In 1971, a team of ethnographic researchers conducted focus groups with 24 African American young men in Chicago to explore the men’s sense of identity as well as their hopes and frustrations. The authors concluded that although the African American men strived for social and economic success, they were constantly turned away by racism and poverty. The constant striving – and constant disappointment – had led to a kind of inversion of masculinity like “a photographic negative.” Detachment, an ironic sensibility, and a perverse pride in being “bad” were the typical responses to this marginal status.
This scientific report was not intended for academic seminars or journals, however. Rather it was written for tobacco executives at RJ Reynolds. The study was written in order to learn more about how to expand the runaway appeal of the “Marlboro Man” campaign to African American smokers. Why were white men so captivated by the cowboy on the open range, whereas black men were drawn to the menthol flavored cigarette brands such as Kool? Today, young white smokers are six times more likely than young African American smokers to smoke Marlboros, and the pattern is reversed for Kools.
A fascinating new paper by Cameron White and colleagues discusses the different masculine identities created by the tobacco industry in the 1960s for white and black male smokers. Continue reading
Earlier in the year I published two blog posts on ‘microclasses’ – the idea that your specific occupation is an important structuring factor for the social world, beyond its position in a broader class. In this post I look back at the critics of microclasses – both by some of the most senior class sociologists around, and the comments on this blog in response to my previous posts. And I end up by considering what microclasses – and indeed, ‘class’ in general – offers for the study of inequalities.
(Apologies for the delay in the posts as I wrestled with some deadlines – we’ll be back on our regular schedule from now!) Continue reading
Peter Frase argues that liberals are wrong to focus on universal employment:
“Forget job creation, we need to do more job killing. Cutting the military budget, reining in the financial sector, and dismantling the prison-industrial complex will destroy many jobs. So, too, would a single payer national health care system: the Republican attacks on Obama’s ‘job-killing’ health care law were lies, but only because Obama’s plan is so inadequate. As long as the left remains fixated on more wage labor as the solution to our problems, we’ll always be vulnerable to the argument that the socially beneficial changes we want will ‘kill jobs’.”
True progress, argues Frase, is providing the social and economic resources to everyone to allow each person to make meaningful choices about their lives. Jobs in the post-industrial economy do not provide a secure route to this kind of choice. Moreover, many of the jobs in our economy contribute to environmental destruction, perpetual war, and social inequality. Continue reading
Jon Tilburt and Christine Cassel make a distinction between parsimonious medicine and rationing:
parsimonious medicine is not rationing; it means delivering appropriate health care that fits the needs and circumstances of patients and that actively avoids wasteful care—care that does not benefit patients.
I agree with Tilburt and Cassel that parsimonious care is ethical care. But I am not sure that it is only a matter of avoiding waste. I would defend a form of parsimonious medicine where only certain kinds of care were covered by a public system, even though a more expensive form of care did provide additional benefit.
Science reports on the startling increase in life expectancy in southern Africa accomplished through programs that supplied highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) to HIV-infected residents. This began in 2004 (see Figure). Since then, life expectancy at age 15 for the affected countries has increased by more than 10 years. Everyone: please stop what you are doing and express gratitude, in what ever way works for you, for this wonderful accomplishment.
There are also lessons here for science and policy. Continue reading
Professor Fernando Luiz Lara from the University of Texas at Austin discusses the political and social dimensions of changing income inequality in Brazil and the United States.
The US will become as unequal as Brazil. And that bothers both societies.
As we watch president Obama’s second inauguration is hard not to to notice that, once again, Latin America is completely absent from any major initiative for the next four years. Even the immigration reform that might come as a result of growing Hispanic political power is seems completely disconnected from US engagements south of the border. Continue reading
The standout policy announcement in President Obama’s State of the Union address was his commitment to implement universal pre-kindergarten education. This is wonderful, but everything depends on how it is implemented. What I want to see is a further commitment from the President to implement this program through a continuous on-going series of randomized trials.
Going back over the Inequalities archives (a fine way to spend one’s time I can assure you…), I noticed that, although our discussions have ranged quite widely, we haven’t really talked much about gender. So today, I’m going to address that (erm…) inequality.
Right now the British newspapers are full of opinions about the potential demise of The Sun’s ‘Page 3’ (for our international readers, this is a page in a popular national newspaper featuring a topless woman whose opinions on serious matters of the day we are invited to mock). But I want to talk about a story from a few weeks ago which disappeared rather more quickly. This story was prompted by a recent study (by a group of academics at Yale) showing compelling evidence of discrimination against female job candidates in the physical sciences.
I claim that global warming should be viewed as an existential risk to humanity. The trajectory of global temperature is headed to a region where the consequences to humanity are uncertain, but have a large probability tail that includes true catastrophe. But there is an obvious and deflationary objection to this. ‘Existential Risk’ is hyperbolic if global warming is, as I also claim, an outcome that we can both predict and take action to avoid. I could also claim that driving my family down a highway is an existential risk to us, because I could collide with the abutment of a bridge. Well, yes, but isn’t it more likely that when I see the bridge, I will steer around it?
The true risk, then, is that humanity will be so collectively irrational as to fail to take corrective action. Is this plausible?
Going back at least as far as the landmark 1966 Coleman Report, social scientists and policymakers have debated how much educational achievement gaps reflect the influence of families and social norms on the one hand, and differences in the quality of schools in disadvantaged areas, on the other hand.
As Richard Murnane describes in a recent NBER working paper focused on trends in high school graduation rates, recent research has revealed that academic preparation long before high school substantially accounts for differences in achievement across racial and socioeconomic groups, but it is also important to understand non-schooling factors such as discrimination and opportunity outside of the school setting. Continue reading