Stratification &  Differentiation
Up

Social Inequality

Print Friendly and PDF  

 Site Search and Site Map   

 

 

Table of Contents

PREVIOUS        NEXT

Comparison of Perspectives on Stratification

Status Inconsistency: Janitors and Tenants

Cultural Bubbles

Super Zips

US Poverty Stats

Is There a Culture of Poverty?

The Hunger Crisis in American Universities

The New American Demographics

Racial and Ethnic Identity

The Harlem Renaissance

Opinions on Welfare Linked to Racial Views

The Complexity of Racial and Ethnic Identity (and ancestry.com)

Multicultural Groups

The New Immigrants

What Part of Legal Immigration Don't You Understand?

Sexism in Languages: English and Japanese

Sexism in Healthcare: It's All in Your Head

Feminization of the Banking Industry

Gendered Spaces

Young American Women Are Losing Ground

Fetal Personhood: Old Idea, New Weapon

The Wage Gap by Gender and Race

An Aging World

Human Longevity

 

Theoretical Perspectives of Social Problems

The sociological understanding of social problems rests heavily on the concept of the sociological imagination. This key insight informed C. Wright Mills’ classic distinction between personal troubles and public issues. Personal troubles (divorce, unemployment) refer to problems affecting individuals that the affected individual, as well as other members of society, typically blame on the individual’s own failings. Public issues, whose source lies in the social structure and culture of a society, refer to social problems affecting many individuals. Problems in society thus help account for problems that individuals experience. Mills felt that many problems ordinarily considered private troubles are best understood as public issues, and he coined the term sociological imagination to refer to the ability to appreciate the structural basis for individual problems.

William Ryan (1976) pointed out that Americans typically think that social problems such as poverty and unemployment stem from the personal failings William Ryanof the people experiencing those problems, not from structural problems in the larger society. Americans tend to see social problems as personal troubles rather than public issues. As Ryan put it, they tend to believe in blaming the victim rather than blaming the system. Sociology takes a different approach, as it stresses that individual problems are often rooted in problems stemming from aspects of society itself. A blaming-the-victim approach points to solutions to social problems such as poverty and illiteracy that are very different from those suggested by a more structural approach that blames the system. A sociological understanding suggests that the latter approach is needed to deal successfully with social problems. The three theoretical perspectives we’ve looked at earlier guide sociological thinking on social problems: functionalist theory, conflict theory and symbolic interactionist theory. These perspectives look at the same social problems, but they do so in different ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

Comparison of Perspectives on Stratification

QUESTION

FUNCTIONALIST VIEW

CONFLICT VIEW

LENSKI’S VIEW

Is stratification universal?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Is stratification necessary?

Some level is necessary to ensure that key social positions are filled. Slavery and caste systems are unnecessary.

It is not necessary. It is a major source of societal tension and conflict.

Although it has been present in all societies, its nature and extent vary enormously depending on the level of economic development.

What is the basis for stratification?

Societal-held values

Ruling-class values

Both-ruling class and societal-held values

Will there be changes over time in a society’s level of stratification?

The degree may change gradually.

The degree must be reduced so society will become more equitable.

There will be evolutionary changes in the degree.

Optional Resources:

Social Change Reports

Social Stratification and Mobility Survey

Questions on Social Stratification

Society for Social Research Web Site

Joint Center for Poverty Research

Idea Central: Welfare and Families

The New Internationalist Magazine

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

Status Inconsistency: Janitors and Tenants

Sociologist Ray Gold interviewed apartment building janitors in Chicago. Since these janitors are unionized, they have relatively good wages and are eligible for a rent-free apartment. But like people in most occupations, janitors have an image ... in this case, unfavorable. They are viewed by tenants and the public as ignorant, lazy and dirty. In addition, it is assumed that anyone, even if he or she has failed at everything else, can be a janitor. These stereotypes are reinforced by the menial tasks performed by janitors (such as emptying the garbage), the dirty clothes they wear and the fact that many of them are foreign-born.

These stereotypes make the janitor’s job difficult since social relationships with the tenants are important. While making efforts to establish good relations with the tenants, janitors are well aware that their jobs are held in low esteem. Even people who are viewed as good tenants maintain a social distance from janitors. The janitors in Gold’s study commented on the jealousy expressed by tenants whenever janitors tried to better themselves. A raise in pay, a new automobile or new furnishings in the janitor’s apartment lead to unkind remarks and sarcasm. And live-in janitors are never able to get away from these attitudes since the building is their home.

Professional ethics are something we associate with lawyers and psychiatrists, but Gold found that janitors have them as well. They frequently know a tenant’s personal secrets and they must learn proper procedures for easing gracefully out of delicate situations.

Both the professional behavior and the substantial income of janitors contradict tenant’s views of them as servants. But this conceptual conflict remains unresolved: middle-class tenants depend on janitors but do not regard the job as a middle-class occupation. Workshops for janitors and custodians, often held on college campuses, are furthering the janitors’ image of themselves as professionals. Yet there is little indication that tenants’ image of janitors is also improving.

Optional Resources:

Social Class in the United States

Status Inconsistency and Lifestyle among Status Groups

“Rules of Conduct”: Applying Deference and Demeanor to Understand Status Inconsistency and Role Conflict in Family Firms

Status Inconsistency and Striving for Power in a Church: Is Church a Refuge or a Stepping Stone?

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

Cultural Bubbles

 

QUIZ: HOW THICK IS YOUR CULTURAL BUBBLE?

SuperZIPs and the Cultural Bubble SUPERZIPS & THE CULTURAL BUBBLE

 

Want to take the complete quiz?

Do You Live in a Bubble? A Quiz

Quiz: How Thick Is Your Bubble?

Lessons from the Bubble Quiz #1

 

 

Optional Resources:

15 Facts About US Inequalities Everyone Should Know

35 Soul-Crushing Facts about American Income Inequality

20 Facts About US Inequality that Everyone Should Know

23 Mind-Blowing Facts About Income Inequality In America

Wealth Distribution In The United States Growing Worse

Most People Still Losing Ground In This Faltering Economy

Vast New Study Shows a Key to Reducing Poverty: More Friendships between Rich and Poor

Inequality.org works on exposing the wealth gap.

Although everyday life has become increasingly unaffordable for almost everyone, New York City’s wealthy are creating a city that is largely accessible only to themselves.

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

If US Land Was Divided Like US Wealth

US Poverty Stats

 

INCOME INEQUALITY BY STATE MAPS

Median US household income per county, 2021

This visualization re-imagines US Census data as a neighborhood of 100 homes and groups the households by income, 2020.

Try your skills at playing SPENT. (It's not easy being poor!)

 

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

Is There a Culture of Poverty?

Anthropologist Oscar Lewis, in several publications based on research conducted among Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, identified what he called the culture of Wealth and poverty in Mumbia Indiapoverty. Lewis believes that poverty has a strong effect on family life and leaves a negative mark that upward mobility may not erase. In other words, the implication of Lewis’s culture of poverty is that the poor will continue to exhibit their deviant lifestyle — living for today, not planning for the future, having no enduring commitment to marriage, lacking a work ethic and so forth — even when they move out of the slums. Lewis stresses the inevitability of living out the culture of poverty regardless of later events. (See Oscar Lewis, Five Families, New York: Basic Books, 1959.; Lewis, La Vida, New York: Random House, 1965; Lewis, “The Culture of Poverty,” Scientific American, 215(October 1966):1925.) This argument has been widely employed to justify antipoverty programs designed to bring middle-class virtues to the children of the poor. It is also used to discourage giving poor people control over programs aimed at assisting them.

To say that Lewis and similar thinkers have touched off a controversy is an understatement. Critics argue that Lewis sought out exotic, pathological behavior. He ignored behavior indicating that even among the poor, most people live fairly conventionally and strive to achieveDOROTHEA LANGE'S MIGRANT MOTHER 1936 goals similar to those of the middle class. For example, archeologists at the University of Arizona have monitored trends in food utilization by examining household refuse (this is an example of unobtrusive measures) and found that low-income households went further than middle-class households in choosing less-expensive items and wasted even less. William Ryan contends that lack of money is the cause of poor people’s problems and of any discrepancies in behavior — not inherent disabilities or aftereffects of child-rearing practices. It is unfair, according to Ryan, to blame the poor for their lack of money, low educational levels, poor health and low-paying jobs. (See Ryan, Blaming the Victim (rev ed), NY: Random House, 1976.)

In the debate over a culture of poverty, policymakers neglect to make a distinction between culture and subculture. The poor in the US do not make up a culture unto themselves; they are one segment of the larger American culture. The behavioral patterns of the poor that arise out of their low-income status may constitute a subculture but poor people still share most of the larger society’s norms and values. Social planners must develop fresh initiatives that recognize these similarities and yet respect the distinctive qualities of the subculture.

Hong Kong Cage Housing

Hong Kong Cage Housing: For many of the richest people in Hong Kong, one of Asia's wealthiest cities, home is a mansion with an expansive view. For some of the poorest, home is a metal cage. In this 01/25/2013 photo, 77-year-old Yeung Ying Biu sits partially inside the cage he calls home in Hong Kong. He pays $167 a month for one of about a dozen wire mesh cages resembling rabbit hutches crammed into a dilapidated apartment in a gritty, working-class West Kowloon neighborhood. The cages, stacked on top of each other, measure 16 square feet. To keep bedbugs away, Yeung puts thin pads, bamboo mats, even old linoleum on his cage’s wooden planks instead of mattresses. Almost half of Hong Kong's 7.1 million population currently lives in public rental flats. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

 

 

Since the land area is limited in Hong Kong,                                       

many slums are settled on rooftops.                                               

Since the land area is limited in Hong Kong, slums are settled on rooftops.

Optional Resources:

The Statistical Abstract of the US

Census Bureau Population Statistics

Welfare and Families

Institute for Research on Poverty

US Census Bureau's Poverty Statistics

An interesting piece from The New York Times on inequality and search engines: In One America, Guns and Diet. In the Other, Cameras and ‘Zoolander'

Poor, Poorer, Poorest (PDF)

What it’s like to live on $2 a day in the United States (PDF)

Take the Quiz: Could You Manage as a Poor American?

Why Poverty Persists in America

We the Economy Films: Chapter 5: What causes inequality?

o   Is inequality growing? In a magical land inhabited by long lashed, multi-colored Alpacas who love lollipops, rainbows and friendship, there's a yawning divide in wealth distribution ... what's behind the inequality gap?

o   Why is the minimum wage important? In 2013, Seattle became ground zero for the heated national debate about increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour. "The Value of Work" gives voice to supporters and the opponents, including the mayor, an activist city councilwoman, small business owners, and minimum-wage workers affected by the unprecedented legislation.

o   Why is healthcare so expensive? "This Won't Hurt a Bit" is a short film that tells the all too familiar tale of American healthcare. A patient enters a hospital with a migraine headache, unaware of the costs his visit will incur on the path to a diagnosis. He learns much more than he bargained for in this comedy on unaffordable care.

o   What are the causes of inequality? In "Monkey Business," economists from across the political spectrum help explain the causes of economic inequality, with help from a couple of mammalian friends.

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

The Hunger Crisis in American Universities

It’s difficult to track just how many college students are in dire need, but new data from the country’s largest emergency food service network suggests that the number is at least in the millions. Feeding America’s 2014 Hunger in America report estimates that roughly 10% of its 46.5 million adult clients are currently students, including about two million people who are attending school full-time. Nearly one-third of those surveyed—30.5%—report that they’ve had to choose between paying for food and covering educational expenses at some point in the last year.

Feeding America, a network of some 46,000 emergency food service agencies in the United States, releases its Hunger in America report once every four years. This latest iteration of the report, which is based on a survey of more than 60,000 Feeding America clients, is the first to include data about college students in need of emergency food services. The new research suggests that America’s chronic hunger emergency has not spared institutes of higher learning.

As low-income populations have gone to college and food insecurity has risen up to swallow the lower rungs of the middle class, hunger has spread across America’s university campuses like never before. In some places, it’s practically a pandemic: At Western Oregon University, 59% of the student body is food insecure, according to researchers from Oregon State University (OSU). A 2011 survey [PDF] of the City University of New York (CUNY) found that 39.2% of the university system’s quarter of a million undergraduates had experienced food insecurity at some time in the past year.

As food insecurity rose, it also began to affect households that had never experienced it before. Data published by Feeding America in April suggests that 27% of food insecure people don’t qualify for food stamps because their incomes are too high. And even as food insecurity continued to climb, so did college enrollment rates, in part because college is seen as a stepping stone to economic security. As low-income populations have gone to college and food insecurity has risen up to swallow the lower rungs of the middle class, hunger has spread across America’s university campuses like never before. In some places, it’s practically a pandemic.

Optional Resources:

The Hunger Crisis at American Universities

Study Identifies High Level of “Food Insecurity” among College Students

The Number of PhDs on Food Stamps Triples

Among Dorms and Dining Halls, Hidden Hunger

More college students battle hunger as education and living costs rise

Food insecurity among community college students: Prevalence and relationship to GPA, energy and concentration

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

The New American Demographics

The Pew Research Center's report, The Next America, highlights dramatic demographic changes. See also this video about the report. PRRI also has a new report out that highlights the ways in which changing demographics have engendered fears of cultural displacement among segments of the dominant white population.

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

Racial and Ethnic Identity

 

10 Things Everyone Should Know about Race

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The American Anthropological Association produced a short video providing an overview of how prevailing ideas in science, government and culture intersected throughout history to shape American concept of race today: The Story of Race (8:25), American Anthropological Association, July 13, 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethnicity and Race Comparison Chart

 

 

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

The Harlem Renaissance

Jessie FausetOn March 21, 1924, Jessie Fauset sat inside the Civic Club in downtown Manhattan, wondering how the party for her debut novel had been commandeered. The celebration around her was originally intended to honor her book, There Is Confusion. But Charles S Johnson and Alain Locke thought the dinner could serve a larger purpose. Locke was a Harvard-educated professor who was the first Black Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford. Johnson was a sociologist and the founding editor of Opportunity magazine, the pre-eminent Black magazine of the time. The two Black academic titans invited the best and brightest of the Harlem creative and political scene to a dinner at the Civic Club, the only private club in the city that would allow Black and white people, including women, to dine together.

The playwright Eugene O’Neill attended the dinner the same week he appeared on the cover of Time.What the resulting dinner led to was the Harlem Renaissance: a flowering of intellectual and artistic activity that would give the neighborhood and its residents global renown. In the Civic Club there were over 100 attendees, creating a matrix of creative possibility and promise. Leaders from the National Urban League, the NAACP and the YMCA compared notes. The most recognizable figure at the dinner, to guests both Black and white, was WEB Du Bois, the first African American to earn a doctorate at Harvard University and one of the most important public intellectuals of the 20th century. Young Black poets, undergraduates and writers read some of their works. The more established among the group called for a generational shift and a cultural revolution. The attendees of the dinner - Black and white - were plotting how to capture some of the magic of the Jazz Age in books, magazines, plays and paintings.Charles S Johnson

Though the event itself may have glittered with promise, the writers at the Civic Club dinner were very aware that beyond the doors of the club, Jim Crow was still rampant - including uptown in Harlem. By 1920, largely because of the Great Migration, Black people made up over 30% of Central Harlem (compared with less than 1.5% of the entire city). Yet even as lynching numbers began to drop, in October 1925, a young Black man from Harlem was beaten by a mob who believed he had attacked a white girl. It would take time for the seeds of the Civic Club event to fully take root. Locke, Du Bois and Johnson spent the next year writing letters, raising money and convincing young artists to come to Harlem.Alain Locke

The audacious bet by Locke, Johnson, Du Bois and many others in the room that first night more than paid off. In the decade after the dinner, the writers who were associated with the Renaissance published more than 40 volumes of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. That body of work transformed a community as well as the landscape of American literature. And the Harlem Renaissance is still both inspiration and object lesson for groups of Black writers. Over the past three decades, members of the Cave Canem artists’ collective, for example, have won, as of November 2023, six Pulitzer Prizes, three MacArthur genius fellowships and 24 Guggenheim fellowships.

Optional Resources:

The Dinner Party That Started the Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance

Visual Artists of the Harlem Renaissance

Harlem in the 1920s | The African Americans

The Social Contributions of The Harlem Renaissance

Harlem was no longer the same after this dinner party.

New York’s first Black librarians changed the way we read.

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

Opinions on Welfare Linked to Racial Views

MARTIN GILENSPolitical scientist Martin Gilens has found that the public’s opposition to welfare is closely correlated with racial views. Analyzing data from a national telephone survey on race and politics, Gilens found that people who answered yes to a question asking whether “blacks are lazy” were very likely to oppose welfare. An affirmative answer to that question was more closely connected to a dislike of welfare than was the view that the poor in general are lazy or that big government programs are counterproductive. Whites hold similar views of comparably described black and white welfare mothers, but their negative views of black welfare mothers are more politically potent: that is, they generate greater opposition to welfare than do comparable views of white welfare mothers.

Previous research had suggested that welfare programs are vulnerable because middle-income voters, acting purely in their own interests, see no reason to support them. Gilens, however, found that racial views were more highly correlated than family income with views on welfare. Welfare, therefore, has become a coded issue that activates in whites negative views of African Americans without explicitly raising the race card.

Gilens suggests that a similar subterranean discourse on race is emerging in discussions of crime and drug use as well. While blacks represent only 37% of welfare recipients, perceptions of black welfare mothers dominate whites’ evaluations of welfare and their preferences with respect to welfare expenditures. Therefore, Gilens sees the unspoken agenda of racial imagery as more important in shaping public understanding of welfare than explicit debates over welfare reform that are cast in race-neutral language.

These attitudes are not lost on the welfare recipients themselves. Robin Jarrett examined the welfare stigma felt among low-income African American single mothers. Interviewing 82 low-income women, Jarrett drew upon the interactionist perspective in an effort to learn how stigmatization operates in the lives of AFDC recipients. Women in the study had come to be labeled as deviant because of their welfare receipts and single-parent status. Both factors were used as evidence that unmarried recipients devalue conventional norms of economic independence and family life. Residence in allegedly deviant ghetto neighborhoods was further evidence of deviant values. Prominent actors in the labeling process, according to the women, included the media, welfare staff and employers. Recipients felt that once they were identified as deviants, they were singled out for differential treatment. They were viewed as reluctant workers and irresponsible parents. Jarrett sees implications of her findings for how the welfare recipient is treated, but she also noted earlier research (Horan and Austin, 1974) that showed that welfare rights organizations can do a great deal in helping the women to resist the labeling and to develop positive feelings of self-worth.

Optional Resources:

How Do Race And Ethnicity Affect Identity?

Pew Report: 5 facts about race in America

The Statistical Abstract of the US

American Studies Web: Race and Ethnicity

Welfare and Families

Institute for Research on Poverty

Census Bureau Population Statistics

US Census Bureau's Poverty Statistics

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

The Complexity of Racial and Ethnic Identity

Race and ethnicity are not static, biological categories. They are very fluid and socially constructed. The diversity of the US today has made it more difficult for any people to view themselves clearly on the racial and ethnic landscape. Obviously, the reason is that this landscape, as we have seen, is not naturally but socially constructed and is therefore subject to change and to different interpretations. While our focus is on the US, every nation faces the same dilemmas.

Within little more than a generation we have witnessed changes in labeling subordinate groups from Negroes to Blacks to African Americans, from American Indians toThe Complexity of Racial and Ethnic Identity native Americans or native people. However, more native Americans prefer the use of their tribal name, such as Seminole, instead of a collective label. The old 1950s statistical term of people with a Spanish surname has long been discarded, yet there is disagreement over a new term: Latino or Hispanic. As with native Americans, Hispanic Americans tend to avoid such global terms and prefer the use of their native names, such as Puerto Ricans or Cubans. People of Mexican ancestry indicate preferences for a variety of names, such as Chicano, Mexican American or simply Mexican.

Some advocates for racial and ethnic groups consider names a very important issue with great social significance. If nothing else, others argue, changes in names reflect people taking over the power to name themselves. Still others see this as a nonissue, or as editor Anna Maria Arias of Hispanic magazine termed the debate, “It’s stupid. There are more important issues we should be talking about.”

In the US and other multiracial, multiethnic societies, panethnicity has emerged. Panethnicity is the development of solidarity among ethnic subgroups. The coalition of tribal groups as native Americans or American Indians to confront outside forces, notably the federal government, is one example of panethnicity. Hispanic/Latinos and Asian Americans are other examples of panethnicity.

Is panethnicity a convenient label for outsiders or is it a term that reflects a mutual identity? Certainly many people are unable or unwilling to recognize ethnic differences and prefer umbrella terms like Asian Americans. For some small groups, combining with others is emerging as a useful way to make themselves heard, but there is always a fear that their own distinctive culture will become submerged. While many Hispanics share the Spanish language and many are united by Roman Catholicism, only one in four native-born people of Mexican, Puerto Rican or Cuban descent prefers a panethnic label over nationality or ethnic identity. Yet the growth of a variety of panethnic associations among many groups, including Hispanics, continues in the 1990s.

The Complexity of Racial and Ethnic IdentityThere is even less agreement about how to identify oneself in racially conscious America if one is of mixed ancestry. Roberto Chong, who immigrated to the US, has a Chinese father and a Peruvian mother. He considers himself Hispanic, but others view him as Asian or Latino Asian-American. Few intermarriages exist in America and social attitudes discourage them, but such unions are on the increase. Interracial marriages have climbed from 44,598 in 1970 to 54,251 in 1994 and interracial births doubled from 63,700 in 1978 to 133,200 in 1992. In a race-conscious society, how are we going to respond to these multiracial children? As the mother of one such child, Hannah Spangler, noted, how is she to complete the school form as Hannah starts first grade in Washington, DC? Hannah’s father is White and her mother is half black and half Japanese. We may be slowly recognizing that the US is a multiracial society, but we are not prepared to respond to such a society.

Add to this cultural mix the many peoples with clear social identities who are not yet generally recognized in the US. Arabs are a rapidly growing segment whose identity is heavily subject to stereotypes or, at best, is still ambiguous. Haitians and Jamaicans affirm they are black but rarely accept the identity of African Americans. Brazilians, who speak Portuguese, often object to being called Hispanic because of that term’s association with Spain. Similarly, there are white Hispanics and non-white Hispanics, some of the latter being black, and others, like Robert Chong, Asian.

As the future of African American people in the US unfolds, one element of the population complicating racial identity, generally unnoticed thus far, may move into prominence. An ever-growing proportion of the black population consists of people of foreign birth. In the 1980 census, 816,000 foreign-born blacks were counted, or 3.1% of the black population, the highest every recorded. Yet by 1994, the number had nearly doubled to 1,596,000, which constituted 5.1% of the black population. Fully 10% of the foreign-born population arrived in the preceding four years with the primary sources of the immigration being the island nations of the Caribbean. The numbers are expected to increase, as is the proportion of the African-American population that is foreign born. Diversity exists to a significant degree within the black community today, reaffirming the notion that race is socially constructed.

Another challenge to identify is marginality, which refers to the status of being between two cultures, as in the case of an individual whose mother is a Jew and whose father is a Christian. Incomplete assimilation, as in a Korean woman’s migrating to the US, also results in marginality. While she may take on the characteristics of her new host society, she may not be fully accepted and may therefore feel neither Korean nor American. The marginal person finds himself or herself being perceived differently in different environments, with varying expectations. In a family circle, the marginal person’s ethnic heritage is clear, but in the workplace different labels may be used to identify this person.A Comprehensive Map of Ancestry DNA Ethnicity Regions

As we seek to better understand diversity in the US, we must be mindful that ethnic and racial labels are just that, labels that have been socially constructed. Yet these social constructs can have a powerful impact, whether self-applied or applied by others.

Optional Resources:

How Do Race And Ethnicity Affect Identity?

Pew Report: 5 facts about race in America

The Statistical Abstract of the US

American Studies Web: Race and Ethnicity

Census Bureau Population Statistics

Interracial Voice

Ethnic/Racial Identity

Racial and Ethnic Identity and Development

Racial and Ethnic Identity: Developmental Perspectives and Research

Stages of Racial Identity Development

For conventional wisdoms on the meaning of race and scientific explanations, see the three part PBS video series, Race: the Power of an Illusion.

How is the concept of race socially constructed over time and space? How do individuals and group define their racial identity and on what basis do they make claims to racial identity? How are young children socialized into identities based on skin color and how does this impact their attitudes toward skin color differences? See the doll experiment videos here.

A Class Divided (53:05): The day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, Jane Elliott, a teacher in a small, all-white Iowa town, divided her third-grade class into blue-eyed and brown-eyed groups and gave them a daring lesson in discrimination. This is the story of that lesson, its lasting impact on the children, and its enduring power.

A Portrait of America That Still Haunts, Decades Later

Where the Racial Makeup of the US Shifted in the Last Decade

Chicago vs. Dallas: Why the North Lags Behind the South and West in Racial Integration

Color of Change and Movement for Black Lives have crusaded for racial justice.

Healing Our Divide (follow link and scroll down to this section)

The Perils and Promise of America's Third Reconstruction

Racial equality is, in fact, not a realistic goal. By constantly aiming for a status that is unobtainable in a perilously racist America, black Americans face frustration and despair.

An American Puzzle: Fitting Race in a Box

How Children Acquire Racial Biases

Kamala Harris Isn’t Americans’ ‘Momala.’ She’s Our Vice President.

Tripas: Poems by Brandon Som – a 2024 Pulitzer Prize winning collection that deeply engages with the complexities of the poet’s mixed heritage, “highlighting the dignity of his family’s working lives, creating community rather than conflict.”

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

Multicultural GroupsMulticultural Diversity

The growing diversity of the paid labor force, especially in Europe and North America, is well documented. What impact will this diversity have on decision making within organizations? How does cultural diversity affect the performance of small groups in the workplace? Since policies and procedures are typically developed in meetings of relatively modest size, small-group research can be especially useful in helping us understand the impact of diversity within organizations.

In many experimental studies, a small group is created and then assigned a task or problem to resolve. The overall conclusion of such research is that heterogeneous small groups (including culturally diverse groups) produce solutions of higher quality than do homogeneous groups. In fact, as a group’s composition becomes more diverse, additional alternatives are proposed that enhance the quality of decision making. The likelihood that a group will offer many ideas and proposals is particularly attractive in light of the current demands on many organizations to be more innovative and creative.

This general finding about the advantages of diversity in small groups has been tempered by the fact that such groups often fail to benefit from racial and ethnic minorities. Researchers report that minorities are less active participants within small groups and are slightly less committed to the group’s efforts than are other members.

For example, one Canadian study focused on 45 small groups in which most minority participants were from Asian backgrounds. In 34 of the 45 groups (76%), the member who contributed least often was a minority group member. Such studies raise two sobering questions for organizations: How do the dynamics of small groups impede minority participation?  and How can organizations assist and benefit from employees who may be reluctant to participate in small-group decision making?

Viewed from a conflict perspective, the apparently subordinate role of racial and ethnic minorities within small groups, like the subordinate role of females in conversations with males, reminds us that the power relations of the larger society influence members of small groups within an organization. So long as inequality based on gender, race, and ethnicity is evident throughout our society, it will influence people’s self-confidence and their ability to exercise leadership within a small group.

Optional Resources:

How Do Race And Ethnicity Affect Identity?

Pew Report: 5 facts about race in America

The Statistical Abstract of the US

American Studies Web: Race and Ethnicity

Census Bureau Population Statistics

Interracial Voice

How Decades of Racist Housing Policy Left Neighborhoods Sweltering: Does racism affect even heat?

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

The New Immigrants

Not since 1910, at the peak of this century's great wave of immigration, has the ratio of newcomers to the US been as high. In particular, those new immigrants who are remaining in the New York City metropolitan area are more diverse, have changed traditional settlement patterns and have not followed the traditional politics of the earlier immigrants. Classic old ethnic neighborhoods that had successfully resisted change for half a century now belong to no one and to everyone. They are a clashing, colorful, polyglot, multiethnic collection of micro-communities whose members sometimes come together on neutral ground.

The earlier wave of immigrants was largely composed of Italians, Jews, Irish, Polish and German ethnics, but the new wave includes Koreans, Hmong, Chinese, Ecuadorians and other Latin and South Americans, Indians, various Middle Easterners, West Indians and Africans from numerous countries. They are oftentimes moving into the same ethnic neighborhoods that housed the earlier immigrants but the communities are no longer as homogeneous as they once were. For example, in one Queens elementary school, Spanish- speaking children leave for special instruction with a Spanish-speaking teacher in their academic subjects, and in the afternoon, the Korean and Chinese children are pulled out of the classroom to study in Korean and Chinese. While those children are gone, other teachers rotate in the class to help those who speak Arabic, Urdu, Bengali and other languages.

The new wave of immigrants has altered traditional settlement patterns. Earlier immigrants settled in relatively homogeneous inner city communities and did not venture to the suburbs until their second or their generation. However, many new immigrants are moving directly to the suburbs surrounding New York City and bypassing the inner city enclaves. In addition, these new immigrants are breaking the stereotypes of being poor, uneducated, huddled masses. Many of the new immigrants are economically diverse, equipped with graduate degrees and work visas, and gifted in science and technology. In one middle-class New Jersey suburb of New York City, the Asian population climbed to 10% from 1% since 1980. Almost 10% of the children in the school system are not native speakers of English - 41 languages are represented in the community, including 11 from the Indian subcontinent and 4 from China and Taiwan.

One consequence of the changing characteristics of the immigrants and their settlement patterns has been in the area of community politics. Since the new immigrants are more fractured and diverse, it has been more difficult for them to unite into a political movement. For example, Dominicans comprise roughly 6% of the New York City population, West Indians about 8%, Chinese about 4%. Unifying these and many other groups is a politician's nightmare. Nevertheless, coalitions are forming that are spanning ethnic divides, as the new immigrants realize that they share common problems in the changing political landscape.

Optional Resources:

Immigrants Keep an Iowa Meatpacking Town Alive and Growing (PDF)

The “Second Great Wave” of Immigration

History of US Immigration Laws

Immigration

The Statistical Abstract of the US

American Studies Web: Race and Ethnicity

Census Bureau Population Statistics

National Survey of America's Families

Proposals have been floated to ban immigrants based on religious faith.

Who are America’s immigrants?

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

What Part of Legal Immigration Don't You Understand?

LEGAL IMMIGRATION CHART

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Optional Resources:

Adventures in getting a green card

Could YOU pass a US citizenship test?

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

Sexism in Languages: English and Japanese

Nancy Henley, Mykol Hamilton and Barrie Thorne suggest that the sexist bias of the English language takes three principal forms: “It ignores, it defines, it deprecates.”

Ignoring: English ignores females by favoring the masculine form for all generic uses, as in the sentence: “Each entrant in the competition should do his best.” According to the rules of English grammar, it is incorrect to use “their best” as the singular form in the previous sentence. Moreover, usage of the “he or she” form (“Each entrant in the competition should do his or her best”) is often attacked as being clumsy. Nevertheless, feminists insist that common use of male forms as generic makes women and girls invisible and implicitly suggests that maleness and masculine values are the standard for humanity and normality. For this reason, there has been resistance to the use of terms like mailman, policeman and fireman to represent the men and women who perform these occupations.

Defining: In the view of Henley and her colleagues, “language both reflects and helps maintain women’s secondary status in our society, by defining her and her ‘place.’" The power to define through naming is especially significant in this process. Married women traditionally lose their own names and take their husbands’, while children generally take the names of their fathers and not their mothers. These traditions of naming reflect western legal traditions under which children were viewed as the property of their fathers and married women as the property of their husbands. The view of females as possessions is also evident in the practice of using female names and pronouns to refer to material possessions such as cars, machines and ships.

Deprecating: There are clear differences in the words that are applied to male and female things that reflect men’s dominant position in English-speaking societies. For example, women’s work may be patronized as pretty or nice, whereas men’s work is more often honored as masterful or brilliant. In many instances, a woman’s occupation or profession is trivialized with the feminine ending –ess or –ette; thus, even a distinguished writer may be given a second-class status as a poetess or an authoress. In a clear manifestation of sexism, terms of sexual insult in the English language are applied overwhelmingly to women. One researcher found 220 terms for a sexually promiscuous woman but only 22 for a sexually promiscuous man.

While the English language ignores, defines and deprecates females, the same is true of languages around the world. Indeed, in mid-1993, Japan’s labor minister challenged the society’s traditional practice of depicting women in government documents as always carrying brooms. The official term for women, fujin, is represented by two characters that literally mean female person carrying broom (Rafferty, 1993).

The expressions commonly used by girls and boys in Japan underscore gender differences. A boy can refer to himself by using the word boku, which means I. But a girl cannot assert her existence and identity that boldly and easily; she must instead refer to herself with the pronoun watashi. This term is viewed as more polite and can be used by either sex. Similarly, a boy can end a sentence assertively by stating Samui yo, “It’s cold, I say!” But a girl is expected to say Sumui wa, “It’s cold, don’t you think?” For girls, proper usage dictates ending with a gentle question rather than a strong declaration.

Ellen Rudolph, a photographer from the US who lives in Tokyo, reports that Japanese parents and teachers serve as vigilant linguistic police who remind children to use only those forms of speech deemed appropriate for their sex. Girls who violate these gender codes are told Onnanoko na no ni, which means “You’re a girl, don’t forget.”

Optional Resources:

ILO's Bureau for Gender Equality

Institute for Women's Policy Research

Wollstonecraft's The Vindication of the Rights of Women

Women's Issues in Sociology

An illustrated guide to a lesser-known part of the suffragists’ legacy: redefining what a woman “should” look like.

7 Issues, 7 Days: an innovative new series on hidden gender inequities

Sexism in Language

Sexist Language

Sexism in Language

Sexism in Language (2)

How Everyday Sexism Hurts Women’s Careers

Does Your Language Shape How You Think?

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

Sexism in Healthcare: It's All in Your Head

Despite good intentions, gender bias persists in health care, leading to a lack of access to quality healthcare services, knowledge gaps, delayed and inaccurate diagnoses, inadequate symptom management, less timely and aggressive treatment, higher insurance premiums, a lack of trust in medical professionals and an avoidance of medical care.  More than one-half of women, compared with one-third of men, believe gender discrimination in patient care is a serious problem. Studies show that women’s perceptions of gender bias are correct. Compared with male patients, women who present with the same condition often do not receive the same evidence-based care. In key areas, such as cardiac care and pain management, women may get different treatment, leading to poorer outcomes. Few physicians think intentional discrimination is at play here. Most feel that because medical research and clinical trials have concentrated on men, less is known about women and they may not always receive the most optimal care.

However, over 50% of women (versus about 30% of men) believe gender discrimination in patient care is a serious problem. Twenty percent of women report feeling ignored or dismissed by a healthcare provider while 17% feel they’ve been treated differently because of their gender. While female patients are twice as likely as male patients to die within one year of a heart attack, they are less likely to be prescribed preventative treatment and more likely to be told to lose weight. The frequent dismissal and belittling of pain is present in all women’s healthcare. Women are less likely to be given painkillers than men, even during painful procedures. They have to wait longer to receive pain management medication in emergency rooms. They’re more likely to be told their pain is psychosomatic (in their head).Beware the wandering wombs of hysterical women.

Much of the disparity in treatment is a result of ancient gender stereotypes that are still present in modern healthcare. Since the time of the Greeks, it’s been believed that having a uterus causes all sorts of physical and mental illnesses. In the 18th and 19th centuries, “hysteria” was the diagnosis for any symptoms or undesirable behaviors a woman might exhibit. In 1968, hysteria appeared as a condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II). While no healthcare worker would diagnose someone with hysteria today, the idea of women exaggerating pain or symptoms remains an implicit bias in healthcare. The American Autoimmune Related Disease Association claims that, of the 50 million Americans who have an autoimmune disease, about 75% are women, 40% of which report being told by a doctor thatOf the 50 million Americans who have an autoimmune disease, about 75% are women. their real problem is that they are complainers, hypochondriacs or too focused on their health. In other words, the medical treatment of women with autoimmune disease still consists of telling them to stop being “hysterical.”

Stereotypes about women and their past exclusion from medical studies lead to higher rates of misdiagnosis among female patients. Typically, it takes 2.5 more years for a woman to be diagnosed with cancer and 4.5 more years for a diabetes diagnosis compared with men. In total, women are diagnosed later than men in more than 700 diseases. No matter the disease, patients benefit from early intervention and delayed diagnoses can lead to more health issues. Women also suffer from both over- and under-diagnosis of mental health conditions. Conditions that cause chronic pain are often diagnosed as anxiety or another mental health problem (the “it’s all in your head” diagnosis made more formal). Contrarily, actual mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are often written off by doctors as stress; the treatment plan being to do yoga and eat better rather than beneficial medications. Over time women’s health troubles and pain have become trivialized, dismissed, contested, stigmatized, normalized and at times unnecessarily medicalized.

Although recent studies indicate a slight improvement in women’s healthcare with the increase in female physicians, the health inequalities between male and female patients still come down to implicit bias and male-centric medical training. Medical education is focused on the male norm such that there is a male-default bias. Representation of the male body as the norm persists in modern medical textbooks. The results of clinical trials are written up as relevant to both men and women even when women have been excluded from the trials. Gender data gaps also exist in curricula, with gender related health issues rarely taught in medical degrees, and where they are, there are only a few courses in a few universities.

[Note: The discrimination women encounter as medical patients is magnified when they are Black, Asian, Indigenous, Latinx or ethnically diverse; when their access to health services is restricted; and when they don’t identify with the gender norms medicine ascribes to biological womanhood. For women of child-bearing age, medical problems are also compounded if they live in areas where reproductive rights are restricted.]

Optional Resources:

Just Your Imagination? The Dangerous Gender Bias In Women’s Healthcare

Structural Sexism and Health in the United States: A New Perspective on Health Inequality and the Gender System

“Brave Men” and “Emotional Women”: A Theory-Guided Literature Review on Gender Bias in Health Care and Gendered Norms towards Patients with Chronic Pain

Medical Myths About Gender Roles Go Back to Ancient Greece. Women Are Still Paying the Price Today

What to know about gender bias in healthcare

Power, privilege and priorities: Embrace equity in women's healthcare

Wrecking Women’s Healthcare

Women’s Experiences with Provider Communication and Interactions in Health Care Settings: Findings from the 2022 KFF Women’s Health Survey

How Unconscious Bias in Health Care Puts Pregnant Black Women at Higher Risk

A Brief History of Sexism in Medicine

Why Heart Disease in Women Is So Often Missed or Dismissed

Women Are Calling Out ‘Medical Gaslighting’

Contraception is free by law. So why are a quarter of women still paying for it?

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

Feminization of the Banking Industry

Sociologist Brian Rich looks at the growth of women’s participation in the banking industry between 1940 and 1980. Drawing upon census and industry regulatory data, he examines the feminization process, which he defines as women’s proportional gains in a paid employment category. He notes that the banking workforce went from 30% female in 1940 to over 70% female in 1980.

To consider the reason for this dramatic shift, he considers three models to explain the process: human capital, the duel labor market and gender queuing. The human capital model would explain the change in sex composition of the banking labor force as the result of new job-to-worker matches. The substitution of female for male workers occurs when skill and other productivity characteristics of the jobs change in ways that favor the human capital stocks women offer over those offered by men. The dual labor market model would see the banking industry as becoming less desirable and therefore more likely to be filled by women, who are at a disadvantage in competing against men for more desirable jobs.

The gender-queuing explanation would argue that employers came to prefer women in the labor force because of qualities that differentiate them from men, and that, at the same time, women were more likely to seek out those jobs. While similar to the dual labor market approach, queuing portrays the process as one in which the participants, men and women, play a more active role, rather than one in which changes comes from above (the banking industry).

Optional Resources:

Setting a Trend: Feminization of the Commercial Bank Sector in Sweden, 1864-1975

A Study of the Banking Industry in Turkey

Managerial ‘Mommy Tracks’ Feminization of Middle management in Finnish and German Banking

Institute for Women's Policy Research

Women's Bureau

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

Gendered Spaces

The interactionist perspective on gender stratification often examines the micro-level of everyday behavior. Daphne Spain’s Gendered Spaces (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1992) is an example of such an approach.

After dinner, the women gather in one group, perhaps in the kitchen, while the men sit together elsewhere in the house, perhaps watching a televised sporting event. Is this an accurate picture of day-to-day social life in the US? According to architect Daphne Spain, it certainly is. Indeed, the physical separation of men and women has been common — whether in the Mongolian ger (or hut), the longhouses of the Iroquois tribes of North America or recreational facilities on contemporary college campuses.

Spain notes that gendered spaces in workplaces in the US reflect our society’s traditional division of labor into men’s work and women’s work. But, as with historic patterns of racial segregation, the spatial segregation of women and men does not lead to separate but equal status. Instead, it serves to reinforce the dominant position of men in the workplace in terms of financial rewards, status and power.

Drawing on her own research and on studies in a variety of disciplines, Spain concludes that:

Women are more likely than men to supervise employees who share the same workspace or work in adjoining areas. Men tend to supervise people who work elsewhere. These differences are evident even when both men and women have the same job descriptions.

Women in the workplace are often grouped in open spaces (in the secretarial pool) or are without offices altogether (nurses and schoolteachers). By contrast, men are more likely to work in private offices. These spatial arrangements have obvious implications in terms of status and power.

Even when women have private offices, the spatial characteristics of these offices often underscore their subordinate position in the workplace. Higher-status jobs within an organization, usually held by men, are accompanied by greater control of space. This is evident when an office has an entrance with a door that closes and locks, a back exit, no glass partition, soundproofing, a private telephone line and so forth.

In summary, Spain found that “women typically engage in highly visible work — to colleagues, clients and supervisors — subject to repeated interruptions.” Viewed from an interactionist perspective, these spatial conditions reflect and reinforce women’s subordinate status relative to men. The closed doors of men’s offices in managerial and professional jobs not only protect their privacy and limit other employees’ access to knowledge, they also symbolize men’s dominant position in the workplace.

Optional Resources:

Institute for Women's Policy Research

Women's Bureau

Gender and Society: A Matter of Nature or Nurture?

Daphne Spain Interview

Gendered Space and Judith Hutter

Glamour, Travel, Sexism: When Flight Attendants Fought Back

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

Young American Women Are Losing Ground

 

Young American women's well-being is declining.In 2017, the Population Reference Bureau found that social and structural barriers to progress for young women in the US had contributed to their persistently high poverty rates, a declining share of women in high-wage/high-tech jobs, a dramatic rise in women’s incarceration rates, and increases in maternal mortality and women’s suicide. Momentum had stalled or reversed on several key measures of well-being.

The proportion of women ages 30 to 34 living in poverty increased to about 17%.

Young women faced higher rates of maternal mortality than in previous generations.

About 1 in 5 workers in high-paying STEM occupations (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) were women, down from 1 in 4 for the previous generation.

Women still earned less than men in nearly every occupation and at every education level. In fact, women needed to complete a higher level of education than men to achieve equivalent earnings.

The suicide rate for young women increased from 4.4 to 6.3 per 100,000.

Women’s incarceration rates had grown 10-fold since WWII.

 

Although they did not outweigh the negative trends, the PRB did identify several positive trends for young women.PRB's 2017 Losing Ground Study

Educational attainment increased: Women’s high school dropout rate fell and the share of women with at least a bachelor’s degree increased.

The gender gaps in earnings and in business ownership persisted but had narrowed.

The teen birth rate was at an historic low.

The share of young women who smoked had dropped sharply.

The female homicide rate had fallen in each generation since the Baby Boom.

While women remained underrepresented in Congress and in state legislatures, their share of legislative seats had increased with each successive generation.

In short, while some women had made modest gains according to the 2017 findings, many women lacked the resources and supportive environments they needed to live healthier lives and achieve their full potential.

Poverty Rate Among Young American WomenIn 2023, the PRB updated its findings from 6 years prior. The report was alarming. Despite decades of progress between the 1960s and 1990s, each generation of young American women did not do better than the generation before - not anymore. Despite being more highly educated, better off financially and less likely to have been incarcerated, today’s young women face worsening circumstances for their health and safety compared with young women of previous generations. Important measures of health and safety are headed in the wrong direction. Today, a young American woman between the ages of 25 and 34 is more likely to die than she was at any point in more than 50 years.

Maternal mortality, suicide, homicide and accidental overdose death rates for young women have all climbed dramatically in recent years. And the risks of early death are especially pronounced for young women of color, LGBTQ women, pregnant women and new mothers. Accidental overdose, suicide and homicide combined account for 40% of the deaths of young women in the US. Today’s young women ages 25 to 34 are more likely to be homicide victims during their young adulthood than were previous generations at the same age, a recent change. More than 1 in 3 female homicide deaths in 2021 were committed by an intimate partner. Researchers have also raised concern over how post-Roe v. Wade restrictions on reproductive health care may place young women at even further risk of premature death. Preliminary studies have found associations between restrictive state abortion policies and increased suicide rates.

Young American Women's Mortality RatesThe US has a maternal mortality rate higher than that of any other wealthy nation. For young 25- to 34-year-old women, the rate rose from 19.2 deaths to 30.4 deaths per 100,000 live births between 2017 and 2023. The pattern of worsening maternal mortality predates COVID-19 but the pandemic contributed to the increase. COVID-19 was a factor in 1 out of every 4 maternal deaths during the pandemic’s first two years. In addition, existing barriers to accessing medical care, racial inequity and the prevalence of chronic health conditions all help explain the rising maternal mortality rate. Researchers estimate that the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling by the Supreme Court could further contribute to rising maternal mortality rates by as much as 20%.

The idea of generational progress that we have taken for granted in recent generations is no longer a guarantee for young American women. The erosion of rights and protections, a complicated economic reality, and the mental health tolls of the political, ecological and social climate have contributed to a less certain future for today’s young women. Threats to their health and safety have intensified with time and they are uniquely at risk compared with those in other affluent countries, suggesting that policies are playing an outsized role in these outcomes. Addressing the root cause of these issues would be an important step forward for the health and quality of life of young women in the US today and in the future.

Optional Resources:

PRB’s Losing Ground: Young Women’s Well-Being Across Generations in the US

PRB’s Losing More Ground

The Rise of Pregnancy Criminalization

Webinar: Can we restore generational progress for young American women?

To find freedom, Gen Z women are looking back to girlhood.

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

Fetal Personhood: Old Idea, New Weapon

 

The 2021 Dobbs ruling that gave states the right to regulate abortion is affecting women not only in the lack of access to abortion but in ways many never imagined. The Dobbs decision handed states the authority to regulate abortion but it did not settle anything. It opened a Pandora's Box of other legal problems that are going to take years to resolve. And despite the Constitution's guarantees of liberty and equality for all, Dobbs has created the very real possibility that women who are pregnant or become pregnant will see the curtailment of their rights and of their status as free and equal citizens. A partial list of some of the initial Dobbs-related problems includes the following.

pregnant womanPrivacy protection of personal data and medical files is increasingly ignored when the person in question is pregnant or potentially pregnant.. Authorities in 10 states where ending a pregnancy is now illegal have sent Google more than 5,700 demands for location tracking data since 2018, noting that these kinds of data can be used to prosecute abortion cases. Many state authorities believe that a pregnant woman has no legal right to privacy.

Concerns about access to contraception have led to a spike in sterilization requests. Women who are still undecided about having children or more children fear being put in a situation in which the decision will be taken from them and so are opting to eliminate the possibility.

Sexual assault survivors in particular are choosing sterilization so that, if they are ever attacked again, they won’t be forced to give birth to a rapist’s baby.

Lupus patients can no longer get access to medication that controls their illness because it can also cause miscarriages. Many doctors fear arrest if they prescribe it for any reason and many pharmacies fear legal problems if they fill prescriptions.

Even in medical emergencies, doctors are often declining immediate treatment since many states refuse to specify when it is legally acceptable to begin lifesaving care. For example, if a pregnant patient starts to miscarry and develops a dangerous womb infection but the doctor is not allowed to act until the fetal heartbeat stops, it may be 24 hours or more the necessary healthcare can begin. During the wait, the patient may develop complications, require surgery, lose multiple liters of blood and have to be put on a breathing machine - all because the necessary healthcare was delayed for 24 hours.

The point at which state-protected life begins now varies from state to state, creating multiple problems for a variety of laws.

Many states have criminalized pregnancy, resulting in arrest, pretrial incarceration, substantial bail, prison time, family separation, mandatory drug treatment programs, probation and parole, and continued surveillance of pregnant women … women whose behaviors would not have been criminal had they not been pregnant.

On average, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage (loss before 20 weeks), which can occur before a woman even knows she's pregnant. One in 175 pregnancies end in a stillbirth (loss after 20 weeks). While neither is uncommon, many women have begun to avoid seeing their doctors or reporting the situation for fear of being accused of aborting their pregnancy. Doctors cannot tell the difference between an abortion and a miscarriage and many state authorities approach all terminations as criminal investigations.

Ectopic pregnancies (pregnancy that develops outside of the womb, usually in the fallopian tube) and molar pregnancies can result in emergency situations and require prompt treatment (including pregnancy termination) to reduce a woman's risk of complications, increase her chances for future pregnancies, and reduce future health complications. Complications in a normal pregnancy (cervical insufficiency, placental abruption, low amniotic fluideclampsiapremature labor, etc) also require prompt care and can result in pregnancy termination. Again, many state authorities view such diagnoses as excuses to terminate pregnancies and tend to approach them as criminal investigations.

States with abortion prohibitions have maintained that they don’t criminalize pregnant women, nor do they treat abortion as murder. State law stipulates prison terms only for persons who perform abortions, not the women who seek them. But even prior to the reversal of Roe v. Wade, many state officials were employing tactics that represented a significant shift toward criminalizing pregnancy, a shift that has gained momentum since Dobbs.

The rise in pregnancy criminalization is fueled in large part by the concept of fetal personhood in anti-abortion rhetoric and laws. Abortion laws regulate a procedure. Fetal personhood laws allow the state to regulate pregnant women. The concept that a fetus should be treated legally the same as a child has far-reaching implications. Under Roe v. Wade, personhood could not be granted to a fetus before viability - the point around 24 weeks of pregnancy when a fetus can survive outside the womb. Dobbs removed that limit and some states quickly moved to extend the legal rights of people to a fetus or embryo before viability and to expand their definitions of child abuse to include fetuses, fertilized eggs and embryos. Over three quarters (76.9%) of cases involving pregnancy criminalization have occurred in those states. State officials - police, prosecutors, healthcare workers, family regulation workers, judges - have increasingly penalized pregnant women for actions that would not have been criminal had they not been pregnant. In the process, those women have been deprived of almost every constitutional right on the pretext of protecting unborn life.

pregnant woman handcuffedTwo months after a stillbirth, Alabama officers arrested a 36-year-old woman on felony charges of “chemical endangerment causing death,” contending that drug use had caused the loss of her baby. Although drugs were found in the infant’s blood, the medical examiner listed the cause of death as “undetermined,” saying there was no way of knowing what caused the stillbirth. But the state didn’t have to prove that drugs caused the pregnancy loss. A stillbirth and a positive drug test are often all it takes to push women into plea deals resulting in lengthy prison sentences. The Alabama woman was found guilty and sentenced to 18 years in prison. She is serving with at least 20 other women who also suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth and were found guilty of chemical endangerment causing death. Between 2020 and 2022, there were more than 50 cases across the US in which women were prosecuted for a miscarriage or stillbirth because of a positive drug test. At least 20 cases were in Alabama, 14 in South Carolina and 10 in Oklahoma, as well as nine in other states. In Alabama, 101 out of 301 newborn autopsies performed in 2021 were related to investigations involving women who had recently lost a child. Many of the prosecutions resulted in lengthy prison sentences and life-altering consequences for mostly poor women.

mother and childrenOver the past five years and even prior to Dobbs, there has been an intensification of efforts to criminalize pregnancy, as local officials have begun to targeted many more pregnant women. Counties in several states have begun policing pregnant women under an expanded interpretation of child abuse and neglect laws, and new mothers - almost all of them poor - have been sentenced for a variety of felonies from child endangerment to poisoning, despite a lack of evidence or witnesses and without trials. From 2006 to 2020, even before Dobbs, there were roughly 1,331 examples of such cases. The problem is particularly egregious in Alabama, Oklahoma and South Carolina. While giving birth in a hospital, and usually without the woman’s knowledge, health care providers perform drug testing on both the mother and baby, and then give their medical and lab records to county investigators and prosecutors. If the drug tests are negative, they send the newborn’s meconium - the baby’s first bowel movement - to the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic for more advanced testing. Because meconium remains in a fetus throughout the entire pregnancy, it can show the residue of substances from many months before, even when no longer in the mother’s system. What it cannot do is prove substance abuse during pregnancy or child endangerment.

Nonetheless, months after giving birth to healthy children and with no evidence of abuse or neglect, women throughout these states are arrested. Prosecutors aren’t required to prove harm to a fetus or newborn - simply exposure at some point during the pregnancy. In just one Alabama county hundreds of women have been arrested in the past several years. The felonies they are charged with can result in years in prison but if they plead guilty they can avoid trial and perhaps get probation instead. The evidence and procedures are rarely challenged in court since none of these new mothers have the money to hire an attorney and all of them fear permanently losing their children if they do. Some of the women avoid prison time and even a felony conviction by participating in pre-trial intervention programs run by the prosecutors. The costs of such programs add up to thousands of dollars, which they’re required to keep paying to remain enrolled and out of prison. Some of the women are serving up to 15-year sentences. Guilty pleas mean increased poverty for some and a loss of freedom for others. All of them face separation from their families for at least months, probably years, maybe forever.

One Alabama woman fought back. Eight months after her daughter was born, she and her family woke to a knock at the door at 2 am. The police had a warrant for her arrest for chemical endangerment. A meconium test allegedly showed traces of marijuana from early in her pregnancy. She was arrested, booked and charged but she refused to plead. In the months that followed, she managed to scrape together thousands of dollars to hire an attorney, who told the court they wanted to conduct their own independent drug tests of the meconium. Prosecutors said they hadn’t kept the evidence and the charges were dismissed. The dismissal cost thousands of dollars and took nearly three years. Most of the women these states have targeted can’t afford their own lawyers to fight a criminal case for years.

mother and child shackledIn nearby Mississippi, criminal laws don’t apply to a child until it’s born so anything that happens prior to birth doesn’t fall under the criminal code. But a Mississippi sheriff’s investigator and judge disagreed with that and decided to arrest new mothers for actions they think should be against the law … even if they aren’t. They’re now using the same methods as neighboring states. And even though there’s nothing illegal the arrested mothers can be charged with, they’re afraid of what will happen if they try to fight back. Most of them get probation deals that keep them out of prison as long as they plead guilty. And, of course, a guilty plea means there’s no trial. (By the way, the Mississippi investigator says he also believes that smoking or drinking alcohol while pregnant constitutes child abuse.)

In states across the country, pregnant women have been prosecuted after filling prescriptions for medications from their doctors. They have been charged with felony child neglect for using medical marijuana, even when they have state medical marijuana licenses allowing them to legally purchase and use cannabis after a recommendation from a physician. The prosecutor in one of the cases involving medical marijuana said he didn’t care if it was legal, that the warning on the medical marijuana license (Keep out of the reach of children and pets.) justified his cases against mothers, adding “if they make bad decisions about using drugs while they're pregnant, they're probably going to make other bad decisions when raising the child.”

A young woman in Oklahoma, suffering from severe nausea during her first trimester, got a medical marijuana license on the recommendation of her doctor and used marijuana edibles and topical creams during her pregnancy. She stopped using the marijuana after her third month and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. In the hospital she tested negative for drugs but the hospital found traces of marijuana in the baby’s meconium. Child welfare workers closed their investigation after finding her home was safe and loving. Regardless, the district attorney charged her with felony child neglect. The crime can carry a term of up to life in prison in Oklahoma. Previous defendants had pleaded guilty and received 2-10 years probation but the young mother decided to fight. Her attorneys argued that she can’t be prosecuted for using an illegal drug during her pregnancy because medical marijuana is the same as any other legal medication used at the direction of a doctor under Oklahoma law. At a court hearing, the prosecutor argued she broke the law because her unborn child did not have his own, separate state license to use medical marijuana. The case is ongoing. At least 26 women since 2000 have been charged with child neglect for using marijuana during pregnancy … 17 were prosecuted even though they had state medical marijuana licenses. Women who have pleaded guilty and received probation in these cases have also been ordered to attend parenting classes, submit to drug tests, complete community service, and undergo assessments for drug and alcohol addiction, this despite the fact that the felony they pled guilty to was for a prescribed and legal medication.

States have laws that define child abuse or neglect and most states require reporting to state authorities. Until recently, most behaviors defined as child abuse involved behaviors toward children that had been born. Many behaviors weren’t incorporated into states’ definitions of child abuse because they were only, or mainly, applicable before a child was born. The concept of fetal personhood has changed that and states are considering expanding the definition of child abuse to include behaviors such as a woman’s use of alcohol or drugs (in some cases even legal or OTC medications) during pregnancy, a woman’s use of tobacco (in any form) during pregnancy, being pregnant and in a dangerous place or situation, being pregnant while employed in a dangerous job, engaging in strenuous physical activity while pregnant, being pregnant and having HIV, not seeking medical care early enough during pregnancy, not taking medical advice during pregnancy, and not arriving at the hospital quickly enough on the day of delivery. Under the concept of fetal personhood, pregnant women would be guilty of felony child abuse for violating any of those behaviors once incorporated into her state’s child abuse laws.

Some states are also considering the idea of maternal policing, using the law to enforce what they consider appropriate behavior instead of, or in addition to, punishingmother confined to hospital abusive behavior. For example, pregnant women who refuse medical advice and thereby endanger a fetus should be detained in hospitals and forced to follow doctors’ orders. In 2013, years before Dobbs, a Wisconsin woman was detained for over two months of her pregnancy in a court-ordered drug treatment facility despite never testing positive for drugs. She had a past history of drug use, and her medical provider didn’t believe she would stay sober. At the hearing, her fetus was given a lawyer, but she was not. Some states are considering using some form of surveillance of pregnant women (mandatory alcohol, drug and tobacco testing, mandatory scheduled doctor visits, job restrictions, etc). A growing number of legal cases throughout the US show a trend toward forced treatment of pregnant women, including court-ordered Caesarean sections, mandatory diet restrictions and incarceration for failing to follow medical advice.

Most states that have banned abortion but have not adopted the idea of fetal personhood have not attempted to criminalize pregnancy but few of them have displayed anything but condescension and callousness for the women affected by those laws. Most of the states that now limit abortion (and even some that don’t) have attempted to intimidate and scare pregnant women through law suits (by the state and/or by other citizens), criminal investigations or incarceration, limiting travel outside their home state, and threats against their healthcare providers, families and friends.

Recently, a Texas woman, after multiple trips to the ER, found out that her unborn child had a rare and terminal genetic abnormality. She and her husband were in shock. They desperately wanted to have their baby but her doctors said continuing the pregnancy would put her at high risk for severe complications and threaten her life and her ability to have other children. Her doctors agreed to terminate her pregnancy - the sooner the safer - but she would first have to get permission from the state. The couple’s attorney was able to quickly get them before a district judge, who granted her a 14-day temporary restraining order against the state’s abortion ban so her doctors could legally terminate her pregnancy due to medical necessity. Within hours, the Texas Attorney General warned that the temporary order would not protect hospitals, doctors or anyone else from criminal first-degree felony prosecutions and civil penalties of at least $100,000 for each violation of Texas’ abortion laws, and threatened to prosecute any doctors involved in providing an emergency abortion to a woman. He then petitioned the Texas Supreme Court to intervene in the case and issue an emergency stay of the district court judge’s ruling. Fairly quickly, the state Supreme Court temporarily blocked the woman from obtaining an emergency abortion. Without regard to the merits, the Court administratively stayed the district court’s order and noted the case would remain pending before them but did not include any timeline on when a full ruling might be issued. The couple had anticipated the state’s decision and, since the woman’s situation was fairly urgent even without considerable travel added, they had already arranged for a hospital and doctor in another state and made travel arrangements. They were grateful that they had the resources to do that, unlike most Texas women in similar situations.

As law, fetal personhood could impact the use of in vitro fertilization, which requires multiple fertilized eggs, most of which are eventually discarded. It could impact contraception access, given that the anti-abortion movement argues that IUDs and the emergency contraception Plan B can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. It could limit the medical treatment available to pregnant women, For example, if a pregnant woman needed chemotherapy for cancer treatment, she could be told to delay care until she gives birth so she doesn’t harm the fetus. Women who miscarry could face frightening consequences. Doctors usually can’t tell if a miscarriage is natural or induced and may have to assume that all miscarriages are induced, questioning for details or even threatening to deny care if patients don’t provide information.

poor mother and childrenFetal personhood and pregnant women’s personhood cannot coexist: fetal personhood fundamentally changes the legal rights and status of all pregnant women and forces them to forfeit their own personhood once they become pregnant. In the US, people have the right to refuse to subordinate their desires or needs to the needs of others. For example, people aren’t forced to donate their kidneys, bone marrow or blood in order to save the lives of others. To require this of pregnant women is to demand of them something over and above what is demanded of the rest of society. But fetal personhood means that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of, she is consigned to second-class citizenship until she gives birth. The words of an anti-abortion voter capture exactly this dynamic: “I understand women saying, ‘I need to control my own body,’ but once you have another body in there, that’s their body.” The logic of fetal personhood has been used for decades in policies and enforcement against women, particularly low-income women of color, and the message is clear: fetuses have rights that supersede any interest pregnant women may have and therefore a pregnant woman’s body is no longer her own ... at least in the opinion of many lawmakers and law enforcers.

Optional Resources:

Fetal personhood laws are a new frontier in the battle over reproductive rights.

‘They railroad them’: the states using ‘fetal personhood’ laws to criminalize mothers.

Is a fetus a person? An anti-abortion strategy says it is.

4 states are using fetal personhood to put women behind bars.

The Personhood Movement

The dissenting opinion to Dobbs by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan

The Criminalization of Self-Managed Abortion from 2000 to 2020

What Can I Even Say Without Having to Go to Jail?

In Texas, infant mortality rose after abortion ban. (Is the law less about saving the unborn and more about controlling women?)

What two years without Roe looks like, in 8 charts

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

SORRY! THE LIFESTYLE YOU ORDERED IS CURRENTLY OUT OF STOCK

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

The Wage Gap, by Gender and Race

(median annual earnings of black men and women, Hispanic men and women, and white women as a % of white men's median annual earnings)

Year

White
men

Black
men

Hispanic
men

White
women

Black
women

Hispanic
women

1970

100%

69.0%

n/a

58.7%

48.2%

n/a

1975

100

74.3

72.1%

57.5

55.4

49.3%

1980

100

70.7

70.8

58.9

55.7

50.5

1985

100

69.7

68.0

63.0

57.1

52.1

1990

100

73.1

66.3

69.4

62.5

54.3

1995

100

75.9

63.3

71.2

64.2

53.4

2000

100

78.2

63.4

72.2

64.6

52.8

2005

100

74.5

63.2

76.7

68.4

56.9

2010

100

74.5

65.9

80.5

69.6

59.8

2015

100

71.4

66.6

80.9

61.9

57.1

2020

100

87

91

79

62

54

Source: U.S. Current Population Survey and the National Committee on Pay Equity.

Optional Resources:

The 2020 Black-White Wage Gap Was as Big as It Was in 1950

The Gender Pay Gap Is a Culture Problem

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

An Aging World

Never before in human history has our planet contained so many older people or such a large percentage of them. The world is facing dramatic shifts in the economic, demographic and social fabric of its societies. Women just about everywhere are having fewer kids and having them later in life. In 1970 the average woman on the planet gave birth to 4.7 children in her lifetime. By 2011 that number had dropped to 2.5. Even in the world’s most fecund region, sub-Saharan Africa, the fertility rate has fallen from 6.7 to 4.9 ... and births among women under 20 dropped 20% in the first decade of the new millennium. The combination of falling birthrates and longer life expectancies also means the world is rapidly adding wrinkles. In 1980 the median age was 23; by 2050, according to the UN, it will be 38. In 1970 about half of the world’s population was younger than 20; by 2011 that figure had dropped to a little more than one-third, and the UN predicts it will be closer to one-quarter by mid-century. Meanwhile, the number of people older than 65 increased from 5% to 9% between 1970 and 2011, and will climb to 20% by 2050. Despite the global population being about 2 billion higher, the absolute number of young people at mid-century will be no larger than today. The world is about to get a lot older very fast.Aging Populations

Aging populations pose some real challenges, especially for industries that provide services either to the young or the old. About 5% of global gross domestic product is spent on education, for example; dwindling numbers of children could mean a lot of teachers will be out of work. Expenditures on the old, meanwhile, are sure to skyrocket. Pension spending in the European Union currently equals about 12.5% of GDP. As the region’s 65-plus population increases from a fifth to a third, either those payments will rise or old age will get considerably less comfortable. Supporting the aged is going to be a particular problem for developing countries, such as China, that have traditionally relied on families to look after their old and infirm. The burden on children may become unbearable without considerably expanded safety nets.

Tom Perls, the world-renowned geriatrician at Harvard Medical School, is adamant in his assertion that the entire concept of aging is being redefined. Society must be prepared to tackle a dramatic change in life expectancy. Already, the burden of supporting aging populations with a shrinking pool of able-bodied workers threatens the solvency of governments in advanced economies ... and some are handling the burden better than others. For example, countries such as Denmark have lower expenditures on their overall health care because they have invested in an efficient, accessible home care delivery system that keeps people out of more expensive long-Projected Growth of Entitlement Programsterm care and hospital beds.

Optional Resources:

The Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator uses the most current and carefully researched medical and scientific data in order to estimate how old you will live to be.

As Life Expectancy Rises, Society Must Prepare for Aging Masses

Is Aging With Dignity a Human Right? US, Europe Say ‘No’

Aging of Populations

China's Newest Challenge Is Adapting to Its Aging Population

The City Looks Different When You’re Older

The servers all have dementia at The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders in Tokyo.

Aging politicians are only going to get more common.

How Older Adults Are Changing America

The Hidden Moral Injury of ‘OK Boomer’

Rural America is losing nursing homes and small towns are reeling.

PRB & TED: How Do We Respond to an Aging World? (1:01:28)

RETURN TO TOP

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCI MARGIN NOTES

 

 

THE LATEST FIGURES ON HUMAN LONGEVITY BY COUNTRY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Optional Resources:

Life Expectancy

Gapminder World 2012

World Life Expectancy

The rich live longer everywhere. For the poor, geography matters.

Longevity Throughout History

Do “Blue Zones” really exist? Hot spots of super old folks are being studied for their supposed secrets to longevity. I’m skeptical!

RETURN TO TOP

 


FOOTER LOGO

Copyright 1996 Amy S Glenn
Last updated:   07/10/2024 1230

Creative Commons License