There’s a new paper from Social Science and Medicine making the rounds with the provocative title “Black lives matter: Differential mortality and the racial composition of the U.S. electorate, 1970–2004.” The Monkey Cage has a write-up with a blunt (clickbait-y?) title that emphasizes the paper’s main question, Blacks die sooner than whites. How many votes has this cost Democrats? Something about this framing bothered me.
Today, three researchers at Facebook released a new study in Science titled “Exposure to ideologically diverse news and opinion on Facebook.” The authors summarize their own findings in a companion blog post:
We found that people have friends who claim an opposing political ideology, and that the content in peoples’ News Feeds reflect those diverse views. While News Feed surfaces content that is slightly more aligned with an individual’s own ideology (based on that person’s actions on Facebook), who they friend and what content they click on are more consequential than the News Feed ranking in terms of how much diverse content they encounter.
As several commentators have noted, this framing is a little weird.
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.
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”
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.
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.
Organizations (and/or authority figures within organizations) are frequently called on to make consequential decisions about individuals. These decisions range from who to admit to a selective undergraduate institution or graduate program to which mortgage applications to accept to which prisoners should be paroled. The organizations and individuals have at their disposal varying kinds of information, which are perceived as being differently valuable in making those decisions. For example, in undergraduate admissions, we may know a student’s GPA, their SAT score, their class rank, the extracurriculars they participated in, and so on. Some schools may value SAT highly, others GPA, etc. In the past few decades, there has been a decided turn towards looking at behavioral information as particularly valuable across a variety of fields, including finance (the turn to behavioral credit scoring, which relies primarily on variables like past defaults and late payments) and criminal justice.
Continue reading “what are we measuring when we measure behavior? elementary school edition”