7 posts from November 2013

November 27, 2013

Super ZIPs and Economic Inequality

Sean beckerBy Sean Becker

Sociology graduate, University of Wisconsin - Madison

One of the key insights of social science is that structural factors influence the life course of individuals. For instance, pervasive and predictable patterns exist regarding the socioeconomic class that one will be a part of. One’s race and or neighborhood come to largely determine their opportunities in life. Such predictability is captured by the term social reproduction, which refers to the idea that most people will end up with a socioeconomic status similar to their parents. In contrast, social mobility refers to the ability of individuals to have socioeconomic status different from that of their parents.

For social mobility to exist, however, one must come into contact on a regular basis with those of different socioeconomic backgrounds. This is where they key factor of geography comes into play. Today, our society is increasingly segregated along class lines. A recent piece in the Washington Post clearly illustrates this. Using census data, the authors averaged the percentile ranking of income and education level for each ZIP Code in America, giving each a score between 0 and 99. Those ZIP codes with 95 or higher were labeled “Super ZIPs,” a term first coined by American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray. To see the results on a map is a stunning visual representation of inequality in America.

Continue reading "Super ZIPs and Economic Inequality" »

November 25, 2013

Race Education at Your Front Door

Rww (1)By Rachelle Winkle-Wagner
University of Wisconsin - Madison 
Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis

After a devastating report about racial stratification in Madison, Wisconsin, the city in which I live, I am thinking a lot about social stratification and the way in which we keep reenacting it. In the report in Madison, the findings maintained that although the city is outwardly progressive, with a major university and many self-proclaimed White liberals, it way may also be one of the “racist cities in America” in terms of racial stratification; over three-quarters of the city’s Black population live in poverty, and there are persistent racial disparities in educational outcomes.

As a White scholar of race in education, I am particularly interested in the “education” that people are getting about race, not just in our formal brick-and-mortar institutions, but in everyday life.  Recently, a woman in a suburb of Detroit, Renisha McBride, had a car accident in the middle of the night. Unarmed, and needing help, she knocked on a door of a suburban White homeowner, and she was shot in the head. Since then, the homeowner has made a claim that the shooting was “justified” because he feared for his safety. While the homeowner is facing murder and manslaughter charges, his case is likely to rest on whether he was “reasonable” to shoot an unarmed Black woman in the face.  

Continue reading "Race Education at Your Front Door" »

November 22, 2013

Football and the Performance of Race

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

The discussion of the Jonathan Martin/Ritchie Incognito case would be incomplete without mention of its racial components.

It was somewhat unsurprising that even after news of his alleged harassment that Dolphins teammates rallied around Incognito. He seemed to be a team leader, and well liked for his puckish demeanor. What was surprising was the way they did it. The Miami Herald detailed a series of player reactions to the Incognito’s alleged racism with all voices claiming that he wasn’t racist. He is, to them, an “honorary black man.”

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November 18, 2013

The Sociology of Harassment

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Last year I wrote about pranks and I have received several phone calls over the last two weeks from sports radio folks wanting me to talk about the alarming story coming out of the Miami Dolphins football team. These talk radio guys seem to want to know: “Isn’t a prank just a prank?” The answer has to do with power, institutions, masculinity in sports and, in this case, race.

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November 11, 2013

The Dangerous Dynamic of Gender

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Have you noticed the demographics of the people who tend to perpetrate mass shootings in public spaces? I’ve noticed they tend to be young, male, from middle class backgrounds, and socially isolated. These are not trivial factors.

Gender is key to this pattern. The age, class, and lack of social networks link with gender to create a situation in which the person sees the public shooting as a viable option to express their frustration. More maturity (which hopefully comes with age) and social support may allow frustrated people alternative outlets. Middle class resources bring the possibility of purchasing sometimes costly weapons and ammunition that are kept in one’s home. Most of these crimes utilize legal weapons that are part of the lifestyle of the perpetrator’s family and culture.

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November 07, 2013

Racism on College Campuses

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

 A few weeks ago there was a racist incident on my campus. In one of the resident Racist msghalls, a message was written on a whiteboard that said, “Emmett Till Deserved to Die.” After the message was removed a new message appeared shortly thereafter that said, “You Can’t Erase the Truth.”

Unless you know the story of Emmett Till, you are probably unaware of how hateful and threatening this racist message is. For those who didn’t learn this story in history class (which is probably most of us), Emmett Till was  fourteen years old when he was kidnapped and brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly talking to a white woman.

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November 04, 2013

Sociology for Storytellers

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Sociology courses and concepts are not just for people looking to become sociologists. I wrote about the diversity of the sociology major recently, and mentioned that journalists and even novelists can benefit from a degree in sociology. How can storytellers enhance their skills by learning about sociology?

Continue reading "Sociology for Storytellers" »

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