Author Archives: Chris Prener

Religion is not territory we’ve covered in any real detail here on our blog. The Democratic Party Platform, however, has raised an interesting intersection between work and religion that deserves some attention. Last week, the Democratic Party opted to alter the language of its 2012 Party Platform to remove the word “God” (though they have since reinstated the language). This created an immediate stir among Democrats and Republicans, and elicited an highly critical response from Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (his comments on the removal of “God” are at the beginning of the video). What this debate reveals is the particular way in which the Democratic platform describes, in the same breath, individual labor, and religion.

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An emerging critique of U.S. President Barak Obama’s record is the idea that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago. A quick caveat – it seems that Republicans are speaking primarily to “average”, i.e. middle class, Americans here. Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for the Vice Presidency, has forcefully adopted this critique of Obama, suggesting that his record should be judged based on whether  Obama’s policies have improved the lives of Americans. In a campaign stop on September 3rd, Ryan went as far as to suggest that Jimmy Carter’s Presidency, much derided by the right, seems like the “good ‘ole days” compared to Obama’s:

This reference is more than just a slant at President Carter. It is a reference to then candidate Reagan’s campaign against Carter in 1980, when he famously asked Americans whether they were better off or not than they were when Carter began his term.

What these arguments miss, however, are the fundamental changes these so-called “average” Americans have experienced over a much longer period.

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The New York Times’s Economix Blog had a post on Friday that summarized some interesting new polling data from Gallup. In light of our recent panel on the gender wage gap and the role of “choice” in individual decision making around staying at home vs. working, I thought it would be good to share some quick highlights here.

Among the most interesting findings is that stay-at-home moms reported higher rates of worry, sadness and depressed emotions than their employed counterparts (both with and without children).

This varies by income level, with mothers in households that earn less than $36,000 annually expressing higher rates of worry and stress than their employed peers.

My take away is not that being a stay-at-home mother is intrinsically bad for your mental health. Rather, it may be that the stressors associated with being a stay-at-home mother are such (for some women) that their mental health suffers in comparison to their employed peers. These stressors are likely complicated phenomena with a diverse range of etiologies. Unfortunately, the Gallup report does not go into any follow-up questions that were asked, so we aren’t given a good picture as to why women felt this way.

A couple caveats – these are self reported mental health evaluations, not evaluations by mental health professionals. They are also only descriptive statistics, with no included difference of mean measures or the like. Gallup reports that these data are drawn from a sample n of 60,000 and have a maximum margin of sampling error of +/- 1% (95% confidence).

The continuing presidential campaign in the United States has been dominated by a number of noticeable trends, including contentious debates about reproductive rights specifically (what some have called the “war on women“) and, more broadly, about gender roles in American society (think about the recent commentary on Ann Romney, a topic Adia has blogged about). There has also been much discussion about the state of the economy in the United States and continuing issues of un- and under-employment (see my posts here and here).

An important intersection of these two political debates is the counting disparity in pay by gender. A recent article in The Economist, citing work done by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, documented this phenomena, noting that women continue to earn, on average, 82.2% of what men earn. This gap, as the graphic below shows, varies considerably by occupational category.

Image via The Economist (April 17, 2012)

In the following three pieces, our regular bloggers Adia Harvey Wingfield and Julie Kmec join guest blogger Rebecca Glauber in dissecting some of the causes and debates surrounding the gender wage gap, both within and outside of sociology.

Media has an immense power to both reflect the society it is a product of and initiate social change. For these reasons, it is often an effective tool for illustrating particular social concepts. The blog Sociological Images frequently uses visual imagery to illustrate a host of sociological concepts in an exceptionally compelling way. In a pair of posts today, Rachael Gorab and Adia Harvey Wingfield discuss the recent Academy Award Winning film The Help in terms of its portrayal of both race and gender in the world of domestic service work. For those of you who haven’t seen it, we’ve embedded the trailer to the film above. We hope you enjoy our latest panel!