why are headlines so bad at causality?

Every major media outlet has been reporting on the big JAMA paper by Chetty et al on income inequality and life expectancy. I haven’t read the paper yet, but I’ve been following the coverage. As is true of any complex social science finding, the details can be tricky to report. Ezra Klein at Vox.com does a pretty good job of explaining the article itself, how it fits into existing findings (for example, about the relatively small effect of access to health care on mortality) and how the researchers approached competing explanations. Continue reading “why are headlines so bad at causality?”

trump supporters need safe spaces too

Last week in my higher education class we covered debates about free speech on college campuses, including a discussion of “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces.” We read last year’s infamous Atlantic essay by Lukianoff and Haidt along with critical reactions, and put the debate in historical context with a discussion of Gould’s work on campus speech codes and the weakness of legal precedents in the face of contradictory organizational imperatives. We also talked about Fabio Rojas’ book on the emergence of Black Studies (which we read earlier in the term), and particularly the argument that Black Studies departments offered a kind of safe space for challenging the racial status quo.

I was thinking about all of this when I read an excellent piece in the New York Times about r/The_Donald, the home for Donald Trump supporters on Reddit.* Continue reading “trump supporters need safe spaces too”

what does it mean to say an algorithm is racist?

Yesterday, tipped off by Beth Berman, I posted a screenshot of a pair of Google search results onto Twitter. The screenshot (below the cut) shows what happened when you searched for “professional hairstyles for work” and “unprofessional hairstyles for work”. I labeled the screenshot “This is what a racist algorithm looks like.” (BoingBoing picked up the story around the same time, and seems to have traced back the idea for it to the original source.)

Continue reading “what does it mean to say an algorithm is racist?”

graduate student associations

Although it has had a teaching assistant’s union since the 1970s, my department has just formed a Sociology Graduate Students Association in the past two years. They are interested in learning about the structure and functions of graduate student associations at other programs.Is there a sociology graduate student association on your campus? What does it do? How is it structured?

Our students would also like to identify graduate students at other institutions who could tell them about the how the graduate student association works in your department. I think this is especially so if you believe it works well. If you would be a good contact or can suggest one, drop a comment and I’ll email you for more information. I can see your email address if you comment.

don’t blame the fha for the rise of the suburbs

One of the most important trends in the post-WWII US was the rise of the suburbs. The creation of the suburbs involved a transformation of economic and political life, as well as a new era of racial segregation. Historians have long laid the blame for the emergence of the suburbs on the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), arguing that the FHA favored new single-family houses in the suburbs over multi-family rental properties in cities, and that the FHA discriminated against minority homebuyers. A new article by Judge Glock, a history PhD student at Rutgers, argues that this condemnation of the FHA is entirely misplaced. In How the Federal Housing Administration Tried to Save America’s Cities, 1934–1960, Glock argues that the FHA: “was more likely to be involved in (1) multifamily and rental housing than single-family homes, (2) urban housing than suburban, and (3) to provide relative equality to white and minority borrowers, after significant political prodding.” (2016: 292) What did historians miss?

Continue reading “don’t blame the fha for the rise of the suburbs”

a chance to interact with randy collins about interaction

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 1.30.20 PMAnnette Lareau asked me to pass along the information and an invitation to the entire sociology community to join in celebrating the career and contributions of Randy Collins. The event has a great line up of speakers including Michèle Lamont, Elijah Anderson, Viviana Zelizer, Philippe Bourgois, Alice Goffman, among many, many more. The event is free with limited first-come first-serve housing opportunities for doctoral students. Check out the event and sign up on the website.

the stories we tell.

I read two seemingly unrelated professionalization pieces last week:  The Chonicle‘s “Operation Keep My Job” and IHE‘s “Advice from an Outlaw Writer.” The two couldn’t be more different from one another. Bethany Albertson discusses a number of the insights anyone seeking professionalization will hear time and again (e.g., “just say no,” “ask for help,” “keep trying”) and Jane Ward encourages us to work against common refrains -“don’t chip! binge!”

However, they shared an important wisdom – although articulated differently – urging caution in how we connect with those around us. Continue reading “the stories we tell.”