plain-language harassment policy

My university’s sexual harassment and consensual relations policies are written in bureaucratic legalese. Here’s my attempt to create a departmental plain-language statement. Comments appreciated.

The plain language version of our policy is: Don’t date your students, and don’t try to date your students. There are no conditions under which it is acceptable for you to date a student in your class. This includes cases where the student takes the initiative: if a student asks you on a date, or makes romantic overtures to you, you must decline. Moreover, even if you imagine that your interest is entirely friendly and non-sexual, you must not initiate particularistic social relationships with students in your own classes. You should understand that when you undertake the role of instructor, you are entering a hierarchical relationship. Actions that would be acceptable among peers can be problematic and even illegal in a hierarchical relationship. Continue reading

ask a scatterbrain: supporting students on the job market.

I am wrapping up my second year as DGS in my department. Over the last couple years I’ve made some small, but significant changes in our grad program and I’m finally beginning to see the results. Now that I’ve found my sea legs (just in time for my term to end next summer), I’m ready to tackle something new: improving our support for students on the market. Continue reading

the new economic imperialism: methods not models

Two economic graduate students affiliated with Duke’s Center for the History of Political Economy have just released a new working paper on the history of quasi-experimental methods in economics. Panhans and Singleton document the dramatic takeoff of the use of techniques like regression discontinuity, difference-in-difference, and instrumental variables in the top economics journals, and most of its subfields. The paper’s a nice introduction to this history, and for readers unfamiliar with the older approaches, sets up a nice quick contrast between a 1970s “structural” approach to the returns to education vs. a 1990s “quasi-experimental” approach. What really struck me, though, was an ending reflection on the nature of economic imperialism.
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davis and mizruchi on “corporations and capitalism”

The newest issue of the Economic Sociology section newsletter Accounts was just published. The first piece in the issue is a conversation Mark Mizruchi and Jerry Davis about their research on corporate political power and the contemporary capitalism. Unsurprisingly, it’s simultaneously provocative and hilarious. Here’s a snippet:

Mark: You just gave a good example of why democratic management might not be the way to go.

Jerry: Oh, really?

Mark: Yeah, the problem is, if you’re going to run a company democratically you have to spend 20% of your time in meetings.

Jerry: Okay, some of that 20% is HabermasticationTM. Sometimes meetings are worthwhile because you’re sharing information and figuring things out, but sometimes meetings are a waste of time. Some decisions could be more efficient because we have the technology to be more democratic and local than we used to (say, using a voting app). The alternative less-democratic version of that is let’s say Uber, where you use the same technology to create a class of Student Loan Activated Volatile Employment… it’ s an acronym.

Mark: …Slave.

Jerry: Yes. In Ann Arbor there must be 5, 000 people driving for Uber this second who are recent sociology undergraduates, who have discovered that they are unemployable but they have to repay their student loans. That’s the digital immiseration version of this technology.

Check it out!

genes and infidelity

Phil mentioned in the comments of an earlier post the recent news story about how martial infidelity has a heritability of .4, and the news story also features various more specific claims about the specific genes and systems supposedly involved and the purported evolutionary psychology of it all. Eric Turkheimer, who is hopefully already established as Sociology’s Favorite Behavioral Geneticist, has a nice blog post in which he explains problems with the news story. Enjoy!

aside on the heritability of everything

(Substantial prelude with some light technical bits, feel free to jump to [UPSHOT] or [BOLDFACE PUNCHLINE])

As is shown in the meta-analysis Andy references in his last post, more or less every measurable outcome anybody cares about in any study of human beings is more similar among identical twins than it is among fraternal twins, which in the classical model applied to twin study data means the trait has a non-zero heritability.

Perhaps the major motivation of the giant meta-analysis, however, is evaluation of the extent to which identical twin correlations are twice the fraternal correlation. Continue reading

are all human traits heritable?

A new article by Polderman et al. in Nature Genetics, nicely summed up by Jeremy:

is a meta-analysis of essentially every twin-based study of heritability of any trait between 1958 and 2012. The top-line coverage, encouraged by the authors’ press release, is:

One of the great tussles of science – whether our health is governed by nature or nurture – has been settled, and it is effectively a draw.

This is based on the fact that, across 17,804 traits in 28 “general trait domains,” the overall mean heritability was 49%. That prompted me to write:

Read on for why I think that, what value there is in the below-the-fold part of the article, and why I think this kind of work is in desperate need of an injection of theory. Continue reading

lacour and the opportunity costs of intransigent irb reviews

Of all of the issues brought up by the Lacour controversy, we have not devoted enough attention to one in my view. The YaleColumbia* IRB made itself part of this problem.

In his initial comments to Retraction Watch, Lacour’s coauthor and Columbia political science professor Donal Green wrote,

Given that I did not have IRB approval for the study from my home institution, I took care not to analyze any primary data – the datafiles that I analyzed were the same replication datasets that Michael LaCour posted to his website. Looking back, the failure to verify the original Qualtrics data was a serious mistake.

This points to a real cost imposed by intransigent IRBs that become significant hurdles for research to progress. As institutions evaluate their response to this affair, and we reevaluate our own approaches to collaboration, those efforts would not be complete without considering the fact that IRBs hinder good, ethical research.

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the lacour and green retraction

News broke recently of very serious concerns about the data in a high-profile political science study. Not to put too fine of a point on it, it now appears that a UCLA graduate student and rising star in political science, Michael LaCour, fabricated data nearly out of whole cloth. These data led to a surprising, widely-cited finding about the ability of relatively minor sympathetic contact to change attitudes toward LGBT people over the medium term. The original article is here, a very careful forensic investigation that revealed the likely fabrication is here, and Retraction Watch has a timeline and many relevant links here. Continue reading

2015 junior theorists symposium (jts) schedule

As a follow-up to Dan’s posting of the Junior Theorists Symposium’s call for papers last year, here is the recently released schedule. By the looks of it, 2015’s event promises to live up to the JTS’s reputation as a lively and thought-provoking way to kick off the ASA meetings. The event is open to all.*

Junior Theorists Symposium
University of Chicago
Social Sciences Room 122
August 21, 2015

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black/white mortality differentials and american politics

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.

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facebook’s algorithm removes politically diverse content from your feed

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.

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the increasing penalty for not going to college

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.

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replication vs. robustness in social science

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

living social science.

Update (4/15/15): I’ve since heard that this idea emerged in a class at Price’s undergraduate institution, Seattle Pacific University (also where I became a Sociology major thanks to a class taught by another Price). In other words, having students consider how social science can inform their own lives and future decision-making as part of classes could have a tremendous impact on how they carry that knowledge into the world. Something academics should take seriously and cultivate.

– – –

I have long been fascinated by quests to live out proscriptions (whether Oprah’s adviceThe Bible, or the myriad other things people decide to do and blog about for a year). When I read today’s headline about the CEO who was raising his lowest paid worker’s salary to $70,000, I was anything but fascinated. But tonight, a friend’s Facebook post inspired me to actually read the article.

Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments isn’t only raising his employee’s salaries, he’s also lowering his own from 1 million to just $70,000. What inspired him to pull the lowest up and his own down?

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