Tomas Jimenez of Stanford Universtiy discusses immigration.
For more videos, see www.youtube.com/nortonsoc
Tomas Jimenez of Stanford Universtiy discusses immigration.
For more videos, see www.youtube.com/nortonsoc
Apathetic. Apolitical. Indifferent. Insensitive. Self Absorbed. Self-Obsessed. Selfish. Uncaring. Uncompassionate. Uninvolved.
Have you heard these words thrown about? They are often used these days to describe today’s youth. Some call them the Me Generation or Generation Me. Whatever order you prefer, the meaning is unmistakable: young people today are a generation of individuals who are more focused on themselves than others. This sentiment is summed up quite succinctly by Christian Smith and his colleagues in their book, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood. Based on 230 interviews with a cross section of young people between the ages of 18-23 the authors argue that:
The vast majority of the emerging adults interviewed remain highly civically and politically disengaged, uninformed, and distrustful. Most in fact in this study claim to feel disempowered, apathetic, and sometimes even despairing when it comes to the larger social, civic, and political world beyond their own private lives.
Given your own experiences and observations of young people do you feel this analysis rings true? I tend to have a different perspective than the authors of this study. My sense is that today’s young people are not all disengaged, consumer-driven individualists. I am more inclined to believe a recent study that found 56% of young adults around the world consider themselves activists and 69% of youth in the U.S. self identify as such.
¿Se habla español? ¿En su vida, ve y oye español en las calles, en las tiendas, en la televisión y en su escuela? Es probable, porque la población de personas que hablan español en los Estados Unidos está creciendo rápidamente. Hoy, hay más de 50 millones personas que hablan español en este país. En menos de cuarenta años, la cantidad de personas que hablan español será más de 130 millones—esto será el 30% de la población de los Estados Unidos.
Did you understand anything above? Are you wondering why I started out this blog in Spanish? It is not because I am bilingual, although I have been studying Spanish in an effort to become somewhat proficient in the language. And it is not because this month (September 15 to October 15) is Hispanic Heritage month. To understand why I began in Spanish it is necessary to understand what I wrote.
While channel surfing recently, I stumbled upon Betty White’s Off Their Rockers, a hidden camera show featuring elderly cast members who approach younger people in public places and catch them off guard by breaching norms.
Many of the brief segments include elderly women sexually propositioning much younger men, while other pranks include eating off a stranger’s plate at an outdoor café, making out with a blow-up doll in public, and a gray-haired lady standing outside a liquor store who asks a young man to buy her beer because she forgot her ID.
If a tree falls and nobody is around to hear it, does it make any noise?
You’ve likely heard this hypothetical question before. Sociologically speaking, we might ask in a similar vein: if a social problem improves dramatically but few people know about these improvements, is it still a social problem?
I started thinking about this in my social problems class recently. Each semester, students are very surprised to learn that rates of teen pregnancy have declined dramatically. In fact, a recent report by the Alan Guttmacher Institute notes that the teen pregnancy rate is now at an all-time low in U.S. history.
Karen Sternheimer recently interviewed Robert Sampson about his new book, Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect.
For more videos, visit www.youtube.com/nortonsoc
Recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show a decline in births in the U.S., down 4 percent between 2007 and 2009; births to teens aged 15-19 fell 8 percent during that time frame. CDC analysts examining 2010 data estimate that further declines in the birth rate are likely, as the graph below details. (Fertility rate refers to the number of births per thousand women, in this case those aged 15-44.)
Births to teens fell as well. Despite fears of a “pregnancy pact” in 2008, or that movies like Juno (2007) and shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom (2009-present) would inspire teens to get pregnant, we have seen declines in teen pregnancies, as the graph below details.
In fact, the teen birth rate is the lowest it has been in American history, at 39.1 per thousand in 2009. In contrast, in 1957 the teen birth rate was 96.3 per thousand. Most of the teenage mothers are 18-19-year-olds. In fact, a few years ago when teen birth rates rose after years of decline (see the slight bump around 2005 in the graph above), much of that rise was in the older teen group.
Births to young girls aged 10-14 (not pictured on this graph) are also at an all-time low, according to the CDC. “The 2009 birth rate for females aged 10-14 was 0.5 births per 1,000, the lowest ever reported and two-thirds lower than in 1990 (1.4). Moreover, the number of babies born to this age group has fallen to the fewest in nearly 60 years, to 5,030 in 2009.”
In fact, the only age group that has exhibited increases in fertility are women over 40. While the birth rate for women 40-49 was lower than any age group in 2009 except for 10-14 year-olds, the birth rate for 40-44 year-olds increased 6 percent from 2007, and births to women 45-49 years old—a group the CDC had traditionally not counted in fertility rates—increased seventeen percent during this time.
What might explain these trends?
Many personal factors play a role in whether or not someone gets pregnant. In fact, we might argue that this is one of the most intimate aspects of our lives.
But there are important sociological issues that influence when and why babies are born. One of the most important has to do with economic realities. When reporting on this trend, many news stories, like this one from CNN, highlighted the role the recession may have played in lowering the birth rate.
But what about the upward trend in births to women over 40? Aren’t they impacted by the recession too?
Ironically, it may be the financial stability of women over 40 that partly explains this trend. Advances in fertility medicine are likely helping many of these births, but these treatments can cost thousands of dollars. Having had the opportunity to advance within the labor force, this age group likely has resources available that younger women do not. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in March 2011, the unemployment rate for women aged 40-44 was 6.5 percent, compared with 7.6 percent for women 35-39, 8.7 percent for women 25-34, and 12.7 percent for women 20-24.
In her book Ready: Why Women are Embracing the New Later Motherhood, Women’s Studies scholar Elizabeth Gregory interviewed 113 mothers aged 35 and older, finding that many of her respondents report having stable careers and marriages, making childrearing more attractive.
As you can see from the graph below, there have been several dips in the fertility rate throughout history. Fertility rates fell during the 1920s, a time when the economy overall was strong and unemployment low. This was also a time when activists like Margaret Sanger promoted contraception and family planning, and the women's suffrage movement successfully lobbied for the right to vote in a push for greater equality.
Declines in fertility during this time might also be linked with growing urbanization, when more Americans lived in cities than in rural farming communities where having many children is economically necessary.
The start of the Great Depression and entry into World War II likely influenced the plateau we see in birth rates in the 1930s and 40s. Following the war, economic growth made it easier for couples to marry early and afford children. The midcentury baby boom ended in the mid-1960s, and American fertility rates have remained lower ever since.
What economic and sociological factors do you think help explain the relatively low birth rates over the past 40 years?
60 Minutes recently aired a story about children living in families so hard hit hard by the recession that they had become homeless.
Poverty is one of those subjects that many of us often prefer not to think about. Child poverty is a particularly difficult issue to broach, despite the fact that more than one in five American children now live under the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).
As you can see from the graph below, children are the age group most likely to live in poverty. While the elderly used to have higher poverty rates, by the mid-1970s those rates declined dramatically, likely in part as a result of federal programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Overall, far fewer people of all ages live in poverty now that they did 50 years ago. However, poverty rates have been rising in recent years, due in large part to the recession. The economic downturn has hit children particularly hard. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), currently 15 million children live below the FPL and the percentage of children in poverty rose 33 percent between 2000 and 2009. NCCP suggests that families actually need to earn at least twice the FPL to be economically stable. They estimate that 31 million live in low income families, or 42 percent of American children.
While white children comprise the largest raw number of children in poverty, African American/Black, American Indian, and Hispanic/Latino children are disproportionally more likely to live in poverty compared with white or Asian children. Children of all ethnicities who live in single mother headed households are also more likely to live in poverty.
And as you can see from the graph below, child poverty varies regionally. Children in the South have the highest poverty rates, with Mississippi’s topping out at just over 30 percent. (Puerto Rico, an American territory, has a child poverty rate of 55.9 percent.)
By contrast, the Northeast and Plains states have the lowest child poverty level, with New Hampshire the nation’s lowest at 9.5 percent.
Percent of Children under 18 in Poverty, past 12 months
The NCCP’s data challenges several common beliefs about children in poverty: that it is the result of parents who won’t work, who have too many kids, and who experience generational poverty.
As the 60 Minutes story suggests, children in poverty are most likely poor as the result of a major disruptive change in their family: a lost job, an illness, divorce, or death. According to the NCCP, “Most of these children have parents who work, but low wages and unstable employment leave their families struggling to make ends meet.” The NCCP’s research also dispels several myths:
Family poverty in the U.S. is typically depicted as a static, entrenched condition, characterized by large numbers of children, chronic unemployment, drugs, violence, and family turmoil. But the realities of poverty and economic hardship are very different.
Americans often talk about “poor people” as if they are a distinct group with uniform characteristics and somehow unlike the rest of “us.” In fact, there is great diversity among children and families who experience economic hardship. Research shows that many stereotypes just aren’t accurate: a study of children born between 1970 and 1990 showed that 35 percent experienced poverty at some point during their childhood; only a small minority experienced persistent and chronic poverty. And more than 90 percent of low-income single mothers have only one, two, or three children.
Given that poverty often comes after a child’s birth, it is too simple to just suggest that poor people not have children. What other factors might reduce the growing number of children living in poverty?
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