By Karen Sternheimer
Summer jobs used to be a rite of passage for teenagers. Economic and social changes make this experience less common today, especially for teens in low-income families, who might need the money most.
My first job was babysitting, as was the case for many girls in the past. Shocking as it may seem today, I was eleven years old the first time I got paid to watch children. Today I suspect that an eleven-year-old would have a babysitter, not be one. It wasn’t just me who babysat; in the sixth grade we could take an American Red Cross child care class after school and be “certified” to babysit. Even today, the class is recommended for kids ages eleven and up, but I doubt many people would hire a pre-teen to babysit. When I was younger, one of my regular babysitters was a friend’s thirteen-year-old big sister. That was normal then, as children tended to be granted more independence and responsibility earlier.
Continue reading "The Privilege of a Summer Job" »
By Brian Brutlag
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Rio Hondo College
I am a huge geek. My particular flavor of geekdom is superheroes. Since I was a kid, I have always looked to superheroes for comfort, solace, and motivation as a part of my reference group. Although superheroes are a part of my personal development, and I try to incorporate them as much as I can in my professional career (my sociological blog focuses on the analysis of comics and culture), I am always reluctant to display my admiration through clothing and other forms of apparel because when I do, someone always treats me like a child or some other reductive equivalent. Why? Because I have a physical disability.
Continue reading "When Your Wife is Mistaken for Your Caregiver" »
By Teresa Irene Gonzales
I study resident and nonprofit staff responses to large-scale urban redevelopment initiatives within low-income urban neighborhoods. As part of this work, I analyze the approaches that municipal governments and urban planning organizations utilize in order to plan and realize development plans. Within the U.S. we refer to these plans as local economic development (LED) initiatives.
LED is an approach to development that places importance on development activities in and by cities, districts, and regions. These plans receive funding from and are often managed by local and national governmental and philanthropic organizations. Local organizations (e.g. community-based organizations and community development corporations) generally work with other organizations (e.g. foundations, mediators, the city, private corporations) that provide resources in the form of cash transfers, strategies, technology, and/or staff, in order to promote local economic development. This can take the form of an affordable housing initiative, the (re)vitalization of a business district, workforce development, or the creation of an industrial corridor.
Continue reading "Redevelopment, Rural Places, and Inclusion" »
By Karen Sternheimer
Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City offers readers an in-depth and close up look at the struggle people in poverty face to find and maintain housing. Based on ethnography, interviews, and surveys conducted in Milwaukee, Desmond provides the perspectives of both tenants and landlords to give us a very thorough picture of the housing markets open to low-income people. As Peter Kaufman recently blogged, the book provides us with a great lesson in what Kaufman called “compassionate sociology.”
The book also provides several good examples of some of the paradoxes of poverty: things that we may think are causes of poverty are also the effects of poverty, and vice versa.
Continue reading "Evictions and the Paradox of Poverty" »
By Peter Kaufman
If you have not yet heard of the sociologist Matthew Desmond, you probably should. In the relatively anonymous world of professional sociology, Desmond is making quite a name for himself, and deservedly so. He has been dubbed sociology’s next great hope, he was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant, and his new national best-selling book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, has been hailed as “astonishing,” “remarkable,” and “monumental.”
Evicted tells the story of poverty in America from the perspective of eight families who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Instead of focusing on traditional topics such as jobs, public assistance, the family, and mass incarceration, Desmond shifts our attention to housing so that we may better understand “how deeply [it] is implicated in the creation of poverty.”
Continue reading "Exploitation at Home: Matthew Desmond’s Evicted" »
By Sally Raskoff
I had the opportunity to attend the filming of a television show, a dance competition program on the night of its final competition before a winner was announced. It was quite the event and my sociological imagination worked overtime!
Hierarchy was an obvious element of the proceedings. The audience members were stratified into two main groups. The people who were fortunate enough to get the tickets in advance lined up at one gate, nowhere near a parking lot. The others who had some connection to people working in the industry or on the show lined up at another parking lot, much closer to the designated parking lot. I was in this line, thus I had a good vantage point to notice these differences.
Continue reading "Dancing with Hierarchy" »
By Karen Sternheimer
Air travel is one of the only places where class distinctions are made starkly apparent: whether you are sitting in first class or in coach (although some airlines also have "business class" or "economy plus") serves as a visible reminder that there are class differences in America.
A study of "air rage" incidents recently made the news, finding that "disruptive passenger incidents" were about four times as likely to happen when there was a first class cabin. When everyone had to walk through the first class cabin to board, the outbursts were especially likely to occur.
Continue reading "Air Travel, Class, and Relative Deprivation" »
By Jonathan Wynn
The Black Lives Matter movement was made possible by social media, and offers an opportunity for different groups to have a conversation about race in America.
My grandparents were very religious and active in the civil rights movement. Bomb threats were directed at churches in the Washington D.C. area that planned to house southern African Americans making their way to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In coordination with their church, my grandparents housed dozens of men and women in their home. (For a vivid retelling of the time by one of the key figures in the movement, see John Lewis's graphic novel, March.)
Continue reading "Connecting Across Race" »
By 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" »
By Karen Sternheimer
A few years ago, I had a student who was extremely anxious as the summer approached. While most of her classmates couldn't wait for graduation or summer break, she was scared. She had no family and had no place to live. Her worry about finding short-term housing was preventing her from sleeping at night and she began having difficulty in her coursework.
This is just one example of one of the challenges many people face—and not just students or low-income people. The cost of housing has priced many people out of the rental market, even people with steady incomes. The rental website Zumper lists the average rents in the 50 largest cities in the U.S. In nearly half (22) of these cities, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is over $1,000. That's about what a minimum wage earner makes in a month before taxes, assuming they earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 and work 40 hours a week.
Continue reading "Affordable Housing: An Oxymoron?" »