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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.

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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.

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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. 

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From yoga to meditation to crystals, Americans are increasingly experimenting with spirituality. And as they do so, a growing number are choosing to call themselves “spiritual, but not religious” — recent survey data shows the SBNRs now make up about 27% of the U.S. population. But is this a new religious identity? How do you measure a group with such a wide range of beliefs and practices? New research from Paul K. McClure finds that SBNRs may not be as open and accepting to all religious traditions as they seem.

Using data from the 2014 Baylor Religion Survey, McClure compares respondents who call themselves SBNR to respondents who say they are both religious and spiritual. The analysis looks for differences in how these groups answer questions about specific religious beliefs and practices — such as how often they attend religious services, how they understand “god,” and what they think about the Bible. 

The results provide two big conclusions. First, SBNRs are less likely to report religious practices, like going to services and praying, and they tend to reject the typical monotheistic image of god as a person. Second, they are more likely to think about god as a “higher power” or a “cosmic force” than other respondents. McClure points out that SBNRs do not just openly accept all religious claims as equally true by default. Instead, this group does cultural boundary work by accepting certain diverse conclusions about “god” and rejecting others — just like the music fan who “likes everything except rap and country” or the connoisseur who would never touch fast food. In short, this research shows how having diverse spiritual tastes becomes an identity when people put their choices in contrast with others. 

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Research shows that both race and class can influence health, physical activity, and exercise, yet little is known about how multiple identities intersect to influence fitness habits. If middle-class adults are more likely to exercise than low-income adults, then why are middle-class blacks less physically active than middle-class whites?

To examine how race, class, and gender all intersect to shape physical activity, Rashawn Ray designed “The Barriers and Incentives to Physical Activity Survey,” which asked 482 respondents questions about their physical activity habits as well as about how they perceived the racial composition of their neighborhood. The study only included black men, black women, white men, and white women, oversampled for black men and women, and used demographic factors like occupation, education level, and income to identify middle-class respondents.

Ray found that the perceived blackness of a neighborhood had a remarkable influence on who participates in physical activity. Most notably, he found that “black men’s level of physical activity significantly decreases in neighborhoods perceived to be predominantly white whereas black women’s physical activity significantly decreases in neighborhoods perceived to be predominantly black and urban.” Unsurprisingly, white women and white men are more likely to be physically active when living in neighborhoods that are predominantly white. 

 Ray draws from intersectionality and feminist literature to make sense of the findings. Women’s concerns about safety and street harassment, Ray suggests, may influence black women’s reduced activity in neighborhoods perceived of as less safe, which are typically urban and predominantly black. Safer, more affluent neighborhoods are also more likely to have resources like childcare and women’s-only fitness spaces that could increase the likelihood of physical activity. On the other hand, black men experience frequent criminalization and may avoid physical activity in predominantly white neighborhoods where they are perceived as threatening. They may opt to exercise in predominantly black neighborhoods, even though these neighborhoods were identified as having fewer resources than white neighborhoods. 

These findings highlight the complex relationship people have with their bodies, their activities, and their communities. It also suggests that for many black men and women, the risks associated with physical activity may outweigh the benefits of exercise.

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School is often a space where racial and ethnic identities are shaped and constructed. Most notably, Black students within white schools have been found to develop racial identities through shared experiences of racism with same-race peers. New research by Bedelia Richards illustrates how this process works for West-Indian students who are often lumped into a “black” racial category by school officials and peers. Yet, Richards finds that despite the school’s racial ascriptions, West-Indian students develop ways to celebrate their various ethnic identities.

Richards conducted four months of observation and twelve interviews at Mayfield High School in Brooklyn, which has a diverse student body of white, African-American, West-Indian, and Asian pupils. School officials participate in tracking, which allows teachers and administrators to assign students different academic trajectories. “Gifted” students are placed within the highest tracks, while struggling students are often placed in “remedial” classes. Richards finds that Asian and white students are most likely to be placed in the highest academic tracks, whereas African-American and West-Indian students are most likely to be placed in the lowest tracks. These tracks become racialized, as teachers and administrators inadvertently reinforce understandings of “black” through mistreatment and stigmatization. 

Even as these students are exposed to this racialization through tracking, West Indian students express pride in their individual heritage by speaking in Jamaican, Guyanese, and Haitian. In fact, Richards argues that this process intensifies racial group consciousness, while simultaneously increasing the salience of ethnic identity among West-Indian students. In short, Richards’ research highlights the ways that school processes like tracking can have consequences on both students’ racial and ethnic identities.

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Breaking news: parenting can be stressful. And while emotional closeness with others has been found to increase happiness, the same does not always hold true with parenting. Factors like sleep deprivation, work-family balance, and managing child-related expenses can all have negative impacts on overall happiness. In fact, these factors are often strong enough to make parents less happy than non-parents. However, a study by Jennifer Glass, Matthew A. Andersson, and Robin W. Simon explains how work-family policy at the national level can lessen, or even reverse, the negative impacts of parenting on happiness.

In many nations, family and parenting must be balanced with hectic employment environments, often with less social support than in generations past.  In a study of 22 Western, industrialized countries, the researchers tested the impact of national policy decisions on parental happiness. Using surveys, interviews, and national-level data, they conducted cross-country comparisons to analyze the influence of national-level policies regarding paid vacation and sick leave, work flexibility, child care costs, and options for long-term leaves. The team found that these policies (especially vacation time and sick days) were powerful enough to reverse the effects of parenting on happiness — while parents in nations that did not prioritize such policies were less happy than non-parents, the opposite generally held true in countries that placed a policy emphasis on parenting support. Additionally, the study found that national parenting policies could decrease problematic gender gaps — most policies tended to have greater effects on mothers than fathers, but by reducing the stress surrounding parenting, fathers were more likely to play an increasingly central role.

The negative effect of parenting was the strongest in the United States, and the researchers point to the nation’s high cost of parenting compared to other countries, as well as the almost complete lack of support for parents at the level of national policy. The United States only has one federal-level policy in place to specifically reduce parenting stress (the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act). Combined with the ways that the job market is more likely to provide family benefits to men, young, single, poor women are more likely to be neglected in these work policies. However, this study indicates that a shift in policy could have incredibly beneficial effects for parents, and perhaps help reduce gender inequities in parenting and support.

Photo by Aaron Bauer, Flickr CC

Income inequality has been growing in the U.S. since the 1970s and has created resentment and anger that sparked protest movements like Occupy and contributed to President Trump’s election. Yet, scholars and activists alike are still trying to understand the root causes of increased inequality itself. In a recent article, David Jacobs and Jonathan C. Dirlam seek to explain what accounts for increased stratification in the U.S. in the past 40 years.

Jacobs and Dirlam use IRS data from 1978 to 2011 to determine state level income inequality, allowing them to capture very high earners – those making over $1 million – that are often overlooked in other data that combines all people earning over $200,000. They then compile data on the political party that controlled national and state level political office, state unemployment levels, and state unionization rates. They analyze changes over time and assess the relationship between national and state-level conditions.

According to Jacobs and Dirlam’s research, many factors produce state-level inequality, but the strongest influence is which political party is in power. Income inequality increased the most when Republican politicians were in office, particularly when the U.S. President was Republican. Lower state-level unionization rates were related to wider income disparities because unions bargain for higher wages and often push up wages at competing non-union companies. Economic and labor market changes had an effect as well — increases in people completing a four-year college degree and decreases in manufacturing employment were associated with greater inequality. These changes created disparities between more and less educated workers, and led to higher demand and rewards for skilled workers.

In conclusion, Jacobs and Dirlman argue that shifting political power towards companies and away from workers is a major driver of inequality. Conservatives, since Ronald Reagan, have enacted neo-liberal policies that deregulate industry, cut taxes, and weaken unions; this leads to higher profits for companies and investors, but lower wages for workers and less power to advocate for their rights. Thus, politics and political power are key factors, and economic changes alone do not fully explain the growing gap between the least and most wealthy Americans.

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Numerous studies have emerged on gender inequality in the workplace, several of which discuss the differences in treatment, employment opportunities, and pay for women in tech-industries. However, very few studies address how sexuality, gender, and race intersect in the tech workplace for female employees. In a new study, Lauren Alfrey and France Winddance Twine investigate how women’s race, gender, sexuality, and gender fluidity either help them navigate the tech industry or further subject them to critique by their male peers in the predominantly male tech industry.

The authors conducted extended interviews and surveys with 18 women from a larger study of tech workers in at companies like Twitter and Google to examine their experiences of navigating predominantly male work spaces. Women discussed their how their race, sexuality, and gender fluidity influenced the ways men interacted with them in the workplace. 

The findings indicated that race and sexuality together determined the degree of male peer acceptance. White and Asian lesbian women that were more gender fluid experienced greater support and acceptance. The authors suggest that male coworkers perceived these women as more competent because of their ability to look and act like “one of the guys” through the way they dressed. Yet, Black, dark skinned Hispanic, and straight women who conformed to traditional styles of femininity through dress and behavior were more likely to face criticism from their male peers. For example, females who wore plain shirts and jeans were accepted, and those who wore dresses experienced more isolation. The theme of “geekness,” or the level of expertise one possesses in the tech-field, along with knowledge of popular culture including Japanese Anime and Star Trek, were also key indicators that females would be accepted by their male peers.  

While the acceptance of alternative forms to femininity may benefit some gender-fluid women, Black, dark Latina, and straight women are locked out of these benefits and continue to experience gender inequality in the tech industry.

Photo by Kelly Garbato, Flickr CC

In the United States, one of the most recognizable cultural icons of WWII is Rosie the Riveter, an image that challenged traditional gender roles in American culture. Although this icon represents a critical moment in American women’s participation in the labor force, Jeffrey Hass finds that women in Eastern Europe did not use their entry into the labor force to challenge gender essentialism. Using diary entries written by women during the Blockade of Leningrad, as well as archival data and interviews with blockade survivors from the Museum of the Defense of Leningrad, Hass examines the roles of women in the Eastern front of WWII.

Hass finds that Eastern European women had to contend not only with changing perceptions of their dependency and status vis-à-vis men, but also the already embedded expectations of gender roles. Although narratives about patriotic responsibility encouraged women to perform duties like taking care of children and the home, women also described being pressured to recruit men into the Red Army and fill men’s jobs in the factories. Nonetheless, activities like bread seeking, caregiving, and factory work allowed women to construct a narrative of wartime heroism. But as these women became more aware of the importance of their skills, they started to view men as weak. And the more women viewed men as weak, the more they reinforced essential gender dispositions and relations.

Hass contends that the women of Leningrad did not feel empowered by taking on men’s roles because they challenged gender roles per se, but rather because these gendered practices gave them status and shifted the dependency relationship. He concludes that to better understand the relationship between changing gender roles and the reinforcement of gender’s essentialism during conflicts, it is necessary to analyze the objects and people that are permeated with sentiment and meanings.