66 posts categorized "Immigration, Population, Aging, and Demography"

April 24, 2015

The “Starbucks Effect”: Correlation vs. Causation

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Earlier this year, several news organizations reported on a study that found that homes near a Starbucks increased in value at a rate higher than others during a fifteen year period. Did Starbucks cause this larger rise in home values?

The headlines seemed to suggest it had: “What Starbucks Has Done to American Home Values,” “Living Near a Starbucks Might Double Your Home’s Value” and “Starbucks Increases Neighborhood, Home Values”—all imply that the presence of Starbucks led to the increase in home value.

This story caught my eye for a number of reasons. While I’m not a coffee drinker, a new Starbucks just opened down the street (okay, about two miles down the street, so not that close) but if its presence further increased our home values that would be a plus. But more to the point, it drew my attention as a sociologist. The headlines seem to confuse causation with correlation, assuming that one variable had a direct impact on the other, rather than coinciding with a number of other factors that come along with the decision to open a new Starbucks.

Continue reading "The “Starbucks Effect”: Correlation vs. Causation" »

January 13, 2015

The Birth Lottery and Global Inequality

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

When you think of inequality what comes to mind? As sociologists, many of us are trained to immediately point to the “holy trinity” of sociological analysis: race, gender, and class. We may think of the achievement gap in education, the gender pay gap, the extreme disparity between CEO pay and average worker pay, or toxic or environmental injustice as some of the typical manifestations of inequality. There is no denying the importance of race, class, and gender to any discussion of social stratification. However, there is another dimension of inequality that is arguably more pernicious than the holy trinity but is not spoken about nearly as much: the country in which you were born.

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November 17, 2014

Aging, Living, and Dying

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

As a college professor, my students are almost always the same age—with a few outliers—but I continue to get older, which occasionally becomes more salient. Recently we screened the documentary The Central Park Five in our department, a film focusing on the attack on a jogger in 1989 and the subsequent rush to judgment that led to the wrongful imprisonment of five teen boys. The incident took place when I was a college student living in New York, and before most of the students in attendance were born. When we talked about the film, they were just as interested in hearing more about what it was actually like to be alive in the 1980s, as though I were a visitor from another era.

Admittedly, even I was struck by how old the hairstyles, clothes, and cars appeared in the documentary and I marveled at how quickly time can pass by. While focusing on the day-to-day challenges of everyday life, it’s easy to overlook the passage of big chunks of time until others point it out.

Continue reading "Aging, Living, and Dying" »

September 22, 2014

The Child-Migrant Crisis, Stereotypes, and Immigration

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

On a recent trip to California from the Midwest, I decided to take advantage of the long flight to relax, read one of my Australian murder mystery novels, use my free drink ticket for a glass of wine, and eat a bar of dark chocolate.

During the first hour of the five-hour flight, I settled in and began reading my e-book. The woman sitting to my left decided that she wanted to talk, and asked “So what do you think about all of this?!” I muttered that I didn’t know and went back to reading.

Again the woman interrupted me and said “This, here read it. What do you think about all these illegals coming here to this country?” I sighed, muttered again, and tried to go back to reading.

Continue reading "The Child-Migrant Crisis, Stereotypes, and Immigration" »

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.

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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.

Continue reading "Gentrification in Spike Lee’s Old Neighborhood" »

August 01, 2013

Two-Wheeled Revolutions

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

 This year the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) will take place in New York City. As much as I’m looking forward to spending a long weekend with thousands of sociologists from around the world talking about all things sociological, what I’m really excited about is not taking place within the confines of the conference.

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May 30, 2013

Whither the Good Death?

Elizabeth luthBy Elizabeth Luth

PhD student, Sociology, Rutgers University 

When asked, the majority of Americans say they would like to die at home, free from pain, and having said goodbye to loved ones. Dying peacefully at home and surrounded by loved ones may not seem like a lofty aspiration for the end of one’s life.

Yet, the reality of death in America often does not reflect those expectations. Despite declines in the proportion of Americans dying in hospitals, Americans spend more time than ever before in intensive care units in the months leading up to death, often undergoing invasive and painful procedures that add days to one’s life while compromising quality of life.

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February 25, 2013

Everyday Sociology Talk: US Immigration, Past and Present


Tomas Jimenez of Stanford Universtiy discusses immigration.

For more videos, see www.youtube.com/nortonsoc

January 24, 2013

Youth Power

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

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. Youth 1Whatever 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.

Continue reading "Youth Power" »

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