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The notion of a pan-ethnic Asian American identity first emerged in the United States during the civil rights movement but has become increasingly tied into a monolithic narrative that lumps Asian ethnic groups together. Lost in this process is the diversity of history, culture, languages, and political views different Asian American ethnic groups have. New research by sociologists looking at survey data examines the differences between ethnic groups in their views towards affirmative action and how, depending on their understanding of the Supreme Court’s views toward affirmative action, their responses may change. 

Ji-won Lee and W. Carson Byrd conducted an experiment using data from the 2016 National Asian American Survey, a national survey of over 3,600 Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Filipino, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Hmong people throughout the US about their views on race-conscious college admissions. 

Around half of the participants gave their views on race-conscious college admissions; the rest received information about the 2016 SCOTUS ruling before they provided their opinions. The “split ballot” design was intended to assess the effect knowledge of the Supreme Court upholding affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Texas had on Asian Americans’ views towards affirmative action, and this brought out some important ethnic variations.

Lee and Byrd found that for the group without information about the SCOTUS ruling, attitudes towards race-conscious admissions varied widely depending on ethnicity. Over 50% of Koreans, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, and Cambodians were in favor or strongly in favor of race-conscious admissions followed closely by Japanese, Indian, and Pakistani respondents. Chinese, Vietnamese, and Hmong respondents were the least likely to be in favor of affirmative action and more likely to be opposed to it. In this sample, Asian Americans focused mostly on how they would benefit from affirmative action and the discrimination they face.  

In the sample where participants did have prior knowledge of the SCOTUS ruling, the researchers found that support for race-conscious admissions attitudes decreased. When they had prior knowledge of SCOTUS-affirming race-conscious admissions, Asian Americans’ attitudes centered around their ethnoracial identities and political support for immigrants, a group identity Asian Americans are more likely to take on. The framing of the SCOTUS rulings thus demonstrates the complex relationships between Asian Americans and other racial groups. Asian Americans who embrace the idea that their interests align closer with white people end up supporting or even opposing affirmative action by considering if they could be victims of such admissions policies. 

The author’s findings demonstrate the diversity in Asian American ethnic groups’ views towards affirmative action as well as the differences in how their views shift within the context of Asian American racialization in relation to other racial groups and the US legal system. Although there is a wide-held perception of Asian Americans being the same, different ethnic groups have different histories and experiences of their race and ethnicity within the US and its higher education system. By looking deeper into different groups, Lee and Byrd show how we see that different ethnic groups have different attitudes toward affirmative action. However, these findings can extend beyond affirmative action to dismantle the assumption that Asian Americans all hold the same interests, values, and cultures.

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Reproductive rights are considered a hot-button topic by many, but different groups can face different pressures in exercising these rights. Moreover, rights around fertility-affecting operations like the removal of one’s uterus (hysterectomies), are often left out of the discussion. To shed light on these issues, recent research examines how gender and race affect those seeking a hysterectomy, usually seen as the most extreme birth control option. 

Andréa Becker, a postdoctoral researcher and instructor at the University of California San Francisco conducted 100 in-depth interviews with a diverse set of individuals who have undergone or are considering a hysterectomy. These operations were sought in many cases to remedy painful reproductive conditions like endometriosis, uterine tumors, or for gender-affirming care. 

She discovered that while white cisgender (cis) women are routinely blocked from accessing desired hysterectomies, cis women of color are pressured into having hysterectomies by medical professionals they are relying on for responsive treatment. Even in cases where a woman of color desires to preserve her fertility, she may experience unwanted pressure to have her uterus removed instead of seeking other treatments for painful reproductive conditions. For example, here’s how a Black woman named Kat described her struggle to preserve her fertility despite the medical establishment’s pressure.

“Every time I had a physical exam, every time I had a vaginal exam, every time I had a pelvic exam every time, it was like “hysterectomy, hysterectomy, hysterectomy,” it was it was definitely pushed.”

Women who did not have or intend to have a male partner or desire kids also experienced differential treatment when seeking a hysterectomy. One lesbian woman even described how medical practitioners did not consider her wishes on the matter at all and were more concerned with the fertility wishes of a fictitious future husband.

Perhaps surprisingly, trans men and non-binary patients reported having a comparatively easy experience getting a premenopausal hysterectomy if they wanted one and were readily offered the procedure or even directed to it as it reinforced societal gender norms.

The study clearly shows a systematic disregard for women’s agency by the medical community, especially that of women of color. The pressure exerted by practitioners to sterilize women of color, even when it contradicts their wishes and goals, has links to a much longer history of medical abuse of such patients. These findings reinforce the need for medical institutions and practitioners to understand and address how racial prejudice and other forms of discrimination affect their treatment of patients.

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Gender segregation is a core feature of American prisons, with men and women separated out into separate facilities. So how do gender nonconforming prisoners fit into this system? 

In a study of California men’s prisons from 1941 to 2018, Joss Greene finds that the response to gender-nonconforming prisoners varied historically. As attitudes towards both punishment and gender changed over time, prison administrators shifted their approach to managing gender-nonconforming prisoners. 

1941-1954: Segregation

Beginning in the early 1940s, California promoted prisons as sites of rehabilitation. However, from 1941 to 1954, prison administrators viewed gender nonconformity as a contagion that threatened both the overall health of the prison and the prison’s rehabilitation efforts. Prisoners who were identified as “effeminate homosexuals” were segregated from the rest of the prison population, stigmatized, and excluded from educational and work opportunities.

1955-1981: Treatment

From 1955 to 1981, prison administrators approached gender-nonconforming prisoners as “medicalized subjects”, meaning that their homosexuality or gender expression was considered a psychiatric or medical condition. 

Gender-nonconforming prisoners were subjected to psychological studies and “treatment” (in the form of harsh medical experimentation) at a newly constructed California prison medical facility. However, many prisoners were able to use their new medical label as leverage to demand access to some gender-affirming care.

1982-1998: Risk Management

In the late 1970s, California’s “tough on crime” approach led to a historic rise in prison populations. To increase efficiency, prison administrators classified prisoners into four risk levels, based on their sentence, behavioral record, and other factors. Those classified as high-risk were subject to harsher punishment. Under this system, all “known homosexuals” were automatically classified as a Level 3 risk (the second-highest level). They were grouped in with individuals convicted of more serious crimes, faced increased restrictions within the prison, and were frequently targets of violence. Victims of violence often increased their risk score by defending themselves, as the system did not distinguish between the risk of harm to the prisoner and the risk of the prisoner harming others.

1999-2018: Legal Status

Finally, from 1999-2018, there were growing social movements opposing mass incarceration, and “transgender” became a recognized legal status. Prison administrators, seeking to avoid legal battles, created a “transgender” prisoner category and expanded their medical services, including gender-affirming hormone treatments.

Despite these legal advances, most transgender prisoners have been unable to access hormone treatments and still face widespread suffering in prisons. They remain a protected group in name, but not in reality.

Advancing Rights

Greene’s work highlights how institutions (and their underlying logic and resources) can shape how gender boundaries are defined, reproduced, and changed over time. In California prisons, views on crime and punishment, incarceration rates, prison resources, and anti-incarceration social movements all shifted gender boundaries within prisons. These historical shifts should provide hope for some trans rights advocates, who view changing prison policies as an opportunity to provide relief for transgender prisoners. That said, fully addressing the suffering of gender-nonconforming prisoners will require more fundamental changes to both societal gender boundaries and the nature of prisons themselves.

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Unionizing and strikes continue to maintain headlines, but labor unions and strikes have been intertwined with American industry for decades. That said, many of these historic strikes have been by unions representing traditionally male-dominated positions, whereas today women are increasingly taking on unionizing challenges. This changing gender balance was recently highlighted by Margarita Torre in her recent study.

Torre analyzed the General Social Survey data from 2002-2021 and found that supportive attitudes around labor unions have increased across the board. Younger women, women with less than a high school education level, and those in female-dominated occupations were even more favorable towards unions compared to other groups of women. 

There are good reasons for this. Historically, as Torre writes, women have “tended to work in a much narrower range of occupations than men and are overrepresented in low-paying, part-time, and temporary jobs with fewer opportunities for advancement.” Unions provide greater benefits (healthcare or retirement plans) and higher wages which can help reduce gender inequality in the workforce, especially in labor markets that offer a wider range of job opportunities and hours compared to previous decades. 

Race is also a big part of the story. About 11% of Black women in the U.S. are part of unions, higher than both White and Hispanic women. Women and people of color stand to benefit greatly from joining a union as particularly vulnerable groups. 

While only about 4% of 24-year-olds and younger express their intention of joining a union when entering the workforce, Torre explains that the favorability of unions among young women may increase as more women enter the workforce and begin to see the benefits of unionization.

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Self-help books have continued to gain popularity in recent decades, but there is mixed evidence of how these books are helpful for people, especially for those experiencing mental health challenges. To gain a better understanding of how individuals use these books, A.E. Gwynne did intensive interviews with people experiencing depression who regularly read such literature.

When asked why they turned to self-help books in the first place, interviewees typically described wanting a “quick fix” or “silver bullet”. Sarah is an example. She believed reading a self-help book on mental health would, “be like going to one of those churches where they put their hands on your head, and all of a sudden…a miracle!” 

Many interviewees described changing their expectations of these books as they read more. In particular, they described the quest for books that could teach them only one thing that could potentially aid them in their lives. They also realized that the books were only an aid and they needed to do the work of helping themselves. Aaron explained, “That’s what self-help means. It means help yourself. The book’s helping you, but you’re still doing the lifting.” Beyond personal improvement, respondents also valued how self-help books allowed them to understand that others are experiencing the same struggles as they were. 

While readers were generally enthusiastic about self-help books, some admitted that reading them sometimes caused them to experience shame, disappointment, fear, confusion, and anger. This less-than-positive effect was generally attributed to the fact that reading was sometimes hindered by the very symptoms they were experiencing. Monique explained, “When you’re depressed you don’t really feel like reading. I think coming out of it, that’s when you read.”

While self-help books can be helpful for some, this research highlights how reading them is often a mixed bag and rarely an instant fix. People seeking help strictly from self-help books may isolate themselves and prevent them from connecting with organizations, programs, and professionals with expertise in dealing with addressing the root issues of mental health.

Head football coach Leslie Frazier of the Minnesota Vikings from 2010-2013. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Racial disparities in hiring practices remain a constant issue in many workplaces. What’s more, these racialized biases are also influencing nonwhite employees’ likelihood of being promoted to leadership positions. This happens even in the National Football League, which has made a point of trying to facilitate the hiring of Black head coaches through the implementation of its famous “Rooney Rule.”

In 2003, the NFL adopted one of the most recognized diversity policies in the U.S., the Rooney Rule. Named after Dan Rooney, former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Rooney Rule requires that at least one person of color be interviewed for all open head coaching positions in the league. Ironically, Pittsburgh is one of the only places where the rule seems to have worked. Before the 2022 Super Bowl, two of the three Black NFL head coaches were fired, only leaving Mike Tomlin, the head coach of the Steelers since 2007. Although Tomlin is only one season short of being the NFL’s longest-tenured Black head coach, racial disparities in the NFL’s hiring practices still exist. 

In their article “Racial Disparity in Leadership: Evidence of Valuative Bias in the Promotions of National Football League Coaches”, Christopher I. Rider and colleagues explore how racial disparities in leadership roles persist despite this policy. They provide an NFL context by using career history data for over 1,300 coaching staff of the NFL between 1985 and 2015 to investigate how, even when employees of color and white employees hold the same lower-ranked position and perform at equal rates, employees of color are less likely to progress toward a leadership role than their white counterparts (also known as valuative bias). They then analyze if the Rooney Rule was effective at reducing valuative bias in promoting lower-level coaches of color to leadership roles. 

It remains puzzling that the NFL is made up of primarily Black football players yet white men hold the majority of leadership roles. This reason alone provides the researchers with an informative context for exploring racial disparities in leadership attainment. Additionally, it is easy to measure a coach’s performance by simply looking at the percentage of a team’s wins and the performance of the offense/defense that corresponds with the coach’s primary responsibility. Finally, as demonstrated in the chart below, the NFL coaching staff is great for analyzing promotions to leadership roles because there is a clear ranking among coaching positions.

The researchers found that between 1985 and 2015, the Rooney Rule did increase the representation of head coaches of color right after it was implemented. However, when they include all variations of promotions across all coaching positions, they find a significant difference in the average promotion rate for coaches of color (4.5%) and white coaches (7.6%). They also find that when the lowest-level coaches are restricted (assistant position coaches), white coaches are 2.4 times more likely than coaches of color to be promoted. Although they find that white coaches are no more likely to be promoted to head coach than coaches of color in the same position, they find that nearly 80% of promotions to head coach are from coordinator positions. This means that even when a coach of color and a white coach played the same position in college, began their coaching career at the same level, and are currently coaching the same position, white coaches are nearly twice as likely to be promoted to coordinator positions than coaches of color, suggesting that Black coaches who are initially hired into lower-level coaching positions have a much lower chance in career advancement opportunities than their white counterparts.

Although the Rooney Rule increased the representation of coaches of color in all NFL coaching positions, racial disparities in career advancement opportunities across all levels persist in the NFL–especially in lower-level positions, where they are not subject to the Rooney Rule. In other words, valuative bias in promoting coaches of color persists despite the NFL’s high-profile attempt to close the racial gap in leadership positions. By using NFL hiring practices as a case study, the researchers show that organizations must address unequal promoting practices from lower-level positions to close racial disparities in leadership positions.

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Collaboration is the key to spurring creativity…or is it? Research suggests that women are often undervalued on creative project teams, receiving harsher evaluations and fewer opportunities to participate. However, as new technologies allow for asynchronous work (with team members working independently at different times, and in different spaces), the structure of creative teams is changing.  

Aruna Ranganathana and Aayan Dasa studied how asynchronous teamwork affects performance for Baul sangeet folk-music ensembles in eastern India. Most ensembles have several instrumentalists – who are typically men – and a single singer. The ensembles collaborate to decide what music to play and how to shape each song musically. Because each ensemble member plays a unique part, the music can be recorded either synchronously (with all ensemble members performing live together) or asynchronously (with each musician recording their part independently). The researchers interviewed musicians and observed recording sessions. They also conducted an experiment in which Baul singers recorded the same song both synchronously and asynchronously. Their performance was then assessed by musical experts on singer performance, vocal tone, vocal range, and overall group cohesion. 

From the interviews and observations, the researchers found that men and women experienced the synchronous recording environment differently. The men enjoyed the synchronous recording and thought that the group brought out their best creative work. They enjoyed creative discussions with other musicians, valued the feedback they received, and felt motivated. “People were encouraging me throughout, which further boosted my confidence; it felt like they were guiding me. I also got respect from all the people here. I also had a great experience interacting with the music producers; they were all very good,” a male musician described. 

Although some women also preferred synchronous recording and felt they performed best in a group environment, others preferred recording asynchronously. These women described receiving unnecessarily critical feedback or a lack of support and respect from the male musicians in synchronous recording. Some said they couldn’t express creative ideas or concerns. 

“The person who was playing the flute was trying to establish himself as a big shot and was constantly boasting about himself,” said one female singer. “He was trying to hint that I was not singing properly at certain points. . . . When I pointed out his mistake, and he was offended by it, no one else supported me even though they knew what I was saying was correct…I felt really bad today.”

Working asynchronously, in contrast, many women felt that their performance improved and that they could express themselves better. One woman described: “Whatever I had within me related to that song, I was able to provide all of it.” 

The experimental study appeared to bear this out, as the asynchronous environment improved ratings of women’s performance by nearly 30%. Even the women who preferred working synchronously received better performance ratings in an asynchronous environment.

While we don’t know whether asynchronous options have similar effects for other types of work, this study suggests that changes to the structure of work in creative teams can reduce gender disparities in performance and allow women to fully realize their creative potential. 

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Immigration law is commonly assumed to be enforced by federal agencies such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, in recent years state, county, and municipal police and courts have become integral to the process of identifying, holding, and punishing immigrants. From the moment a person is booked, local police become aware of their citizenship status and this information can be immediately forwarded to federal authorities. 

To gain insight into these local-federal law enforcement relationships, Michael T. Light and colleagues looked at data on felony convictions from every local jurisdiction in Texas and California. These states have the largest and fastest-growing immigrant populations in the US but differ greatly in how they treat immigrants in the justice system. Texas has given immigration authority to the local police and has increased cooperation with ICE. California, in contrast, has become a self-proclaimed “sanctuary” for immigrants by distancing themselves from ICE and preventing local authorities from holding people for immigration violations alone. Looking at data from both states allowed the researchers to compare these differing approaches.

In both states, the researchers found that immigrants were convicted and incarcerated at a much higher rate than comparable US citizens arrested for the same crimes with similar criminal histories. In Texas, however, they found that immigrants were almost 10% more likely than citizens to be incarcerated, whereas the immigrant-citizen gap was only 2% in California. This is largely due to Texas’ strict policies that encourage local law enforcement to work with federal law enforcement

In some ways, this “punishment gap” between citizens and immigrants parallels the disparities between white and non-white defendants. The authors therefore suggest that future discussions of disproportionate criminalization may center around citizen status as well as race. 

This research shows what can happen when local police become the gatekeepers of both the criminal justice system and the immigration system. Based on the differing outcomes in Texas and California, it appears that deepening connections between local and federal criminal justice systems may result in harsher punishment for immigrants. 

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Racism is found everywhere in America – from neighborhoods to the criminal justice system, and even in classrooms, where Black boys are more than three times as likely to be suspended or expelled from school than White boys are. In a recent article, Dr. Jayanti Owens looked into one possible explanation for this disparity: differences in how Black, White, and Latino public school teachers assign blame to their male students for minor classroom misbehaviors.

Dr. Owens conducted her study on 1,339 teachers who were nationally representative of racial and gender demographics from 295 schools across the United States. To test the impact of teacher blaming bias, Dr. Owens and professional videographers worked with 11 high school-aged, undercover actors (four Black boys, four Latino boys, and three White boys) to film short clips of an actor from each racial group either throwing paper, texting during class, or slamming the door in the classroom. Owens then asked the teachers to evaluate and describe the behaviors of the students in a textbox after viewing one of the nine possible videos (three misbehaviors and three racial groups, creating nine unique vignettes).

Owens found that, on average, White teachers were more likely to assign blame to Black students than White students for identical classroom misbehaviors. However, these assignments varied by the race of the teachers. When White teachers were asked to describe the behaviors of the Black students in the video clips, they tended to use language that assigned blame to the personality of the student, rather than the potential factors outside the student’s control. In contrast, Black teachers assigned blame equally across all student races, while Latinx teachers assigned significantly more blame to Black students than White and Latino students.

Owens suggests that the higher attribution of blame by teachers of color to Black and Latino students could be a result of what she terms ‘tough love,’ where Black and Latinx teachers hold their students of color to higher behavioral standards to “prepare [their] minority students for the realities of racism.”  

Looking beyond the classroom, Owens emphasizes that these different standards for attributing blame can have real and long-term effects on students. The more blameworthy that teachers see their students, the greater the chance that students will be disciplined by the school. Students who are suspended or expelled from school have a higher likelihood of dropping out, which studies show leads to higher rates of incarceration and other lifelong disadvantages. 

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Are you looking for love? Above the age of 60? Well, you’re in luck. With the advent of online dating, older singles are beginning to reenter the dating world. Social science research has mainly focused on the online dating experiences of twenty-somethings, but new research from Lauren Harris explored the dating preferences and patterns of older adults.

Harris interviewed 50 men and 50 women, ages 60-85, through four online dating sites. Three of the sites were for the general public and one was specifically targeted towards older adults. Harris asked participants questions about their motivation and interests in online dating such as: “What are you looking for in a romantic partner?,” “Do you have any deal breakers?,” and “What do you notice when looking through someone’s online dating profile?”

Harris discovered that family caregiving responsibilities played an important role in how older singles viewed potential matches. Oftentimes, older adults will still provide care for their adult children or grandchildren. Harris found that these caring responsibilities actually changed the desirability of singles online in gendered ways. 

Women with family care obligations were seen as less desirable. For example, one of the men interviewed explained his irritation with this dynamic saying, “Why are you teasing me and wasting my time when you have the responsibilities? …It just gets frustrating. Do you want a relationship or do you not? So if you’re always taking care of your grandkids, why are you on a dating site when you don’t have time to get into a relationship?”

In contrast, men who had similar care responsibilities were seen as more desirable to women. As one woman explained in her interview, “A lot of times they’ll say something about how they love their children and their families and spend a lot of free time with their family. I like that. I like a family man.” At the same time, however, if men appeared to be in poor health or have young children of their own their desirability decreased. Women tended to shy away from men which might add to their care work responsibilities. As one woman described,  “What they’re looking for is women to take care of them… Or they’re having health problems. Maybe the wives [were] taking care of them in life or whatever…I’m not your nurse.”

Harris highlighted the gendered role family care responsibilities play in selecting potential love interests at an older age. Many older adults have care responsibilities and are subsequently experiencing unequal gendered impacts on their dating life. Because romantic relationships can be a major source of support and improve overall well-being, the influence of gender inequality on the dating experiences of older adults is important to consider. Technology has allowed more older adults to re-enter the dating world, but it has also highlighted the persistent caregiving double standard.