130 posts categorized "Class and Stratification"

July 11, 2014

So Fresh Saturdays: Public Events and Building Collective Action

Teresa gonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

One of the few reasons I keep a Facebook page is so that I can keep up to date on the various community-building activities within Chicago. These range from hyper-local block club parties and various neighborhood festivals, to citywide events and music concerts held in the downtown Loop area.

In his book, Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect, Robert Sampson highlights the importance of community building activities as ways to increase collective efficacy. Put simply, collective efficacy means social cohesion (or connectivity) combined with shared goals and expectations regarding group behaviors.

For Sampson, public activities are particularly relevant in poor communities, where he argues that a history of concentrated poverty leads to a decrease in collective efficacy, and diminishes civic action. He argues, and I agree, that these events, and the increased relationships between neighbors that result from these events, can improve citizen involvement and lead to what Archon Fung terms “empowered participation” or innovative problem-solving and civic action by and amongst low-income residents.

Continue reading "So Fresh Saturdays: Public Events and Building Collective Action" »

July 07, 2014

Hotels and Stratification

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Hotels are a great way to think about social stratification. There’s the obvious: some hotels are incredibly expensive and affordable only to a select few. In the board game Monopoly, those with hotels on their properties are often the wealthiest players. And hotels have hierarchical ratings, from one to five stars delineating their quality and likely the corresponding wealth of their visitors. But there are other ways in which hotels can teach us about economic inequality as well.

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June 24, 2014

Who is Reading This?

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

This is my fiftieth post for the Everyday Sociology Blog. When I first started writing for this site, one of my first blogs raised the question “Who’s Got Time for This?” In that post, I was wondering if I’d have time to be a regular contributor to the site. I guess after three years of writing for Everyday Sociology I answered my own question. However, another question I raised in that earlier post was: “who has time to read blogs?” That question still perplexes me.

I did some research to find out how many blogs exist on the Internet and it’s seemingly impossible to find an exact number.  Estimates vary from 152 million to 181 million to well over 225 million. Suffice it to say there are a lot of blogs out there with new ones popping up every second of the day. The recommended length of blogs varies too, from 500 words to 1000 words (the typical length of my posts) to well over 2000 words.

Let’s assume the typical blog post is 1,000 words, and that there are roughly 180 million blogs out there. If each of these sites contained just one 1,000 word blog each month, that amounts to two trillion one hundred sixty billion words a year! Given that the world’s population is 7 billion, that works out to over 300,000 words per person per year. 

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June 03, 2014

Smoking and Education

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

People with higher levels of education are less likely to smoke cigarettes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2009 just 5.6 percent of those 25 and older with graduate degrees smoked—compared with nearly half (49 percent) of those with GEDs. More education correlates with less cigarette smoking across the educational spectrum: 25.1 percent for high school graduates, 23.3 percent of who attended college but earned no degree, and just 11.1 percent of those with bachelor’s degrees smoked.

Why such a consistent difference?

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May 20, 2014

Drafts and Objectification

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

“With the first pick of the 2014 draft, Nick selects Ashley from AP Physics…”

Like many of my fellow beleaguered Buffalo Bills fans, I spent last weekend tracking the 79th annual NFL Player Selection Meeting—the draft—hoping that my team will finally find the pieces needed to string together its first playoff season in 14 years. There was another draft, however, making a lot of news in California.

In Orange County a different kind of selection meeting was happening. Senior boys from Corona del Mar High School gathered at an undisclosed location and in ceremonial garb for an annual ritual. The boys were “drafting” girls to be their prom dates. Although many of the boys claim there is no money involved others say that boys exchange cash to “trade up” to a better position in the draft to select the girl they want to go to prom with. One year a kid paid $140 to draft the girl he wanted to bring to the prom.

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April 28, 2014

Are College Athletes the New Proletariat?

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

 A spectre is haunting [college sports]—the spectre of Unionization. All the powers of [college sports] have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: [Chancellors and College Presidents, NCAA and Corporate Sponsors, Governors and State Legislatures].

On March 26, 2014, Peter Ohr, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that scholarship football players at Northwestern University should  be considered employees of the college. Ohr’s ruling was based on the fact that players devote up to 50 hours a week on team-related activities (which, he noted, is “more hours than many undisputed full-time employees work at their jobs [and] it is also many more hours than the players spend on their studies”), that coaches have tremendous control over these athletes, and that the university makes a huge profit ($235 million between 2003—2009) from the hard work of the players. As a result of this ruling, football players at Northwestern University voted on April 25, 2014 to decide whether to unionize. Although the results of the vote will not be known for months, the effects have already been felt in the world of college sports. 

In The Communist Manifesto (the first sentence of which I paraphrased at the beginning of this post), Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels made the famous distinction between the bourgeois and the proletariats. In very simple terms, the bourgeois are the owners, the ones who run the business. The proletariats are the workers, the ones who make the products that bring profits to the bourgeois.

Ohr’s ruling makes a strong case that college football players at Division I schools such as Northwestern are part of the proletariat. Through the work that these athletes produce, the top Division I universities make an enormous profit from ticket revenues, television contracts, merchandise sales, and other licensing agreements. Even the major governing body of college sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), profits handsomely from these players with its yearly revenues approaching $1 billion.

Despite erroneous media reports to the contrary, the players are not even asking to be paid like salaried employees. According to Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA football player who is the head of the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA),the organization that submitted the petition to the NLRB on behalf of the Northwestern players, the college athletes are asking for the opportunity to engage in collective bargaining so that they can advocate for the following reforms and safeguards:

  • Guaranteed coverage for sports-related medical expenses for current and former players.
  • Minimizing the risk of sports-related traumatic brain injury.  Reduce contact in practices like the NFL and Pop Warner have done, place independent concussion experts on the sidelines, and establish uniform return-to-play protocols.
  • Improving graduation rates.  Establish an educational trust fund to help former players complete their degree and reward those who graduate on time.
  • Consistent with evolving NCAA regulations or future legal mandates, increasing athletic scholarships and allowing players to receive compensation for commercial sponsorships.
  • Securing due process rights.  Players should not be punished simply because they are accused of a rule violation, and any punishments levied should be consistent across campuses.

Peter Ohr’s ruling has garnered a whole array of responses. It’s been called well-reasoned and significant, unexpected and momentous, stunning and revolutionary, and landmark and historic. Not surprisingly, it has also resulted in both cheers and jeers. Some haill it as “major victory for the college athlete labor movement” and others claim it to be “a disaster for universities, for college sports fans and, most important, for student athletes themselves.”

Those who are most vehemently opposed to this ruling are the NCAA and Northwestern University. Mark Emmert, president of the NCAAA, has been on a campaign portending doom and gloom should this ruling stand and the players decide to unionize. Similarly, the Northwestern University football coach, Pat Fitzgerald, has urged his players to vote no. These sentiments are to be expected from the gatekeepers of the NCAA. Despite having a surplus for each of the past three years in excess of $60 million, as well as net assets of more than $627 million (nearly double that amount from 2007), this ruling as well as a number of other legal threats, has the NCAA worried about its free-flowing profits.

If Marx and Engels were alive today, they would not be surprised that Emmert and company defend the profit-making machine of the NCAA. After all, in The Communist Manifesto they critique the bourgeois for defending the status quo and working to protect the interests of the capitalist class. The bourgeois would never willingly give up its power or profits; however, as Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward demonstrated in Regulating the Poor, those in power may offer the impoverished some relief as way to avert unrest and dissent. I doubt that Mark Emmert has read this classic sociological book, but it makes me wonder given the NCAA’s recent proposal to allow schools to give their athletes unlimited food and snacks.

The case of college athletes unionizing is not only an issue of worker’s rights. This case has the potential to expose many other underlying and inexcusable problems with college sports such as the graduation gap between black and white athletes, the ongoing gender inequality in college sports, the skyrocketing salaries of coaches (many of whom are the highest paid public employees in their state), as well as a host of other “shameful” issues.

This dismal state of affairs calls out for action by college athletes so let me again turn to The Communist Manifesto (this time the very last paragraph of the text) for inspiration:

The [College Athletes] disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forceful eradication of these deplorable conditions. Let the [NCAA and Universities] tremble at a [College Athletes] Revolution. The [College Athletes] have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

[COLLEGE ATHLETES OF ALL COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES], UNITE!

 

March 28, 2014

The Dark Side of Seeing Only the Bright Side

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

As a self-starter, I like self-help books, and have read or listened to number of audio books in the genre. I have listened to many books on discovering one’s passions and creativity, on personal finance, relationships, career building, and those promoting emotional well-being. I can truly say that I have learned a lot from them, and they have taught me how to understand myself and others better.

But even while listening, on occasion I am reminded of the limits of self-help books. For instance, many personal finance books suggest that readers control their spending—stop buying that daily latte, and eventually you will have a million dollars. Well, I don’t drink coffee, and I’m sure there are many people who cannot save or invest for a million dollars even if they don’t either. As a college professor, I am in the economic group that would likely benefit more from this kind of financial advice, say, compared with a low-wage worker who struggles to pay bills each month. Advising someone in these circumstances to skimp on coffee is not going to help them.

Continue reading "The Dark Side of Seeing Only the Bright Side" »

March 18, 2014

Stop and Frisk Through a Sociological Lens

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

If you live in or near New York, no doubt you have heard of a policing policy called “stop and frisk.” For those unfamiliar with the practice, stop and frisk involves police officers questioning and searching pedestrians for weapons if they deem them to be suspicious. This is different from an arrest, and there need not be a crime under investigation to justify a stop and frisk.  Instead, the idea is that this practice could stop a crime before it even happens.

In 2013, a judge ruled that stop and frisk was unconstitutional, as it was mainly used to stop—and many would argue harass—people of color on a daily basis. When Mayor Bill DiBlasio took office in 2014, he vowed that the police would discontinue the practice.

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March 13, 2014

Gentrification in Spike Lee’s Old Neighborhood

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

The old complaints about how New York isn’t New York anymore are coming up again. In truth, they are rarely far from many people’s lips. All neighborhoods change, and at times those transitions can be quite unnerving and very, very personal. But it is a tricky issue that touches on race, class, and community.

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March 03, 2014

Poverty Education and Tourism

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Walking through San Juan, Puerto Rico during the Feista de Calle San Sebastian, I left the touristy center of Old San Juan. Away from the blue cobblestoned streets and brightly colored colonial buildings of Puerto Rico’s most viable tourist bubble, I walked through an old gate. Locals say residents often stand guard in an attempt to dissuade people like me from entering the rundown area called La Perla.

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