427 posts categorized "Karen Sternheimer"

May 31, 2023

Creating Downtown LA

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Last summer, the American Sociological Association (ASA) held its annual meeting in downtown Los Angeles (DTLA). “We’re right in your backyard!” an out-of-town colleague said, and while only about 20 miles away, this area is in many ways a world away from where I live in Los Angeles. I seldom go downtown, despite it being a mere 2 miles from my workplace, mostly because I prefer open spaces to commercialized zones. (Yeah, traffic and parking issues are a deterrent too).

The conference took place at the city’s Convention Center, near the crypto.com Arena (formerly known as Staples Center) and LA Live, a complex of sports-themed restaurants, hotels, and performance spaces. My colleague, Leland Saito, studied the development of this area in his book, Building Downtown Los Angeles: The Politics of Race and Place in Urban America. He explores how low-income people of color were systematically displaced over the last five decades—mostly within the last twenty-five years—to create this commercial area. He argues that the meanings of race are intertwined with geographical spaces, and that displacement isn’t just an effect of race, but creates meanings of race itself (pp. 3-4).

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May 15, 2023

Life Expectancy: Explaining Declines in the U.S.

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report last year indicating that life expectancy in the United States dropped about 2.7 years between 2020 and 2021, “the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923.”

What is life expectancy, how does it vary, and why has it declined?

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April 24, 2023

Alienation, Consumption, and Waste

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Students of social theory are familiar with Marx’s theory of alienation, which posits that workers feel disconnected from the products of their labor within industrial capitalism. As consumers, one might argue we are also disconnected from the process of production: both the creation of items we consume and discarding of these items.

Many of us are aware that products we consume regularly, like food and clothing, are produced by child labor and sometimes even forced labor, and sometimes are created in “sweatshops” with unsafe working conditions. These practices are not limited to low-income countries, but take place here in the United States as well. It’s hard to avoid products created under these conditions—especially because chocolate is one of the most problematically produced and most beloved food produces.

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April 10, 2023

How to Like Your Job: Thoughts for Entering the Workforce

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Want to like your job? It helps if you are upper income, have earned a postgraduate degree, and are 65 or older. But this probably won’t help you if you are a recent graduate about to look for a job.

As we enter college graduation season and many new grads are beginning their journey into the workforce, it is important to figure out not just what you want to do but how you want to live.

Continue reading "How to Like Your Job: Thoughts for Entering the Workforce" »

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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March 20, 2023

Who are You: Work, Education, and Identity

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The phrase “I am a Ph.D.” always strikes me as odd. One might earn a Ph.D. or hold a Ph.D., but to be a Ph.D. suggests that there is no separation between the self, education, and work.

Earning a Ph.D. connotes an extended study and expertise into a field, one that can only realistically be achieved if one has a great deal of personal interest in their topic of study. And earning this degree can create new identity pathways: a title change from Mr./Ms. to Dr., and in many cases “Professor.” These identity changes are linked with career opportunities that an advanced degree might bring. This career path might bring upward economic mobility and new peer groups, both of which shape our sense of self and identity.

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March 13, 2023

Student Parents: Rethinking Assumptions about College Students

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

All too often, administrators at my university informally refer to students as “kids” during meetings. Not only are the vast majority college students legal adults, but some are older than traditionally aged college students (18-24). And some of our students are parents themselves.

The Education Trust recently reported that approximately one in five college students in the United States are parents, and that student parents are more likely to be students of color. This percentage is even higher at  for-profit colleges; an Aspen Institute report based on U.S. Department of Education data found that 45 percent of students attending private for-profit schools were also parents. Of all student parents, 42 percent attend community colleges. Most are mothers, and student mothers are less likely to be married than student fathers. Most have children under 6. According to the report, student parents are also more likely to take on student debt—and more perhaps surprisingly—more likely to have GPAs over 3.5.

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March 06, 2023

What is a Good Member of Society?

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

I never really thought about this question until reading a recent Pew Research Center report. While we might have a good idea of what it takes to be a good student (go to class, do all readings and assignments), a good parent (provide for a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing as best you can), and a good friend (spend time together, listen to one another, be supportive), there aren’t really obvious answers to being a good member of society.

That alone is telling. In a society marked by individualism, or the notion that we are separate rather than interdependent, we might focus more on how to be a good person or on our interpersonal relationships, but seldom on how to be a good member of the larger whole. Even as a sociologist, I seldom think about what makes someone a good member of society.

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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.

Continue reading "Let Them Eat Tofu: Getting Real about the Struggles of Low-Wage Mothers" »

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.

Continue reading "Ideology and the Prince" »

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