Photo by Stewart Butterfield, Flickr CC

Women have made many strides towards equality in the workplace. Yet, studies continue to show that women are frequently paid less than men, women are expected to perform more secretarial tasks, and women are less likely to be promoted to higher-level occupations within organizations. And academia is no exception — while attaining tenure and promotion is the key to a long academic career, universities are less likely to grant it to women. A recent study by Katherine Weisshaar explores why female academics have a harder time achieving tenure promotion than their male peers.

The author developed a unique longitudinal dataset that includes department information and characteristics (e.g. prestige ranking, gender composition) from the National Research Council (NRC), Google Scholar citations, personal websites, and CVs. From 2000 to 2004, Weishaar documented the names of former assistant professors in 330 departments within sociology, computer science, and English. She examines three possible explanations for the 7 percent gender difference between male and female assistant professors in sociology departments: scholarly productivity (i.e. publications, awards, research grants), organizational differences (i.e. gender composition, prestige, public or private) and inequality in evaluations (i.e. gender bias, differences in recommendations).

The results indicate that women are less likely to receive tenure than their male peers across all three disciplines, though sociology and English maintain the greatest gender inequities in tenure. When women do secure tenure, the process takes longer than for male academics. Female assistant professors in sociology were less likely to publish in the discipline’s most prestigious journals (e.g. Social Forces, American Sociological Review, and American Journal of Sociology), obtained lower numbers of citations for their publications, and secured promotions in less prestigious departments. 

Overall, productivity differences accounted for approximately 34 percent of the gender gap, while time differences accounted for approximately 20 percent of the gender gap. The largest contributing factor to the gender gap (roughly 40 to 45 percent), however, lies within the assistant professor evaluation process that includes subtle biases and discrimination against women. Thus, increases in women’s individual productivity in the workplace will not likely lead to equal representation in higher occupational positions. Employers must also evaluate the ways in which gender discrimination both explicitly and implicitly hinder women’s promotion opportunities, despite equal rates of productivity.

Photo by DieselDemon, Flickr CC

In the age of Spotify, Netflix, and hipsters drinking PBR, it has become cool to consume a little bit of everything. If we’re used to the upper class consuming high-end culture like fine wine and classical music, though, why would elites start making a big deal about lowbrow culture? New research by Oliver Hahl, Ezra Zuckerman, and Minjae Kim finds that people who feel they have high status, but also feel like that status may not be authentic, will reach for “more authentic” lowbrow culture.

The authors used two main experimental studies. In the first, 123 undergraduate students watched competitors in a game who shared their “personality type.” In reality, participants were randomly assigned to the winning or the losing player in order to prime their sense of high or low social status. Some high status participants were told the game was public to promote insecurity, so they would feel their membership in the status group could be questioned. Other high status participants were told the game was private, to make their status feel more secure.

Later in the same study, participants were presented with two paintings and a biography for each painting’s artist: one artist who became famous through self-promotion more than skill, and another who was not well known but was instead “discovered” for his skilled work. Respondents who were members of the winning group in the early game, and insecure about the win, were much more likely to pick the low-status “authentic” artist who had was more skilled, while respondents in the secure winning group were much more likely to pick the high status artist. 

The second experiment presented a similar scenario, but had 181 participants watch the winners and losers of the game and see which paintings those simulated players selected later on. Like the first study, this one used public competition to raise questions about the authenticity of the winners and “denigrate” their social status. Respondents who saw potentially inauthentic winners pick the low-status “authentic” artist were much less likely to evaluate those winners negatively later on.

While other sociological research shows that members of elite groups use cultural tastes to signal their membership in the upper class, this work shows how we also publicly present our “tastes” in certain ways to compensate when we feel socially insecure.

Photo by Olgierd Rudak, Flickr CC

In a new study investigating bicycle commuting across the U.S., Derek Burk poses a sort of “chicken or egg” question: does the presence of bike paths and bike lanes encourage more bicycling, or does increased rates bicycling encourage the creation of more bike paths? In other words, which comes first — infrastructure or practice?

Burk proposes two perspectives that might explain the relationship between bikeways (paths and lanes) and bicycle commuting — the demand-driven perspective and the political perspective. From the demand-driven perspective, the argument is that increased bicycling leads to more bicycling infrastructure, like bike paths. The political perspective asserts the opposite — the creation of bike paths and lanes is what induces bicycling. To test which perspective is more accurate, Burk uses longitudinal data on bicycle-commuting in 62 U.S. cities from 2000 to 2014, combined with longitudinal data on the number of bikeways in each city, to determine the relationship between bicycling infrastructure and practice.

The results offer support for both perspectives, but with one important caveat — local environmentalism. Burk finds that more bikeways leads to more bicycling, and that more bicycling can lead to the creation of more bikeways, but both effects depend on the number of environmental organizations within a city. He finds that in the most biked cities, including Portland, OR, Minneapolis, MN, and San Francisco, CA, there are a high number of environmental organizations that fight for the creation of bikeways and promote bicycling as a positive lifestyle choice. In the least biked cities, like El Paso, TX, Omaha, NE, and Oklahoma City, OK, the effect of increased bicycle-commuting on bikeway construction is negligible because there are few environmental organizations to support bicycle commuters. In short, the relationship between infrastructure and practice is always influenced by political processes.

A memorial to the Little Rock Nine remembering the nine teenagers who stood up to an angry crowd protesting integration in front of Little Rock’s Central High in 1957. Photo by Steve Snodgrass, Flickr CC

Brown v. Board of Education ushered in a new era of legal action in school districts to promote racial integration in the 1960s and 1970s. Since the 1990s, however, desegregation efforts in schools have begun to stall, and some research suggests that white flight and poor economic conditions have actually worsened racial segregation in school districts. To address these issues, John Logan, Weiwei Zhang, and Deirdre Oakley explore school desegregation trends in metropolitan areas from 1970 to 2010.   

The study draws from an index of 358 court cases from the American Communities Project and data on the racial composition of schools compiled from multiple sources. Logan and colleagues use multilevel modeling techniques to examine segregation within districts, the effects of court mandates on this trend, and the effect of mandates on white flight at the district level. 

They find that most desegregation at the metropolitan level occurred between 1970 and 1980, with little change after 1990, particularly in the South. At the district level, white and black students attend districts with larger shares of minorities, suggesting that both white and black students are becoming less isolated at school from other minority groups like Asian and Latino students. The findings indicated that legal mandates have had a substantial impact on both desegregation and changes in white enrollment within districts — districts that faced an initial desegregation mandate in the 1970s reduced segregation in their schools more than districts with no mandate. Desegregation mandates, however, also resulted in white flight between districts, slightly diminishing desegregation gains within districts. 

Together, these findings suggest that the unprecedented desegregation gains made in the formative years following Board v. Brown may have been superseded by a “post-desegregation status quo” due to white flight. Thus, despite an abundance of court litigation in metropolitan areas, desegregation within schools has essentially reached a stalemate.

Graduation ceremony at Smith College. Photo by cogito ergo imago, Flickr CC

The emergence of women’s colleges in the U.S. was an important historical challenge to ideas about women’s intellectual inferiority to men. While the number of women’s colleges has declined significantly in the last half century, in 2014 there were still approximately 50 women’s colleges in operation. Recently, with the increased visibility of transgender identities, women’s colleges face a dilemma: How do they determine who counts as a woman?

Researchers Megan Nanney and David Brunsma investigated how women’s colleges determine students’ genders through an analysis of student newspapers and nine trans admittance policies at women’s colleges in the U.S. Through their analysis, they demonstrate how women’s colleges are not only structured by gender, they play an active role in actually constructing gender. 

Within the student newspapers examined, the debate between inclusion and tradition was apparent. Actors within the colleges balanced the need to stay true to their values and missions related to creating a “community of women,” while also recognizing gender as a social construct and wanting to be inclusive of non-normative gender identities. The analysis of admittance policies revealed a wide range of criteria for determining a student’s gender based on biological sex, legal documentation, and identity. For instance, a student who was assigned female sex at birth but now identifies as genderqueer was included at some colleges, but excluded from others.

So, while all of the colleges were actively constructing what it means to be a woman, definitions did not always align between the schools. This misalignment highlights that womanhood itself is constructed, and the ways the category of “woman” is applied is, according to the researchers, “neither static nor natural.” 

Photo by Tim Pierce, Flickr CC

The concept of “colorblind racism” was first popularized by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva in his groundbreaking book Racism with Racists. He explains how people in the 21st century are quick to say they do not see race, or that we live in a post-racial society, in order to demonstrate that they themselves are not racist. While this might not seem like a bad thing at first glance, colorblind ideas often underplay the continued existence of racism and racial inequality. This often results in blaming racial minorities rather than thinking about how systems and institutions perpetuate racial and economic inequality. 

Most research on the concept of colorblind racism has focused on conservatives and/or Republicans, but Meghan Burke tackles the bipartisan nature of colorblindness by focusing on “racial codes,” which are the colorblind ways in which Americans talk about racial issues without ever really discussing race. As Burke states, “racial codes allow these deeply racialized social issues to be discussed in seemingly race-neutral terms, thereby preserving colorblindness as an important moral stance” (291). In interviews with two groups — residents of a diverse, liberal neighborhood and members of a Tea Party organization in the Chicago area — Burke shows readers that both liberals and conservatives use colorblind language. In both groups, people are quick to say that racism is bad, that racism is over, and that they’re not racist, in order to construct an identity of a good, moral person.

One of the problems with this moral stance, according to Burke, is that it does not address the existence of racial inequality — if anything, colorblind ideologies work to ignore or hide such inequality. Burke found that both liberal and conservative participants talked about welfare, public housing, and street “hooligans” in ways which seemingly ignore race but do more than hint at the idea that local African-Americans are the problem. Burke’s research forces social scientists to reconsider previous understandings of race and racism in politics, drawing attention to how people across the political spectrum avoid discussing race, downplay the existence of racism, and see inequality as a result of individual issues.

Moving can be difficult for adolescents, as they often worry about how they will fit in with new peers, adjust to a new school environment, and maintain stress levels. Yet residential mobility among youth may lead to another concerning outcome: juvenile delinquency. While prior research finds that moving can disrupt former social networks, allowing adolescents to form new bonds with possibly delinquent peers, little evidence illustrates a significant effect between a single move and delinquency. In a new study, Matt Vogel, Lauren Porter and Timothy McCuddy examine whether the number and type of moves an adolescent experiences affects their delinquency after the move.

The researchers use responses from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health and the National Longitudinal Study of Youth surveys to predict self-reported delinquency. Unique to previous research on youth mobility, these surveys provide adolescents’ residential locations at each interview wave. This allowed the researchers to compare frequency of relocation, neighborhood quality, and moving distance between neighborhoods. Youth self-reported acts of delinquency included engagement in selling drugs, robbery, burglary, major and minor theft, physical altercation, and damage to property.

Vogel and colleagues find that youth who experienced a single residential move were not more likely to report delinquent behavior. Yet, the more adolescents moved — particularly those that moved year to year — the more likely they were to engage in delinquent behavior. Adolescents who reported multiple moves, but did not report prior delinquency, were even more likely to engage in delinquency following relocation. The type of move was also important — if an adolescent moved from a more to a less disadvantaged neighborhood, they actually increased reports of delinquency. And adolescents that relocated to a different county were less likely to engage in delinquent behavior. Moving distance was especially significant for adolescents who reported prior delinquency. Thus, this research reveals a more nuanced understanding of how moving affects adolescents. The number and type of moves that youths experience can draw them into negative behaviors and delinquency, but moving can also provide potential benefits for youth with prior behavioral problems.

Photo by Master Steve Rapport, Flickr CC

The recent increase in hate crimes and normalization of public anti-immigrant attitudes have contributed to undocumented immigrants fearing family separation and deportation. For the roughly 2.5 million undocumented children and adults living in the U.S., socioeconomic resources like physical and mental healthcare services, employment, and education are limited. Under these conditions, “ontological security” – or the degree to which one feels secure within their social environment – becomes vital. A new study by Elizabeth Vaquera, Elizabeth Aranda, Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez provides new insight into the ways in which young undocumented adults develop a sense of security and attempt to cope with their precarious legal status.

The authors interviewed 53 undocumented and formerly undocumented young adults residing in Florida that were recruited through immigration advocacy organizations. Participants’ ages ranged from 18 to 33 and at least half migrated from Mexico. Interviews addressed several topics related to emotional and psychological well-being, including background immigration stories, family life, educational history, and racial/ethnic identity.

The researchers find that undocumented young adults experience a variety of emotions related to their status. For example, many participants reported low self-esteem. Other participants reported feeling frustrated that their status limited access to a number of colleges and jobs for which they could participate. Additional feelings included isolation, fear, anxiety and insecurity. One person described the constant fear of public officials who could potentially remove them or members of their family, saying, “Growing up it was any person that looked official. You just stay away from them … mall security guards, anyone that looked official. They terrified me!” For some, retaining Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) provided some temporary relief, though many still struggled with sadness and depression.

To cope with these feelings, the interviewees were found to engage in both positive and negative coping strategies. Positive coping mechanisms included engaging in charity work, confiding in close family and friends, playing sports, and listening to music. Others reported feeling little hope in improved circumstances and turned to more disruptive behaviors. These participants resorted to things like drinking, smoking, harming themselves, displaying anger, and pondering suicidal thoughts. Yet despite these feelings, the authors note that networking with peers of similar legal statuses helps create strong peer networks and may help empower young undocumented adults to develop positive coping strategies and solutions. As we move forward in the current political climate, pro-immigrant advocacy organizations will be an important piece to supporting undocumented individuals and families.

Photo by Wyatt Fisher, Flickr CC

New career opportunities can be exciting for young couples. Yet, when career opportunities involve moving to a new location, couples must negotiate if and how the move will take place. In heterosexual relationships, research finds that the stress of relocation more often falls on female partners, and women often decide to relocate for their male partner’s career. In line with these cultural trends, a new study by Jaclyn S. Wong examines how young heterosexual couples negotiate relocation for career opportunities, despite growing acceptance of gender equality in the United States.

Wong conducted 118 interviews with 21 heterosexual couples, between the ages of 22 and 35, who were considering relocation for career opportunities for one or both partners.  All couples had similar earning potential and were in their final year of graduate and professional school from universities in the Chicago metropolitan area. Wong observed couples follow three main trajectories when negotiating relocation. In the first trajectory, couples, particularly men, took steps to maintain desirable career outcomes for both individuals. They often formed future plans for relocation and altered their job search in order to help meet each partner’s career goals. Most couples in this pathway successfully found employment in their respective field after relocation.

In the second trajectory, one member of a couple, typically the woman, changed their initial career desires to meet the career opportunities of their partner. They often re-framed their career goals to justify prioritizing their partner’s career over their own. In the final pathway, one of the partners, men in particular, withdrew from the negotiating process and seceded all the bargaining power to their partner. Due to this bargaining power, however, women experienced more stress and emotional labor because they had to determine which career opportunities satisfied both partners in the relationship. In sum, Wong finds that despite recent gains towards gender equality at work and at home, many heterosexual couples continue to reproduce traditional gender roles in negotiating whose career to prioritize.

Photo by I for Detail., Flickr CC

African Americans have long endured criticism about their spending habits. Conservative campaigns in the 1980s and 90s used stereotypical images of “gold diggers” and “welfare queens” to convince white, middle-class Americans that low-income minorities not only drained government resources, but also spent those resources on frivolous items. Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz played to these sentiments recently when he said, “Americans have choices, and they’ve gotta make a choice. And so maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest in their own healthcare.” New research by Raphaël Charron-Chénier, Joshua Fink and Lisa Keister goes beyond such individual-level explanations to investigate the structural factors that contribute to racial disparities in consumption.

The authors use data from a nationally representative sample of over 9,500 households from the 2013 and 2014 Consumer Expenditure Surveys. These surveys measure total household purchases, including spending on food, entertainment, health care, housing, transportation and utilities. The authors then examined differences between black households and white households across low, middle, and high socioeconomic statuses. 

Charron-Chénier and colleagues show that the average total spending for black households was significantly less than for white households, with black households spending $8,387 and white households spending $13,713.  More specifically, blacks spent less on housing, transportation, healthcare, and entertainment. Low-income blacks in particular also spent less money on goods that required significant amounts of money up front than did low-income whites, though this difference diminished with income increases. Black households, however, did spend more than white households on goods that required long-term contracts, such as utilities, due to the threat of late fines and fees. So despite common criticisms about black consumer spending habits, this research shows that blacks actually spend far less than whites on “frivolous” items like new iPhones and they spend more on the long-term costs of maintaining a household.