Things tagged sociology:
The Peter principle has been recently investigated by means of an agent-based simulation and its validity has been numerically corroborated. It has been confirmed that, within certain conditions, it can really influence in a negative way the efficiency of a pyramidal organization adopting meritocratic promotions. It was also found that, in order to bypass these effects, alternative promotion strategies should be adopted, as for example a random selection choice. In this paper, within the same line of research, we study promotion strategies in a more realistic hierarchical and modular organization and we show the robustness of our previous results, extending their validity to a more general context. We discuss also why the adoption of these strategies could be useful for real organizations.
Have we become more tolerant of dating people of different social backgrounds compared to ten years ago? Has the rise of online dating exacerbated or alleviated gender inequalities in modern courtship? Are the most attractive people on these platforms necessarily the most successful? In this work, we examine the mate preferences and communication patterns of male and female users of the online dating site eHarmony over the past decade to identify how attitudes and behaviors have changed over this time period.
Stephanie Coontz in Catalyst:
Issues of gender and sexuality are dominating the American public in a way that has few precedents in the recent past. From the alarmingly open misogyny of the president to the cascading revelations of sexual attacks in the workplace on one side, to the energy behind the historic women’s marches on the other, gender relations have risen to the top of the political debate. In a wide-ranging conversation, historian Stephanie Coontz places the current juncture in historical perspective, and offers her thoughts on how gender relations have been affected by the recent stagnation in working-class incomes and skyrocketing inequality.
Germany, home to a tough new online hate speech law, has become a laboratory for one of the most pressing issues for governments today: how and whether to regulate the world’s biggest social network.
When straight couples divide up the chores of daily life — who cooks dinner and who mows the lawn, who schedules the children’s activities and who takes out the trash — the duties are often determined by gender. Same-sex couples, research has consistently found, divide up chores more equally.
But recent research has uncovered a twist. When gay and lesbian couples have children, they often begin to divide things as heterosexual couples do, according to new data for larger, more representative samples of the gay population. Though the couples are still more equitable, one partner often has higher earnings, and one a greater share of household chores and child care. It shows these roles are not just about gender: Work and much of society are still built for single-earner families.
David Graeber in the Chronicle:
I would like to write about the bullshitization of academic life: that is, the degree to which those involved in teaching and academic management spend more and more of their time involved in tasks which they secretly — or not so secretly — believe to be entirely pointless.
For a number of years now, I have been conducting research on forms of employment seen as utterly pointless by those who perform them. The proportion of these jobs is startlingly high. Surveys in Britain and Holland reveal that 37 to 40 percent of all workers there are convinced that their jobs make no meaningful contribution to the world.
Largely a painful rant, but does have it’s moments of clarity.
It strikes me that a real problem with the university system is that, intellectually, it is becoming the only game in town. Scholars have no other place to go, scientists few, and even as university departments themselves become less and less concerned with ideas, almost anyone whose work is in any way related to the life of the mind — artists or journalists, for instance — becomes more and more likely to have to spend at least some time employed by one. These two phenomena are related. The best thing that could happen to universities would be to face a little competition.
It’s helpful to remember that universities have faced effective competition before, and benefited from it. Most 18th-century Enlightenment thinkers had nothing but contempt for universities, which they saw as corrupt, pedantic, moribund, and medieval; they preferred to write for the general public.
For some time now everyone has been worrying about “fake news” or the world of “alternative fact” and wondering just how and why this unhappy phenomenon has flourished. My take on this question is simple, although I hope not simple-minded: Fake news is in large part a product of the enthusiasm — not to say rage — for transparency and absolutely free speech.
I remember Lessig’s article, it made an impression on me then, and this is a well wtiten slightly updated and alternative look at the same issue.
Peter Feuerherd at JSTOR Daily:
How do people respond to shared trauma? Studies of the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing of April 19th, 1995, indicate that the traumatic event resulted in people seeking to strengthen their bonds with loved ones: Divorce rates went down, and birth rates went up.
Megan McArdle in Bloomberg:
Denmark had been on my mind since it surfaced so oddly during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign as a challenge to the American faith that individualism is the best engine of social and economic improvement. Then came the election of President Donald Trump, which did nothing to lessen my curiosity about a place that seemed immune from the stresses that were tearing U.S. society apart.
(I love Bloomberg headlines, if you don’t care to read the article, you know all you need to know from the headline …)
Eve Lyons and Molly Walls in The New York Times:
Somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula, which extends from the northwest coast of Washington, a community has chosen to live independent of the public supply of water, electricity and other utilities on which most residents rely. Linked by a diffuse network of shared friends and land, they would be impossible to locate without insider knowledge. Dense forest obfuscates their dwellings — tiny houses, trailers, a landlocked houseboat — often accessible only by dirt roads or footpaths.
Drug legalization is slowly making progress, next up: sex work:
Paper by Scott Cunningham, Gregory DeAngelo, John Tripp:
Between 2002 and 2010, Craigslist provided an “erotic services” section on its front page which was used almost exclusively by prostitutes to advertise illegal sex services. The company opened this service in different cities at different points in time. We use a differences-in-differences strategy to identify its causal effect on female safety and find that Craigslist erotic services reduced the female homicide rate by 17.4 percent.
That’s 17.4% across the entire female population, not just prostitutes. Government enforced morality laws kill people, exhibit B.
Puzhong Yao in American Affairs:
Robert Rubin never intended to become the senior partner of Goldman Sachs: a few years into his career, he even handed in his resignation. Just as in Rubin’s career, I find that maybe randomness is not merely the noise but the dominant factor. And those reasons we assign to historical events are often just ex post rationalizations. As rising generations are taught the rationalizations, they conclude that things always happen for a reason. Meanwhile, I keep wondering: is there someone, sitting in a comfortable chair somewhere, flipping a coin from time to time, deciding what happens in the world?
Most Americans that I have met seem confused about this question. Perhaps it is understandable since most of them are not in finance and have not read Rubin’s book. Their goal is always to change something—Stanford business school’s motto is “change lives, change organizations, change the world”—though they rarely seem to know what or how. Or what the role of chance and circumstance is. But if the goal is to change something, they must have the ability to determine the future, mustn’t they?
Veronique Greenwood in The Alantic:
When I moved to China nearly two years ago, one of the first things I bought was a bicycle. I live on a university campus, where everyone rides, and the bike was cheap: $17 for an ancient Five Rams cruiser, with a lively color scheme of teal and rust. I used to cycle to work when I lived in New York, dodging tourists and threading in between delivery trucks. But the moment I pulled out onto a street in China, it became clear that this was going to be a different experience.
Reminds me of an argument I got into with someone over the asinine Seattle bike helmet law. People think our (US) way is the only way to do things despite the fact that many people in the world do things the other way, and seems to go fine for them. Read this and absorb some of that. Stepping back, where we choose (have been taught) to place our trust is kinda my focus these days. Why do we want to place that trust in the government, despite the evidence of better systems to trust? No reason the FDA needs to be a government org, your doctor and insurance company could agree on a more able org. Same for food safety, occupational licensing, etc.
Alberto Mingardi at Econlog:
It is not the fault of capitalism that the common man does not appreciate uncommon books. -Ludwig von Mises
There are many gems in Gertrude Himmelfarb’s Past and Present. The Challenges of Modernity, from the Pre-Victorians to the Postmodernists.
One is a 1952 essay on “American Democracy and Its European Critics”. In that essay, in comparing Tocqueville’s reading of America with Harold Laski’s (in The American Democracy), Himmelfarb notes perceptively that critics of American culture tend to see that “the incubus of Big Business lies heavily upon the whole country, stifling individual expression and corrupting individual tastes”.
But we know well that successful enterprises, cultural enterprises included, basically provide people with something that they want.
Using anonymized smartphone-location data and precinct-level voting, we show that Thanksgiving dinners attended by residents from opposing-party precincts were 30 to 50 minutes shorter than same-party dinners. This decline from a mean of 257 minutes survives extensive spatial and demographic controls. Reductions in the duration of Thanksgiving dinner in 2016 tripled for travelers from media markets with heavy political advertising—an effect not observed in 2015—implying a relationship to election-related behavior. Effects appear asymmetric: Although fewer Democratic-precinct residents traveled in 2016 than in 2015, Republican-precinct residents shortened their Thanksgiving dinners by more minutes in response to political differences. Nationwide, 34 million hours of cross-partisan Thanksgiving dinner discourse were lost in 2016 owing to partisan effects.
Casper Dahlmann and Niels Bjørn Petersen in the WaPo:
We conducted a survey of 954 Danish local politicians. […] We then divided the politicians into two groups. One group got the data — but without any information as to whether the school was public or private. The schools were just labeled “School A” and “School B.” The other group got the exact same data, but instead of “School A” and “School B,” the schools’ titles were “Public School” and “Private School.”
If politicians are influenced by their ideologies, we would expect that they would be able to interpret the information about “School B” and “School A” correctly. However, the other group would be influenced by their ideological beliefs about private versus public provision of welfare services in ways that might lead them to make mistakes.
This is exactly what we found. Most politicians interpreting data from “School A” and “School B” were perfectly capable of interpreting the information correctly. However, when they were asked to interpret data about a “Public School” and a “Private School” they often misinterpreted it, to make the evidence fit their desired conclusion.
Kim Brooks in The Cut:
The company was called Cognition Builders, and Harris explained that they would send people to a family for a period of weeks to observe everyone’s behavior and to figure out how parents could get better control over their kids. The people they sent were called “family architects.” They’d move in with a family for months at a time, immersing themselves in their routines and rituals. The family architects were the foot soldiers in the Cognition Builders team, but the most critical part of the company’s strategy involved the installation of a series of Nest Cams with microphones all around the house, which enabled round-the-clock observation and interaction in real time. At the end of each day, the architects would send the parents extensive emails and texts summarizing what they’d seen, which they’d use to develop a system of rules for the family to implement at home. Over time, the role of the family architects would evolve from observing to enforcing the rules.
One line that stood out to me was a throwaway from the writer about being a combo of life-coaching with Amazon Echo. But, think for a minute what life is like when the AI’s can parent like this. Robo-nannies will change the world.