253 posts categorized "Class and Stratification"

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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January 13, 2022

The Sociology of Luck   

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin      

“Even the losers get lucky sometimes,” sang Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. “You got lucky babe, when I found you,” they sing in another. Paul McCartney and Wings have a song titled “With a Little Luck.” Social Distortion has a song called “Bad Luck.” Daft Punk has a song “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams. The expression “lucky as sin” appears in the song “Young Man’s Game” by Fleet Foxes. In “Superstition,” the legend Stevie Wonder sings about broken glass and bad luck as he warns us not to believe in things we don’t understand. 

We say good luck to each other in everyday life. We have expressions like “Better to be lucky than good” and “See a penny pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck.” To explain the misfortune of a loved one, we sympathetically remark: “If it wasn’t for bad luck, they’d have no luck at all.” We might explain our favorite team losing a game because “that’s the way the ball bounces,” suggesting it was a matter of bad luck, or that the opposing team won because they caught a lucky break. Luck means something to us.

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September 20, 2021

Becoming a Doctor: Inequities in Medical Training

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The past year has taught us a lot about inequities within health care, from the disparities in COVID-19 infection and death rates to the impact of racial segregation on our health, and the disparities in receiving vaccinations during the early rollout phase.

Disparities also exist among health care workers, even between doctors.

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September 13, 2021

James Loewen and the Sociology of Sundown Towns

Colby King author photoBy Colby King

Sociologist James Loewen passed away on Thursday, August 19 at the age of 79. In an obituary in the New York Times, he is described as a “civil rights champion who took high school teachers and textbook publishers to task for distorting American history, particularly the struggle of Black people in the South, by oversimplifying their experience and omitting the ugly parts.”

Loewen first worked as a professor at Tougaloo College, a historically black college in Mississippi. He later worked at the University of Vermont, and as a visiting professor at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

Loewen is probably most famous for his book Lies My Teacher Told Me, which my friend Myron Strong writes about here. Loewen produced other important work as well. For example, Facing South, the online magazine for the Institute for Southern Studies republished Loewen’s article “Lies Across the South” from the Spring/Summer 2000 issue of Southern Exposure in an effort, “to deepen understanding of the long movement for memorial justice in the South — and appreciation for Loewen's critical contributions to it.” Memorials and landmarks continue to be sites where we continue to struggle over racism and place character, as I wrote about in an  Everyday Sociology Blog post about the removal of the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina state house grounds in 2015. In this article written 15 years earlier, Loewen emphasized that, “All across the South, from Maryland to Texas, historical markers, monuments, and historic sites get history wrong, mostly on purpose.”

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July 26, 2021

Who are the Stars at Your University?


Janis prince innissBy Janis Prince Inniss

I will never forget the day Dr. Levine told me that Lillian Rubin was coming to teach at Queens College. I couldn’t believe that he knew her! Or that she would be teaching at my school and I could take a class with her. In terms of today’s music celebrities, he might as well have said that Rihanna, Dua Lipa, or Ariana Grande was going to grace Kissena Hall. Before that conversation, I had read Dr. Rubin’s book Intimate Strangers and marveled at what seemed to be her ability to get into people’s heads and to explain issues that, as a 22-year-old, I was beginning to notice. Even the name of the book captured my attention as I struggled to understand intimate relationships.

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May 31, 2021

Social Class and the College Experience at "Renowned University"

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

With my Social Stratification course recently concluded, I’m reflecting on a book filled with sociological insights about the college experience. The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students, by Anthony Abraham Jack, is a book I highly recommend and one that my students enjoyed reading and learning about during the course.

We learn a lot about "Renowned University," a pseudonym for a highly ranked and selective college where the majority of students are affluent, with one third of undergraduates coming from a family with an annual income of at least $250,000, and one eighth of undergraduates from a family with an income of $630,000 or higher. Jack notes that many students come from some of the wealthiest families in the world.

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May 26, 2021

Child Poverty: Past, Present, and Future

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Children in the U.S. have been more likely to be in poverty than any other age group since 1973. Before this time, those 65 and older experienced far higher rates of poverty than they do now. Today Americans aged 65 and older are the least likely to live below the poverty line, although their rates were similar to 18-64-year-olds in 2019 (the most recent year for which data are available).

Poverty rates by age

Source: https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/visualizations/2020/demo/p60-270/Figure11.pdf

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May 03, 2021

John Fetterman, Working Class Hero?

Todd Schoepflin Colby King author photoBy Todd Schoepflin & Colby King

John Fetterman is currently the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, and before that served as mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, from 2005 to 2019. He is running for a Pennsylvania senate seat in 2022. His website describes him as “a different kind of Democrat,” one who “doesn’t look like a typical politician.” In media outlets, much is made of his size (he’s 6'8") and his tattoos (dates of homicides in Braddock when he was mayor are tattooed on his right arm). For example, one article about Fetterman is titled “Unconventional in his size and rise”. He’s twice appeared on The Colbert Report, been profiled in GQ, and had his clothing style analyzed in an article about the politics of workwear. His home (once an indoor Chevy car dealership) has received attention, and his family life has also been in the spotlight.

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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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