academia

Economist Michael Mandel, at Mandel on Innovation and Growth, posted these two figures showing that the real earnings of college graduates (full-time workers ages 25-34) have been declining since before the recession. According to Mandel:

  • Real earnings for young male college grads are down 19% since their peak in 2000.
  • Real earnings for young female college grads are down 16% since their peak in 2003.

Mandel poses the following questions:

…no one has given me a good explanation yet of why young American college grads should have been hit so hard. Is there increased competition with young college grads around the world?  Are new college grads lower quality than their predecessors? Has information technology reduced the need for young grads? I really would like to know.

For more depressing news about the earnings of college graduates, see these posts on how the economic recession will depress the earnings of college grads for their entire lifetime and a look at the trend in college graduate earnings since 1979.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

If you’re not (or not yet) an academic, this cartoon may not make much sense to you.  But if you are…

(cartoon by Nearing Zero; via Philip Cohen)

For the uninitiated:

To get a paper published in an academic journal, scholars have to submit a draft to a journal and wait up to a year for feedback that is, not-uncommonly, rather brutal.  This is because writing a journal article is difficult and our colleagues are rather smart.  And busy. So there’s no time for hand-holding.

Decisions are usually “reject” (we never want to see this paper again as long as we live) or “revise-and-resubmit” (right now this paper sucks, but if you spend another six months of your life working on it, there is some possibility that we might publish it… maybe… but for now it’s important that you understand that it really sucks).

It’s typical to have to submit a paper to two or three journals before it’s finally accepted.  And it’s not unheard of to have to submit it to five or six.  So… yeah, it can feel like being beaten, repeatedly. For sure.

I’ll take harrowing publication stories in the comments, if you’ve got ’em!

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Affirmative action policies in higher education help mediate the real race-based disadvantages that some minorities face, above and beyond class-based disadvantages that are faced by people of color and whites alike.  They have a nefarious dark side, though; a dark side that causes even people who otherwise support affirmative action to question the approach to alleviating racial inequality.  They sometimes undermine the self-confidence of minorities admitted into college, as this PostSecret confession suggests:

College students often have a pretty poor understanding of admissions processes.  In the absence of any real information, it’s easy to let stereotypes and biases inform beliefs about how any individual student got into college.  A student of color, then, may be viewed as less-deserving of admission regardless of their grades, test scores, and extra-curricular activities.

More perniciously, they may question their own qualifications for admission, even when they have significantly out-performed their white peers.

A simple message to college students of color, for what it’s worth:

Your institution accepted you because they thought you could succeed.  Period.  You belong in college.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Super thanks to Rebecca Pardo for inviting me to be part of a segment on hook up culture for MTV News!  She and her team did such a wonderful job of editing and illustrating the interview.  I’m so tickled to be on MTV and excited to share it here!

The gist? College students are having sex, but not as much as you might think. And most of them are kind of disappointed about the whole thing. All in three minutes!

For a longer and decidedly less MTV-y approach to this topic, feel free to watch a 40-minute version of the talk taped at Franklin and Marshall College (slideshow and transcript if you’d rather read).

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Academic disciplines sometimes seem isolated from each other.  Like seems to speak to like.  This, it is sometimes worried, may lead to stultifying agreement within fields. Meanwhile, each field solves the same problem in different ways, unbeknownst to the next.

It simply isn’t true, it turns out, that scholars don’t cite research in other fields.  Nor do all fields have the same level of insularity.  Illustrating this is the network map below, featured by the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The connections between disciplines represent how often academic articles published by scholars in each field link to other fields.  The results are pretty interesting:

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

A QR, or Quick Response, code on a bulletin board of a college campus:

Steve Grimes shared this image and some interesting thoughts about how Quick Response codes, or QR codes, can contribute to inequality. That is, QR codes such as these serve to make certain content and information “exclusive” to those who have smartphones. He states,

There is a general thinking that technology can create a level playing field (an example of this is can be seen with the popular feelings about the internet). However, technology also has a great ability to create and widen gaps of inequality.

In a practical sense the company may be looking for students who are tech savvy. Using the matrix barcode may serve that purpose. However, the ad also shows how technology can exclude individuals; primarily in this case, students without smart phones. Ironically it is especially the students who need work (“need a job”) who may not have the money to afford a smart phone to read the ad.

Grimes’ thoughts are judicious, and reveal the inherent structural difficulties in alleviating inequality.  QR codes are one form of “digital exclusivity,” the tendency of technology to re-entrench (mostly) class disparities in access to information. Though they may be able to access the information later when they have access to a computer, the person who has the smartphone is certainly living in a much more augmented world than the person without.

If we take as our assumption that access to information is a form of capital, than we can easily see how such technologies are implicated in the field of power. We can also see how digital exclusivity can contribute to the larger digital divide. In this sense, digital exclusivity, as a characteristic of particular technologies and forums (in this case as an access-point to particular forms of knowledge and information), contributes to larger inequalities of power and access to information in the digital age.

QR codes, though, may not be the best example of a digitally-exclusive technology. That is, QR codes have yet to serve as a common conduit of important information—access to such information has similarly meant little in terms of social or economic capital. It turns out that even most people with smartphones don’t know what they are or aren’t interested in using them. Grimes’ understandable frustration the digital divide, combined with the uneven usage of QR codes among mobile phone-using countries, leads us to believe that those black and white squares do more to instill a feeling of digital exclusivity than anything else.

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David Paul Strohecker (@dpsFTW) is getting his PhD from the University of Maryland, College Park. He is currently doing work on the popularization of tattooing, a project on the revolutionary pedagogy of public sociology, and more theoretical work on zombie films as a vehicle for expressing social and cultural anxieties.

David A. Banks (@DA_Banks) is a M.S./Ph.D. student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  His research interests include space, place, cyborgs, and networked bodies.  He is currently working under the NSF’s GK-12 fellowship program, teaching science in urban school districts and developing new learning technologies. More at www.davidabanks.org.

Strokecker and Banks both blog at Cyborgology.

If you would like to write a post for Sociological Images, please see our Guidelines for Guest Bloggers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines neurological disorders as physical diseases of the nervous system and psychiatric illnesses as disorders that manifest as abnormalities of thought, feeling, or behaviour. In fact, however, there are longstanding unresolved debates on the exact relationship between neurology and psychiatry, including whether there can be any clear division between the two fields.

Related to this, Brandy B. sent us a figure from the blog Neuroskeptic graphing the proportion of journal articles on various disorders included in The American Journal of Psychiatry versus the journal Neurology over the past 20 years. The image is interesting from a sociological standpoint in that, as Brandy writes, “it says far more about the sociology of these fields than about which disorders can be considered neurological or psychiatric.”

While debates regarding the neurological roots of psychiatric illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia are far from settled, the graph shows that the two disciplines have maintained varying levels of intellectual authority over different disorders. Some fall clearly into one domain or the other, while others are covered in both. Depression, for example, receives more attention than mania in Neurology, despite the fact that mania often occurs alongside depression as a symptom of bipolar disorder.

The information in this graph serves as a reminder that what gets published in academic journals, and the topics over which disciplines exercise authority, are the results of social processes. Disciplines are artificial categories of knowledge, solidified through the creation of institutional structures like university departments, degree programs, and academic journals. Psychiatry, for example, didn’t emerge as a discipline until the 19th century; this emergence was rooted in a social context in Western Europe where rising numbers of people were being institutionalized and attitudes regarding the treatment of mental illness were changing. By claiming membership in disciplines based on common academic backgrounds, research methodologies, and topics of study, scholars contribute to the reproduction of these disciplinary boundaries.

The peer-review process is one facet of this social reproduction of disciplinary boundaries that is particularly relevant to the image above. Research and papers that are submitted, accepted, and funded must appeal to reviewers and conform to the criteria set out by the journal or discipline within which researchers wish to publish. In the case of neurology and psychiatry, it appears based on this graph that the peer-review process may uphold disciplinary boundaries, as reviewers for each discipline’s journal appear to favour articles on certain disorders.

The divisions between neurology and psychiatry suggested in the image above stir up lots of interesting questions not only about what we consider to be “neurological” or “psychiatric”, but more generally about the social production of knowledge.

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Hayley Price has a background in sociology, international development studies, and education. She recently completed her Masters degree in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.

If you would like to write a post for Sociological Images, please see our Guidelines for Guest Bloggers.

Whether you are in college or not, fall semester 2011 is upon us. Below, courtesy of Everyday Sociology, is a graph illustrating the rising cost of college, controlled for inflation.

Public College/University Tuition, Room and Board (held constant in 2007-2008 dollars):

Consequent to this increase, the average student in 2008 graduated with twice the debt as a student in 1996, from $12,750 to $23,200.

The pay-off of a college education, however, is higher than ever. So why don’t more people go?

In the seven-and-a-half minute video below, UC Berkeley Professor Michael Hout gives a history of higher education putting all of this in perspective. The answer is class-specific and how different classes think about debt and possibility. More:

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.