More than 80% of the US federal government’s budget comes from payroll and income taxes. The National Priorities Project is dedicated to helping Americans understand how that money is spent. Here’s the data for 2016:
The highest individual income “top” tax rate in history was 94%; that was the rate at which any income above 200,000 was taxed in 1945, equivalent to almost 2.8 million today. Today it’s 39.6%. The Nobel laureate Peter Diamond and economist Emmanuel Saez argue that the top tax rate should optimally be 73%.
Last year corporate taxes made up only about 11% of the federal government’s revenue; this is down from a historic high of almost 40% in 1943. This is partly because of a low tax rate of 35% and partly because of legal loopholes. According to the Project’s 7 Tax Facts for 2017, 100 of the 258 most profitable Fortune 500 companies paid zero in taxes for at least one of the last eight years. General Electric, Priceline, and PG&E haven’t paid a penny in taxes for almost a decade.
Sexism in American society has been on the decline. Obstacles to female-bodied people excelling in previously male-only occupations and hobbies have lessened. And women have thrived in these spaces, sometimes even overtaking men both quantitatively and qualitatively.
Another kind of bias, though, has gotten worse: the preference for masculinity over femininity. Today we like our men manly, just like we used to, but we like our women just a little bit manly, too. This is true especially when women expect to compete with men in masculine arenas.
A recent study by a team of psychologists, led by Sarah Banchefsky, collected photographs of 40 male and 40 female scientists employed in STEM departments of US universities. 50 respondents were told they were participating in a study of “first impressions” and were asked to rate each person according to how masculine or feminine they appeared. They were not told their occupation. They were then asked to guess as to the likelihood that each person was a scientist, then the likelihood that each was an early childhood educator.
Overall, women were rated as more feminine than men and less likely to be scientists. Within the group of women, however, perceived femininity was also negatively correlated with the estimated likelihood of being a scientist and positively correlated with the likelihood of being an educator. In other words, both having a female body and appearing feminine was imagined to make a woman less inclined to or suited to science. The same results were not found for men.
Banchefsky and her colleagues conclude that “subtle variations in gendered appearance alter perceptions that a given woman is a scientist” and this has important implications for their careers:
First, naturally feminine-appearing young women and those who choose to emphasize their femininity may not be encouraged or given opportunities to become scientists as a result of adults’ beliefs that feminine women are not well-suited to the occupation.
Second, feminine-appearing women who are already scientists may not be taken as seriously as more masculine-appearing ones. They may have to overperform relative to their male and masculine female peers to be recognized as equally competent. Femininity may, then, cost them job opportunities, promotions, awards, grants, and valuable collaboration.
In a post at Jezebel, Mears exposes the Model Search. Purportedly an opportunity for model hopefuls to be discovered, Mears argues that it functions primarily as a networking opportunity for agents, who booze and schmooze it up with each other, while being alternatively bored and disgusted by the girls and women who pay to be there.
“Over a few days,” Mears explains:
…thousands arrived to impress representatives from over 100 international modeling and talent agencies. In the modeling showcase alone, over 500 people ages 13-25 strutted down an elevated runway constructed in the hotel’s ballroom, alongside which rows of agents sat and watched.
But the agents are not particularly interested in scouting. In shadowing them during the event, Mears finds that they “actually find it all rather boring and tasteless.” Pathetic, too.
The saddest thing at a model search contest is not the sight of girls performing womanhood defined as display object. Nor is it their exceedingly slim chances to ever be the real deal. What’s really sad is the state of the agents: they sit with arms folded, yawning regularly, checking their BlackBerrys. After a solid two hours, Allie has seen over 300 contestants. She’s recorded just eight numbers for callbacks.
Meanwhile, agents ridicule the wannabe runway, from the “hooker heels” to the outfit choices. About their physiques, [one agent recounts,] “I’ve never seen so many out of shape bodies.”
While model hopefuls are trading sometimes thousands of dollars for a 30-second walk down the runway, the agents are biding their time until they can head to the hotel bar to “…gossip, network, and commence the delicate work of negotiating the global trade in models…” One agent explains:
To be honest it’s just a networking event. The girls, most of them don’t even have the right measurements. For most of them, today is going to be a wake-up call.
Indeed, networking is the real point of the event. The girls and women who come with dreams of being a model are largely, and unwittingly, emptying their pockets to subsidize the schmooze.
To add insult to injury, what many of the aspiring models don’t know is that, for “…$5,000 cheaper, any hopeful can walk into an agency’s ‘Open Call’ for an evaluation.”
I encourage you to read Mears’ much longer exposé at Jezebel.
The term “inspiration porn” was coined by disability activist Stella Young. Aimed at able-bodied viewers, inspiration porn features people with disabilities who appear happy or are doing things, alongside an encouraging message. She explains:
Inspiration porn is an image of a person with a disability, often a kid, doing something completely ordinary — like playing, or talking, or running, or drawing a picture, or hitting a tennis ball — carrying a caption like “your excuse is invalid” or “before you quit, try.”
Or, the famous one: “The only disability is a bad attitude.”
She called it porn quite deliberately, arguing that inspiration porn is like sexual porn in that the images “objectify one group of people for the benefit of another group of people.”
And, as with sexual porn, it sometimes involves animals.
At Disability Intersections, Anna Hamilton suggests that inspiration porn involving animals is another step removed from recognizing the full humanity of people with disabilities. These “inspiring” stories, she argues, “provide a way for nondisabled people to talk about and engage with disability in a facile way.”
Disability isn’t just othered; it’s cute, adorable, fuzzy.
If one is constantly gawking and aww-ing over pictures and stories about animals with disabilities, then they don’t have to spend time thinking about actual disabled people, or the ableism against disabled humans that still exists.
When featuring animals, accommodation is no longer the least a society can do: a basic acknowledgement that human beings in all forms deserve access to their societies. Instead, it’s over-the-top, idiosyncratic and rare, even excessive in its generosity. To find inspiration in a turtle who has been fitted with a tiny skateboard, for example, is to frame accommodation as something one does out of the goodness of one’s heart, not a human and civil right.
Inspiration porn others and objectifies people with disabilities. When featuring animals, it dehumanizes them, too.
This Flashback Friday is in honor of the 20th anniversary of Dorothy Roberts’ groundbreaking book, Killing the Black Body.
One of the most important moments of my graduate education occurred during a talk by Dorothy Roberts for the sociology department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. At the time I had been teaching her book, Killing the Black Body. I thought this book was genius, absolutely loved it, so I was really excited to be seeing her in person.
I sat in anticipation; she was introduced and then, before she launched into the substance of her talk, she apologized for likely weaknesses in her thinking as, she explained, she had only been thinking about it for “about a year.”
I was stunned.
I couldn’t believe that Dorothy Roberts would have to think about anything for a year. In my mind, her brilliance appeared full form, in a span of mere moments, perfectly articulated.
Her comment made me realize, for the first time, that the fantastic books and expertly-crafted journal articles written by scholars were the result of hard work, not just genius. And I realized that part of the task of writing these things is to hide all of the hard work that goes into writing them. They read as if it were obvious that the conclusions of the paper are true when, in fact, the conclusion on paper are probably just one of many sets of possible conclusions with which the author experimented. Roberts’ humble admission made me realize that all of the wild intellectual goose chases, mental thrashing, deleted passages, and revised arguments were part of my job, not evidence that I was perpetually failing.
And I was and am tremendously grateful to Dr. Roberts for that insight.
“Fake news” has emerged as a substantial problem for democracy. The circulation of false narratives, lies, and conspiracy theories on self-described “alternative news” sites undercuts the knowledge voters rely on to make political decisions. Sometimes the spread of this misinformation is deliberate, spread by hate groups, foreign governments, or individuals bent on harming the US.
A new study offers information as to the content, connectedness, and use of these websites. Information scholar Kate Starbird performed a network analysis of twitter users responding to mass shootings. These users denied the mainstream narrative about the shooting (arguing, for example, that the real story was being hidden from the public or that the shooting never happened at all). Since most of the fake news sites cross-promote conspiracy theories across the board, focusing on this one type of story was sufficient for mapping the networks. Here is some of what she found:
The sites do not share a political point of view. They are dominated by the far right, but they also include the far left, hate groups, nationalists, and Russian propaganda sites. They did strongly overlap in being anti-globalist, anti-science, and anti-mainstream media.
Fake news sites are highly repetitive, spreading the same conspiracies and lies, often re-posting identical content on multiple sites.
Users, then, aren’t necessarily being careless or undisciplined in their information gathering. They often tweet overlapping content from several different fake news sites, suggesting that they are obeying a hallmark of media literacy: seeking out multiple sources. You can see the dense network created by this use of multiple data sources in the upper left.
One of the main conspiracy stories promulgated by fake news sites is that the real news is fake.
Believing this, Twitter users who share links to fake news sites often also share links to traditional news outlets (see the connections in the network to the Washington Post, for example), but they do so primarily as evidence that their false belief was true. When the New York Times reports the mainstream story about the mass shooting, for instance, it is argued to be proof of a cover up. This is consistent with the backfire effect: exposure to facts tends to strengthen belief in misinformation rather than undermine it.
In an interview with the Seattle Times, Starbird expresses distress at her findings. “I used to be a techno-utopian,” she explained, but she is now deeply worried about the “menace of unreality.” Emerging research suggests that believing in one conspiracy theory is a risk factor for believing in another. Individuals drawn to these sites out of a concern with the safety of vaccines, for example, may come out with a belief in a Clinton-backed pedophilia ring, a global order controlled by Jews, and an aversion to the only cure for misinformation: truth. “There really is an information war for your mind,” Starbird concluded. “And we’re losing it.”
Journalists have gone a bit nuts for this millennial-as-Ward-Cleaver narrative, consistent with what we already know about garbage millennials, and stories from Quartz and Time Magazine have already popped up.
The Times piece includes this damning trend among men ages 18-25:
But the GSS just released their 2016 data this week. 89% of men disagree or strongly disagree with the statement “It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the women takes care of the home and family” – the highest rate among either men or women ages 18-25 in the GSS’s 40-year history. It’s also much higher than the rate reported by everyone older than 25, about 71%.
So is the story, “Clinton defeat inspires millennial men to gender equality”? Or more likely, “Garbage millennial men can’t make up their mind about women”?
I suspect it’s another, less sexy story: you can’t say a lot about millennials based on talking to 66 men.
The GSS surveys are pretty small – about 2,000-3,000 per wave – so once you split by sample, and then split by age, and then exclude the older millennials (age 26-34) who don’t show any negative trend in gender equality, you’re left with cells of about 60-100 men ages 18-25 per wave. Standard errors on any given year are 6-8 percent.
So let’s throw some statistics at it. Suppose you want to know whether there is a downward trend in young male disagreement with the women-in-the-kitchen statement. Using all available GSS data, there is a positive, not statistically significant trend in men’s attitudes (more disagreement). Starting in 1988 only, there is very, very small negative, not statistically significant effect.
Only if we pick 1994 as a starting point, as Coontz does, ignoring the dip just a few years prior, do we see a negative less-than half-percentage point drop in disagreement per year, significant at the 10-percent level.
As Columbia statistician Andrew Gelman wisely warns, none of these results account for the many, many paths the researchers could have taken to arrive at these results, which can make overreliance on any of these p-values problematic. For example, if we just looked at millennials the way they’re usually defined, as individuals ages 18-34?
The Pepin and Cotter piece, in fact, presents two additional figures in direct contrast with the garbage millennial theory – in Monitoring the Future, millennial men’s support for women in the public sphere has plateaued, not fallen; and attitudes about women working have continued to improve, not worsen. Their conclusion is, therefore, that they find some evidence of a move away from gender equality – a nuance that’s since been lost in the discussion of their work.
So what does this mean? Standard errors matter, and millennials might not always be as garbage as we think they are.
Emily Beam is Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Vermont. She studies labor and development economics, with a particular focus on employment and education policy, migration, fertility and marriage, and the role of incomplete information and behavioral biases on individual decision-making.
About Sociological Images
Sociological Images encourages people to exercise and develop their sociological imaginations with discussions of compelling visuals that span the breadth of sociological inquiry. Read more…