Posters in Washington D.C display a popular photo of Hillary Clinton texting while she served as Secretary of State

Originally posted on Oct. 14, 2015

Nearly 175 women ran for House and Senate seats in the 2014 congressional elections, and enough of them won to push women’s ranks to a record high of 104 members in Congress. More women are running for U.S. political offices then at any other time in history, but they remain underrepresented at all levels. Women hold only a fifth of seats in Congress, a quarter of state legislative posts, and six out of fifty gubernatorial seats – and of course no woman has as yet been nominated for the presidency by a major party. Female candidates face many obstacles – including lack of support from party gatekeepers. My research focuses on the role of gender stereotypes as a potential source of bias among voters. more...

Bill O'Reilly of Fox News is among the most influential of outrage mongers. Photo via FutureAtlas.com
Bill O’Reilly of Fox News is among the most influential of outrage mongers. Photo via FutureAtlas.com

Originally posted in December 2015

Pundits regularly bemoan “incivility” in American politics, but the coarseness of political discourse has moved far beyond mere incivility, generally understood as showing lack of respect. The acrimony and intensity of much political speech and behavior today is best understood as outrage talk – political speech that uses theatrical rhetorical tactics such as ad hominem attacks, slippery slope argumentation, belittling, and mockery in an effort to provoke emotional responses from the audience such as anger, fear, and moral indignation.


Just the threat of stigma can adversely affect health and psychological well-being. Photo by Evgeniy Isaev, Flickr CC.
Just the threat of stigma can adversely affect health and psychological well-being. Photo by Evgeniy Isaev, Flickr CC.

Stigma refers to social views or treatment that undervalues people for having conditions like mental illness, or for engaging in behaviors such as substance abuse. Specifically, stigma happens when people express prejudicial views toward such vulnerable groups or take prejudicial actions. Individuals who are stigmatized may try to limit the effects of stigma by withdrawing from others, hiding aspects of themselves, or avoiding situations where their vulnerabilities may be revealed. Scientific studies increasingly find that worries about being stigmatized – along with actual experiences of stigma – adversely affect health and psychological well-being and keep vulnerable people from using preventive health care.

Even common experiences can make some people vulnerable to stigma. Although unintentionally becoming pregnant and having to make decisions about how to proceed with an unintentional pregnancy are issues that many American women face, these conditions can prove stigmatizing. Young women in the United States have especially high rates of unintentional pregnancy, and may worry about stigma for having an unexpected pregnancy in the first place, as well as stigmas related to the decisions that follow (parenting, adoption, or abortion). This may be a greater concern for women whose experiences are different from the norms within their communities. more...

A Georgia group, Strong4Life, targets childhood obesity with its advertisements. Saguy's research shows such ads increase stigma and negatively affect health, even if obesity might not. Collage via ShareItFitness.
A Georgia group, Strong4Life, targets childhood obesity with its advertisements. Saguy’s research shows such ads increase stigma and negatively affect health, even if obesity might not. Collage via ShareItFitness.

“That’s the Hollywood secret! Don’t put food in your dumb mouth!” That’s how Amy Schumer, a 34-year-old comedian, mocks the tyranny of thinness in Hollywood and American society. As Schumer recounted on the television show Ellen, as she prepared for her film “Trainwreck,” movie executives hired a personal trainer to try to help her slim down. They gave her a meal plan that consisted of “a smoothie for breakfast, and then like for lunch you journal about that smoothie…like, there’s no food!”

At 5’7” and 160 pounds, Schumer’s Body Mass Index is 25.1, just barely over the current cut-off between “normal weight” and “overweight” and slightly below average for the current U.S. population. But she counts as heavy in Hollywood, where weight-based discrimination prevails and bigger bodies are devalued and rendered invisible in the contemporary United States. Unlike most women performers, Schumer has defiantly refused to resemble an “undernourished bird.” Her normal weight has not hurt her romantic life or her career. On its opening weekend, “Trainwreck,” the movie Schumer wrote and starred in, grossed $30 million. more...

At Texas A&M University, pioneering alums share their experiences in integrating the campus. Photo by MSC-TAMU, Flickr CC.
At Texas A&M University, pioneering alums share their experiences in integrating the campus. Photo by MSC-TAMU, Flickr CC.

In the recent Fisher v University of Texas case, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to affirm the Fifth Circuit’s decision to allow University of Texas to consider race in admissions. This is good news, because numerous studies have documented the positive impact of racial diversity on college campuses. This robust body of research was cited in an amicus brief from more than 800 academic scholars explaining the benefits of campus diversity. The dangers of ending affirmative action are also evident in California, where enactment of an anti-affirmative action state referendum in 1996 led to a steep decline in the number of black and Latino college students.

The Supreme Court’s decision to allow continued efforts to racially diversify college admissions is good news. But the bad news is that the decision will continue to encourage selective colleges and universities to frame such efforts in unintentionally limiting ways. Although the benefits of a diverse learning environment are clear, affirmative action overall was originally intended to further multiple goals: to promote greater access for African Americans into elite, predominantly white colleges; to make up for the historical effects of racial segregation; and (on many campuses) to counter previous policies of outright racial exclusion. Today’s students, however, hear little about these broad goals. Instead, students hear from colleges that affirmative action will benefit them. Most students have internalized this message, which has troubling implications for how America’s college students think about race and meritocracy. more...

Photo by Andrea Barisani via Flickr.com
Photo by Andrea Barisani via Flickr.com

In the early morning hours on June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen killed dozens of patrons in a horrific mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Mateen was a U.S.-born citizen of immigrant parents from Afghanistan, and during the attack he pledged allegiance to the international terrorist group Islamic State. The reaction of Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump was to reiterate his previously declared concerns about Muslims entering the United States.

Not only did Trump promise to suspend immigration from parts of the world tied to terrorism against the United States, he also charged that Muslim Americans were complicit, maintaining, “They know what is going on. They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what, they didn’t turn them in and we had death and destruction.” Trump continued, “people who know what was going on, they knew exactly, but they used the excuse of racial profiling for not reporting it. Which was probably an excuse given to them by their lawyer so they don’t get in trouble.” A few days later, he called for increased surveillance of American mosques, saying, “We have to maybe check, respectfully, the mosques and we have to check other places because this is a problem that, if we don’t solve it, it’s going to eat our country alive.”

Trump’s remarks were criticized for lumping together all Muslims, immigrants and citizens, mainstream and radicalized. In its coverage of the speech, the New York Times wrote, “he was wagering that voters are stirred more by their fears of Islamic terrorism than any concerns they may have about his flouting traditions of tolerance and respect for religious diversity.” Observers wonder whether Trump is making an effective bet about Americans’ views. Many elected Republicans have distanced themselves from their candidate’s remarks, but what about the American public overall? As a political scientist who studies public opinion about policies related to the nation’s changing ethnic composition, I have given careful thought to this issue. more...

Image from Mark Rain via Flickr Creative Commons
Image from Mark Rain via Flickr Creative Commons

One of the most important cases the Supreme Court reviewed this year was United States v. Texas, which ruled on challenges to two Obama administration initiatives – Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents and an expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – that would have affected up to five million people. In November 2014, President Obama announced Executive Actions that included additional temporary protections for immigrants who arrived as children (also referred to as “DREAMERS”) and a new program for parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. The programs would allow them to remain in the country and apply for work permits if they have been here for at least five years and have not committed felonies or repeated misdemeanors. These actions have been on hold since early 2015, when a district court issued a preliminary injunction in response to a challenge brought by Republican authorities in Texas and ultimately joined by 25 other states. The actual focus of the case was quite mundane: Texas argued that it would suffer significant financial damages if required to subsidize the cost of driver’s licenses to those qualifying for the s new programs. However, the larger context was an unwillingness to allow the President to enact policy change following years of blocked and failed efforts at immigration reform at other governmental levels.

The Supreme Court was unable to reach a decision in June. The case resulted in a 4-4 tie, an unusual but not unexpected result given the current makeup of the court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and reflecting the politically divisive nature of the case. This means that the decisions of the lower courts remain in place and the two initiatives are blocked, for now. more...

St. Agnes Medical Center, Fresno, CA. Photo by David Prasad, Flickr CC.
St. Agnes Medical Center, Fresno, CA. Photo by David Prasad, Flickr CC.

Catholic hospitals are a large and growing part of the U.S. health care system. Considerable public funding flows to these institutions, but they deny many reproductive health services and some kinds of end of life care to their patients. Catholic rules limit care in far-reaching ways, well beyond what many patients and health care providers understand or expect. These realities raise important issues about the future of religious restrictions in U.S. health care.

Restricted Care in a Growing Sector

Between 2001 and 2011, the number of Catholic hospitals increased by 16%, while public and secular not-for-profit hospitals decreased. One in six patients in the United States is cared for in a Catholic hospital, and in 2015, seven of the country’s 12 largest nonprofit hospital systems were Catholic. Although Catholic hospitals provide the same amount of charity care as non-Catholic hospitals, in terms of the percent of total revenues, they provide less care to Medicaid recipients than other kinds of hospitals.

Like other hospitals, Catholic institutions receive considerable public funding, yet they limit patient care to fit the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. As a condition of employment or medical privileges, doctors, nurses, and other clinical personnel are required to follow these directives when caring for patients in Catholic facilities. more...

Photo by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr
Photo by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr

Originally published in June 2013.

Immigration – and public policies to manage it – arouses strong emotions and fierce social and political battles, not just in the United States but in most other countries across the world. Why is this true? Each nation has its own issues that inspire or enrage, of course, but there are widespread, underlying patterns that can be identified and taken into consideration by reformers.

Reformers trying to facilitate immigration are often locked in battles with groups that want to place limits on international migration. Combatants start from very different world views – not only emphasizing different values but almost speaking different languages. To avoid destructive backlashes, reformers must understand and respect the values and perspectives of all groups involved in public debates, as we can see from a closer look at the United States. more...

Originally published in January 2016.

Americans are engaged in a great gun war, one that has raged for at least four decades. The war has intensified to the point where citizens cannot agree on the most basic facts. How many guns do Americans own? Does carrying firearms do more harm than good? Do firearm regulations work?

Although the answers are hotly disputed, most Americans share the goal of reducing our unconscionably high rate of gun violence. In a politically challenging environment, it makes sense to pull together what is known about guns and gun violence and look for policy approaches that could garner broad support. more...