March 17, 2020

Applying Sociology of Work and Organizations Concepts to the COVID-19 Pandemic

author photoBy Colby King

During spring break this past week, I was grading midterm exams from my Sociology of Work and organizations class while also following the news about the spread of COVID-19. Karen Sternheimer wrote the other day about how we can apply the sociological imagination to better understand the ongoing situation with the disease. I also saw ways in which the pandemic vividly illustrates some of the sociological concepts in the exam I was grading.

On March 11, Megha Rajagopalan at BuzzFeed posted a report about how a migrant worker at Saudi Aramco’s headquarters was made to dress as hand sanitizer. Pictures of the worker were shared on Twitter. In the pictures you can see the man is wearing a face mask and gloves, and over his khakis and shirt he is also wearing a box with the words “HAND SANITIZER” at the top and “Office Services” at the bottom (in English) and also an actual hand sanitizer dispenser attached to the front of the box.

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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 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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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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February 03, 2020

What’s in a Name?

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

I’ve thought a lot about names since reading a chapter in Freakonomics called “A Roshanda by any other name,” over a decade ago. (Here’s an update in podcast form.) Perhaps some of you have had the paralyzing struggle of having to name a child (or being a parent) while also trying to think about sociology. It’s tough. Sociologist Dalton Conley, somewhat famously, named his daughter E and his son Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles Jeremijenko-Conley.

Names can say a lot. What were the reasons behind your name? Was your name popular? Is your name one you share with other family members? Do your professors do a terrible job pronouncing it? As Karen Sternheimer notes, it’s important to know someone’s name in class. But let’s lend some sociological insight onto the topic.

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January 26, 2020

Lizzo and Sociocultural Constructions of the Body

author photoBy Angelique Harris

Anyone listening to the radio or pop or hip-hop streaming stations lately certainly were aware that 2019 was the summer of rapper, singer, songwriter, and flutist, Lizzo. Born Melissa Vivianne Jefferson in the late 1980s, Lizzo had been writing and producing music for several years before her music began topping the charts over the past year.

One of the key aspects of Lizzo’s work is the focus on acceptance and diversity. Her songs promote confidence (“Truth Hurts”) while celebrating race (“My Skin”) and diverse bodies (“Tempo”). For many, her frank and open discussion of her body, sexuality, and her overall musical abilities has led her to have an immense following. Her fans, dubbed “Lizzbians” include former Malcom in the Middle actor, Frankie Muniz, who tweeted a request to Lizzo, asking her to make him her “purse.”

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