Benjamin R. Karney, Jeffrey B. Wenger, Melanie A. Zaber, and Thomas N. Bradbury, Journal of Marriage and Family , 2022
A plastic model of a white and red home sits on top of one hundred dollar bills. (Marcho Verch Professional Photography/flickr/some rights reserved)

Across the United States, campaigns have pushed for higher minimum wages. Many are motivated by the economic benefits of these changes. New research suggests that increasing the minimum wage can also have substantial effects on non-economic domains of life such as marriage rates, family formation, and relationships.

Benjamin Karney and colleagues examined recent data on marriage and divorce rates in cities that had a minimum wage increase of $1 an hour. Their research revealed that small increases in the minimum wage have a significant effect on relationship patterns. Karney and his coauthors uncovered surprising, and somewhat contradictory, patterns.

In cities that raised the minimum wage, for example, there was actually a 5% decrease in marriage rates for men and 4.5% for women. On the other hand, researchers found that divorce rates fell by 10% for men and 7% for women after a year in these same cities.

The authors suggest that these decreasing marriage rates may result from higher minimum wages. When young people are more financially independent they can prolong their search for a better partner. Since marrying later usually results in longer-lasting unions, this change may spell stability for future families. 

Conversely, the researchers speculated that lower divorce rates are also due to worker’s lessened financial stress. By relieving economic concerns, the chances of divorce for couples are lessened.

Increasing minimum wages have many economic benefits. This research show that they also have significant effects on non-economic concerns such as relationships and families. These impacts may differ from our long-held assumptions about relationships. These non-economic changes are important to consider as communities work to raise wages. 

Four images of American flags in different colors are arranged inside of a picture frame. (​​jeanne rené / Flickr; public domain)

In the United States, it might seem like one party has a monopoly on nationalism. But, according to new research from Bart Bonikowski, Yuval Feinstein, and Sean Bock, nationalism mattered in the 2016 election for both Democrats and Republicans.  Bonikowski and colleagues found support for several types of nationalism, with Democrats and Republicans increasingly divided by which type of nationalism they support. They also found that this partisanship has increased over time.

The researchers argue that the radical right does not have a monopoly on nationalism. International research on radical-right politics has focused on forms of nationalism grounded in prejudices and resentment. This research focuses on the many different types of nationalism, each with its own view of national collective identity.

In their paper, Bonikowski and colleagues explored a nationally representative survey from the six days before Election Day 2016. They also looked at data from several representative surveys over the previous two decades. 

The researchers asked how nationalist beliefs impact elections. They found that many candidates’ supporters held nationalist beliefs. However, the kind of nationalism people supported differed by their political orientation. 

In fact, they found that over time  nationalism is increasingly partisan. From 1996 to 2016, believers in different forms of nationalism sorted themselves into different political parties.

The authors argue that partisan division in nationalism may threaten sociopolitical stability. These ideas of nationhood can be powerful and all-encompassing. In a time of considerable political polarization, increasing partisan division on nationalism could erode social solidarity, consensus and political stability.

An eviction notice and a judge’s gavel lie on a wooden surface. (Marco Verch / Flickr; some rights reserved)

As housing prices rise many are struggling to pay rent and face the risk of eviction. Social scientists have documented  many ways eviction harms families. But new research shows that eviction also hurts democratic participation. 

Gillian Slee and Matthew Desmond examined eviction records and voting records from the 2016 election. They found that the higher a neighborhood’s eviction rate, the lower its voter turnout rate.

Specifically, the researchers calculated a neighborhood’s average eviction rate between 2013 and 2015. They found a clear link between high eviction and low voter turnout in both rural and urban areas, as well as in deep blue or deep red states.

The hardship associated with eviction, they argue, puts strain on both the individual or family that gets evicted and on their social networks. For individuals, eviction lowers social trust, causes hardship, and decreases people’s faith in the legal system. These effects ripple through social networks, lowering voter turnout.

The researchers identify several ways this could affect elections or dilute the voting strength of particular groups. For example, renters are more likely to be Democrats, Black or Latino. This means that any link between turnout and eviction could disproportionately affect these groups. 

Their data also show how expanding voting access might reduce the impact of eviction on voting. For instance, they found that eviction’s impact on voter turnout was less significant in states with same-day voter registration. If it’s easier to vote, particularly for people who are “residentially unstable,” then eviction might be less likely to disrupt turnout. 

More broadly, the researchers say that reducing eviction, through policies like establishing a right to counsel or expanding housing vouchers, could potentially increase voter turnout.

Ultimately, what this research shows is that affordable housing isn’t just an economic problem, or an issue affecting individuals and families. Evictions have profound consequences for democracy itself.

Image: A child’s hands put together lego bricks in the center of the image, in the background additional toys lie on a wood floor out of focus. Image via pixio, CC0.

Parents with high levels of education and income spend a lot of money raising their children. They shuttle their kids between violin lessons and soccer practice, fill playrooms with toys designed to aid kids’ development, and squeeze in weekend visits to museums and exhibits. Low-income parents’ money, in contrast, is more tightly stretched, and tends to go towards necessities like bills and food. Can anything be done about these differences and inequalities? New research from Margot Jackson and Daniel Schneider suggests a potential solution, one that involves increased public investment for all kids.

Jackson and Schneider created and analyzed a new data set that links state-level investments in children and families with information on household spending on children over a period of fifteen years. Examples of state-level spending include things like public education, welfare, and Medicaid. Household spending includes purchases of educational books or toys or recreational equipment. They find that when public investment increases, inequality in parental spending on children decreases.

There are two reasons for these promising results. One is that low-income families have more money to spend on their children when public support helps families meet their basic needs. In other words, when income and healthcare are supplemented, families have more money available to invest in their children’s education and development.

At the same time, when there is more universal public investment in resources like schools, high-income parents spend less on their children, more confident in the resources their children are already receiving. In short, increased public investments allow low-income parents to spend more, and high-income parents to spend less.

Those of us who care about inequalities in parental spending on children know that early inequalities set the stage for a lifetime of differences in the opportunities and experiences available to people in their formative years. It can be difficult to imagine how these gaps can be narrowed. This research shows that these inequalities are not fixed or inevitable, and that more public spending on children can help equalize the playing field.  

Image: A black mom kisses a child she holds in her arms, another young child sits next to her. Image courtesy of Jeffrey Smith, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

With the growing price of rent and buying homes in America, the American dream of living and raising children in your own home is becoming inaccessible. In response to unaffordable housing, some families chose to raise their children in the homes of their parents or friends, what is referred to as “doubling up.” While these arrangements allow mothers economic stability, they also bring challenges because of deeply held societal understandings around good parenting.

Hope Harvey sought to understand the challenges that mothers face when trying to raise their children in another person’s household. She interviewed 29 mothers over 3 years (2012-2015). Through her interviews, she found that the mothers’ questioned their identity as adults while “doubling up.” One of the main reasons was that the women felt being in charge of your own home was essential to being a good parent.

One example is TaKayla, who says,” I think that’s important [to have my own home] because I just want to see what it’s like to have my own family…I want my kids to be around me, their father, and just do our own thing. Go through our own holiday celebrations together and experience the whole mommy is getting up, cook dinner and breakfast stuff. See dad going to work, kiss him when he get back home, ‘How was your day?’ Stuff like that. I want to experience that.” We see from Takayla’s description that she feels home ownership affects almost all parent-child interactions. This also connects to other mothers who felt that being a “normal family” is based on white-heterosexual norms and being in charge of your own home. 

Another challenge was hosts (home owners and lease holders) challenging mothers’ parenting by giving children conflicting instructions. One example is Toni, who talked about how she would tell her children,”to go lay down” and rest but then her father, whose home they were living in, would tell the kids to, ”come on, go outside. Go out in the backyard.” 

Women pushed back against these challenges to their identities as adults and mothers. One of the main ways women in the study tried to resist their feelings of inadequacy was to set up private areas in the house where only the mothers and their children could go. They referred to these places as their “apartments” or “ little houses,” and tried to symbolize ownership of these spaces by calling these spaces ”their rooms.”

The second way they protected their motherhood was preventing the hosts from giving conflicting orders to their children. The mothers did this by having conversations with the owners of the home about their parenting expectations. They also told the hosts to let them be the ultimate decision-maker in terms of how to raise their children and to follow their lead. If these arrangements were not agreed upon, the mothers ended the living arrangement. 

The article highlights that while economic resources are currently limiting the ability of mothers to practice a traditional style of parenting, many people still hold traditional understandings of parenting that rely on owning a home or leasing their own apartment. These idealizations create tension for parents living in homes that they do not own or rent themselves. Harvey found that mothers must grapple with this tension every day and find creative ways of fulfilling traditional parenting ideals within their current living situations.

A black man, dressed in a black button up shirt and cap, looks down with a hand on his chest. His face is obscured.
A black man, dressed in a black button up shirt and cap, looks down with a hand on his chest. His face is obscured. (Pixabay, Pixabay License).

Male survivors of sexual assault and violence are often misunderstood, particularly queer men. Doug Meyer researched how queer men of different races perceived their experiences of sexual assault. He finds that white queer men and Black queer men understand their sexual assaults differently.

Meyer interviewed sixty queer men in the United States who were survivors of sexual assault. Previous research has shown that emasculation is common among male survivors. By experiencing sexual violence men may feel that their masculinity or “manhood” has been lost or damaged. Meyer asked whether queer men also felt emasculated by sexual assault and whether this differed by race. He finds that white queer men generally understood their assault as emasculating, but such feelings were much more rare among Black queer men. 

Instead, queer Black men highlighted feelings of loneliness and social isolation following their assault. This social isolation stemmed from a lack of support from family and the broader community, as well as fears that they would not be believed. Further, Black men emphasized fear of police hostility following their assault. Because of racist and/or homophobic experiences, queer Black men lacked resources to heal from sexual trauma and therefore felt alone. 

David, a young Black gay man, explained his feelings following his assault: “I felt very alone. Like I couldn’t tell anyone, like there was no one I could go to. The police wouldn’t believe me, my family would have asked why I went there. I tell the police, they’re gonna look at it as I’m making trouble – who is going to believe me?”

Because of distinct experiences due to social marginalization  and racism, queer Black men do not perceive their assault as a form of emasculation. Contrary to prior research, Meyer found that only white queer men in his study felt emasculated. This study reminds us to reexamine commonly held assumptions about sexual assault and explore how the experiences of survivors differ across multiple identities.

Students in a large college lecture. (Kevin Dooley / Flickr; some rights reserved.)

For decades, conservatives have claimed that higher education has a negative influence on students’ moral and political development. A new study from Miloš Broćić and Andrew Miles provides research on one of the most understudied and misunderstood of these claims: the effect of college attendance on moral values.

Using data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, Miles and Broćić found that people who attend college are more likely to have a greater concern for others, less of a concern for social order, and be less relativistic. They used data from both before people enrolled in college and after people attended to look at the influence of college, specifically. 

People who went to college are more likely to say that compassion for people who are suffering is most important, but less likely to say that kids need to respect authority or that morals are relative. Moral relativists believe that morality is relative: that is, moral truths are not absolute and can change from one society to another, or over time.

Notably, this is distinct from previous work that found increased moral relativism among academics. This could be because college’s role in moral socialization has changed over the years. These days, critics of higher education are more likely to argue that it leads students to not be relativistic enough: too uncompromising in their morality. The authors say that their study provides preliminary evidence in favor of this critique.

Our values are fundamentally shaped by the environments and institutions we find ourselves in, and this research brings us closer to understanding how going to college shapes students as human beings.

Video imagery courtesy of canva, canva licensing

Young men in gangs are often thought to always practice masculinity by engaging in violent behavior like fighting and shooting, which many attribute to systemic inequalities like mass incarceration, scarce jobs, and racism. New qualitative research by John Leverso and Chris Hess shows that as male gang members age, they remain committed to masculinity but they relate to their manhood differently. 

Leverso and Hess asked about important life events that changed the way respondents understood what being a good man is in 29 in-depth interviews with current and former gang members in Chicago. These interviews showed how masculinity endures and evolves into new phases of adulthood, particularly fatherhood. the ways gang members accomplish masculinity changed drastically as they became fathers, caregivers, and husbands.

From the perspective of these current and former gang members, the ideal man is “hardworking, no punk, tough, and loyal.” Their concept of the ideal man reflects a tough, hardworking, and heterosexual ideal of manhood. These foundations of masculinity were consistent among men when describing both their past and present lives, regardless of whether they remained involved in a gang. However, despite this consensus, the ways gang members accomplish these goals of masculinity changed drastically as they became fathers, caregivers, and husbands.

Even current gang members still value family as an important part in accomplishing masculinity. One example is Jason, a gang member who claims that he “will always be a Pope,” or a part of his gang. However, he now valued his role as a father more and put his daughter’s needs in front of the gang. For instance, Jason claimed he would only help his fellow gang members financially if they were desperate, but would not do anything dangerous for the gang, and if anyone asked him to do something dangerous he would “smack them silly.”

This change in understanding of being a good father was also observed with those who had left gang related activity. As a gang member, Juan expressed the importance of “putting in work” (violent or non-violent actions in service of the gang) to show he was “faithful, loyal and respectful.” For Juan today, however, “putting in work”  means “spending time with his son, making money as a truck driver, and being a family man.” While no longer a gang member, loyalty and faithfulness to his family and children are still central to his ideas of manhood.

The article highlights that gang members, like non-gang members, change how they ccomplish masculinity over the course of their lives. It also challenges assumptions about gang members as having radically different understandings of manhood. Like many men who were never in gangs, they prioritize being a family man and providing for their families. 

Kate R Watson, Ron Avi Astor, Rami Benbenishty, Gordon Capp, and Michael S Kelly, “Needs of Children and Families during Spring 2020 COVID-19 School Closures: Findings from a National Survey,” Social Work, 2021
A white child navigates their laptop computer, we see their hands on the keyboard and mouse. Image in public domain.

Over the past two years, hundreds of K-12 education hours were lost to COVID-19 and we are beginning to see the academic impact. But what about the emotional, social, and mental health impacts? In new research, Kate Watson and colleagues show some of the challenges students faced during the COVID-19 school closures by analyzing a nationwide survey of school social workers.

While teachers may concentrate on the academic achievement of students, school social workers focus on the emotional, social, and “other” sides of education. 

Above and beyond lost classroom and learning time, COVID-19 school closings meant that children were unable to spend time with friends, attend extracurricular activities, and participate in many traditional school activities for months — and school social workers noticed. 

In the survey, school social workers identified that 76% of students needed mental health services, 62% needed food, and 62% needed tutoring. Typically, these services would be coordinated and provided by the school social worker – such as placing daily food inside of backpacks of students in need of dinner after school.  However, forced to stay at arm’s length, school social workers were severely limited in aiding their students’ basic needs.

School social workers also shared the levels of student participation and engagement through virtual education. Strikingly, more than 80% of participants reported extremely low levels of student participation.  In other words, students generally showed an extremely low level of engagement during “zooming”. Notably, students of color and students who live in poverty were even less likely to be engaged – widening inequities.

Schools have long been about more than just academic learning. Today, while COVID-19 appears to be on the retreat, society must take stock of the lessons learned and implement changes to better prepare schools and the holistic well being of children. The perspectives of school social workers, as advocates for children’s emotional, social, and holistic well being, can show us how much our society relies on schools – beyond just the academics.

Vincent Roscigno, Jill Yavorsky, and Natasha Quadlin, “Gendered Dignity at Work,” American Journal of Sociology, 2022

A white blond-haired woman sits in front of her laptop, her head resting on her fist, staring off into the distance. Image via pixabay, pixabay license.

Gender and work researchers have long encountered a puzzle: despite persistent gender discrimination, pay gaps, sexual harassment, and segregation within workplaces, women report approximately the same levels of job satisfaction as men. A new American Journal of Sociology article shows how “dignity” at work, measured in terms of respect and recognition, helps resolve this paradox. 

To consider whether work experiences of respect and recognition are gendered, Roscigno, Yavorsky, and Quadlin use nationally-representative survey data from 2002 to 2018. Specifically, the authors examined self-reported measures of job satisfaction, respect at work, fair pay, and fair promotional procedures. 

Although men and women in this time span report roughly equivalent job satisfaction, women are approximately 20% less likely to say that their pay is fair, and about 27% less likely to perceive fairness in promotion and experience respect at work. In addition, women who had experienced sexual harassment or gender discrimination at work were less likely to report feeling respected at work. 

Taken together, these findings indicate that women experience less dignity at work than men, despite reporting comparable levels of job satisfaction. Additionally, what the authors call power-laden, gendered interactions like sexual harassment play a strong part in undermining women’s sense of dignity and respect in the workplace.