Last night, Republican Greg Gianforte won a special election for Montana’s sole Congressional seat. How do we interpret this event? Here’s how the NYT approaches the question:
Voters here shrugged off the episode and handed Republicans a convincing victory. Mr. Gianforte took slightly more than 50 percent of the vote to about 44 percent for Mr. Quist. (President Trump won Montana by about 20 percentage points.) Mr. Gianforte’s success underscored the limitations of the Democrats’ strategy of highlighting the House’s health insurance overhaul and relying on liberal anger toward the president, at least in red-leaning states.
I believe this interpretation is incredibly misleading and reflects a larger problem with how we make sense of binary outcomes in the presence of more information.
As the NYT notes, in 2016, Trump carried Montana 56-36. The House race in 2016 was a similar 56-40. Gianforte here won 50-44. That’s a 10 point shift. In a special election. In Montana. And with something like 70% of votes being cast before the assault that brought national attention. Turnout was about as high in the special election as in the 2014 general. That’s wild. Yes, Gianforte’s awful, and yes that he will be a congressman is depressing. But framing this outcome as having “underscored the limitation of the Democrats’ strategy” or as a big loss for Democrats strikes me as absurd. If you are a GOP rep who won by say 10 in 2016 (55-45), this result should terrify you. And if you’re a Democrat looking at an even marginally competitive district, this should embolden you.
That’s most of what I wanted to say; the rest of this post is an aside about learning, probabilities, continuous information, and contract bridge.
News reports about individuals killed by police have dominated the news cycle in the past few years. But how are individuals killed by police portrayed in the media? Are there racial/ethnic differences in media portrayals? If there are differences, what are the implications for public perceptions of these killings?
Economics PhD student Heather Sarsons has an interesting working paper on the effect of co-authoring on tenure decisions in economics and sociology. The main finding is that women do not benefit as much as men from co-authoring in economics, especially if they co-author with men. The same does not apply to sociology. Here’s the abstract:
How is credit for group work allocated when individual contributions are not perfectly observed? Do demographic traits like gender influence the allocation of credit? Using data from academic economists’ CVs, I test whether coauthored and solo-authored publications matter differently for tenure for men and women. Because coauthors are listed alphabetically in economics, coauthored papers do not provide specific information about each contributor’s skills or ability. Solo-authored papers, on the other hand, provide a relatively clear signal of ability. I find that men are tenured at roughly the same rate regardless of whether they coauthor or solo-author. Women, however, become less likely to receive tenure the more they coauthor. The result is most pronounced for women coauthoring with men and less pronounced among women who coauthor with other women. I contrast economics with sociology, a discipline in which coauthors are listed in order of contribution, and find that when contributions are made clear, men and women receive equal credit for coauthored papers.
It would be fascinating to compare sociology and economics to another field or two. While I think the argument about the importance of clear signaling is very plausible, I wonder if the paper downplays other, more macro differences between the two fields. Sarsons notes, but makes little of, the fact that sociology is much less dominated by men than economics (see, e.g.). In the paper, women are about 23% of the econ population, but 40% in sociology. And while both fields have prominent scholars studying gender inequality, it’s plausible that such concerns are more central to sociology’s identity and day-to-day functioning than they are in economics. If that’s the case, it would be useful to compare both fields to a third field with a mix of co- and single-authored papers, but which has the gender ratios of economics and the signaling structure as sociology. Perhaps Political Science? What do you all think?
Will the United States become “majority minority” and if so when? How do claims about our demographic future both ignore and participate in racial politics? In this post, I review some of the debate that’s been playing out between sociologists who study race and knowledge production.
The ASA Theory Section is looking to reach out to graduate students who may have theoretical interests but have not joined the section. To this end, we have secured a number of graduate student memberships, which we can offer to any graduate student who is currently a member of ASA but not Theory. The section is large, vibrant, and open to any and all forms of sociological theory.
Graduate students who are interested – or faculty who know graduate students that might be interested – can contact Dan Silver, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Act fast while supplies last!
Postmodernism is the first intellectual movement to acknowledge its own historical partiality. From that spring many of its faults and virtues, not to mention its caricatures. Because for a movement in some ways so arrogant — so insistent on its own epistemic correctness — to insist as well that it was always already partial evokes the kind of unease that many pundits (and social and natural scientists) feel when discussing postmodernism. Unfortunately, it also evokes the caricatures (not to say reaction-formations) that are common among those same pundits and scholars. Continue reading “blame it on pomo”