Photo by Kathryn Decker, Flickr CC

Economic inequality is at high tide in the United States, across numerous demographic lines. For example, privileged children often attend high-quality schools that lead to further advantages in adulthood like elite employment opportunities. However, does class status only impact elite employment prospects through education? Lauren Rivera and Andras Tilcsik use an experimental audit study to examine how class status influences employment likelihoods above and beyond educational credentials.

Rivera and Tilcsik sent random fictitious resumes to 316 summer associateships at large law firms. They manipulated the gender and the class status of the applicant, while other application items such as educational credentials and experience were identical across applications. Gender was signaled via the applicant first name (John vs. Julia) and class status was signaled through the last name (Cabot vs. Clark), extracurricular activity (sailing vs. track and field), athletic award (regular athletic award vs. athletic award for student on financial aid), and personal interests (e.g. classical music vs. country music). The researchers then measured whether the applicant was invited for an interview callback. 

The findings reveal that the effect of status markers depends on one’s gender: men who display markers of high social class are significantly more likely to receive a callback than high-status women. Rivera and Tilcsik followed up with a survey experiment and interviews to investigate why status works in the favor of men but not for women. Overall, firms saw higher-class applicants as better fits than lower class candidates, even though their credentials were the same. Although firms also saw higher-class women as better fits, they simultaneously perceived them as less committed to full-time, demanding careers. This “commitment penalty” offset the gains in callback likelihood that higher-class women get through perceived fit.

In the context of elite employment, the implications of class status vary based on an applicant’s gender.   The authors argue that the “commitment penalty” is a type of anticipatory discrimination, where employers, hiring in the ethos of time-intensive jobs, question women’s commitment due to the perceived potential for external commitments (e.g. motherhood), as well as gendered notions of work devotion. Overall, this research highlights how the interaction of class and gender, rather than either alone, pattern opportunities for elite employment.

Photo by ripperda, Flickr CC

While rates of church attendance in the United States have been decreasing over time, the number and popularity of “megachurches” has increased significantly. It is estimated that the largest 7% of congregations contain about half of all American churchgoers. These predominantly Protestant churches draw anywhere from 2,000 to 30,000 attendees every week and they typically rely on an energetic and highly publicized charismatic leader to fill the seats. So what draws so many Americans to these stadium-sized congregations? New research by Katie Corcoran and James K. Wellman Jr. suggests that it might have something to do with the particular form of charisma found among many megachurch leaders.  

Most social science research on charismatic leadership focuses on political leaders or leaders of new religious movements and cults — groups that exist on the fringes of more mainstream, institutionalized religions. In these religious movements, the founder or leader is often seen as divine or supernatural and their authority is derived from that perception. Instead, Corcoran and Wellman examine how charisma emerges in the more institutionalized spaces of Protestant megachurches where leaders are not seen as divine. Drawing on interview and survey data from a large sample of megachurches, the researchers find that pastors of megachurches establish a “charismatic bond” with their attendees by being both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.

Even though megachurch pastors were described by many of their congregants as having “extraordinary qualities” and being “gifted,” “special,” or “unique,” congregants were also equally drawn to the more “ordinary” and “human” side of their leaders. For example, congregants were more likely to describe their pastor as trustworthy or authentic if they felt the pastor was relatable and honest about their own flaws. The authors explain, “… they must be extraordinary without becoming perceived as a deity, while at the same time, be ordinary but not so ordinary as to engage in deviant behaviors that undermine their perceived extraordinary abilities.” This research reveals that charismatic leadership can come in many forms, and sometimes it’s someone’s ordinary qualities that make them seem extraordinary.

For research on the instability of charismatic leadership, check out this TROT!

Photo by Norton Gusky, Flickr CC

Recent estimates from Child Trends indicate that nearly seven percent of children in the U.S. have experienced parental incarceration. And this rate is twice as high among black children. Most of the current research on the negative impacts of parental incarceration focuses on the effects of a father’s imprisonment on boys’ behavioral problems — boys with incarcerated fathers often act out in school and at home. To expand beyond this research, Anna R. Haskins examines the effects of paternal incarceration on both young boys and girls’ cognitive development and across racial lines.

Haskins analyzed a sample of over two thousand children from the Fragile Families project, a longitudinal study that tracks children and their parents across twenty large U.S. cities. Focusing on the first 9 years of the child’s life, she observed four skills representing cognitive development: verbal ability, reading comprehension, mathematical problem-solving, and attention span. She then determined if a father’s incarceration negatively impacts these key developmental areas during middle childhood.

Findings suggest that the experience of paternal incarceration diminishes a child’s reading, math, and attentional capacities, but not their verbal abilities. But these effects differ between boys and girls. While girls experience reduced reading and math skills, boys are more likely to exhibit a reduced attention span. Preliminary estimates also indicate that racial disparities in paternal incarceration contribute to racial inequality in the achievement gap. In other words, if white Americans were incarcerated at the same rate as African Americans, the black-white achievement gaps at age nine in reading, math, and attention skills would reduce by a range of seven to fourteen percent.

Haskins argues that children of an incarcerated parent may face undue stress, trauma, or stigma, which may latently impact cognitive capacities. In addition to perpetuating racial inequities in educational attainment, the collateral consequences of paternal incarceration extend “beyond boys’ bad behavior,” negatively impacting both young boys’ and girls’ cognitive skills.

Photo by David Bleasdale, Flickr CC

In U.S. culture, we get a lot of messages about what a “good” mother should do. A good mother should always make time for her kids, model healthy eating habits, throw her kids a birthday party, and so on. Sociologists have  acknowledged how motherhood is raced and classed, but fewer studies recognize the ways that constructions of motherhood are dependent on ability status. In her new article, Angela Frederick argues that popular ideas about “good mothers” assume these women are able-bodied. As a result, mothers with disabilities are excluded from mainstream images and parenting advice, perceived as threats to their children’s well-being, and disciplined by medical professionals because of this perceived risk.

Frederick conducted 42 interviews with women who had sensory (blind, deaf, hard of hearing) or physical disabilities. In the interviews, women highlighted the ways doctors perceived them as risks to their children. For instance, one doctor initiated a social services investigation because he assumed a mother who was partially paralyzed on one side could not care for her child. Doctors also pressured women into submitting their children for genetic tests, even when the mothers’ disabilities were not genetic. 

While in some ways their disabilities made these women targets of greater attention from doctors, in other ways medical facilities rendered them invisible by disregarding their needs. Blind women, for instance, were often forced to verbally provide confidential medical information because the medical office did not have an online option to fill out paperwork. And parenting advice materials, like magazines and parenting books, often ignore the experiences of mothers with disabilities in the advice they offer.

The way medical professionals interact with mothers who have disabilities and the way mothers are constructed in parenting advice materials reflect a “normalcy project,” according to Frederick. “Good” mothering has become synonymous with able-bodied mothers. Even when women with disabilities follow standard expectations of “normal” mothering, they remain suspect as a potential risk to their children.

Photo by alohavictoria, Flickr CC

Senior year of high school is often an exciting time for students, as many make decisions about higher education and nervously await college admission letters. Yet, not all seniors join their peers in the move to higher education. The sociological “life-course labeling perspective” suggests that students already involved with the criminal justice system face the enduring consequences of a criminal record and many are forced to take alternative pathways after high school. Drawing from this perspective, Alex Widdowson, Sonja Siennick, and Carter Hay examine how being arrested in high school affects college enrollment.

The authors draw from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to test whether a student’s arrest within the first three years of high school impedes enrollment into 2-year and 4-year colleges within 9 months after graduation. Out of the 1761 students sampled, nine percent had been arrested during their first three years of high school. The authors also examined a sample of youths who received a GED or dropped out of high school. The authors find that people who had been arrested during high school were more likely to be Black and male, to engage in higher levels of delinquency, and to exhibit lower levels of interest in school. Further, they found that high school graduated youths that were arrested were 42 percent less likely to enroll in 4-year college programs within 9 months after graduating high school, and 41 percent less likely after 10 years. Arrests for GED and high school dropouts followed a similar pattern. However, arrest had no direct effect on enrolling in a 2-year college. 

The authors conclude that arrest rates account for much of these findings because being arrested hinders performance in school. Youths’ who were arrested had lower GPAs and decreased participation in advanced coursework, which weakened the competitiveness of their college applications and deterred them from enrolling in college. Therefore, improving youths’ performance may limit the long-term effects of an arrest within an economy that increasingly relies on higher education for a stable income.

Photo by Paul Sableman, Flickr CC

Recent high-profile incidents of police violence against black citizens have spoiled the reputation and legitimacy of legal authorities among many Americans. In a new study, Matthew Desmond, Andrew V. Papachristos, and David S. Kirk investigate one of the consequences of this police misconduct and its accompanying legal cynicism — people are less likely to call 911 to report criminal activity.

Using 911 call data from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and U.S. Census neighborhood characteristics, the researchers analyze how crime reporting calls fluctuated in the weeks following the high-profile beating of Frank Jude, a black male citizen. Controlling for the level of crime reporting before the incidents, time variation, and neighborhood block-group characteristics, they find that levels of citizen reporting significantly decreased in the weeks following the incident, and that this effect was particularly strong in majority black neighborhoods. This drop in crime reporting lasted for over a full year after the beating, and resulted in an estimated 22,200 fewer 911 crime reporting calls. The researchers also replicate this finding with three other cases of police violence, and show that 911 calls for car accidents were not altered in response to the incidents, suggesting that the reduction in calls was not due to some concurrent event impacting emergency calls overall. 

This study illustrates how the high-profile cases of police force do not just impact those closely connected to the perpetrator and victim, but have broader consequences for police-community relations. The decrease in citizen crime reporting can have tragic outcomes for public safety, and the authors note that the uptick in Milwaukee homicides following the Frank Jude beating could be, in part, the result of decreased 911 calls. Overall, the research highlights how seemingly “isolated incidents,” at least as framed by police departments and politicians, can have wide-ranging effects across a community.

Photo by NEC Corporation of America , Flickr CC

When people have health concerns, they typically turn to doctors because of the years of medical training that makes doctors experts on human health. When it comes to the health of trans people, however, doctors often lack knowledge and experience, and the typical evidence-based guidelines (EBM) for making medical decisions can be more confusing than helpful for trans health cases. In a new study, stef m. shuster finds that “uncertainty” characterizes most provider’s experiences with trans patients, though they navigate this uncertainty in different ways.

To understand how healthcare providers treat trans patients, shuster interviewed 23 physical and mental healthcare providers. These providers included primary care physicians, OB/GYN, family and internal medicine specialists, physician’s assistants, psychologists, therapists, and counselors/social workers. Rather than asking about specific interventions with transgender patients, which could breach ethics of confidentiality, shuster engaged in conversations about the providers’ backgrounds, their professional associations, their workplace climates, and general experiences with trans patients.

shuster found that providers use two strategies to negotiate EBM guidelines when it comes to treating trans patients: following them to the letter or interpreting them as flexible strategies they use in other cases of medical uncertainty. More senior providers draw on their experience in the field when faced with uncertainty, while newer providers more often consulted the evidence-based medical guidelines to inform their decisions. However, for cases with trans patients, few providers had much prior experience, and turned to the EBM guidelines. shuster described how close followers of the guidelines act as medical gatekeepers; particularly for patients who want to physically transition via hormones and surgery, care providers try to contain uncertainty surrounding gender, identity, and health by insisting on following long bureaucratic processes for obtaining these expensive, difficult to reverse interventions. On the other hand, some providers interpret the EBM guidelines more as suggestions than law, and embrace the uncertainty of how to tailor their care for specific patients’ needs. 

Photo by Johnny Silvercloud, Flickr CC

Due to the increased scrutiny of racial bias among the police, the stop and frisk policies of the NYPD continued to fall out of favor in 2016.  Despite concerns of racial bias in police forces around the country, very little is known about the ways that inflammatory events may influence racial bias in policing — we tend to know more about where discrimination in policing takes place than what may influence when it occurs. To address this issue, Joscha Legewie explores how local acts of violence against law enforcement influence discriminatory use of force by the police after the fact.

Using data from 3.9 million police stops of pedestrians in New York City between 2006 and 2012, Legewie compared the effects of four significant incidents involving the death of police officers on the subsequent use of force by law enforcement. Of these four incidents, two NYPD officers were fatally shot by black suspects in two separate events in 2007 and 2011, while three officers were killed in two separate incidents by a Hispanic and a white suspect. 

The findings reveal a race-specific pattern. The two shootings by black suspects resulted in an increased use of physical force against blacks, but the two shootings involving a white and Hispanic suspect did not result in a similar increase in force against any group. However, this increase in the use of force lasted 10 days after the event in 2011, where it only lasted 3.5 days following the event in 2007. This pattern of racial discrimination remains even when accounting for the time, location, and the circumstances of the stop, as well as the characteristics and behavior of the stopped individual. Whether this discriminatory response in the use of force is the result of implicit racial stereotypes or an explicit retaliation by law enforcement remains to be uncovered (and it may very well be a combination of both). Regardless, this study shows how violence against police triggers race-specific reactions.  

Photo by Esther Max, Flickr CC

While male-dominated jobs are some of the fastest shrinking in the U.S., and female-dominated jobs are some of the fastest growing, many men choose not to enter fields they view as “women’s work” — occupations like home healthcare worker or nurse practitioner. But it is not all men who stay away from female-dominated occupations. You guessed it — it’s white men. Recent research by Jill Yavorsky, Philip Cohen, and Yue Qian shows that racial minority men are more likely than white men to work in female-dominated jobs.

The researchers use 2010-2012 American Community Survey data on working men ages 25 to 54 to statistically analyze the effects of race on the gender composition of jobs. The find that all groups of racial minority men are more likely than white men to work in female-dominated jobs, and this finding remains constant even when considering differences in men’s education levels, with the exception of Asian men with advanced degrees. Notably, black men and white men represent the greatest disparity — black men have the highest probability of working in a female-dominated job, while white men have the lowest probability of doing so. 

While this study can only tell us what is happening — that more minority men work in female-dominated jobs than white men — the “why” remains an open question. For one, this could be a tale of discrimination; minority men may be kept out of male-dominated fields and forced to choose female-dominated occupations. On the other hand, men of color may defy societal norms and place more value on so-called “women’s work,” like caring activities, than white men. Regardless, these findings highlight the important intersection of race and gender in the workplace. 

Photo by Agustín Ruiz, Flickr CC

Researchers and policymakers are divided over which approach to use in order to effectively change corporate behaviors so they uphold laws. Some believe that punishment will deter organizations from violating rules, while others believe that financial incentives and self-monitoring are more effective. These issues are particularly important when creating policies to reduce pollution and increase energy efficiency. Should the government enforce standards and punish violators or should companies monitor their own behaviors and be encouraged through incentives?

Paul B. Stretesky and colleagues assess whether criminal prosecution or self-monitoring lead to greater reductions in industrial pollution. They use EPA data on regulated toxic chemical releases from the late 1980s, as well as corporate self-policing reports and cases filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office about natural resource and pollution crimes, to trace changes in pollution levels and policy actions.

The authors find that both legal actions and self-monitoring are associated with declines in the release of toxic chemicals, although there was a larger impact from criminal punishment. However, when the authors accounted for broader economic conditions — measured by GDP and total number of industrial facilities — neither type of policy had an impact on the amount of pollution. The economy itself, particularly the rate of growth, was the largest factor in how much a company pollutes — as GDP increased, so did the amount of toxics.

The authors argue that new policies are needed that get companies to redesign production so it is cleaner and more efficient, rather than just limiting the emission of particular chemicals. The findings suggest that environmental regulations alone will not reduce public health and environmental hazards from chemical pollution; instead, policymakers need to be thinking about addressing broader economic growth and overhauling production methods to make them greener.