390 posts categorized "Behind the Headlines"

March 27, 2023

Getting a Job: Working for AI

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

I have been fortunate to have had my job for more than twenty years. I have never looked for a job in the twenty-first century. If I did, the process would be a lot different than it was in the 1990s. Monster.com, the first online resume database, only launched in 1999. And while the internet might have had job listings, old-fashioned snail mail was still the main way to apply for a job for many years after that.

Back in the twentieth century, writing a good resume was key. It still is today, but an algorithm is likely to be the first to “see” your resume. In theory, this is meant to help streamline the hiring process and perhaps even get better candidates. Even a first interview might be submitted as a video, screened by a bot to read a candidate’s facial expressions and keywords used.

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February 13, 2023

Let Them Eat Tofu: Getting Real about the Struggles of Low-Wage Mothers

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

My community’s social media news page recently discussed the high cost of eggs, and how local food pantries are having a hard time supplying this staple to needy families. One well-intentioned commenter suggested that instead of cooking eggs, recipients should just bake tofu (actually the comment specified that it should be organic tofu). Problem solved.

Yes, comments like this can be written off as a California stereotype (and yes, I personally do occasionally bake tofu myself), but it also reveals a deeper misunderstanding about the challenges low-income people, who are often single mothers, face. One of the biggest challenges is time, particularly time to cook meals for their families. Eggs can just take minutes to cook, and most importantly, might be a food that children are familiar with and are willing to eat.

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January 30, 2023

Ideology and the Prince

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

While I haven’t read it yet, Prince Harry’s book Spare has been receiving a lot of coverage. (A search of the terms “Spare Prince Harry” yields 135 million hits.) The coverage of this book teaches us a lot about the concept of ideology, or ways of seeing that appear normal and natural. How people view this tell-all book reflect differing ideological perspectives, shaped by social context.

I watched Anderson Cooper’s interview of the prince on 60 Minutes, as well as Stephen Colbert’s Late Show interview, both offering sympathetic coverage that focused on the trauma of losing his mother when he was twelve. Both interviewers have shared their own struggles with grief after losing their fathers as children, so perhaps this focus was not a surprise.

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October 24, 2022

Lonely at the Top: The Toll of “High Functioning” Depression and Our Pandemic Mental Health Crisis

Stacy Torres author photoBy Stacy Torres

From the vantage of midlife, I’ve pondered social mobility’s toll on myself and others who’ve climbed from the poor or working-class into the professional class. I’ve spent my entire life developing a titanium outer shell, making myself strong and tough as poverty conspired to knock me off track. Skilled at powering through, I’ve worn my resilience like a Purple Heart. I had to fight. And fight. And fight.

But I’m tired of running to stay in place. At 42, I still spend considerable time quieting the inner monologue that says I’m not good enough. In my current position as an assistant professor of sociology, work and productivity remain intertwined with my identity and self-worth. Rejections can feel personally crushing. I’ve often dwelled on my failures, feeling like an imposter. Being hard on myself served me in the climb, but harmful perfectionism now yields diminishing returns.

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October 17, 2022

Gender Nonconformity and Culture Wars

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

For the past few years, an unprecedented “culture war” has been brewing in the U.S. While contemporary issues of race, class, sexuality, gender, and abortion (just to name a few) have deep historical roots, our current hyper-polarized climate has amplified each of these debates to the point where each side feels that their very existence is threatened by the other. We have recently seen this sense of threat escalate to violence numerous times: from the insurrection on January 6th 2021, to parents fighting at local school board meetings, to deadly massacres driven by white supremacist ideology.

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June 13, 2022

How Do We Make Society Less Polarized?

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

In our increasingly socially and politically polarized society, it ironically seems that the only thing most Americans can agree on is that our society is, indeed, polarized. Journalists, scholars, and the general public alike have noted the vast and growing rift dividing the country into two camps.

Whether it be relating to politics, public health measures, or what children should be taught in schools, the vast majority of Americans believe they don’t share the same values as those on “the other side.” A recent article in The Atlantic even writes of a “red America” and a “blue America” as two different countries; separate nations that are “unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth.”

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March 07, 2022

Age and the Great Resignation

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

You have probably heard that many people have been voluntarily leaving their jobs in 2021 and 2022, often called “the great resignation.” Much has been made about people deciding that they prefer to work from home and maybe even change where home is, sometimes relocating to lower-cost, slower paced communities during the pandemic. Perhaps people have decided that their work wasn’t fulfilling and they are looking for a permanent change, having been “awakened” by the sudden change thanks to the pandemic.

There is an almost romantic story being told about people “finding themselves” as those looking to hire wring their hands about the lack of labor supply. The data tell another story. As Forbes reported in January 2022:

Fully two-thirds of the folks leaving jobs this past August weren’t actually ‘quitting.’ They were retiring. One million were ‘normal’ retirements, an additional 1.5 million opted for early retirement. That’s a whole different story.

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February 28, 2022

Far from “Post-Racial”: Color-Blind Racism, Group Threat, and Anti-Asian Prejudice

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

Since the election of President Obama in 2008, many Americans have claimed that we live in a “post-racial society” in which race no longer matters. After all, if we elected a Black man to be president – the ultimate position of power in the country – how can people still claim that racism exists?

Some telling societal metrics also speak to an increasingly leveled playing field between the races; for example, the difference in college enrollment rates for White and Black 18-to 24-year-olds has decreased from 8 percentage points in 2000 to 5 percentage points in 2018. At the very least, might these numbers suggest that we are headed in the right direction?

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January 21, 2022

Retail Exodus

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

For the past year and a half of the pandemic, I have been fortunate enough to order groceries online and drive up for curbside pickup. Not only has it saved me from exposure to others, it also saves me time and enables me to shop throughout the week on the store’s app.

When I put in my most recent grocery order, I received an email about an hour later saying that my order had been canceled. It didn’t give a reason, it just said there was a problem with my order. At first I wondered if there was a problem with the credit card or if lots of things were out of stock.

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November 09, 2021

Striketober!

Colby King author photoBy Colby King

Over the past several weeks, we have seen a number of labor actions across the country, including strikes and walk-offs. Some observers have referred to this past month as “Striketober,” with the #striketober hashtag being popularized on social media, including Twitter.

As Catherine Thorbecke of ABC News reported:

A confluence of unique labor market conditions -- including record-high levels of people quitting their jobs and an apparent shortage of workers accepting low-wage jobs -- has contributed to the recent rash of work stoppages, experts say, but they also come after decades of stagnating wages and soaring income inequality in the U.S.

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