Image: Children, soldiers, and women engage in the Nazi salute. Image via James Vaughan, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. The legacy of Nazi perpetrators echoes through generations.

When learning about the role that their community members and/or loved ones played during the Holocaust, descendants of Nazi perpetrators can experience a wide range of emotions: shame, anger, sadness. These emotions stem from the trauma and stigma that many Germans experience as a result of grappling with the ongoing, historic aftermath of the Nazi holocaust.  In a recent article, Joachim Savelsberg explores the relationships between cultural trauma and stigma to better understand how Germans manage these emotions.

Savelsberg analyzes family histories written by the descendants of Nazi perpetrators and one victim. He asks: How do the children and grandchildren of Nazi perpetrators make sense of their family’s history and their own existence? For example, he explores how family members grapple with learning that their family members was a Nazi perpetrator and having to consider their role in the Holocaust. Within the pages of these family histories, Savelsberg identifies three ways in which the descendants of genocide perpetrators manage the stigmatized knowledge that their loved ones took part in the Holocaust.

Many authors attempted to silence the past. For example, one author describes a curtain used to cover the lower shelves of his grandfather’s library. It was only after the grandfather’s death that the curtain was pulled back to reveal Nazi propaganda. Denial was also a second typical response. Perpetrator’s family members struggled to search for and acknowledge their family histories while also preserving their family member’s integrity. Interestingly, even after revealing the shelves of Nazi propaganda, such family members sometimes felt the need to express the belief that their grandfather was a good man. Lastly, Savelsberg discusses acknowledgment and confessions, as the authors and family members of perpetrators confessed their own guilt about not asking about their elder’s troubling past.

Through these stigma management strategies, the family members of perpetrators try to reconcile the painful reality that their family members were involved in perpetrating genocide. These findings show that even decades after mass violence, cultural trauma is prevalent among the descendants of perpetrators. The children and grandchildren of Nazi perpetrators struggle to manage the stigma of being related to a genocide perpetrator while also trying to maintain family loyalty and emotional ties. These findings point to the importance of understanding that those who commit mass violence are not monsters, but rather, they are someone’s loved one. 

Picture of a home with a white picket fence via Needpix.

The spring real estate market is right around the corner, and the annual frenzy of home buying and selling will begin again. For many parents, the residential search means finding a house in a neighborhood and school district with desired characteristics. But new research shows that not all families have the luxury of taking these factors into account. 

To better understand how people choose a home, Hope Harvey, Kelley Fong, Kathryn Edin, and Stefanie DeLuca interviewed 156 parents with young children in metro areas in Ohio and Texas. They interviewed about two-thirds of the parents again one year later, and also accompanied about two dozen residents who moved between interviews on their search for a new home. 

Regardless of their financial resources, parents of all racial and ethnic backgrounds expressed similar desires for high-quality homes in safe neighborhoods with strong schools where they could live for many years. However, parents thought about the goals of their searches differently depending on their income level. Higher-income parents’ searches were geared toward finding “forever homes,” and these parents attempted to come as close as possible to achieving their long-term preferences. In contrast, nearly all of the lower-income parents in the study were seeking to rent rather than buy. Because circumstances like eviction often pushed them to relocate, these parents tended to look for a new rental unit that would meet their immediate needs. Thinking of these rented homes as “temporary stops,” lower-income parents deferred their plans to search for homes that better matched their preferences until they were ready to buy a home. 

Understanding why lower-income parents may be willing to settle for houses that don’t match their long-term preferences is key to reducing a number of social inequalities, like disparities in school and neighborhood quality across income groups. This study shows that parents who decide to relocate before they can afford to purchase a home often turn to rental units that are better than their previous residences, while falling far short of their ideals. As a result, solutions that provide families more time to evaluate their options–like giving evicted residents longer to move–could help lower-income families forced to move on a tight timeline. 

Image: A woman helps a young child wash their hands in the kitchen sink. Image via John Samuel, CCY BY-NC 2.0.

With covid-19 cases exploding around the country and widespread vaccination still months away, people have to make tough decisions about how to stay both safe and sane. Anyone walking down a grocery store aisle or scrolling through social media can observe  group differences in behaviors like mask-wearing and distancing . In their new article, Janani Umamaheswar and Catherine Tan find that men and women actually perceive the risks of contracting covid-19 similarly, but they respond to these risks differently because of differences in care responsibilities.

The authors conducted three waves of interviews among a diverse group of 45 college students between April and July 2020. They found that men and women in similar situations assessed their overall risk of contracting covid-19 similarly. For instance, men and women understood the risk of activities, such as working outside the home, and the influence of pre-existing medical conditions in similar ways. Overall, however, the men downplayed the risk of covid-19, suggesting that precautions such as wearing a mask were “annoying” and that the risk of covid-19 had been exaggerated. The women in the study expressed much higher levels of anxiety and concern, with one woman describing working outside the home as “terrifying.”

Umamheswar and Tan argue that men are less concerned about covid-19 because they have fewer care responsibilities. Women, in contrast, emphasized that they felt responsible for managing the risk for both themselves and others. For example, women asked their fathers to stay home from jobs and did the grocery shopping to prevent family members from being exposed. Although most of the men in the sample downplayed the risk of covid-19, those who had significant care responsibilities expressed similar levels of worry as the women in the sample. 

These findings suggest that assessments of risk and risk management are tied to unequal care responsibilities that are made worse  by the current pandemic rather than expectations about how different genders should express their emotions. This study finds  that women are more often left responsible for worrying about the health of their significant others. This unequal psychological burden of care is thus an important consideration for  both families and policy makers grappling with the consequences of the covid-19 pandemic for gendered inequality

Image: An Asian cashier bags the goods of a White mom at a Walmart checkout counter, her young daughters stand nearby. Image courtesy of Walmart corporate, CC BY 2.0.

The coronavirus pandemic has heightened the long-standing inequalities service sector employees face as they grapple with dangerous and potentially deadly working conditions. Yet new research shows that these inequalities have deep structural and interpersonal causes, which disproportionately impact workers of color and stand to endure beyond the current public health crisis. 

Using survey data from The Shift Project, sociologists Adam Storer, Daniel Schneider, and Kristen Harknett suggest racial and ethnic discrimination within and across service-sector firms shapes working conditions. The survey asked participants about scheduling practices, the amount of time off received, and various other human capital measures such as education and job tenure. Unlike other datasets on job quality, these data include matching responses from both hourly workers and their supervisors in more than 100 retail and food service firms. The big takeaway: the authors find non-white workers experience greater exposure to unpredictable and inflexible working conditions.

The data reveal that non-white workers are concentrated in positions with low job quality indicators. For example, non-white workers are more likely to work consecutive closing and opening shifts, or “clopening” shifts. Additionally, authors find that racial and ethnic tensions between employees and supervisors diminish non-white employees’ job quality. Non-white employees with supervisors of a different race or ethnicity reported a 7% higher likelihood of canceled shifts, difficulty getting time off, and clopening shifts. Unsurprisingly, these data suggest work quality disparities are worse for women, even more so for women of color, a finding supported by past research on gendered differences in earnings. 

Storer and colleagues also illuminate the ways individual relationships maintain these job quality disparities. Tense and racialized interpersonal relations between supervisors and workers are one of those, suggesting job quality is increasingly stratified by “racial discordance” within the workplace. What is more, the inequalities service sector workers face — like unpredictable scheduling and meager fringe benefits — have real impacts on health outcomes, like poor sleep and psychological distress. While the coronavirus vaccine might alleviate some of the immediate health risks frontline service sector workers face, the inequalities embedded in the structure of their work itself may prove far more resistant to change.

Image: A black and white image of a man walking by a body of water on a cellphone, his hand resting on his furrowed brow. “Worried!” by photoloni is licensed under CC BY 2.0

2020 has given us a lot to worry about from climate crisis, wildfires, superstorms, earthquakes, various elections near and far, to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And, of course, we also worry as our daily lives seem ever so risky. But what about the kind of worry we experience for the people we love – our romantic partners, children, and close friends? While existing research has focused on individuals, a new study suggests we may in fact worry more about our loved ones. 

Social psychologists Mirjam Ghassemi, Katharina Bernecker, and Veronika Brandstätter ask whether people are more anxious when a loved one is about to do something risky than when they are about to engage in the same risk behavior themselves. Through a series of five experimental studies, the researchers presented participants with imagined scenarios of risks to health or safety to better understand the relationship between how individuals assess risk and the amount of anxiety they feel. These imagined scenarios ranged from everyday risks such as cycling without a helmet to the more dramatic risks such as boarding a plane with a recent history of mechanical failures.

Although not an exact image used in this series of experiments, participants received detailed descriptions of risky situations, designed to elicit an emotional response such as what we may feel when viewing a photo like this one. Dramatic POV photo looking down on feet standing on boards high above a city block, photo courtesy of Alexas_fotos  via pixabay CC0

The authors find that we worry more about our loved ones than we do about ourselves, even when they are taking the exact same risk as us. No matter who the person is to us (partner, child, or friend), the closer we are, the more we worry about them. It seems that we have a decent ability to manage worries about our own risk-taking, but our ability may be less refined when it comes to managing our worries about those who are close to us.

Why is there a discrepancy in how much we worry? The authors suggest this could be due to our lack of control over our loved ones’ behaviors. Another possible explanation is that we can more easily imagine worse outcomes for other people than we can imagine for ourselves, which increases our worry for them. These findings show that our close relationships to others makes us worry. However, we also need these close relationships to help support us in challenging and uncertain times. 

Image: Two women walk on either side of a young girl wearing a rainbow skirt, hands linked. Image courtesy of Tom Diggers, CC BY 2.0

While support for gay marriage has grown steadily over the past 15 years, 31% of adult Americans still oppose it. Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that it is harmful to children, and they some have cited social science studies to support this claim. This has been the subject of much controversy, with the American Sociological Association (ASA) filing an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court in 2015 to weigh in on the issue. Yet new research by Deni Mazrekaj, Kristof De Witte, and Sofie Cabus challenges these claims. Their study is the first large-scale nationally representative study to examine the school performance of children raised by same-sex parents from birth.

Mazrekaj and coauthors use government administrative data from the Netherlands, which was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001. The researchers followed children born between 1998 and 2007, tracking their school performance until 2019. This differs from previous studies with smaller sample sizes or those that have relied on U.S. Census data. Previous studies included children born to different-sex parents, who then divorced before entering into same-sex unions. Parental separation is known to have negative impacts on children’s wellbeing, so this method of counting same-sex couples likely skewed earlier results. The unique contribution of this study is the ability to directly compare children raised by same-sex parents from birth with those of different-sex parents. 

The authors find that children raised by same-sex parents from birth performed significantly better than their peers on standardized tests and were nearly 7% more likely to graduate from high school. The same-sex parents in this study tended to have a higher socioeconomic status, which is shown to have positive outcomes on children’s school performance. This makes sense given the high investment of time and resources required for same-sex couples to have children. Kids of same-sex couples still slightly outperformed their peers, even when the data were adjusted to control for socioeconomic factors.

This study directly challenges the claim that children of same-sex couples fare worse than their peers with different-sex parents. It shows that children’s wellbeing does not depend on the gender or sexual orientation of their parents, making it that much harder to argue against equal access to marriage and parenthood.

Image: a man fills in paperwork with a pen. Image courtesy of pixabay, CC0.

From 1900 to 1978, between 25 to 35% of American Indian children were forcibly removed from their homes. Federal officials used this practice to colonize indigenous lands and undermine tribal sovereignty. In 1978, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) which created new legal protections for Native children in child welfare cases. At the time, this legislation was considered “the most far-ranging [Indian rights] legislation ever enacted.” Despite this legislative success, American Indians continue to be disproportionately represented in foster care, continuing the legacy of child removal.

Under the ICWA, state officials must determine whether or not a child is American Indian In order to apply these new legal protections.How do state agencies and officials decide if a child is American Indian? Hana Brown examines how state child welfare agencies, state courts, and federal courts implemented the Indian Child Welfare Act between 1978 and 2018. Analyzing state archival data, she explores how these agencies identify Native children and the consequences of those everyday decisions.

Brown explains that American Indians are classified as both citizens of sovereign tribal nations and as racialized minorities. Although the ICWA applies to citizens of tribal nations, caseworkers and public officials often applied the law based on race, not citizenship. For example, a caseworker may think a child “does not look Native” and marks them as non-Native. By assuming who “looks Native,” the caseworker treats citizenship status as something that is visible. In doing so, they racialize American Indians. When state workers misclassify Native children, they deny the sovereign legal rights of both individual children and tribes. In short, this misclassification strips away the tribe’s agency in child welfare cases of their own citizens, halting the progress of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Native children have a unique set of legal protections due to tribal sovereignty. While the ICWA combats the legacy of child removal in American Indian communities, the application of the law does not always enable these added protections. This research shows how legislation advancing racial justice or tribal sovereignty is often just a first step toward equality. The force of such laws is determined by the small, everyday moments in which the rules are applied. Without this analysis, we overlook how state actors may reproduce inequality and undermine sovereignty, even when they attempt to rectify it.

Stacks of silver coins increasing in height from left to right. Image via pixabay.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, families are especially reliant on prior wealth (savings, home equity, other assets) to deal with potential changes in income and health. But the racial wealth gap is extreme, with Black Americans holding only 2.6% of wealth in the United States. Disparities in wealth, a household’s assets minus its debts, are a key source of generational inequality. Wealth disparities are greater between Black and White households, and in a recent article, Christine Percheski and Christina Gibson-Davis find that racial wealth inequality is even greater for a key group: families with children.

Percheski and Gibson-Davis examine nationally-representative data collected by the Federal Reserve. The Survey of Consumer Finances took place every three years between 2004 and 2016. This data set indicates that the gap between Black and White households with children (child households) is bigger than the gap between general Black and White households at every level of wealth; although both gaps are quite large. In 2016, the median Black child household had only one cent in wealth for every dollar that the median White child household held. This means $294 in wealth for the median Black child household and $47,250 for the median White child household. 

In dollars the disparity is most dramatic when comparing the wealthiest households. For example, Black child families in the 90th percentile hold $69,773 in wealth as compared to $565,700 for White child families at the same percentile. But the biggest relative gaps (the smallest ratio of wealth between Black and White child families) are at the bottom of the wealth spectrum. Black-White differences in wealth have grown since 2004, and they have grown more quickly for households with children. 

Wealth differences are not primarily a story of jobs. Income differences between Black and White families with children have not changed since 2004. Since 2004, Black families with children have seen a decline in home ownership and home equity levels and an increase in educational debt. These changes hit Black families more than White and Hispanic families, and by 2016, Hispanic child households had greater wealth than Black child families. This research indicates that the recovery from the 2008 recession was especially limited for Black families with children, which makes these families particularly vulnerable to economic disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Man in a suit speaks into several microphones. Image by www.audio-luci-store.it, CC BY 2.0

Since the 2016 presidential election violent hate crimes have risen by over 12% in America’s largest cities. It is not unusual for hate crimes to rise during election years, but they typically decrease quickly in the following year. For the first time in American history, however, hate crimes continued to rise after the last election. Hate crimes, or violent crimes committed against someone due to their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or national origin, are not simply individual acts. They are also symptomatic of racial power dynamics and are employed to reestablish a group’s dominance.

Using federal violent hate crime statistics and data on US federal government actions from 1992 to 2012, Laura Dugan & Erica Chenoweth examine this phenomenon. They ask how the federal government’s expressions of support or opposition to racial and ethnic minorities, such as affirmative action policies or hostile rhetoric towards immigrants, affect hate crimes rates.  

The authors find that when political gains are made by Black Americans, they are more likely to be targets of hate crimes. For example, when the government supports civil rights protections, hate crimes against Blacks people increase. Conversely, when politicians engage in hate speech against immigrant populations, demonizing and degrading these groups, hate crimes against Latinx folks increased.

These findings suggest that hate crimes that target Black people are used to reestablish White dominance because they occur when Black people have made political progress and are consequently seen as a political threat. This differs for Latinx persons. Hate crimes are more likely to target Latinx persons when politicians support anti-immigration policies or use hate speech.

These findings show how political actions aimed at minorities (such as protection measures and hate speech) may result in hate crimes, but these actions affect Black people and Latinx communities differently. The authors suggest this may be because Whites view Black people as “insiders,” and therefore, as a greater political threat. Alternatively, while Latinx persons may be seen as less politically threatening “outsiders,” the racist and exclusionary language of officials can encourage violence against Latinx targets.

This article cautions us that government actions and hate speech among elites have serious consequences and may in fact motivate Americans to commit hate crimes. In this election season, this research demonstrates the important role of government actions in driving violence against racial and ethnic minority groups.

Image of a toy gun resting on top of an open bible. Image by melanerpist, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In 2016, 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump. This support was suprising due to his insensitive remarks about women and the Republican Party’s documented opposition to women’s issues, including abortion and paid family leave. In a recent article, Abigail Vegter and Margaret Kelley show how religious beliefs and a fear of “supernatural evil” inform women’s support for another mainstay of the Republican Party: Gun Ownership.

From 2018-2019, the authors conducted 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in gun ranges in Northwest Kansas. They spoke with 62 shooters and gun owners, the majority of whom were women. They show that fear of a supernatural evil and gun use are linked by a narrative of Christian duty to protect what they see as their vanishing way of life. 

The female shooters touched on gendered notions of care and familial protection in justifying their views and actions. Building on the notion of supernatural evil, interviewees revealed a sense of threat from both satanic forces and an overreaching government which, they believe, justifies their self-protection. For these religious women, their religious duty merges with their duty as caretakers and mothers. For instance, Vegter and Kelley show how the belief in a “Satanic force,” including Armageddon, hell, and demons has profoundly personal implications, demanding the protection of their children’s “endangered innocence”. 

Women gun-users comprise the majority of respondents in the interview sample, authors disproportionately highlight narratives of male shooters in their findings. Intriguingly, they note the difficulty in recruiting male interview respondents, fearing their spouses’ judgement. Even among male shooters, similar motivations are at play when it comes to gun use, including the duty to be diligent against supernatural elements, and to protect their families from shifting cultural values. Citing cultural loss, respondents made clear their resolve to defend their way of life, even if it involved using lethal force.  For example, they drew on conservative cultural touchstones from the blockbuster American Sniper to the ongoing debate on religion in classrooms, to argue that they needed guns to protect them in the spiritual battle against cosmic forces. Gun owners saw it as their duty to preserve “good” from creeping “evil.”

Taken together, theological belief and notions of the supernatural still serve as unique indicators of policy choices. The issue of guns and self-protection takes shape in the cognitive and spiritual levels, but closely informs both cultural choices – such as consumption patterns – and political worldviews. According to these shooters, a vanishing way of life and a creeping supernatural evil in their lives required the duty to defend, be diligent, and protect themselves and their loved ones at all costs, including the use of deadly force. Consistent with prior research, respondents preferred less restrictive gun control measures alongside religious freedom policies and government deregulation. With rich interview and ethnographic data, Vegter and Kelley show how the metaphysical and spiritual interact, producing a host of coherent policy preferences.