Today we’ve adding a new element to our Friday news roundups – “The Lede”. We’ll use this space to feature reporting along with social science research on a topic that has been in the news. We hope you find it interesting!


The Lede – Race, Childbirth, and Mortality

ProPublica and NPR have been reporting on maternal mortality all year. We’ve linked to some of their major stories below along with some related reporting from, which published the video embedded above on race and childbirth. We’ve also linked to some articles on poor birth outcomes more generally in the U.S.



Taxes in America


At Work


Thinking About “Science”


On Campus


by Alice Sullivan

How is socio-economic advantage and disadvantage passed down from parent to child? This is a central question for sociologists and policymakers alike. No one denies the vital role that education plays in this process. However, sociologists have long argued that there is a persistent ‘direct effect of social origins’ on occupational attainment which cannot be accounted for by education. This residual direct effect of social origins on occupational destinations has acquired the status of a stylized fact within sociology, sometimes simply referred to as ‘DESO’.

Our recent study challenges the consensus on this issue. We ask, could the direct effect of social origins be an artefact of using overly crude measures of education?

If you want to get a top social class position, it certainly helps to be a university graduate.  But simply having a degree may not be enough. It may also matter what subject your degree is in, and whether you attended a prestigious university. Yet most studies of social mobility have not accounted for these educational distinctions, which are likely to matter for access to top jobs nowadays.

We set out to provide a refined account of the educational pathways from origins to destinations, using data from a nationally representative sample of over 17,000 people born in Britain in 1970, using the 1970 British Cohort Study. The BCS70 is longitudinal, meaning that the same group of people have been followed up over time. The BCS70 study members have been followed from birth, when their parents were interviewed, to mid-life. The study is ongoing, and the cohort members are interviewed every few years.

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Graduate students protest changes to U.S. tax laws at the University of Southern California (via LA Times)


Happy Friday (and welcome back to those of you in U.S. who had holiday break last week!). Here is a collection of what we’ve been reading this week.


Cut, Cut, Cut


Good Jobs, Bad Jobs, New Jobs, Old Jobs


Gun Violence in America


The Far Right


On Campus


by Carolina Bank Muñoz

“Desde que llegó Walmart el almuerzo ha estado malo. Antes con DYS nos daban una entrada, plato fuerte, y postre. Ahora escasamente nos dan el plato fuerte. Pore so estuvimos en paro un rato y ahora tenemos mejor comida.” Lorena (Walmart worker)

“Since Walmart arrived [In Chile] lunch has been bad. Before, with D&S, they used to give us an appetizer, main dish, and dessert. Now they barely give us a main dish. That’s why we had a job action and now the food has once again improved.” Lorena (Walmart Worker)

To a U.S. audience, it might seem strange that a worker would be complaining about the food they receive in a workplace, especially if that workplace is Walmart. Yet in Chile, large employers like Walmart are required by law to provide workers with lunch or dinner, depending on their shifts. The law however does not specify what kind of meals they have to provide.

Changes to the quality and quantity of food were experienced by workers as a lack of respect. The firm that Walmart bought in 2009, D&S provided higher quality food, and more options. Walmart, in its global quest to reduce costs, tried to offer poorer quality food and less of it, but their strategy backlashed – workers walked out.

How is it that Walmart workers in Chile are so emboldened, especially in contrast to Walmart workers in the U.S. who experience increasingly precarious employment?

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Happy Friday! Since next week is the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S., we’ll be on hiatus. See you all in December!




Sexual Harassment


Divided America

On Campus


by Priya Fielding-Singh

Parents want what is best for their kids. Under what circumstances might that mean giving them Cheetos?

Consider two mothers.

Jane is an upper-middle class mother. Her son, Charlie, is constantly asking her for Cheetos. Jane thinks Cheetos are unhealthy, so she goes out of her way to go to Whole Foods to buy their hydrogenated-oil-free alternative. Charlie doesn’t find them quite as salty and delicious, but Jane feels good about teaching Charlie that his preferences need to be balanced with health considerations.

Across town, Paula, a low-income mother, is facing the same request from her son, James. James also loves Cheetos. Although Paula knows that she is short on the cable bill this month, she also knows that the change in her pocket won’t cover the bill anyway. So she puts that money toward buying James his snack of choice. Paula doesn’t see Cheetos as the healthiest option, but she feels happy about being able to give James exactly what he asked her for.

In many ways, Jane and Paula are alike. They both want their teenage sons to be healthy and happy. They both view feeding their kids as a way of expressing care and being a good mother. But how they feed their kids differs, with Jane’s approach emphasizing self-restraint and Paula’s emphasizing gratification. This discrepancy in approaches is influenced by their access to money and grocery stores; but it is also fundamentally shaped by the class-inflected symbolic meanings that parents like Paula and Jane attach to food.

These symbolic meanings are the focus of my recent study. Through interviews with 160 parents and adolescents and observations of families across socioeconomic status (SES), I found that parents’ different feeding strategies in part reflected the different symbolic meanings that food held for them.

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by Nick Oliver, Thomas Calvard and Kristina Potočnik

The interactions between technology and human beings are a source of fascination to many social scientists, from the impact of technology on individual well-being, to power relations in the work place to technology’s transformative potential. Technology has the ability to empower and to deskill, to enhance human capability and to subjugate humans to its requirements.

Science fiction plays on the fear that technology may one day ‘take over’ its human creators. A more immediate concern is that advances in technology lure us into designing and building systems that exceed the capacity of their operators to understand them, especially in the face of unusual, non-routine situations.  

Such concerns notwithstanding, humans have succeeded in developing ways to manage and operate very complex, sometimes high-risk technologies with remarkably few mishaps. Such “high reliability organizations” are of great interest to organizational scholars perhaps because they represent a kind of organization-technology frontier in terms of what is possible. Yet scholars of safety science observe that even extremely safe, error-free systems seem to have accident rates, which although very low, are remarkably persistent.

Our recently published study explores some of these issues by examining the interplay between human cognition and system design with reference to the final minutes of Air France flight 447 (AF447), which disappeared over the Atlantic in 2009. Data from the cockpit voice and flight data recorders, retrieved from the ocean floor two years after the crash, revealed a situation in which interactions between pilots and aircraft technology caused an initially relatively benign situation to escalate rapidly into a catastrophe.

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