5 posts from May 2016

May 25, 2016

Suicide Rates: Percentages and Rates, Age and Gender

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report on suicide rates, finding that suicides in the United States had increased by 24 percent between 1999 and 2014. Like most people, I learned of this report after reading upsetting headlines about this increase. My local newspaper, the Los Angeles Times reported that "US Suicides Have Soared Since 1999."

As sociologists, we learn to look at the original data to get the real story beyond the headlines. What do the data tell us? Is it the same story as being told in news reports?

Continue reading "Suicide Rates: Percentages and Rates, Age and Gender" »

May 17, 2016

Architecture and Inequality on College Campuses

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2016-05-13/3916422015ae4d8da6c36dc3c98cbdd8.pngBy Peter Kaufman

Inequality is one of the most important and most popular topics that sociologists study. It might even be the most important and popular topic. Inequality is discussed in every introductory course, it is a prominent theme in many sociological theories, and it is even a required topic of study in most sociology departments. If you have ever studied sociology and have never thought about inequality then something was probably missing from your education.

When sociologists study inequality we usually look at the various ways that it exists in our daily lives. We may consider the different effects that inequality has on people, the multiple ways it plays out, and the various social institutions or locations where we might see proof of it. Because the world is awash in inequality, there is, unfortunately, no shortage of topics to consider.

Continue reading "Architecture and Inequality on College Campuses" »

May 12, 2016

Goal Displacement: Solar Panels, Congress, and Your Education

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Telemarketers notoriously violate the Do Not Call list and sometimes call people repeatedly, presumably to sell something. A colleague recently mentioned that she had been called about solar panels, and she told the caller she already had solar panels installed at her home. "No problem, I'll call back later," the telemarketer told her, and proceeded to call back several times that week.

Why would a telemarketer call back even after being told that someone already had solar panels, which is not a product you would need to buy repeatedly? It certainly would make the recipients of these calls angry, and annoying someone is rarely a good way to sell a very expensive product.

Could it be that success for telemarketers isn't judged by how many solar panels they sell, but by how many people they speak to on the phone and how many possible "leads" they get? I've read claims that some telemarketers' calls are made just to see if anyone will pick up the phone; your number is then marked as a possible lead, and even sold to another telemarketing company as a live number. In effect, your answering the phone becomes the product they are selling.

Continue reading "Goal Displacement: Solar Panels, Congress, and Your Education" »

May 05, 2016

Studying Aging Populations

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

You might have heard the phrase "aging population" and thought, wait a minute, isn't every living thing aging? What does it mean to say that a population is aging?

Demographers study the composition of populations, including its age structure. Demographers use population pyramids to create a graphic depiction of a country's age structure. In a "normal" pyramid, the base is wider (representing infants and children) and gradually narrows at the top; as people get older and die, they essentially leave the population.

Continue reading "Studying Aging Populations" »

May 02, 2016

Polling Methods

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Are polls getting less reliable? Some say so. Our changing technology, including social media and the 24-hour news cycle, can have an effect on opinions and behavior. People who hear that a candidate already has a good lead might change their opinion or not show up to vote. On the other hand, some estimates of the error rates of polls suggest that they are somewhat stable as pollsters change their methods to adapt to society's dictates.

Or are polls still pretty accurate, taking the pulse of the people? Some say so. If the difference between opinions is huge, then a poll can certainly pick that up. However, if opinions are just a few points apart, polls may not be able to show those differences accurately.

Continue reading "Polling Methods" »

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