284 posts categorized "Karen Sternheimer"

November 13, 2017

Getting a Job: Latent and Manifest Functions of Education

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

The purpose of getting a college degree may seem obvious: the median weekly earnings of those with college degrees are nearly double what those with high school diplomas alone earn, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For those who hope to earn more money, a degree seems like a good idea. It is also likely to reduce the odds of being unemployed; according to BLS data, college graduates’ unemployment rates were about half of the rate for those with high school diplomas alone.

But what is it about a college degree that yields the higher weekly earnings and the greater likelihood of employment? Is it the content of what students learn, or other factors that are a less overt part of the college experience?

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October 30, 2017

Interpreting Numbers in Context

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

In the age of big data, one of the most important—and overlooked—skills that training in sociology provides is the ability to interpret numerical data. Being statistically literate is important for so many reasons, not the least being that it ultimately can help you find a job. Even if you aren’t a statistician or data analyst, knowing how to understand numbers can give you a leg up among the math phobic in many professions.

You don’t have to fall in love with equations or mathematical theory to become skilled at interpreting data. The most important thing to keep in mind is that numbers tell a story, and your job as an interpreter of data is to figure out what story they are telling you, and share that story with others.

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October 16, 2017

Eating and Identity

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

An acquaintance recently told me a joke: “How can you tell if a person is vegan?” “I don’t know,” I responded, “how can you tell?” “Don’t worry, they’ll let you know.”

The food we eat is a core component of culture; our customs, celebrations, and restrictions shape and are shaped by our shared values, beliefs, and our resources. It also helps shape our sense of self and identity by the groups that we belong to and who we are as individuals.

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October 02, 2017

Good Bones and Good Policy

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

As I blogged about several years ago, I have a weakness for programs on HGTV. I enjoy watching people house hunt and remodel, even with the knowledge that most of these shows are likely staged. At their core, they are programs about consumption, and advertisers hope their shows inspire viewers like me to want to buy home-related products. For me, and I suspect many other viewers, part of the pleasure of watching is vicarious consumption, watching other people make decisions and choices and perhaps getting ideas for my own purchases.

I recently binged-watched the first season of a new (to me) HGTV show, Good Bones. The show features a mother/daughter-run renovation team who buy mostly abandoned houses from the city, fix them up, and sell them.

What caught my interest in this show was that the stars’ company, Two Chicks and a Hammer, targets homes in their own neighborhood and a nearby neighborhood near downtown Indianapolis, with the goal of revitalizing the once struggling community. “I don’t want to build crappy homes for my neighbors, I just don’t,” says Karen E. Laine, the mother of the duo, during each show’s opening.

Continue reading "Good Bones and Good Policy" »

September 18, 2017

Getting a Ride: Transportation and Identity

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

A few months ago while on jury duty, I observed the jury duty selection process for a vehicular manslaughter/hit and run case. I was never called into the jury box, but watched as others answered basic questions from both the prosecutor and defense attorney as they determined who would be part of the jury.

One prospective juror mentioned in the course of questioning that she didn’t have a driver’s license. She looked young—I would guess that she was in her very early twenties—and perhaps she was a student, judging by her clothing and backpack. The prosecutor seemed concerned that she didn’t have a license and asked her several questions about this.

“How did you get here? How do you get around town?” she asked the young woman, who responded that she took the bus.

“Why don’t you have a license? Are you scared of driving?” the prosecutor asked the embarrassed potential juror, who said she couldn’t afford a car and thus did not take the time to get a driver’s license. She was soon dismissed from the jury.

Continue reading "Getting a Ride: Transportation and Identity" »

August 07, 2017

Birth Rates: Who Will Replace Us?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

According to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the birth rate in the United States fell to an all-time low in 2016.

Births to teens also fell to an all-time low, down from 41.5 births per thousand in 2007 to 20.3 in 2016, a 51% decline. Birth rates also fell, albeit more modestly, for women in their 20s. By contrast, births to women in their 30s and 40s grew modestly. However, the birthrate for women 40-44 was 11.3 per thousand, and for women 45-49 it was .9, lower than any age group except 10-14-year-olds. Women 25-34 had the highest birthrates, at about 100 births per thousand.

What does this mean for our population overall?

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July 24, 2017

The Challenge of Avoiding Downward Mobility from the Upper Middle-Class

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

During a conversation with an acquaintance, a man in his 60s who has never been married and to my knowledge has no children, said that he didn’t think that mothers should have jobs if they were married and their husbands made a sufficient amount of income.

Specifically, he was talking about one of his co-workers, a married woman with teenaged kids who often discusses her family’s financial difficulties at work. My acquaintance didn’t understand why the family of four didn’t just move into a small apartment farther away from their office. He suggested that if one’s husband earns a good living, then a wife should stay home with the kids. He also presumed that her husband, a marketing manager, must make in “the high six figures,” so he couldn’t understand how they could possibly have any financial problems at all.

Continue reading "The Challenge of Avoiding Downward Mobility from the Upper Middle-Class" »

July 10, 2017

Why Do Perceptions of Police Vary?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

A recent study published by the Pew Research Center found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that people’s views on police performance vary based on race. Blacks were four times more likely to tell researchers that they have no confidence in police in their communities than whites were. Where does this vast disparity come from? Why does this matter?

Differing views on policing is a great example of how one’s social location—our history, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and nationality, among other factors—shapes the way that we view the world. Social location is related to our literal location too, and how our experiences in that location impact our perceptions.

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June 19, 2017

How Sociology Majors Prepare for the Labor Force

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Every year, students ask me what kinds of jobs they might get with a degree in sociology. In today’s job market, a major is not typically direct vocational training, preparing you for a specific field, but instead a major allows students to develop skill sets that translate into the work force. Sociology provides students with the chance to develop many of these important skills.

In 2015, the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) published the results of a survey on how well prepared college graduates are for the labor market. The survey asked recent graduates how they rated themselves on a variety of skills, and also asked employers how they recent graduates on these same skills. Students consistently rated themselves higher than employers on each skill.

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June 01, 2017

The Social Geography of Health

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Where we live matters, but not just for the reasons we might think. While we might associate the weather or terrain with a particular region or location, it's also important to consider the social forces that help explain how where we live shapes our health and even our life expectancy.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association details how life expectancies vary dramatically by county in the United States. For instance, if you are fortunate enough to live in Marin County, California, or Summit County, Colorado, your average life expectancy is about 87. But if you live in Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota, or in some parts of West Virginia and Kentucky, your life expectancy could be a full two decades shorter.

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