By Peter Kaufman
Imagine you work full-time as a customer service representative at a call center for one of the giant telecommunication companies. Your job is to help customers deal with a whole array of problems they may have with their wireless devices from poor reception to billing miscalculations to hardware malfunctions. At times, you must talk with irate and agitated callers but you must deal with these customers quickly and expediently or else your job performance will suffer and you may miss out on the potential for year-end bonuses. You have been working for this company for nearly two years and you make just under $25,000 per year.
Given the work you do for the company and the salary you earn, how do you think your income should compare to the CEO of this company? Would it be fair that the CEO makes 10 times more than you? 50 times more? 100 times more? 500 times more? How about 1000 times more than what you earn? This would actually be the reality for you if you worked for T-Mobile. In 2013, the CEO of T-Mobile, John J. Legere, made over 29 million dollars in total compensation—an amount that is greater than 1,100 times what you earned.
Continue reading "Extreme Inequality: Workers vs.CEOs" »
By Teresa Irene Gonzales and Angel Rubiel Gonzalez
Gonzalez holds a Ph.D. in Education from UC Berkeley and is currently a social studies teacher in New York City
In 2013, Christina Hoff Sommers wrote an op-ed for the New York Times which discussed the growing educational gap between boys and girls within the U.S. Sommers blames much of this gap on what she terms “misguided policies” that perpetuate an educational gender inequity that favors girls over boys. In order to create more boy-friendly classrooms, Sommers advocates for increased play time (recess), single-sex classrooms, and male teachers.
Continue reading "The "Boy Problem" of the Twenty-first Century" »
By Karen Sternheimer
A student of a colleague had failed a course after rarely attending and not completing several assignments. The ones he did complete were poorly done; he did not see the instructor in office hours despite repeated invitations to talk about improving his grade during the course. He earned 25 out of 100 points in the course, and perhaps unsurprisingly, an F.
But to my colleague’s surprise, the student emailed after seeing his final grade, asking if there was any way he could earn a C in the course (which typically requires 70%, well above his 25%). Maybe the instructor added incorrectly?
Continue reading "Magical Thinking vs. Sociological Reasoning" »
By Colby King and Jakari Griffith, Bridgewater State University
Colby King is an Assistant Professor of Sociology; Jakari Griffith is an Assistant Professor of Management
Recently, Pittsburgh Pirates star center fielder Andrew McCutchen shared a great essay on The Players’ Tribune in which he reflects on his path to the pros. In the essay, he responds to the drama surrounding the Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team, which won the Little League World Series and then had their title taken away for having players on the team who lived outside of their geographic area. The emphasis of his essay is a critique of what McCutchen, who was raised by a poor family in Fort Meade, Florida, sees as a broader problem: the cost and difficulties that talented kids from poor families face as they hope to be discovered by scouts.
Continue reading "Sports and Socio-Economic Status: More than Talent Required" »
By Teresa Irene Gonzales
In 1989, Arlie Russell Hochschild published her groundbreaking text The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home. For eight years, from 1980-1988, Hochschild and her team of researchers interviewed fifty dual-career heterosexual couples, and observed twelve families at home.
In these relationships, she shows that in addition to their jobs in the formal economy, women also engage in a “second shift” of work at home; they take care of most of the household (cleaning and cooking), childcare (homework, bathing, etc.), and additional family care responsibilities (such as caring for elderly parents). As many sociologists note, this unequal distribution of unpaid labor is largely connected to traditional gender roles.
Continue reading "The Second Shift and Workplace Policies" »
By Karen Sternheimer
In 2000, measles was eradicated from the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that after decades of a successful vaccination program, which began in 1963, there were no more measles cases that originated in the U.S. This means that measles is no longer native to the United States.
The recent outbreak of measles reminds us that the disease can still infect people here in the U.S. Once the disease was eradicated, it has re-entered the country through documented cases in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The CDC reports that the most recent outbreak likely came from those traveling from the Philippines, which is also currently experiencing a large outbreak.
Continue reading "Measles, Technology, and Globalization" »
By Karen Sternheimer
Virtually no job comes without stress. Whether it’s meeting the expectations and deadlines of coworkers, clients, or supervisors, nearly all work can at times be challenging. Sometimes the work itself isn’t as challenging as managing relationships with the people we work with.
Emotional labor involves managing our emotions to meet our job expectations. For example, retail clerks are expected to be upbeat and enthusiastic about the merchandise (and in general), even if that is not truly how they feel. Emotional labor is also part of dealing with the personalities of those we work with. This labor is not necessarily always stressful. Asking a coworker about a sick relative may be a way to convey your concern about their family without taking much of an emotional toll. But in other cases emotional labor can be very stressful, and this stress can be minimized or magnified based on one’s status.
Continue reading "Emotional Labor, Status, and Stress" »
By Sally Raskoff
Have you ever thought about how your social relationships at school (and elsewhere) might help you in the future?
Social capital, conceptualized by sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, includes economic resources that one gains from being part of a network of social relationships, including group membership.
Cultural capital, also from Bourdieu, includes non-economic resources that enable social mobility. Examples of cultural capital would include knowledge, skills, and education. Both concepts remind us that social networks and culture have value. Bourdieu discussed other forms of capital, including economic and symbolic. Economic capital refers to monetary resources or those with exchange value, i.e., money.
Continue reading "Social and Cultural Capital at School" »
By Karen Sternheimer
The mayor of Los Angeles has proposed increasing the minimum wage to $13.25 an hour in the city, and requested an analysis of the potential impact an increase would have on workers and businesses. Researchers from UC Berkeley’s Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics produced a report and concluded that more than a half a million workers in the city would get a raise (those earning minimum wage and those earning below the proposed minimum wage).
The report provides a demographic profile on these low-wage workers. They comprise 37 percent of those earning wages in the private sector; 39 percent of women and 35 percent of men. The vast majority—83 percent—are persons of color.
Despite the widespread belief that most low-wage workers are teens earning extra spending money while attending school, in Los Angeles few of them are teens; 38 percent of low wage workers are in their twenties, nearly 22 percent are in their thirties, and 37 percent are over forty. The majority work full time, and 36 percent have children.
Continue reading "Who is a Low Wage Earner?" »
By Sally Raskoff
Have you seen any murals in your community? If so, do you know what they depict? Do you know the history behind them? Finding such murals can be a good exercise for your sociological imagination.
There is one mural right next door to my college: The Great Wall of Los Angeles. It is a half-mile long, located along the interior wall of the Los Angeles River – yes, our river runs within a concrete channel, built to control the unruly flow of water. With our current state of drought, however, we don’t have much water flowing so we can see the entire mural!
Continue reading "Sociology, Murals, and Communities" »