the increasing penalty for not going to college

Sociologists and economists have long written about the college-non college wage gap. People who attended college, and especially college graduates, tend to make more money than those who did not. The way this gap is usually discussed is in terms of the “returns to a college degree” or the “college premium.” For example, Hout’s (2012) excellent Annual Review piece on the subject is titled “Social and Economic Returns to College Education in the United States.” There’s something about this framing that’s always bothered me.

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replication vs. robustness in social science

Economist Michael Clemens has posted a very useful working paper attempting to bring order to the chaotic discussions of replication tests in the social sciences. Clemens argues for a clean conceptual distinction between replication tests on the one hand, and robustness tests on the other. Continue reading “replication vs. robustness in social science”

living social science.

Update (4/15/15): I’ve since heard that this idea emerged in a class at Price’s undergraduate institution, Seattle Pacific University (also where I became a Sociology major thanks to a class taught by another Price). In other words, having students consider how social science can inform their own lives and future decision-making as part of classes could have a tremendous impact on how they carry that knowledge into the world. Something academics should take seriously and cultivate.

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I have long been fascinated by quests to live out proscriptions (whether Oprah’s adviceThe Bible, or the myriad other things people decide to do and blog about for a year). When I read today’s headline about the CEO who was raising his lowest paid worker’s salary to $70,000, I was anything but fascinated. But tonight, a friend’s Facebook post inspired me to actually read the article.

Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments isn’t only raising his employee’s salaries, he’s also lowering his own from 1 million to just $70,000. What inspired him to pull the lowest up and his own down?

Continue reading “living social science.”

caution about three-article dissertations

Over at The Evil EmpireOrgTheory, Fabio makes a case that, as a default, dissertations should take the form of three-paper (or, more generally N-paper) format. On the whole, I totally agree and think that the three-paper format helped me finish grad school and set me up well for my post-doc and life on tenure track.

But the conversation on three-paper dissertations (or, equivalently, “digital” dissertations in the humanities) often fails to address a major shortcoming of the three-paper format. The introduction and conclusion end up being anachronous appendages that weary students tack on at the end. Or, I should say, that a single particular weary student tacked on at the end of his dissertation.

It was not until I had a faculty position and read cover letters as part of the faculty search committee that I realized how I had screwed myself by tacking on an intro and conclusion. In my own letter I had failed to articulate what my research as a whole meant to the discipline and how I charted my own course for research. I had three pretty interesting empirical results and I dutifully described those. What I was missing, I realized, what a broader statement of overall relevance.

I believe that the three-article dissertation contributed to that lack of awareness. It affected my own cover letter and, I think, prevented me from getting more interviews. It didn’t deal a fatal blow to my career, after all I ended up in a great job. But it did limit my options when I entered the job market. In fact, I didn’t write a really cohesive research statement until I wrote my third-year review since that was the first time circumstances forced me, in a relatively concise way, to explain my contribution to the field.

As with any N of 1, especially with the measurement error that occurs when N=me, too many degrees of variables affect an outcome to certainly argue for a particular cause. And I believe that writing three articles established a direct, clear path of publications that helped me secure my post-doc and job that I now have. As with any benefit comes costs, and the three-article dissertation can come at the cost of thinking about larger research narratives. For that reason, I would caution advisors and advise grad students to think early in their candidacy about the larger narrative they construct with the three articles.

the hunting ground and the university as organization

The Hunting Ground is a new documentary about the epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses. It’s also a story of the birth of a new social movement targeting universities using innovative legal tactics alongside traditional organizing and protests. And in a gut-wrenching way, it’s a story about universities as organizations, and the dark side of the organizational imperative for self-protection and survival. In addition to being important for faculty to see in their roles as advisors, teachers, and participants in university governance, I think the film will also make an excellent teaching tool in a range of sociology classes on anything from sex and gender, to social movements, sociology of law, crime and deviance, and especially organizations. In theaters now!

And please use the comments as a place to discuss your thoughts on the film.

Edit: Comments are now closed.

sociology should look to political science, not economics

Sociologists, online and off, spend a lot of time comparing our discipline to economics and debating how it is they managed to become so prominent. The unstated goal, of course, is to make sociology itself more important. In terms of contemporary tactics for that disciplinary project, I wonder if we shouldn’t be looking to political science instead.

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