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September 21, 2020

Health, Racial Inequality, and Residential Segregation

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos, Sociology Doctoral Student at Rutgers University – New Brunswick

We often talk about health as a strictly biological concept. After all, poor health outcomes such as heart disease and cancer are heavily dependent on biological factors such as our genetic makeup and our age. Public discourse is also rife with notions that viruses, such as COVID-19, “do not discriminate” and affect all of us equally – regardless of the vastly different social circumstances under which people in the U.S. are living.

Sociologists, however, have long emphasized that health outcomes are far from strictly biological. In fact, the subfield of medical sociology – one of the American Sociological Association’s largest sections – is entirely devoted to the study of how social contexts and structures influence health, illness, and healthcare. Although certain poor health outcomes are indeed influenced by factors outside of the social world, medical sociologists stress the importance of social influence in examining e.g. who gets sick and why.

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September 14, 2020

Antiracism as a Process

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

I stumbled upon a celebrity story that actors Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds recently apologized for getting married at a former plantation where people were held as slaves.

My initial response was, well, confusion. How do people who think that a plantation is a fine location for a wedding (and there are apparently many that do) decide a few years later that it is something to apologize for? Isn’t one’s wedding location something that one gives a great deal of thought and consideration in advance? Why didn’t the idea of getting married on a plantation bother them in 2012, but it does now?

This post is not about bashing or praising the actors, who have since donated large sums of money to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. It is instead about understanding that becoming more aware of the tangled web of racism in the United States is a process, one that we all stumble through imperfectly. This is a learning process, especially for people who do not regularly experience the negative effects of racism.

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September 07, 2020

Connecting the Dots II: Linking Theory with Research, Revisited

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Last year, I wrote about the connections between theory and research. It’s very tempting for the first-time student researcher to come up with a research topic and either ignore theories about the topic, or have difficulty integrating theories with their research question or their findings. Theories may seem abstract and sometimes difficult to grasp, while research is concrete and its results sometimes easier to digest. Connecting the two takes practice.

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August 31, 2020

What Makes an Interview Sociological?

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Many sociologists use interviews to collect data, and while journalists also conduct interviews, there are significant differences between how—and why—sociologists use the information that they gathered. Here are a few of the biggest differences:

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August 24, 2020

Internships and the Cost of Geography

author photoBy Colby King

This year, National Public Radio (NPR) received 20,520 applications for the 27 internships they are offering this fall. That was nearly 8 times the number of applications NPR received for 55 internship slots the year before, according to a report in Current, a trade journal that covers the public broadcasting industry in the US. Executive Director Julie Drizin notes how we are currently in “truly tough times to be job-hunting.”

I found this report after seeing behavioral economist Jodi Beggs retweet it, saying, “Wow I feel like we just learned something pretty important here.” In the report, NPR spokesperson Isabel Lara as suggests that this increase in applications is likely a result of the internships being offered remotely this year, and not requiring participants to move to the expensive large cities in which they are typically offered.

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August 10, 2020

On Being, and Not Being, a “Karen”

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

My name has become a trendy insult.

“Karen” has become a shortcut for an entitled, middle-aged white woman who is prone to throwing a fit. Sometimes it is because she doesn’t think she has to follow rules, particularly now with mask restrictions becoming more common. Paradoxically, she also contacts authorities to report what she views as others’ transgressions, particularly if they are persons of color.

While the use of my name to describe this insufferable character is not new (apparently it is at least three years old), it has proliferated over the past few months both in social and traditional media. A proposed San Francisco law to charge people who call the police for racially motivated reasons is called the CAREN Act. You can find regular updates on #KarensGoneWild and numerous other Twitter hashtags.

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August 05, 2020

Gender, Ethnicity, and the COVID Recession

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The recent economic downturn has impacted millions of Americans. As of this writing, about 30 million Americans are collecting unemployment benefits. Those earning less than $40,000 have endured the greatest job losses; according to the Federal Reserve, 40 percent of these workers have lost their jobs in recent months. In contrast, just over one in ten households earning more than $100,000 have experienced job losses.

You might have seen news reports that women have been more likely to experience job losses during the current recession. The Great Recession of a decade ago hit construction and finance particularly hard, and came to be known as a “mancession” because those fields tend to be male dominated.

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