change have become almost a given and part of accepted party doctrine, but this was not always so. Just eight years ago, most Republican politicians supported climate change policy and Barack Obama and John McCain had nearly identical positions on the issue in 2008. However, after initial expectations that Obama would pass climate change legislation, gridlock set in and opinions about global warming became increasingly polarized.

To trace the growing partisan divide in attitudes about global warming, Riley Dunlap, Aaron McCright, and Jerrod Yarosh use Gallup polling data from 1997 to 2016 to show how public opinion regarding the existence, causes, and solutions to a warming planet have diverged between Democrats and Republicans, particularly during the Obama administration. Splits between self-identified Republicans and Democrats in believing whether or not climate change is happening has consistently been much higher in the past eight years than between 1997-2002. In 2016, about three-quarters of Democrats agreed that global warming is occurring, compared to only one-quarter of Republicans. In the past decade, Democrats have become increasingly more likely to believe that warming has been caused by human actions. While Democrats have become more concerned about the impacts of climate change (56% in 2016), Republicans’ concern has remained the same (around 25%). 

The authors claim that political divides might be related to different attitudes about the media and scientists. In the past few years, about two-thirds of Republicans, compared to one-fifth of Democrats, felt that media coverage exaggerated global warming. This is a change from the relatively small partisan divide of 10 percentage points just twenty years ago. While there is growing scientific evidence and consensus on rising global temperatures, there have been increasing partisan splits with much fewer Republicans believing scientists agree on global warming.

Increasing partisan splits on environmental protection are particularly telling of broader ideological divides because there was recently relative agreement between the parties. The authors claim that this hardening of partisan and ideological positions means that bi-partisan legislation on reducing carbon emissions and other climate policies is unlikely in the near future, but views can and have changed in the past.

Joshua Kehn, Flickr CC
Joshua Kehn, Flickr CC

Incidents of extreme violence impact both the victim and the perpetrator, but they also affect the greater community in terms of things like increased fear of crime and negative impacts on child development. Johanna Lacoe and Patrick Sharkey detail another key mechanism by which the neighborhood social climate is altered by violent events: the increased interaction of law enforcement and community residents via stop, question, and frisk activity after a violent crime.

Using data from the NYPD on stop and frisk activity and homicide, as well as U.S. Census data on neighborhood demographics, the authors examine the relationship between neighborhood homicides and subsequent police activity. They find that block groups where a homicide is committed experience a 70% increase in stop and frisk events relative to the stop and frisk activity a week before the homicide. This association holds even adjusting for neighborhood characteristics, such as racial/ethnic composition and poverty rate, the time of year the homicide occurred, and the precinct responsible for the homicide response. Further, Lacoe and Sharkey find that the increase in stop and frisk activity is higher in neighborhoods defined as “high crime” (90% increase vs. 68%). However, the increased levels of stop and frisk in both “high crime” and “not high crime” neighborhoods is experienced predominantly in majority black and majority Hispanic neighborhoods. The researchers find no difference in stop and frisk activity before and after a homicide in predominantly white neighborhoods. 

This study illustrates how both the violence a neighborhood experiences and the responses to that violence are disproportionately distributed within the city. Not only are communities of color more likely to experience violence in their communities, but they are also more likely to experience more stop and frisk activity that extends the range of the “crime scene” into the greater community.

Japanese tacos, an atypical offering. Photo by Prayitno, Flickr CC
Japanese tacos, an atypical offering. Photo by Prayitno, Flickr CC

In a broad sense, there are two kinds of consumers. First, there are the people who like variety, and tend to be curators of things in multiple, specific genres. Generally, enjoying a wider variety of things is a way for people to distinguish themselves from the less educated or the exclusive snob, marking their status as high class, open-minded consumers. The other way of thinking about consumption is in terms of “typicality,” or how well something fits into a particular genre, and some consumers require their cultural objects to fit into its pre-defined genre. Amir Goldberg, Micheal Hannan, and Balázs Kovács explore how these two different types of consumers respond to boundary-spanning creations – those restaurants, movies, and music that combine elements of multiple genres to create something new and unusual.

The authors analyze over 3 million movie reviews from Netflix and over 700,000 restaurant reviews from Yelp to categorize reviewers as different types of consumers. To measure atypicality, they looked at how many genre labels were applied to each restaurant (Asian, Latin, American, etc.) or film (Drama, Action, Comedy, etc.). For variety they looked at users’ pasts reviews to understand the range of movies or restaurants they consume. 

What the researchers found is that as a reviewer’s penchant for new and innovative (atypical) restaurants and movies decreases, their desire for variety increases. This finding is consistent with the view that consumers tend to know and like multiple types of genres, but that they like a clear understanding of what genre they’re consuming.  This allows them to be “experts” of many particular types of food or music, and atypical offerings challenge their hard-won cultural capital. Enjoying variety then, is not about making connections with others, but distinguishing oneself from the uneducated masses or the snob who only knows and likes one type of thing. For these consumers, variety may be the spice of life, but only when eaten in typical dishes.

Photo by Luca Melloni, Flickr CC
Photo by Luca Melloni, Flickr CC

Reintegration into society is crucial for ex-combatants who were previously involved in armed conflict, yet repeated offenses often impede successful transitions. This problem can be seen first hand in Colombia, where approximately 20 percent of former combatants from guerrilla and paramilitary groups engaged in illegal activity since demobilization of armed conflict. The Colombian government has responded by supporting educational resources, counseling, health care, employment, and financial assistance programs for former combatants. Successful reintegration, however, also involves determining which individual and social factors influence some ex-combatants to commit crime and others to lead a crime-free life.

 Oliver Kaplan and Enzo Nussio use event history analysis to predict the time until ex-combatants are arrested, combining 2008 Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP) survey data of 1,485 ex-combatant men and women from both guerrilla and paramilitary groups with police records documenting arrests and captures through June 2012. Additionally, they conducted 98 interviews with ex-combatants from 2008 to 2010 to determine potential motives for returning to criminal activity. 

Findings indicate that former combatants who initially joined guerrilla or paramilitary groups for personal motives are more likely to commit crime after demobilization. This effect was even stronger for former paramilitaries. In contrast, those who are deterred by police, held strong family ties, achieved more education, and had children are less likely to return to illegal activity after armed conflict. Factors such as threatened security and worsening economic opportunities, however, showed little effect on recidivism. Kaplan and Nussio also note the importance of gender reintegration, as women may face sexual violence and men may experience feelings of emasculation after losing their military status. Studies like this show a clear link between “street crime” and other forms of armed conflict — and the common reintegration challenges they pose for individuals and societies.  

Photo by Personal Creations, www.personalcreations.com, Flickr CC.
Photo by Personal Creations, www.personalcreations.com, Flickr CC

Men today express a greater commitment to an equal division of labor at home than in the past and some workplaces continue to implement supportive work-family policies, like paid leave for fathers in San Francisco for example. However, women are far more likely to take advantage of work-family policies like parental leave and data suggest that a large gap still exists in the division of household labor for straight couples. So, how can we get men to take advantage of work-family policies? In a recent study, Sarah Thebaud and David Pedulla attempt to answer part of this question by exploring how the existence of supportive work-family policies influences young men’s preferences for different types of work-family arrangements.

Using experimental survey data, Thebaud and Pedulla asked unmarried men without children, ages 18 to 32, how they would prefer to divide work and home responsibilities with a potential partner. One group of respondents was told there were supportive policies in place to help with work-family balance (paid family leave, subsidized childcare, and options to work from home), while the other group did not receive any information about work family policies. The researchers also measured men’s gender ideology with a five-question scale, as well as men’s perceptions of their male peers’ preferences for the division of work and home responsibilities. 

The researchers found that the men who learned about supportive work-family policies were more likely to prefer progressive work-family arrangements, but only if they thought other men shared those preferences. When respondents believed their male peers did not prefer progressive arrangements, information about work-family policies actually decreased the likelihood of men having gender-progressive preferences.

These findings indicate that supportive work-family policies may actually have unintended consequences if male colleagues have more traditional beliefs about work and household division of labor. Men may worry about the stigma of taking advantage of these policies if they believe the policies contradict masculine norms. Thus, changing men’s individual beliefs may not be sufficient for getting them on board with supportive work-family policies and more gender-progressive relationship arrangements. Instead, we must challenge the masculine culture that pervades male peer groups and reproduces gender inequity.

Photo by simpleinsomnia, Flickr CC
Photo by simpleinsomnia, Flickr CC

The character of Black boys is often questioned in American society. Much of the focus is on their clothing style or physical size and they are often portrayed as “thugs,” deserving of whatever violence that befalls them. The fatal shootings of boys like Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin garnered widespread attention to this perceived dangerousness of African-American boys. Despite better access to economic resources, many middle- and upper-class Black mothers fear they cannot adequately prepare their sons for the gendered racism likely to pervade nearly every aspect of their social lives. In her recent study, Dawn Marie Dow explores these challenges Black mothers face raising their sons in a society that views black boys as “thugs.”

From 2009 to 2011, Dow interviewed 60 middle- and upper-class Black mothers in the San Francisco Bay Area who had at least one son under the age of 10, talking with them about how they prepare their sons to successfully avoid the “thug” perception. Mothers’ incomes ranged from $50,000 to $300,000 and 63% held advanced degrees. Dow found that middle – and upper-class Black mothers employ multiple strategies to combat negative stereotypes about their sons. Some mothers use “experience management” that focuses on involving their sons in various empowering and challenging activities, like baseball leagues or music lessons. Others use “environment management,” such as moving to predominantly white neighborhoods or limiting their son’s interactions with other neighborhood kids in order to curb the amount of discrimination they face in certain social settings. Mothers also teach their sons how to engage in “image and emotion management” by prohibiting certain styles of dress and telling them not to show frustration and anger. The mothers Dow interviewed saw these techniques as essential in navigating the “thug” image and keeping their children safe from the discrimination of teachers and the brutality of law enforcement. 

Dow’s findings suggest that while middle- and upper-class mothers acknowledge additional resources afforded by their socioeconomic status, they believe their sons are still treated poorly by educators and law enforcement officials because of their racial identity and gender. As a result, Black mothers of all economic backgrounds use stigma management to try and keep their sons safe, whether it be teaching them to manage their environment, their experiences, or their emotions. With all the work Black mothers and their sons are doing to keep Black boys safe, here’s hoping others start putting in some effort too. 

 

Photo by SEO, Flicker CC
Photo by SEO, Flicker CC

While social media sites have certainly benefited for-profit companies, providing unprecedented visibility and the ability to target key demographics, non-profits have also been utilizing these sites to promote their causes and collect donations. Their goal is usually for a cause to “go viral” and spread within and across social networks in the form of likes and shares. The Kony 2012 campaign is a perfect example of this, which reached 120 million people in just five days and garnered $32 million in donations. But recent research finds that this level of online social contagion is rare and “likes” are not often likely to lead to donations.

Nicola Lacetera, Mario Macis, and Angelo Mele studied charitable donations on Facebook and Twitter over a two-year period to determine if and how online social contagion occurs. They collaborated with HelpAttack!,  an application that allows users to donate to charities through social media sites. The HelpAttack! application lets users “broadcast” their initial pledge and subsequent donations to friends in their network, and the researchers analyzed how often users who broadcast a pledge to donate actually fulfill that pledge. While they found that broadcasting a pledge is related to actually making a donation, a large proportion of users “opportunistically broadcast a pledge and then delete it.” Further, they did not find evidence of a social contagion effect after pledges were broadcast. Although the campaigns in their experiment reached 6.4 million users and received numerous clicks and likes, only 30 donations were made.

This study shows that social media sites enable “costless” support in the form of likes and shares, which might raise awareness of a cause or organization, but that these likes rarely lead to support in the form of donations. What’s more, it appears that a lot of people use donation pledges to boost their social image but then quickly delete their pledge to avoid actually shelling out any cash for the cause. The researchers conclude that, despite initial optimism that the Internet and social media sites would make campaigning for causes easier and more effective, it seems that offline, face-to-face campaigns are still needed to turn costless likes into capital.

 

Photo by Steven Sim, Flickr CC
Photo by Steven Sim, Flickr CC

Parents undoubtedly play a role in their children’s understanding of gender and sexual health. But can children have any effect on their parents? In a study investigating how becoming a father influences men’s sexual behavior, sociologist Abigail Weitzman finds that the gender of a father’s firstborn child has a significant influence on that father’s likelihood of being sexually promiscuous later in life.

Using 61,801 Demographic and Health Surveys from 37 developing countries, Weitzman looks at how the sex of a firstborn child influences the father’s sexual health and behavior. The survey provides information about whether or not fathers pay for sex, use condoms, have extramarital sexual partners, and report having genital ulcers or genital discharge, which may be signs of an STI. Through fixed effects models that control for differences between countries, Weitzman finds that fathers with firstborn sons are significantly more likely than those with firstborn daughters to pay for sex, and they are also less likely to use condoms. Fathers of firstborn sons also have a higher probability of reporting genital ulcers or genital discharge. Additionally, fathers with firstborn sons reported having slightly higher opposition to women’s sexual autonomy. In short, fathers with firstborn children who are male are associated with higher rates of promiscuity.

Interestingly, these differences among fathers tend to emerge when their firstborn child reaches adolescence, suggesting that family gender dynamics shift as children reach puberty and young adulthood. Though the data cannot fully explain why firstborn adolescent sons are associated with more promiscuous behavior among fathers, Weitzman speculates that perhaps fathers of firstborn adolescent males are more likely to engage in sexual promiscuity as a means to maintain, reinforce, and teach masculine behavior and identity. Weitzman’s study may have just scratched the surface of an important set of new questions about how fatherhood, gender identity, and sexual behavior around the world intertwine with family.

Photo by Keoni Cabral, Flickr CC https://flic.kr/p/8UwScV
Photo by Keoni Cabral, Flickr CC

More people are talking about the dangers of lead poisoning public water systems—and children. Public water systems are not the only way to be exposed to lead poisoning, however; the human body can ingest lead through paint chips, gasoline exhaust, and industrial processes. Previous research on environmental health hazards has illustrated that a person’s neighborhood (a product of class factors) best predicts their risk of being exposed to these dangers. Studies also show that predominantly black or white neighborhoods experience different levels of environmental health hazards. Now, writing in the Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, Heather Moody, Joe T. Darden, and Bruce William Pigozzi demonstrate the significance of class and race in black-white gaps in childhood blood-lead-levels (BLLs).

The authors use Census data from the Detroit metropolitan area alongside Michigan Medicaid data to examine black and white childhood BLLs. Drawing on a sample of over 160,000 children, the authors compare BLLs between black and white children of the same age across socioeconomic positions. As expected, children of all races had lower BLLs the higher their class. Unexpectedly, however, the authors find gaps in BLLS by race that grow with class. The gap between black and white childhood BLLs is very low among the poorest, but rises in more affluent neighborhoods.

Some ideas to explain this paradox include the possibility that black families may be relegated to older or less desirable houses within wealthier neighborhoods (infamous historical “redlining” comes to mind). Thus, even though class is a strong predictor of your risk for lead exposure, race still plays an important role. These findings also challenge assumptions that class mobility can erase racial inequality absent other interventions.

Photo by Matt Trostle, Flickr CC.
Photo by Matt Trostle, Flickr CC.

We often think that religion helps to build a strong society, in part because it gives people a shared set of beliefs that fosters trust. When you know what your neighbors think about right and wrong, it is easier to assume they are trustworthy people. The problem is that this logic focuses on trustworthy individuals, while social scientists often think about the relationship between religion and trust in terms of social structure and context.

New research from Olson and Li (using data from the World Values survey) examines the trust levels of 77,405 individuals from 69 countries collected between 1999 and 2010. The authors’ analysis focuses on a simple survey question about whether respondents felt they could, in general, trust other people. The authors were especially interested in how religiosity at the national level affected this trust, measuring it in two ways: the percentage of the population that regularly attended religious services and the level of religious diversity in the nation.

These two measures of religious strength and diversity in the social context brought out a surprising pattern. Nations with high religious diversity and high religious attendance had respondents who were significantly less likely to say they could generally trust other people. Conversely, nations with high religious diversity, but relatively low levels of participation, had respondents who were more likely to say they could generally trust other people.

One possible explanation for these two findings is that it is harder to navigate competing claims about truth and moral authority in a society when the stakes are high and everyone cares a lot about the answers, but also much easier to learn to trust others when living in a diverse society where the stakes for that difference are low. The most important lesson from this work, however, may be that the positive effects we usually attribute to cultural systems like religion are not guaranteed; things can turn out quite differently depending on the way religion is embedded in social context.