344 posts categorized "Karen Sternheimer"

April 01, 2020

Ideology and the Grocery Store

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

In recent weeks, grocery shortages have been common around the country as people stock up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have had a hard time finding staples like garlic, potatoes, and dry beans at my usual local grocery store. What can the concept of ideology teach us about the run on food and paper products?

Ideology is a system of beliefs that appear normal and natural to a particular group. Rather than a fancy way of saying “idea,” ideology is a grouping of ideas that seem unquestionable and are often taken for granted. These systems of beliefs that we live within often seem to be “human nature” and beyond the need to think about critically.

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March 30, 2020

How to Speak Sociologese

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

At the Everyday Sociology Blog, we pride ourselves on avoiding academic jargon whenever possible and clearly defining concepts whenever we do use words that might not be familiar to most readers.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there are some words and phrases that should be used very specifically while speaking and writing sociologically, and in the social sciences more generally. The list below is not exhaustive, but a reminder that we should use our words carefully to clearly communicate sociological concepts and findings. Think about the following examples when reading and writing:

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March 16, 2020

Behind the Research: Understanding Panel Studies

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The Pew Research Center recently released a study about online dating. They found that about thirty percent of U.S. adults have used an online dating site or app, and that just over one in ten have used one in the past year. About 12 percent of respondents reported being in a serious relationship or marrying someone that they met online.

When most of us read about or hear about studies like these we don’t think much about how the findings are generated. Who are included in the study, and how do researchers find them?

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March 12, 2020

Applying the Sociological Imagination to COVID-19

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

By now you have likely heard of the Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19. Maybe your school or workplace has shifted online for the time being, or you have noticed a shortage of cold and flu related items at your local store.

While this is a rapidly changing situation, we can use this example to help us understand several sociological concepts:

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March 02, 2020

Social Institutions: Central to our Lives—and Beyond

Sally Raskoff: Social Institutions Central to our Lives - and Beyond

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author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Social institutions, the building blocks of societies, are not only central to our lives, but they continue to be part of us even after death. Social institutions such as family, medicine, government, religion, and the economy are part of the process of death as well as its aftermath.

In this podcast conversation, Sally Raskoff and I discuss our experiences with these social institutions following the deaths of family members. We do not just mourn with family members when someone passes away. After a death it also takes work to disentangle all of the threads from other social institutions (think closing bank accounts, taking a name off of a title deed to a house, ending pension and Social Security payments, to name a few tasks for survivors).

In this brief conversation, we touch upon the involvement of family members with hospitals and hospice, mortuaries, religious practices, and the long-term process of dissolving economic arrangements.

As you listen to this podcast, think about the following questions:

  1. What roles do social institutions play in our lives that are often hidden? How does the death of a loved one reveal these connections with social institutions?
  2. How does the involvement with these social institutions vary by age, gender, and socio-economic status?
  3. How else might social institutions be part of our lives, and how might these connections linger beyond death? What other social institutions might be an ongoing part of our lives and their aftermath?
  4. Are there social institutions that we can never fully separate from, even after death?

February 24, 2020

Housing Insecurity: It’s Not Just for Low Earners

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Housing insecurity, or the difficulty in obtaining and maintaining housing due to its high cost, is something that we hear a lot about in the news. Housing insecurity is the consequence of incomes not keeping pace with the rise in the cost of housing; it’s not just that people can’t manage their money effectively, but that many don’t earn enough to afford the median rent in their communities.

And it’s not just people in low-wage, dead-end jobs that are impacted. A recent strike by graduate students at UC Santa Cruz highlighted the challenges that Ph.D. students face in paying for housing, which one student estimated at 60 to 70 percent of her income, even within university subsidized housing. The students called for a cost of living increase to help offset some of the costs, and had suspended their work grading papers at the end of the fall 2019 quarter.

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February 17, 2020

Theories and Hypotheses

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

What’s the difference is between a theory and a hypothesis? Which one is absolutely necessary for research, while the other is common, but not a requirement?

I’ll give you a hint: if you are a sociology major, you might have to take a class called Sociological Theory. You probably don’t have to take a class called Sociological Hypothesis (if you do, I’d like to hear more about it in the comments below, because I have never heard of such a class before).

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February 10, 2020

Money and Marriage

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Romantic rituals like Valentine’s Day emphasize marriage and relationships (often via commercial means), and social media posts often celebrate proposals and anniversaries. Marriage means many things to different people, particularly across place and time. But one thing is somewhat consistent: marriage is intertwined with money.

While it might be crude to think of marrying for money in the U.S. in the twenty-first century, financial factors are often part of the reason that people don’t marry (or don’t stay married). Why are the two so inextricably related, even as people may be most likely to marry for love and companionship today?

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December 23, 2019

Fear and Fire

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Twice in a period of eight days, people in my zip code were affected by brush fires. While I have been fortunate and haven’t had to evacuate, I live in a community surrounded by a state park and therefore by lots of trees, so fire is always a threat here.

Needless to say, seeing plumes of smoke and having helicopters swirl overhead is a scary experience. Fire reminds us that we are not completely in control of our environment, or our lives, for that matter.

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December 16, 2019

Thinking Like a Sociologist: Is Minimalism a Social Movement?

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Minimalism” seems to be everywhere, with advice on decluttering, living in tiny houses, or the promise of early retirement through frugal living seemingly endless online. Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was first published in 2014 and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, making the Japanese consultant a one-woman industry with her own Netflix series.

I confess that I have never read Kondo’s book, but am still drawn to the idea of simplifying and decluttering (but not living in a tiny house, although the HGTV series can be fun to watch). I spend less time online or watching television; I try to minimize mental clutter as much as physical clutter. I like going through my closet and donating little-used items, which also reminds me that I can do with less. I rarely go shopping. When I do, I try to be very conscientious about whether this is something I need. I prefer not to exchange gifts during the holiday season, especially because receiving stuff I don’t want or need from family and friends is awkward. My spouse and I decided a few years ago not to mark special occasions with gifts but rather with fun experiences like travel; when we travel I challenge myself to travel light.

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