sunday morning sociology, divorce rates in the news edition

Philip Cohen discusses his new working paper the decline of divorce rates here, and how posting that working paper led to a ton of media coverage

A weekly link round-up of sociological work – work by sociologists, referencing sociologists, or just of interest to sociologists. This scatterplot feature is co-produced with Mike Bader.

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a sociological take on the kavanaugh hearing

The following is a guest post by Nicole Bedera.

I study adolescent sexual violence and, up until very recently, I found it hard to talk about the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. The main reason for that is that the way social scientists think about sexual violence is very different from how the general public talks about it. There are a lot of facts that make up the foundation of sexual violence research that are not generally accepted—or even recognized—in other discourses. Earlier this week, I took to Twitter to share some of the basic things sociologists know about sexual violence that I thought might add context to the allegations Judge Kavanaugh faces, including those made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

To begin, we generally think of sexual violence—and particularly its perpetration—as something rare. When we do recognize sexual misconduct as a common experience, we tend to focus on victimization and the stories we heard during the beginnings of #MeToo and imagine serial rapists as the primary perpetrators of sexual assault. However, sexual assault perpetration is similarly ordinary. According to one of the most recent and rigorous studies, as many as 10.8% of college-attending young men commit an act of rape before graduating (Swartout et al. 2015). The rate might be alarming, but the reasons are different than we traditionally think. Acts of sexual misconduct usually are not reflective of a man’s hatred toward women (although sexism, especially when mixed with power, certainly does play a role; Diel, Rees and Bohner 2016). Instead, many men use sexual maltreatment of women as a way to bond with other men and assert their masculinity (Quinn 2002). Previous research indicates that these masculinity-asserting behaviors are more severe among young men (Pascoe 2005), including virgins (Diefendorf 2015; for the author’s take on the Kavanaugh allegations, see Diefendorf 2018). Social context matters, too. Some environments are more conducive to the perpetration of sexual violence than others (Armstrong, Hamilton and Sweeney 2006; Martin 2016). The allegations against Judge Kavanaugh are consistent with what sociologists know about sexual violence: it’s common, rooted in male bonding, and situational.

Because sexual violence is so common among adolescents, many girls and young women normalize the sexual abuse they endure, even when it rises to the legal level of sexual assault (Hlvaka 2014). However, minimizing an act of violence does not necessarily mean it wasn’t harmful. Researchers have found that the impact of sexual victimization can be long-lasting, especially if survivors don’t receive effective support and resources (Ahrens, Cabral and Abeling 2009). This is one reason why the women accusing Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault might have waited to come forward and are coming forward now. Women feel a pressure to minimize what happened, but trauma becomes hard to ignore when the pain remains (and perhaps intensifies) over time. Reminders of the sexual assault might trigger a sense of urgency to act, as Dr. Ford suggested it did for her. Another reason for a delay in making a formal report of sexual assault is that survivors typically aren’t treated well when they make reports of sexual assault, be those reports to colleges (Smith and Freyd 2013) or the criminal justice system (Campbell 2005). Still, when survivors do come forward—regardless of the circumstances—it makes sense to start by believing their testimonies and treating their narratives as credible evidence because false allegations are rare (Lisak et al. 2010).

To put it simply, the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh aren’t particularly shocking to sexual violence researchers. In fact, they are very well explained by sociological and psychological research.

Nicole Bedera is a PhD Student in Sociology at the University of Michigan


Ahrens, Courtney E., Giannina Cabral, and Samantha Abeling. 2009. “Healing or Hurtful: Sexual Assault Survivors’ Interpretations of Social Reactions from Support Providers.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 33(1): 81-94.

Armstrong, Elizabeth, Laura Hamilton, and Brian Sweeney. 2006. “Sexual Assault on Campus: A Multilevel, Integrative Approach to Party Rape.” Social Problems 52: 483-499.

Campbell, Rebecca. 2005. “What Really Happened? A Validation Study of Rape Survivors’ Help-Seeking Experiences with the Legal and Medical Systems.” Violence & Victims 20(1): 55-68.

Diefendorf, Sarah. 2015. “After the Wedding Night: Sexual Abstinence and Masculinities Over the Life Course.” Gender & Society 29(5): 647-669.

Diefendorf, Sarah. 2018. “Kavanaugh’s ‘Good Guy’ Defense Reveals a Dangerous Rape Myth.” Huffington Post September 26.

Diel, Charlotte, Jonas Rees, and Gerd Bohner. 2016. “Predicting Sexual Harassment from Hostile Sexism and Short-Term Mating Orientation: Relative Strength of Predictors Depends on Situational Priming of Power Versus Sex.”

Hlvaka, Heather. 2014. “Normalizing Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harassment and Abuse.” Gender & Society 28(3): 337-358.

Lisak, David, Lori Gardinier, Sarah C. Nicksa, and Ashley M. Cote. 2010. “False Allegations of Sexual Assault: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases.” Violence Against Women 16(2): 1318-1334.

Martin, Patricia Yancey. 2016. “The Rape Prone Culture of Academic Contexts: Fraternities and Athletics.” Gender & Society 30(1): 30-43.

Pascoe, C.J. 2005. “ ‘Dude, You’re a Fag’: Adolescent Masculinity and the Fag Discourse.” Sexualities 8(3): 329-346.

Quinn, Beth A. 2002. “Sexual Harassment and Masculinity: The Power of ‘Girl-Watching.’” Gender & Society 16(3): 386-402.

Smith, Carly Parnitzke, and Jennifer J. Freyd. 2013. “Dangerous Safe Havens: Institutional Betrayal Exacerbates Sexual Trauma.” Journal of Traumatic Stress 26(1).

Swartout, Kevin M., Mary P. Koss, Jacqueline W. White, Martie P. Thompson, Antonia Abbey, Alexandra L. Bellis. 2015. “Trajectory Analysis of the Campus Serial Rapist Assumption.” JAMA Pediatrics 169(12): 1148-1154.

sunday morning sociology, gender in politics edition

The Economist charts the dramatic rise of Democratic women congressional candidates.

A weekly link round-up of sociological work – work by sociologists, referencing sociologists, or just of interest to sociologists. This scatterplot feature is co-produced with Mike Bader.

Continue reading “sunday morning sociology, gender in politics edition”

the geography of friends

The NYT has a fantastic new bit of data visualization: “How Connected Is Your Community to Everywhere Else in America?” The piece uses data from Facebook ties to show how geography shapes our ties. The overwhelming pattern is that counties are tied to adjacent counties. As the article reminds us, “The typical American lives just 18 miles from his or her mother. The typical student enrolls in college less than 15 miles from home.” Other, subtler, patterns are interesting too. As an example, below are charts for three counties in southeast Michigan: Washtenaw (which include the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), Oakland (a rich county of Detroit suburbs) and Wayne (which includes Detroit itself).

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 9.16.13 AM.png

You can clearly see in the Washtenaw County map connections to other college towns. These connections are especially stark in contrast with Oakland, which has almost no East or West Coast ties:

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 9.16.27 AM.png

In contrast, what jumps out from comparing Oakland to Wayne is Wayne’s strong ties to the Deep South, likely a legacy of the Great Migration of Black Southerners to industrial cities in the North (a common trend, as the NYT piece notes):

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 9.19.46 AM.png

The article ends with a quote from none other than Mark Granovetter:

“This gives us the first way to systematically look at some of those relationships,” said Mark Granovetter, a sociologist at Stanford who has written influential papers on the value of social networks. “They have just scratched the surface here.”

What do you see?

sunday morning sociology, asa ternary plot edition

Kieran Healy applies his magic visualization touch to the ASA section membership data, including the above ternary plot.

A weekly link round-up of sociological work – work by sociologists, referencing sociologists, or just of interest to sociologists. This scatterplot feature is co-produced with Mike Bader.

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asa section memberships by race

The American Sociological Association just released section membership data for 2017. In addition to the usual breakdown by gender, ASA has also released section membership data by race (Excel file here). These data come from ASA’s racial demographic question, that looks as follows:

ASA racial demographic question as of September 10, 2018.

ASA translates this question into 8 mutually exclusive categories: Black or African American, Asian or Asian American, Hispanic/Latino(a), Native, White, Other, Multiple, Missing.

For Section memberships, ASA also does the following: “when the number of members in a category is less than five, they were counted as “missing.”” Presumably this is some kind of privacy measure, though I’m not entirely sure. Whatever the rationale, the result ends up being that almost every section has a listed “0” for Native American membership, and some smaller sections have zeroes for other categories as well. These are not necessarily “true” zeroes, and they also tend to inflate the “Missing” category. Below, I present super rough graphs of the section membership breakdowns by race for White, Black or African American, Hispanic/Latino(a), and Asian or Asian American. There are lots of ways one could usefully visualize these data depending on the questions you were asking of them; I encourage you to download the spreadsheet and tool around yourself. The section names are as given in the ASA spreadsheet (plus “Total ASA Membership” which refers to all ASA members).

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sunday morning sociology, a good pie chart(?) edition

A weekly link round-up of sociological work – work by sociologists, referencing sociologists, or just of interest to sociologists. This scatterplot feature is co-produced with Mike Bader.

Continue reading “sunday morning sociology, a good pie chart(?) edition”