October 30, 2023

Place Matters: Inequality and Geography

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

The history of the places we live matters. From the infrastructure that provides access to roads, water, sewer systems, and utilities, often built long before we live someplace, to things like nearby schools and hospitals, where we live is a window into our life chances.

In their recently published book, The Injustice of Place: Uncovering the Legacy of Poverty in America, Kathryn J. Edin, H. Luke Shaefer, and Timothy Nelson examine the factors that lead to “deep disadvantage.” They define this as having an income of less than half of the poverty rate, health disadvantages, and limited opportunities for children (p. 4). These spaces are mostly rural, and often overlap with places of enslavement in the past (p. 10). Throughout their book, they explore the link between past injustices and the lack of opportunities in the present.

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October 23, 2023

How I Became a Professor: My Parents’ Gifts for Pursuing the Impossible Dream

Stacy Torres author photoBy Stacy Torres

 The good things of prosperity are to be wished; but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired.

                                                                                                 –Seneca, Letters to Lucilius (28 CE)

Whenever I think about the winding path that led to my current position as a sociology professor, I can’t help but hear the lyrics of the iconic Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime.” How did I get here?

How do any of us become who we are? As a sociologist who studies aging and the life course, the myriad influences that shape us on our life’s journey fascinate me.

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October 16, 2023

Writing an Op-ed: Lessons in Public Sociology

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

I have a book coming out in a few weeks on hospitals and their communities. One of my co-authors and I are hoping to write an op-ed that will bring some of the knowledge from the book (particularly the policies recommendations we are making) to the wider public. Sociology should always be looking for ways to reach a wider audience, and do more public sociology.  

When aiming to write an op-ed, one of the things that authors will look for a “news peg.” These are very recent events in the news that a writer can use to make a wider point about some political or social issue. When the Fyre Festival debacle occurred, for example, I was able to co-author an op-ed about the financial risks and rewards for small bands to participate in music festivals. In my local paper, when a recent controversy arose about the renovation of my small town downtown strip, I was able to write about Jane Jacobs’ more pedestrian-focused approach to urban planning.

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October 09, 2023

The Mouth of Privilege

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

Like many people, I’m not typically excited to go to the dentist, but I appreciate having the ability to do so, especially after reading Mary Otto’s book Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America.

The book provides in-depth reporting on the tragic death of Deamonte Driver, a twelve-year-old boy who died after an infection in his tooth spread to his brain. Otto documents how despite the attempts of his mother to get he and his siblings dental care, their lack of private dental insurance and status as Medicaid recipients, created an inability to receive regular dental care.

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October 02, 2023

Creating a Class of Our Own: Reflections on First-Generation and Working-Class People in Sociology

By Colby R. King, Marisela Martinez-Cola (Assistant Professor, Morehouse College), Mary L. Scherer (Assistant Professor, Sam Houston State University), Robert Francis (Assistant Professor, Whitworth University), and Myron T. Strong

People from working-class and first-generation-to-college backgrounds have a lot to contribute to sociology and to our universities as students, instructors, and staff. The American Sociological Association’s (ASA) Task Force on First-Generation and Working-Class People in Sociology (FGWC) highlighted this in their report to ASA, which you can read here. (You can also see suggestions for how the report may be used in sociology courses here.)

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September 25, 2023

“You Want to Work or You Want to Steal?” The Impossible Choices Migrants Face Without Work Authorization

Stacy Torres author photoBy Stacy Torres

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” said Mark Twain. And history is once again rhyming in the current migrant crisis. The most visible consequences of our broken immigration system have unfolded on New York City streets, where this summer hundreds of asylum seekers slept outside a midtown Manhattan hotel doubling as humanitarian relief center and overcrowded shelter. But this national issue transcends any single region, and the growing desperation offers a cautionary tale for communities across the country.

More than 100,000 migrants have arrived in New York City since spring 2022, with more coming daily.  The city reports housing more than 82,000 people, including nearly 30,000 children, with the mayor estimating shelter costs to reach $12 billion by 2025.

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September 18, 2023

The Irony of Tiny Houses: Commoditizing Rebellion

Thumbnail_AliceHSBy Alice Wilson, PhD Student, University of York (UK)

Capitalism is amazingly good at devouring the things that would seek to challenge it, then packaging that same thing up and selling it back to people through its own market tendrils. It is somewhat of a superpower.

Tiny houses are one of the more recent examples of this. (I did a TEDx talk about people's motivations for living in a tiny house and what your life might be like if you lived in one.)

A tiny house is a compact living space, often ranging from 100 to 400 square feet, designed to provide all the essentials for daily living. These homes, which can be stationary or mobile (like those on trailer foundations), prioritize minimalism and efficient use of space. They've gained popularity as a response to rising housing costs and a desire for simpler living and reduced environmental footprints.

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September 11, 2023

Co-opting Friends and Feminism on Social Media: Multi-Level Marketing

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

While I’m only an occasional user of social media, a few years ago I noticed that an acquaintance began posting much more frequently, often self-helpy posts encouraging people to seize the day, believe in themselves, and generally live their “best lives.”

Nothing wrong with positivity, I thought, but the shift was abrupt. “We’ve got this, ladies!” and TGIM! (Thank God it’s Monday) became regular slogans, along with a lot more personal (over)sharing—multiple times a day—from someone who had previously been only an occasional poster.

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September 04, 2023

Public Transportation and Global Citizenship

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

In addition to travel itself, I enjoy travel planning. One of the first things that I usually do is figure out when to go, how to get there, and how to get around once I am there.

When planning my most recent trip to Germany and Austria, I was excited to get what I thought was a great deal on a rental car, which would amount to about $20 a day. After reading so much about rental car shortages while making plans, I was particularly excited about this, and moved on to figure out lodging for the trip, about 9 months in the future.

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August 28, 2023

Cash Only: Culture, Convenience, and Inequality

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

I recently had an embarrassing tourist experience. While on a hike in the Bavarian Alps, we had a choice of how to exit the trail: through a popular gorge, which would take about 90 minutes with a fee of 6 euros per person, or through an alternate route, which would add an additional 2 hours to the hike.

We had already been hiking about 6 hours and were tired. Let’s go through the gorge, I said, knowing that we might not have the 12 euros in cash, but we had credit cards. Surely, they would work as a last resort in such a situation.

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