I recently purchased a home in Los Angeles, something I
wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to afford. When prices started skyrocketing in the
mid-2000s, like many other people I chose not to buy and saved my money
instead. I was glad I did, despite some acquaintances insisting that prices
would only get higher. In 2005, the median price of a single
family home in Los Angeles was about $529,000; by 2008 the median price
fell to $340,000. (The median is
the point at which half of all homes cost less, and half cost more).
After watching prices and interest rates fall, I began
looking in earnest. I got very excited to see I could actually afford to buy in
a neighborhood where I would like to live. I began by looking online, and found
many places that fit my criteria: in my price range, a reasonable commute to
work, nearby places to walk or hike, and safe enough for me to take a walk
alone. In fact, there were so many places that I got picky, at first only
wanting to see places that had been decorated to my taste. If I didn’t like the
flooring or the kitchen countertops, I passed. Most of the listings were short sales,
meaning the homeowner owed more on their mortgage than they could expect to
sell for. Banks will often agree to accept less money in order to avoid the
more expensive and time consuming foreclosure process.
Continue reading "Benefitting from Housing’s Burst Bubble " »
By Peter Kaufman
Recently, gay marriage and gay rights have been at the forefront of the
nation’s attention. As the Supreme Court heard two historic arguments on
same-sex marriage, the top story in print, on the airwaves, and over the
Internet has revolved around these issues.
My interest in such matters started
much earlier, specifically in January 1991. At the time, my brother and I were
driving back to New York from Washington, D.C. after attending a rally
protesting the Gulf War. We
spent the whole weekend together talking about things both serious and
frivolous. It wasn’t until we were about two exits away from our hometown when
my brother woke me up from a nap saying that he had something to tell me. I
thought he was going to say that he got pulled over for a speeding ticket.
Instead, he told me he was gay.
Continue reading "Gay Marriage: It’s Personal " »
Robin (not her real name) is a student of mine who came to
my office to discuss her research paper for my class, due two weeks from the
day she came to see me. She is very excited about her topic, which she selected
for the assignment. She would like to study how poverty impacts education.
This is a big question, and an important one at that. But it
is too big to explore in any sort of depth, especially within two weeks.
Scholars can spend their entire careers researching questions like these; the
first step to being able to conduct your own research—especially for the first
time and within a tight time frame—is to narrow your focus.
Continue reading "Research Questions: Less is More" »
By Jonathan Wynn
There were Black Friday protests at my local WalMart in Western Massachusetts, organized
by unions and worker’s rights advocates. If you watched the news you may have seen
one in your town too. Protesters object to the fact that the company offers
low-pay, limited-benefit jobs while the Walton family holds as much wealth as
the bottom third of the U.S. population. This follows reports from Hostess
(makers of Twinkies), claiming a worker’s strike gave them little choice but to
shut down production, and liquidation seems eminent. Hostess feels the pinch from owing over a billion
dollars to creditors, including their workers’ pensions but also to hedge
funds (like Silver Point Capital) that own 30% of the company’s debt).
Of course, you can still buy
Twinkies at WalMart.
While some lament the potential loss of the yellowcake confection (according to
a book on Twinkies, some of the ingredients are "more closely linked to rocks
and petroleum than any of the four food groups," and the primary sweetener
is high-fructose corn syrup), we don’t talk too much about the working
conditions of the folks that make them. Liquidation of Hostess would not only
eliminate jobs but worker’s pension plans as well, even though workers already made significant
concessions and the CEO pocketed a 300% increase in his
Continue reading "Twinkies & Big Macs: Thinking Sociologically About Black Friday " »
By Peter Kaufman
One of my first Everyday Sociology posts was titled You Might be a Marxist. In this post I made the point that despite the overwhelmingly negative connotations attached to Karl Marx in the United States, many of his ideas prophetically describe our current socio-economic realities. In fact, many of us might consider ourselves “Marxists” if we really understood some of his analytical conclusions. The tremendous social insight we get from Marx is the reason why he is widely considered to be one of the founding figures of sociology.
Continue reading "You Might be a Marxist (Part II)" »
By Peter Kaufman
I’m borrowing the title of this blog from a former student of mine, Hayley, who always used to say this to people on July 4th. As an insightful sociologist, Hayley realized none of us, as individuals or as a nation, can exist without the support and help of others. Therefore, we should really be celebrating and promoting our interdependence instead of our independence.
Interdependence is the notion that we all rely on each other. To say that we are interdependent is to recognize that we are all connected and dependent on one another. But interdependence does not just mean that all people are connected, it also suggests an understanding of how all life on earth is linked together. Sometimes we refer to this as the interconnected web of life.
Continue reading "Happy Interdependence Day!" »
By Karen Sternheimer
This year I am doing a massive spring cleaning. I have donated several bags of books, recycled and shredded what seems like an endless amount of paper and have thrown away what can now only be described as junk.
I’ve also been scrubbing: floors, shelves, and even the grout between tiles in the kitchen and bathroom. I take an old toothbrush, pour on some cleanser and clean spots I usually overlook in my normal cleaning routine.
After a day or two of super-cleaning, I noticed my wrists and shoulders getting sore. Not what I’d call pain, but they clearly needed a few days off from cleaning. That was no problem; I had work to do and little extra time to clean for a while anyway.
Continue reading "Cleaning and Class" »
By Janis Prince Inniss
Want to make some quick cash? $250 to be exact. Easy money. What would you do for that kind of money?
This proposition is completely legal. All you have to do is make one telephone call. (Operators are probably standing by!) In order to qualify, all you have to do is have the city and state, name of a school, name of a person, age or grade level of a child, a second address, know how long the person has lived there—and with whom. Add some information about how you know whether the person in question does not live in a particular home and $250 is yours.
Continue reading "Past Meets Present: Education, Housing, and Segregation" »