ASR February 2010

Volume 75, Number 1 * February 2010

For copies of the articles listed below, please visit the ASR page at Sage Journals Online.


The New Politics of Community

Patricia Hill Collins
Abstract: Ideas about community are especially prominent in the late-twentieth-century U.S. society. The term community resonates throughout social policy, scholarship, popular culture, and everyday social interactions. It holds significance for different populations with competing political agendas (e.g., political groups of the right and the left invoke ideas of community yet have very different ideas in mind). No longer seen as naturally occurring, apolitical spaces to which one retreats to escape the pressures of modern life, communities of all sorts now constitute sites of political engagement and contestation. The new politics of community reveals how the idea of community constitutes an elastic political construct that holds a variety of contradictory meanings and around which diverse social practices occur. In this address, I analyze how reframing the idea of community as a political construct might provide new avenues for investigating social inequalities. I first explore the utility of community as a political construct for rethinking both intersecting systems of power and activities that are routinely characterized as “political.” Next, by examining five contemporary sites where community is either visibly named as a political construct or implicated in significant political phenomena, I investigate how the construct of community operates within contemporary power relations of class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age, ability, nation, and race. Finally, I explore the potential intellectual and political significance of these developments.

ARTICLES I'd Like to Thank the Academy, Team Spillovers, and Network Centrality
Gabriel Rossman, Nicole Esparza, and Phillip Bonacich
Click here for the Online Supplement (PDF file).
Abstract: This article uses Academy Award nominations for acting to explore how artistic achievement is situated within a collaborative context. The context of individual effort is particularly important in film because quality is not transparent, and the project-based nature of the field allows us to observe individuals in multiple contexts. We explore these issues with analyses of the top-10 credited roles from theatrically-released films released between 1936 and 2005. Controlling for an actor’s personal history and the basic traits of a film, we explore two basic predictions. First, we find that status, as measured by asymmetric centrality in the network of screen credits, is an efficient measure of star power and mediates the relationship between experience and formal artistic consecration. Second, we find that actors are most likely to be consecrated when working with elite collaborators. We conclude by arguing that selection into privileged work teams provides a locus of cumulative advantage.

The Myth Incarnate: Recoupling Processes, Turmoil, and Inhabited Institutions in an Urban Elementary School
Tim Hallett
Click here for the Online Supplement (PDF file).
Abstract: The study of institutional myths has been central to organizational sociology, cultural sociology, and the sociology of education for 30 years. This article examines how the myth concept has been used and develops neglected possibilities by asking: What happens when myths become incarnate, and how does this occur? In other words, what happens when conformity to a rationalized cultural ideal such as “accountability” is no longer symbolic but is given tangible flesh? Data from a two-year ethnography of an urban elementary school provide answers and reveal “recoupling” processes through which institutional myths and organizational practices that were once loosely connected become tightly linked. In the school studied here, recoupling accountability with classroom practices created a phenomenon that teachers labeled “turmoil.” The findings advance our understanding of the micro-sociological foundations of institutional theory by “inhabiting” institutionalism with people, their work activities, social interactions, and meaning-making processes.

Still Separate and Unequal? A City-Level Analysis of the Black-White Gap in Homicide Arrests since 1960
Gary LaFree, Eric P. Baumer, and Robert O'Brien
Abstract: More than four decades ago, the Kerner Report chronicled the violent disturbances of the 1960s and predicted that the United States was rapidly moving toward two racially separate and unequal societies. Resulting concerns about black and white inequality form a critical chapter in the history of sociological research. Few studies, however, explore trends in racial inequality in rates of violence. Has the gap between black and white violence rates significantly narrowed since 1960 and, if so, why? Drawing on recent work on assimilation and the literature on race inequality, we develop a set of hypotheses about black-white differences in violence rates and how these rates may have changed during the past four decades. We emphasize race differences in family structure, economic and educational inequality, residential integration, illicit drug involvement, and population composition. Using race-specific homicide arrest and census data on social, economic, and demographic conditions for 80 large U.S. cities from 1960 to 2000, we find substantial convergence in black-white homicide arrest rates over time, although this convergence stalled from the 1980s to the 1990s. Consistent with theoretical expectations, we find that, since the 1960s, the racial gap in homicide arrests declined more substantially in cities that had greater reductions in the ratio of black to white single-parent families, as well as in cities that experienced greater population growth and increases in the proportion of the population that is black. Also, as expected, the race gap in homicide arrests widened in cities that had an increasing ratio of black to white rates of drug arrests. Measures of racial integration, however, have no discernible impact on the black to white homicide arrest ratio.

Moving Out but Not Up: Economic Outcomes in the Great Migration
Suzanne C. Eichenlaub, Stewart E. Tolnay, and J. Trent Alexander
Abstract: The migration of millions of southerners out of the South between 1910 and 1970 is largely attributed to economic and social push factors in the South, combined with pull factors in other regions of the country. Researchers generally find that participants in this migration were positively selected from their region of origin, in terms of educational attainment and urban status, and that they fared relatively well in their destinations. To fully measure the migrants’ success, however, a comparison with those who remained in the South is necessary. This article uses data from the U.S. Census to compare migrants who left the South with their southern contemporaries who stayed behind, both those who moved within the South and the sedentary population. The findings indicate that migrants who left the South did not benefit appreciably in terms of employment status, income, or occupational status. In fact, inter-regional migrants often fared worse than did southerners who moved within the South or those who remained sedentary. These results contradict conventional wisdom regarding the benefits of exiting the South and suggest the need for a revisionist interpretation of the experiences of those who left.

Social Change and Socioeconomic Disparities in Health over the Life Course in China: A Cohort Analysis
Feinian Chen, Yang Yang, and Guangya Liu
Abstract: This article examines social stratification in individual health trajectories for multiple cohorts in the context of an ever-changing macro-social environment in China. Using data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey, we find significant socioeconomic status (SES) differences in the mean level of health and that the SES differentials generally diverge over the life course. We also find strong cohort variations in SES disparities on the mean levels of health and health trajectories. The effect of education on mean level of health slightly decreases across successive cohorts; the income gap in health trajectories diverges for earlier cohorts but converges for most recent cohorts. Both effects are more pronounced in rural areas. Given that these cohort effects are in an opposite direction from recent U.S. studies, we discuss China’s unique social, economic, and political settings. We highlight the association between SES and health behaviors, China’s stage of epidemiologic transition, and the changing power of the state government and its implications for healthcare.

Is there a Downside to Shooting for the Stars? Unrealized Educational Expectations and Symptoms of Depression
John R. Reynolds and Chardie L. Baird
Abstract: Despite decades of research on the benefits of educational expectations, researchers have failed to show that unrealized plans are consequential for mental health, as self-discrepancy and other social psychological theories would predict. This article uses two national longitudinal studies of youth to test whether unrealized educational expectations are associated with depression in adulthood. Negative binomial regression analyses show that unmet expectations are associated with a greater risk of depression among young adults who share similar educational expectations. The apparent consequences of aiming high and falling short result, however, from lower attainment, not the gap between plans and attainment. Results indicate almost no long-term emotional costs of “shooting for the stars” rather than planning for the probable, once educational attainment is taken into account. This lack of association also holds after accounting for early mental health, the magnitude of the shortfall, the stability of expectations, and college-related resources, and it is robust across two distinct cohorts of high school students. We develop a theory of “adaptive resilience” to account for these findings and, because aiming high and failing are not consequential for mental health, conclude that society should not dissuade unpromising students from dreams of college.

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