Larry H. (of the L.A. TimesDaily Mirror blog) sent in a link to an interactive map at the NYT that shows December 2008 unemployment rates by county. Here’s a screenshot:


If you go to the link you can hover over counties and get their individual unemployment rates.You can also filter by manufacturing counties, rural counties, and counties that experienced a housing boom, as well as the 1-year change in unemployment rate.

Of course, you might want to combine this with a discussion of how unemployment is calculated–the 7.6% is most likely what is called the U3 rate, which is always lower than the more comprehensive U6. If we look not just at unemployment but at underemployment–people who can’t get enough hours to support themselves–and people who have given up looking for work, the rate would be higher.

The New York Times features an interactive graphic about the wage gap between men and women. It shows how different types of professions are distributed along the wage gap.  At the website, you can see click on each dot to see wage gaps for specific professions (e.g., female professors make 22% less than male professors).


Also about the wage gap, see posts herehere, here, and here.

The Environmental Working Group’s interactive database lets you look up farm subsidies paid by the USDA. You can get all kinds of information–subsidy payments by county or congressional district, top 100 recipients of subsidies, breakdowns into particular types of payments (conservation, crops, disaster, etc.), and so on. It’s an interesting source of information, given that the Obama administration wants to drastically reduce farm subsidies and we’re likely to see a big argument over what the impact will be on farmers. Some groups argue that mid-sized family farms will be devastated by the loss of price supports. Others point out that subsidy payments are highly concentrated, with the top 20% of recipients getting the overwhelming majority of payments, and that if large industrial operations were forced to compete with family farms on an even playing-field without welfare payments, many of them would go out of business, leading to lower production and higher prices for other producers.

This was a big debate among rural sociologists when I was in grad school, and I guess we may be about to see.

Burk and Paul I.-M. both sent me this video that sums up the current credit crisis:


It’s helpful for understanding the situation, but I can’t help pointing out a few issues, like the gendering–almost all the bankers, investors, brokers, and other members of the financial systems are male (I believe one of the investors was female). Also, I found the image of families interesting: “responsible” families are thin and have one kid while irresponsible ones smoke, drink, get fat, and have tons of kids.

Also, it didn’t explain too much about the types of loans made available to the subprime market, particularly the fact that monthly payments often went up significantly after a couple of years, so you might want to throw that in if you show the video–it wasn’t always that people got loans they couldn’t afford at the initial rate, it’s that when the interest rate changed and their payments increased, they couldn’t afford the higher rates. And of course many perfectly “responsible” families took subprime loans, planning on flipping the property for a nice profit, driving real estate prices up for everyone…and now often going into foreclosure along with everybody else.

Those caveats aside, it’s a pretty useful video for boiling down some basic causes behind the credit crisis.

NEW! (Mar. ’10): Caity sent in this video by Westpac, an Australian bank, in which they attempt to explain the credit crisis in a way that some have felt was self-serving and condescending. Caity explains,

Nearly all Australian home loans are on variable interest rates. Our reserve bank recently put up the national rate by 0.25%. Usually, the banks raise (or lower) their rates about in line with the reserve bank’s changes, but this time Westpac (one of our biggest banks) put theirs up by 0.45% – and then emailed this video to all of their home loan customers to explain why.


Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Considering the graph below comparing the percent of GDP spent for economic stimulus during The Great Depression (1940s) and today (from the Tax Policy Center), Ezra Klein concludes:

We’re spending a lot right now, but this is hardly the most aggressive fiscal experiment in history.


Contrast that summation with this ad from the American Issues Project:


This is what sociologists call a framing war.  Is the economic stimulus big or small?  You can make arguments either way, and people will.  The question is: Which frame will resonate more with (which members of) the American public?  We’ll have to wait and see.

(Via Alas A Blog.)

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Nate Silver, over at, points out that whereas sales of beer have generally been relatively unaffected by economic conditions, the current financial situation led to a rather dramatic decrease in beer sales in late 2008:


I don’t have any sociological point here. I just think it’s interesting, and since I thought so, I thought I’d make you look at it too. Nate Silver (who I have a bit of a geek crush on) hazards a few theories (in particular, perhaps people are substituting cheaper beers for more expensive ones, meaning they’re drinking as much or more, but spending less); it’s worth checking his post out.

As I said, absolutely no point to this post other than “Huh. Look at that.”

This cartoon is currently causing quite a stir in both the political realm and the blogosphere (thanks to Sewell C. and Franklin S. for pointing it out):


The question is, is this a racist cartoon? According to the NYT,

The chimpanzee was an apparent reference to the 200-pound pet chimpanzee that was shot dead by a police officer  in Stamford, Conn., on Monday evening, after it mauled a friend of his owner.

You can read another account of it at Gawker.

So what is the implication? That the bill is so messed up a chimp must have written it? That he mauled the budget the way he mauled his owner’s friend? Given that the stimulus bill is widely associated with Obama (despite the fact that he, of course, did not write it–a bunch of Congressional staffers and policy geeks did, I suspect), it seems likely that many people will make a jump from the supposed author of the stimulus bill to Obama, meaning the chimp is a stand-in for the President.  Is that the cartoonist’s intent? If so, is that intent inherently racist?

Of course, there’s some historical context here. As this post illustrates, there is a long history of Africans and African Americans being portrayed as ape-like, or even as a link between apes and Europeans in the Great Chain of Being. Can we use monkeys as caricatures of African American public figures without bringing some of the old racist overtones along as well?

Again from the NYT:

In a statement, Col Allan, editor in chief of The Post, denied Mr. Sharpton’s assertion that the cartoon was “racially charged.” Mr. Allan said:

The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist.

The cartoon brings up some interesting issues surrounding artistic intent and reader interpretation. The cartoonist may or may not have meant to be in any way drawing on the older association between African Americans and apes. It’s likely that a fair number of readers will interpret the image that way, though, regardless of what the intent might be. Some will laugh and others will be offended at the implication. This gets at the crux of many conflicts over media images, TV shows, etc.: which matters, the stated intent of the creator, or what consumers of the material interpret it to be or what they do with it? And of course, the stated intent of the creator might be a bit disingenuous too; you can certain claim to have no racist intent while using imagery that is very much associated with racism, racial violence, etc.

Anyway, it’s a conversation starter, I guess.

Also, for the record, chimps make bad pets! They’re really strong and have sharp teeth. The live a long time. They reach sexual maturity and get frustrated and aggressive. Just go adopt a dog!

This graph, based on U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics and current as of February 6th, compares the number of jobs lost during the 1990 (blue), 2001 (red), and current (green) recessions:


Found at The Daily Kos thanks to Jerry A.