Dimitriy T.M. sent in another interesting link, this time to an interactive map that presents IRS data on inter-county moves — that is, how many people moved from one county to another in 2008, and where they moved to. The map doesn’t capture all moves, since the IRS only presents data if at least 10 people from a county moved to a particular destination county (so a county could have a lot of out-migration, but if people really spread out when they moved, it wouldn’t show up). Despite that limitation, it does highlight some interesting general trends.

For instance, people from counties with big cities move to a variety of places, often far away from where they started (note that the width of the line indicates the number of immigrants, red = out-migration and black = in-migration, and the destination counties show up in blue):

On the other hand, if you look at most counties in the U.S. that don’t have large metropolitan areas, you see that most movement is to relatively nearby counties. Here’s an example from North Dakota:

I suspect that the number of migrants in rural areas is going to be under-represented, since their smaller overall populations may make it more likely that less than 10 people would move to any particular place, so that’s important to keep in mind.

Also not surprisingly, counties with universities see a lot of migration, both in and out, and to a wide variety of destinations. Here is Dane County, the site of the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

When I was looking around, I randomly clicked on Sweetwater County, Wyoming. I was surprised to see quite a bit of in-migration from distant counties:

I don’t know what’s going on there. There isn’t a university in the county. Does anyone know enough about Wyoming to have a guess?

UPDATE: Reader Caitlin says it’s related to  oil production. Thanks for the info, Caitlin!

Anyway, it’s a sort of fun map to mess around with.

Oh my. Inés V. just let us know about a contest on WTVN, a conservative talk radio station in Ohio (reader Scapino clarifies that the conservative tone is mostly due to syndication of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, not really the local DJs). Just…see for yourself:

Inés says,

This campaign is a response to Columbus mayor Michael Coleman who boycotted AZ by banning all city-funded travel after SB1070, and the mayor is depicted as a holder of a green card [that’s him shown on the ID card].

It’s an astounding example of dehumanizing undocumented immigrants — being a proud American is linked to “illegals” (a term that somehow seems more stigmatizing than terms like “illegal immigrants” or “illegal aliens,” even — a linguistic erasure of personhood altogether) being scared, presumably of all the proud Americans they encounter, and the lucky winner gets to go “spend a weekend chasing aliens”. It’s like you’re getting to go on a safari.

Groups in Columbus have organized a response and will be delivering letters to the station this afternoon, before the contest ends, in protest.

I’d add more commentary, but what can you really say?

A recent study by Chelsea Schafer and Greg Shaw found that, as of 2006, over a quarter of Americans would still rather not live near homosexuals.  This percentage has been decreasing, however; in 1990 and 1995, 38% and 30% of people, respectively, wanted to keep their distance:

But tolerance for Muslims and immigrants has not increased alongside tolerance for gays and lesbians.  The data show that rather high levels of tolerance in the ’90s (with about 90% of people being happy to have these groups as neighbors) disappeared and, by 2006, 22% of people did not want to live near Muslims and 19% did not want to live near immigrants.

The data on tolerance for Muslims is likely due to the way the attacks on September 11th, 2001, have been spun to stoke hatred against Muslims.  What do you think about the increased intolerance for immigrants?  Have “foreigners” been collateral damage in the smear campaign against Muslims and Arabs?  If it were simply growing conservatism, wouldn’t we see the same pattern for homosexuals?  Other explanations?

Borrowed from Contexts Discoveries.

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.

Why does the iconic New York City paper cup look so… Greek?

Flickr creative commons Steve McFarland.

The designer of the cup, Leslie Buck, arrived in the U.S. after fleeing the Nazis during World War II.  He joined a new company called “Sherri Cup” in the ’60s.  He designed the cup, with no art training, with a Grecian theme and in the colors of the Greek flag, to appeal to… Greeks.  It turns out that a large portion of the city’s diners at that time were owned by Greeks.  It was an instant hit.

So, we have immigration, ethnic occupational segregation, and Buck’s ingenuity to thank for decades of cozy, New Yorky feelings inspired by that little cup.

Buck died this April.  You can read his obituary, and the whole story of the cup, at the New York Times.

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.

This 4-minute 20-second video, by Colorlines, uses true stories to illustrate the impact of a 1996 law that authorizes the (sometimes retroactive) deportation of non-citizens convicted of any crime, including misdemeanors and traffic violations.  In 2008, the video reports, the U.S. government deported almost 360,000 people on these grounds.

Via Racewire.

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.

Mary, writer of the fabulous blog Cooking with the Junior League, sent in an episode of the PBS series Faces of America. The episode, titled “Becoming American,” looks at the immigrant origins of various celebrities (Meryl Streep, Stephen Colbert) in the period of massive immigration to the U.S. from about 1820 until 1924.

The segment Mary found interesting is about the grandfather of Queen Noor. An immigrant from Syria, he became a naturalized citizen, which Mary says “was unusual because at the time, only ‘white’ and ‘black’ people could be naturalized…but during this time, Syrians started taking their cases to court to prove that they were white, and could, as a result, become naturalized citizens.” It’s a great example of the social construction of race and the way groups have actively resisted the ways they were categorized.

The segment on Queen Noor’s grandfather starts at 36:23.

Also see our post on suing for whiteness.

Jersey Shore has come to end, we’re (genuinely) sad to say. We know we had fun. But is it possible we also saw something, dare I say it, subversive about beauty, gender and sexuality? I think so.

A panel discussion on the show and “Guido culture” at Queens College yesterday (you read that right), included New York State Senator and Jezebel heroine Diane Savino, who knows from stinging cultural analysis.

[Savino] explained, “‘guido’ was never a pejorative.” It grew out of the greaser look and became a way for Italian-Americans who did not fit the standard of beauty to take pride in their own heritage and define cool for themselves.

When she was growing up, everybody listened to rock; girls were supposed to be skinny with straight blonde hair (like Marcia Brady on “The Brady Bunch”); guys wore ripped jeans, sneakers and straggly hair.

The 1977 film “Saturday Night Fever” marked a turning point. “It changed the image for all of us,” Ms. Savino said. As Tony Manero, John Travolta wore a white suit, had slicked short hair, liked disco music and was hot. “It was a way we could develop our own standard of beauty,” she added.

In the same way, Virginia Heffernan writes in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, Italian-Americans in the Northeast originally disdained their own accents until movies like “Mean Streets, Saturday Night Fever, Working Girl and, of course, Taxi Driver.” Those representations, she says, led to a “hammy” reclamation of an identity that had been mirrored back to them through Hollywood. These were second and third generation immigrants, who had mostly reached the middle class but maybe didn’t feel wholly a part of the mainstream, who telegraphed their identity through stylized symbols like Italian flags and red sauce that felt potent but no longer limited their social mobility.

That goes for the ladies too. Female beauty that took on a showily “ethnic cast” was distinct from what was already being sold. As Regina Nigro recently put it on The Awl:

We (I) laugh at bon mots like “You don’t even look Italian!” (the insult that Sammi “Sweetheart” flings at the blonde blue-eyed “grenade” …) but, ridiculous as it is, that assessment betrays a value system: Skinny blonde pale WASP princesses are deemed not attractive when measured by the JS aesthetic. And this seems curious and laughable to us.

“You don’t even look Italian!” is crazy funny but is the underlying judgment (dark hair/olive skin/Italian-looking = pretty; the inverse = not pretty) any worse than any other standard of beauty? It’s an alternative perspective, one that I suspect is so funny partly because it is so unfamiliar.

Of course, there is plenty about the Jersey Shore sexual aesthetic that is broadly familiar. The worst insult is to call a woman fat (or a “hippo”); big, exposed boobs are a baseline requirement, and the men are judged by the attractiveness of the women they acquire. (The other guys repeatedly mock The Situation about the looks of the women he brings home; Ronnie taunts him that he hasn’t brought home a girl anywhere near as pretty as Sammi).

And yet it’s oddly refreshing how much artifice itself is celebrated, with everyone participating mightily, and openly, in becoming the ideal Guido. No one is just born one, or supposed to make it look effortless. There are communal visits to tanning salons and unblinking references to fake breasts, and everyone takes hours to get ready. Vinny describes a girl admiringly: “Fake boobs, nice butt, said she was a model.”

Heffernan, writing about regional accents being reinforced by the show, uses Sammi as an example: “Every part of Sweetheart’s identity – including her skin color, which on the show is not an inborn marker of ethnicity but a badge of achievement (in the tanning bed) – is the product of intense calculation.” And Heffernan didn’t even get to Sammi’s hair extensions, which are brandished for emphasis.

No character more desperately self-produces than The Situation and his third-person pronouncements. Men are not inscluded [sic] from all this ritual artifice. In the last episode, J-Woww practically goes into heat when she sees some “juicehead gorillas” on the beach, and she lists “Human Growth Hormone” among the attractions. This, by the way, leads The Situation to mumble defensively, “Big is out and lean is in.”

That’s because on The Jersey Shore, men’s bodies are just as scrutinized as women’s, and their beauty rituals are as elaborate, expensive, and time-consuming as those of the women. Maybe even more so — in addition to blowouts, tanning sessions, and agonizing over which appliqued shirt will set them apart from the gelled masses, they spend hours at the gym, something we never see the girls do.

As much as the cast performed all this around the clock during the show’s taping, the audition tapes seen here and in the video below are even more extreme, mixing ethnic calculation with the general famewhoring savviness reality producers have become accustomed to.

Looking at this through what we know now: Sammi calls herself a “hookup slut” but aside from a few flirtations, turned out to be conventionally monogamous on the show. Vinny, in straight-up costume, claims he has to take off his pants “to really show you the magic,” but turned out to be the mildest-mannered cast member, one who unashamedly adores his doting mother. Underneath playing to the producers, though, is a more personal kind of construction, and a more particular one. And ironically, although the cast members’ self-creation was one of the most entertaining parts of the show, some underlying sense of unembarrassed authenticity, even wholesomeness, made it most worth watching.


Irin Carmon is a reporter at, from where we’re super pleased to have borrowed the post below. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, The Village Voice, and others; more information is at

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

The Modern Language Association has all kinds of awesome language-related data available that you can customize depending on your interests. Most basically, you can get an interactive map showing the percent or number of speakers of various languages spoken at home by county (or number by zip code). Here is English:






Notice that the scale of the maps changes, so the same color doesn’t indicate the same percent of speakers for each language. For some languages the darkest red only indicates 1 or 2 percent.

There was one odd category I noticed. This is the map for “African languages”:

African languages

I can understand why you might lump some languages from an area together if they are so rare in the U.S. that they’d barely show up. But what, exactly, is an “African” language? It doesn’t appear to include Arabic, though it is spoken in much of northern Africa. Many people in Africa speak European languages (particularly French and English) due to colonialism. Presumably this category includes “native,” non-Arabic languages. It’s a strange category.

For those of you wondering about the little pockets of African language speakers in, say, Iowa and Nebraska, I could be wrong, but I would suspect in some of those counties it might have something to do with slaughterhouses. In the last decade or so some packing houses have recruited African immigrants, particularly Somalis, to move to rural areas and work in the plants. Again, that’s just a guess, but some of the locations fit.

UPDATE: Commenter mordant.espier says,

I think you’re wrong about African languages and meatpacking in the midwest. I know that Omaha has a significant Sudanese community, about 7,000, many of whom are refugees and asylum seekers.  In Minneapolis, there are a number of Somali. They are there because of the US government, and even more because religious and charitable organizations, especially the Episcopal Church and Catholic Charities, have provided support through all stages of the immigration process.  The existance of a group of refugees who are able to enlist the support of locals has created such pockets.

Anyway, moving on.You can also get side-by-side comparisons of two states. This shows the percentage of the population speaking Arabic in California and Michigan:

Arabic comparison

Number and percent of speakers of various languages:

Picture 1

You can compare the number of speakers in 2000 and 2005:

Picture 3

If you go to “Language by State” in that last link and select a language, you can then look at “ability to speak English”. Annoyingly, it only shows raw numbers, not percentages, so you have to do the calculations yourself. But here’s the breakdown for German in Michigan; clearly the vast majority of people who speak German also say they speak English “very well”:

Picture 4

You can also get an age breakdown (again, just raw numbers) for each language, by state. Here’s a partial list for Chinese:

Picture 1

I’m warning you now, the site can turn into an enormous time-suck. You think you’ll just look up the state you live in, say, and then you get started comparing things, and the next thing you know, it’s a half hour later.

UPDATE 2: Commenters have also pointed out that a) “Chinese” is as much of a thrown-together category as “African” (does it mean Cantonese? Mandarin?) and b) the site doesn’t have any information about use of American Sign Language, both great points.