live-tweeting the harvard affirmative action case

Today, a US District Court ruled that Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies passes strict scrutiny. The full ruling is here. I live-tweeted a read through of the decision here, in case you’d like a bit of rambly commentary mixing Gelman-esque critiques of statistical methodology with a smattering of critical race theory. Here are some of my takeaways:

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on exactitude in social science

…In that Empire, the Art of Machine Learning attained such Perfection that the data of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the data of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Datasets no longer satisfied, and the Machine Learning Faculty built a Dataset of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Machine Learning as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Dataset was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Data, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Statistics.

—Jorge Luis Borges, Obras Completas v7, translated from the 20th century by @asociologist

the science of gay gene science

The following is a guest post by Jeff Lockhart.

It is that time of year again: Science has a new study by Ganna et al. on the “gay gene,” and major outlets like the New York Times have picked it up. While many are just encountering this area of research for the first time, numerous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of sexual orientation have been published since the invention of GWAS in the early 2000s. Like others in the genre, Ganna et al. uncritically cite and perpetuate research with deep theoretical, methodological, and ethical flaws, like the Wang & Kosinski “gayface” paper. But rather than frustration, I’m taking my cue from XKCD: this is an opportunity to introduce others to an exciting area of Science and Technology Studies.

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how should we measure the racial wealth gap? relative vs. absolute gaps in the student debt forgiveness debate

The following is a guest post by Louise Seamster.

The 2020 Democratic presidential race has taken up the issue of the racial wealth gap, and several candidates have come up with proposals to address the gap with some amount of student debt forgiveness. The racial wealth gap is a way to operationalize the notion of racial justice: the wealth gap gives us something to measure and assess in search of genuine progress. But, like many assessments of racial progress, the wealth gap must be carefully conceptualized.

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asa podcast party to replace social media soiree!

For many years now, bloggers, tweeters, and other digitally-minded social sociology types have gathered at the American Sociology Association’s annual meeting. This year, scatterplot will not be organizing our own event but we are happy to announce the following event organized by the podcasting team at The Annex, and which we hope will serve as a suitable replacement.

ASA Friends of the Podcast Party!

Mark your calendars and spread the word! Friends of The Annex Sociology Podcast will be having drinks at ASA 2019 on Monday night. If you’ve interacted with us online over the past couple years, please come by and say “hi” and meet some of the great guests who have been on our show.

If you know nothing of the podcast, check us out on your favorite podcast platform: The Annex Sociology Podcast. Or visit


DATE: Monday, August 12 at 7:30PM

PLACE: Peter Dillon’s at 2 East 36th Street, New York

NOTE: There are two Peter Dillon’s. Make sure you go to the East 36th Street location

Additional note: Interested in podcasting? Do you run your own podcast? Thinking of starting one? Please write!

protecting students or enabling trolls? why faculty evaluations should not be totally anonymous

The following is a guest post by Robin Fowler.

I want to start by noting that I unequivocally appreciate the value of student feedback. In addition to the University-coordinated teaching evaluations, I regularly collect input from students regarding my pedagogical choices. Most of the feedback I get through both my own and the university’s evaluation systems is useful and gives me ideas for improving my courses and my teaching. Often, it is very constructive or even heartwarming.

However, the true anonymity of the student evaluations opens the door to trolling and other absolutely inappropriate communication to instructors; students say things via open-ended feedback that they would never say face-to-face or if they thought their comments could later be attributed to them (by anyone). There is a strong literature on communication medium, and total anonymity in particular, allowing for a total disregard of the impact of your words on your addressee. This leads to a few very inappropriate comments, which disproportionately affect under-represented groups but which are terrible for all of us. As our institutions work to create a more inclusive environment for students and faculty, it’s appropriate they consider the raced and gendered comments given a platform in this anonymous channel.   

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guest post: asa session organizers should accept extended abstracts

The following is a guest post by Daniel Laurison.

There are three things that bug me about the ASA conference submission system. I want to tell you briefly about each of them, and then what I’m trying to do about one of them. Over the years since I started really paying attention to ASA (sometime in 2007 or 2008, I think) I’ve asked many people over various media if they have an argument FOR any of these three elements of the system, and haven’t heard anything that convinced me, but I am entirely open to the fact that I’m missing something.

(TL;DR = I’m going to accept extended abstracts at my session on elites at ASA 2020; I hope other session organizers will do the same; if you’re on board, go to

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