racial coding in the skies

On the way to a wonderful vacation this summer, I flew Delta RDU-ATL-SEA and SEA-MSP-RDU. The flights in and out of SEA showed Delta’s edgy new safety videos, a version of one of which is here:

(The versions I saw were slightly different, as I’ll describe below. One was on a 767-300, the other on a 757-200). WARNING: Spoiler alert below the break.

Continue reading “racial coding in the skies”

what should asa’s gender categories be?

Cross-posted on Social (In)queery.

The ASA is trying to respond to a request from its members to expand the options for gender on its membership form. Right now, the choices are female, male, and prefer not to answer. There is no category that acknowledges transgender members at all, but creating a new category scheme is not as easy as it might seem. For example transsexual people and transgender people have not always appreciated being lumped into the same category. Some people reject gender categories altogether and might prefer a “none” or some other less alienating gender-non-specific category.

These gender categories are important for a number of reasons. First, by having exclusive gender schemes, the ASA is not acknowledging its trans members. Second, it is a missed opportunity to collect data on the size of the trans membership in the ASA. Third, gender categories are communicative; they tell members who may not be aware that transgender sociologists work among their ranks. Finally, it is important to get the gender categories right because they are teaching sociologists what the “appropriate” categories to use are, setting an important example for us as we design survey questions , courses, departments, etc.

The ASA staff have brought the matter to the Committee on the Status of LGBT Persons in Sociology, but there wasn’t consensus there. They propose (and are planning to implement), the following scheme: Continue reading “what should asa’s gender categories be?”

don’t tread on my statehood dreams

"Taxation Without Representation" license plate on Presidential Limo

In case you’ve missed the news of of rural Northern Colorado, a number of counties there wish to secede from the state because those darn city slickers in Denver just don’t listen to their concerns. Although the chances are nearly impossible since it would require an amendment to the Colorado constitution and approval of Congress, nothing has deterred them yet.

One of the leaders of the movement, however, Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway made a much more plausible case: admit the new state of “Northern Colorado” along with another state, either Puerto Rico or Washington, D.C. As some of you may or may not know (though I’ve mentioned before), residents of the District of Columbia do not have representation in Congress. In other words, they have taxation without representation.

The idea is pretty clear: admit one Republican-leaning state and one Democratic-leaning state. The action would have precedent: the Missouri Compromise admitted Maine and Missouri together in order to maintain the balance of free and slave states.

I was curious what the addition of D.C. and Northern Colorado would do to state Congressional apportionment if Congress maintained the current 435 seats in the House (the Senate would likely add two Republican Senators and two Democratic Senators, keeping the current balance, though breaking a filibuster would be even slightly harder because 63 votes — or 60.6% of the Senate — would be required rather than the current 60). I wrote a Stata script to implement the “Amazing Apportionment Machine.”
Continue reading “don’t tread on my statehood dreams”

nra membership, 2013 edition

The NRA added more than 500,000 members in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, based on their latest magazine circulation reports.


Back in January and February, the NRA was making claims about its size and growth to ward off potential gun control legislation after the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, CT. Mother Jones and the Washington Post both looked into the claims using my method of examining the publicly available numbers of paid subscribers to the three major NRA publications. Since NRA membership comes with a free subscription to one of their magazine and that is the only way to subscribe, I suspect that the total number of subscribers is a good proxy for the total number of members.

The NRA recently release circulation reports for the first six months of 2013, giving us the first look at post Newton membership. The total number of subscribers to NRA publications went from 3,096,145 to 3,671,054. The biggest jump was between February and March, when the number of subscribers jumped by 184,575. Given the lag between when people sign up and when they are added to the magazine roles, this most likely reflects change in membership during December, the month of the shooting. This might also underestimate the number of new members that month because there was probably some existing members who choose not to renew their membership during that a month.

This blog also hosted a contest to see who could predict the number of members in June of 2013. Congratulations to Ben Lind for having the closest guess with 3,094,723. This is a tricky time series to estimate because of its strongly cyclical nature. While some of the ups and downs follow the political calendar, others, like the most recent surge, are due to well-framed responses to threats, both of which are harder to predict. My guess is the NRA continues to grow but at slightly slower pace and finishes the year with close to 4 million members.

I’ve made the complete time series available.

how much do you charge?

Here’s an “ask scatterplotters” for mid-career folks. I got an email from a younger colleague that I don’t know the answer to: “I am being asked by a government contractor to provide an estimate of how much I would charge to write a white paper and two fact sheets. Do you have any clue what kind of fee would be reasonable?” Do you? More broadly, I’ve never known how much to ask when I’ve been asked to consult with lawyers or NGOs, or asked how much I charge to speak. I’ve asked back: can you tell me how much other people charge? Can the more experienced scatterplotters among us give some idea of the going rates are for the various types of consulting sociologists might do? In particular, I’d find it helpful to know how the acceptable rates vary by: (1) what exactly you are doing, (2) your level of prior academic or consulting experience, (3) your status in the profession, (4) the nature and resources of the client, (5) region of the country.

If you are able to provide some benchmarks or answers, please specify what type of consulting/work you did, what kind of client it was, your region, and what you charged. If you are using a pseudonym, it would be helpful to provide some kind of status or experience indicator to help us calibrate.


so long, and thanks for all the fish

Phil Schrodt, a political scientist at Penn State, has written an epic blog post announcing his retirement.  I don’t know anything about his work, although I was on a grant panel with him once and was impressed by how wise he seemed then.  Suffice it to say his Goodbye To All That contains a lot to think about, starting with some of his thoughts about the practical state of political methodology and ending with him wondering if he will wind up in hell because of “the decades I spent as an enabler of the [Kansas] Ph.D. program, for which there is absolutely no justification.”

Among various contenders, I’ll pull a quote out of the middle: “I log my time, more or less accurately, in half-hour chunks. Fifty hours [a week] is a lot: most people I know who claim that have, in the absence of contemporaneous written documentation, essentially no idea of how much they actually work. Those who claim eighty or more hours per week are either lying or should be institutionalized.”