230 posts categorized "Class and Stratification"

April 08, 2020

Boy Rides Dog and Other Impacts of COVID-19

author photoBy Janis Prince Inniss

A boy of about seven years stood with one foot on each side of a little dog and slowly sat on him for about five seconds. The dog does not seem to have been injured from his stint as a pony, probably because the child is relatively light and because this pose was only held for a short time.

Stunning as this sight was, I guess such are the pastimes of bored children as week one of being at home came to an end. I saw this scene from what I refer to as my sociology window: It’s a window in the front of my home, facing the street—about 10 feet from the sidewalk—with nothing obstructing my view of all that occurs on either side on most of the block.

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March 25, 2020

The Working Class and Service Industry Workers: The Front Lines of the COVID-19 Economy

author photoBy Colby King

As the U.S. responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen quick and dramatic changes to how people work and how our economy functions. I wrote a few days ago about one worker, a migrant laborer, was made to dress as a hand sanitizer dispenser at Saudi Aramco. Since then I have seen stories that highlight the risks and challenges of working in the COVID-19 economy, especially for the working class and service industry workers. As Todd Schoepflin wrote here last week, these are the people “who are working to hold the fabric of society together.”

These dilemmas came into focus for me the other night as I talked with my cousin Randy on the phone. Randy lives in Colorado and works multiple jobs part time, as a lighting designer for theaters in Colorado and driving for a rideshare app. When Governor Polis of Colorado banned gatherings of more than 10 people, it had an obvious impact on Randy’s lighting gigs.

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March 19, 2020

Coronavirus: Early Impressions of Sudden Social Change

Todd Schoepflin author photoBy Todd Schoepflin

I can’t believe I was in a classroom less than a week ago. It feels much longer than that. In one of my courses last week, a student started a conversation about Coronavirus. It gave us an opportunity to talk about our various emotions and reactions to an emerging and uncertain situation. In the next class (and final class before spring break recess), I thanked the student and told her I was grateful that she initiated a discussion about a sensitive and difficult subject.

During my office hours on Thursday March 12, two student athletes stopped in to drop off papers that were due. They asked if they could be excused from class due to a team meeting in which they were expecting to find out their athletic season would be canceled. One of my students was visibly upset and fighting back tears. I thanked them for coming by, told them not to worry about missing class, and said I was sorry their season was suddenly ending. I started thinking about all the student athletes who have worked so hard, putting in countless hours at the gym, during practice, in games, only for their pursuits to end unexpectedly. And then I started thinking of students in their senior year who are so close to the finish line and whom are surely excited about a graduation ceremony. But customary rituals like a commencement event are up in the air at colleges nationwide. It’s too early to tell how our lives will continue to be disrupted in ways ranging from minor inconveniences to major emergencies.

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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 09, 2020

The Working Class is More Diverse than You Might Think (and We’ve got Stories to Share)

author photoBy Colby King

We have been hearing a lot about the working class the last few years, in part because many observers of national politics see the white working class as an important voting base. With the 2020 presidential race underway we can expect to see continued debate about how the white working class is likely to vote.

In these discussions, the working class is largely presented as white, male, employed in manufacturing, and often rural. But, these discussions that focus specifically on the white working class give a misleading representation of who comprises the working class altogether.

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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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January 20, 2020

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Fight for Equality

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is highly celebrated this time of year, with a national holiday in his name occurring on the third Monday of January, and as a heroic figure recognized during Black History Month in February. We revere King for his incredible “I Have a Dream speech” delivered in August 1963 at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. To remember King, I also like to teach my students about some of his other activism and speeches they may not know. It’s a way of appreciating more of what King valued and fought for, and contemplating what else he might have been able to accomplish had his life not tragically been cut short by assassination in 1968 at the age of 39.

It’s fitting that we honor King in the sociology community--he earned a Bachelor’s degree in sociology from Morehouse College where he was president of the sociology club. In sociology courses we learn about racism, injustice, inequality, social change and so many other subjects that King spoke poetically about and worked on while being at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. A summary of his achievements can be viewed at The King Center website, where we can gain understanding about his leadership and Gandhi-inspired philosophy of nonviolent resistance.

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January 06, 2020

A Strong Economy?                  

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

How long does it take you to get to work? Would you drive an hour to get on a bus for a four-hour round trip to make $13.26 an hour?

This is what people are willing to do to travel from the Mississippi Delta to Memphis, Tennessee, to work at FedEx sorting and loading packages (FedEx covers the cost of the bus ride). As explained in this Wall Street Journal article, workers have been recruited in places with high unemployment rates at a time when the national unemployment rate is low. In one example, the $13.26 starting wage was a big improvement compared to the $7.85 hourly wage a person was making at a previous job. These part-time jobs, with some overnight shits, offer health and retirement benefits.

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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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