46 posts categorized "COVID-19"

October 04, 2021

I Have Questions about Norms!

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

Each time I mow my lawn, I think about norms. It sounds silly, but the phrase “conventional mowing hours” comes to mind when I’m deciding what time to cut the grass. I’ve lived in my current neighborhood for ten years. I’ve rarely seen anyone mow before 9:00 a.m. I’d be going out of my way to irritate my neighbors if I mowed at 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning. We learn through observation and social interaction what’s considered to be socially acceptable behavior. A lot of norms operate as unwritten rules about what we should and shouldn’t do in everyday life.

When you intentionally break social norms, you might generate interesting reactions. Breaching experiments demonstrate the power of social norms, as explained in this post by Bradley Wright. It would be a breaching experiment to cut my lawn using scissors, or to fire up the lawnmower at midnight. If you’ve ever watched Impractical Jokers, you understand what breaching experiments look like.

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August 16, 2021

Biography and History Intersecting: Thinking Critically about Individualism

Author photo

By Karen Sternheimer

In his book The Sociological Imagination, C. Wright Mills described the importance of historical events as shaping individuals’ lives. This is not just to say that historical events influence our personalities or preferences, but that sociology calls upon us to consider the interplay between our seemingly private lives and the world around us. The self cannot exist apart from society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us an opportunity to think about the connection between the self and society, as clashes over mask mandates, shutdowns, and vaccinations highlight the tensions between individualism and the larger society that we are part of.

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July 05, 2021

Emerging From the COVID Cocoon

Janis prince innissBy Janis Prince Inniss

Should I sit inside or pool side? Wear a mask or not? Hug people? Fist bump? Elbow bump? These are some of the questions I am mulling more than a week before attending a Fourth of July party. This is a significant event because it marks my return to visiting friends since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year.

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June 21, 2021

A Generation of Homecomers: Alfred Schutz and the Experiences of “Boomerang Children”

Davison-Vecchione author photoBy Daniel Davison-Vecchione, PhD candidate in Sociology, University of Cambridge

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven many people in their twenties and thirties in high-income OECD countries to move back in with their families because of job losses and financial costs. A September 2020 Pew Research Center report found that most people aged 18 to 29 in the US now live with their parents – the first time this had been the case since the Great Depression. Similarly, a 2019 Office for National Statistics report in the UK found a 46% increase over the last two decades in the number of people aged 20-34 living with parents.

Millennials and older members of Generation Z have been hit by two global recessions in the space of two decades, and are especially vulnerable to short-term layoffs because they are disproportionately in precarious, low-income employment. They find themselves jumping from one rental to the next, only to end up back in the family home, hoping to save up money and move out again. Despite returning to what they expect to be familiar ground, such “boomerang children” often feel curiously alienated or out of place in their hometowns.

Continue reading "A Generation of Homecomers: Alfred Schutz and the Experiences of “Boomerang Children”" »

June 14, 2021

Finding New Normality, From Micro to Macro

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

As COVID cases fall in much of the United States, many pandemic-era restrictions are beginning to loosen. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) revised mask guidelines to local ordinances allowing businesses to fully open, many of us are working on discovering a “new normal” as we go from pandemic to post-pandemic living.

This readjustment takes place at a number of levels, from individual and family at the most micro level, to workplace and community at the meso level, and state, local, and federal policy level at the macro level. These shifts help remind us that we are part of a larger interconnected social system, one which the pandemic served to highlight.

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May 10, 2021

Teaching in a Pandemic: The Good, the Surreal, and the Challenges of Teaching Sociology Online

Colby King author photoTodd SchoepflinBy Colby King and Todd Schoepflin

In this podcast, Colby King and Todd Schoepflin share some of their experiences teaching this year. One example that stands out to Todd is the experience of teaching at home at the same time his kids had remote music and gym lessons. Home and work were blended in new ways. Instead of commuting from work and sitting in traffic, he could spend that time preparing dinner. Colby explains the consistent feeling of role conflict (“Am I a parent or professor?”) and feeling like he wasn’t thriving in either role. He also points to a valuable resource in his wife’s parents, who were able to help with childcare.

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April 12, 2021

Consumption, COVID, and Economic Inequality

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

For some people, the COVID pandemic has had a silver lining: more savings. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, American savings rates reached a 60-year high of 33.7 percent in April 2020 up from 12.9 percent in March 2020. (We have data on savings rates going back to 1960.)

This means that month Americans saved an about a third of their income, on average. This percentage has remained high, at 20.5% in January 2021, the most recent data available at the time of this writing. For context, the previous high was 17.3 percent in May 1975. The National Bureau of Economics Research reported that 27 percent of stimulus payment from the CARES act was saved as well.

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April 05, 2021

Vaccine Disparities and COVID-19

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

As I write, both of my parents just received their second COVID-19 vaccinations. This is of course a great relief, since they are in their 70s, but their experience highlights some of the inequities built into the scramble to get vaccinated.

While the U.S. supply cannot keep up with demand at the moment, in some countries there is no supply at all. According to UNICEF, and reported by NPR, about 130 countries had no vaccine as of mid-February. In the U.S., the distribution varies quite a bit per state, with some states vaccinating at twice the rate of others. (See this NPR Tracker to find out how your state compares.)

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March 29, 2021

The Challenges of Academia and Finding Positivity during the Pandemic

Myron strongBy Myron Strong

There is a sadness in parts of academia, facilitated by toxic structures like outdated tenure systems, labor exploitation, unrealistic research demands, financial constraints, isolation, and COVID-19, to name just a few. And as I go on Twitter and scroll through posts, there is so much pain from professors and students and I am reminded of Jay Z’s song Song Cry:

I can't see 'em comin down my eyes
So I gotta make the song cry.”

Some social media posts often convey a sense of hopelessness from academics, and even if I cannot see the tears coming down their eyes, I can feel them. Without question academia can be a challenging place and the pandemic and magnified existing problems. Yet how can we begin to fully understand the world and how to solve problems if we are caught in a web or sorrow and misery?

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March 22, 2021

Applying Weber’s Concept of Bureaucracy to the Pandemic

Jessica polingBy Jessica Poling

Like many of the classical theorists of his age, nineteenth-century German social theorist Max Weber sought to define “modernity.” Weber lived in a society experiencing rapid economic, political, and social changes and devoted much of his time to characterizing what defined modern society and how (and why) society had come to look differently than it ever had before. Weber explored many facets of modernity (including religion, social class, and politics), eventually developing one of his most famous concepts, “bureaucracy.”

According to Weber, modern society is in part defined by the introduction of bureaucracies, a new type of organization developed alongside capitalist values in western Europe. Unlike other organizational forms, bureaucracies exhibit a unique set of characteristics that set them apart. First, bureaucracies are defined by a clear-cut chain of command, wherein every member reports to someone of higher status and knows their own role and responsibility within the organization.

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