The featured publications of Harvard Sociology include a selection of significant books, articles, and working papers published by our faculty. We invite you to visit individual faculty websites for more complete listings of publications.
Samson, Frank L., and Lawrence D. Bobo. 2014.“Ethno-Racial Attitudes and Social Inequality”. in The Handbook of the Social Psychology of Inequality, edited by Jane D. McLeod, Edward J. Lawler, and Michael Schwalbe. New York, NY: Springer.
The Cultural Matrix seeks to unravel a uniquely American paradox: the socioeconomic crisis, segregation, and social isolation of disadvantaged black youth, on the one hand, and their extraordinary integration and prominence in popular culture on the other. Despite school dropout rates over 40 percent, a third spending time in prison, chronic unemployment, and endemic violence, black youth are among the most vibrant creators of popular culture in the world. They also espouse several deeply-held American values. To understand this conundrum, the authors bring culture back to the forefront of explanation, while avoiding the theoretical errors of earlier culture-of-poverty approaches and the causal timidity and special pleading of more recent ones.
This article examines changes in workers’ work values for the period 1973–2006 using General Social Survey data. We assess the relative importance that workers assign to high income, as opposed to security, advancement, short hours and “importance and sense of accomplishment.” The latter ranked highest throughout this period, but the relative priority placed on income and job security generally increased. We suggest that the rising relative rankings of earnings and job security reflect growing job, employability, and economic insecurity that workers generally experienced during this period, making these job characteristics generally more difficult to attain. Groups most vulnerable to job, employability, and economic insecurity—such as less educated workers and blacks—were most apt to place high importance on income and security. Differences in rankings between men and women, blacks and nonblacks, and college and high school graduates remained fairly stable over this period.
Married men’s wage premium is often attributed to within-household specialization: men can devote more effort to wage-earning when their wives assume responsibility for household labor. We provide a comprehensive evaluation of the specialization hypothesis, arguing that, if specialization causes the male marriage premium, married women should experience wage losses. Furthermore, specialization by married parents should augment the motherhood penalty and the fatherhood premium for married as compared to unmarried parents. Using fixed-effects models and data from the NLSY79, we estimate within-gender differences in wages according to marital status and between-gender differences in the associations between marital status and wages. We then test whether specialization on time use, job traits, and tenure accounts for the observed associations. Results for women do not support the specialization hypothesis. Childless men and women both receive a marriage premium. Marriage augments the fatherhood premium but not the motherhood penalty. Changes in own and spousal employment hours, job traits, and tenure appear to benefit both married men and women, although men benefit more. Marriage changes men’s labor market behavior in ways that augment wages, but these changes do not appear to occur at the expense of women’s wages.
Waging war has historically been an almost exclusively male endeavor, yet over the past several decades women have joined insurgent armies in significant and surprising numbers. Why do women become guerrilla insurgents? What experiences do they have in guerrilla armies? And what are the long-term repercussions of this participation for the women themselves and the societies in which they live?
Women in War answers these questions while providing a rare look at guerrilla life from the viewpoint of rank-and-file participants. Using data from 230 in-depth interviews with men and women guerrillas, guerrilla supporters, and non-participants in rural El Salvador, Women in War investigates why some women were able to channel their wartime actions into post-war gains, and how those patterns differ from the benefits that accrued to men. By accounting for these variations,Women in War helps resolve current, polarized debates about the effects of war on women, and by extension, develops our nascent understanding of the effects of women combatants on warfare, political violence, and gender systems.
Past research that asserts a fatherhood wage premium often ignores the heterogeneity of fathering contexts. I expect fatherhood to produce wage gains for men if it prompts them to alter their behavior in ways that increase labor-market productivity. Identity theory predicts a larger productivity-based fatherhood premium when ties of biology, co-residence with the child, and marriage to the child’s mother reinforce one another, making fatherhood, and the role of financial provider in particular, salient, high in commitment, and clear. Employer discrimination against fathers in less normative family structures may also contribute to variation in the fatherhood premium. Using fixed-effects models and data from the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79), I find that married, residential, biological fatherhood is associated with wage gains of about 4 percent, but unmarried residential fathers, nonresidential fathers, and stepfathers do not receive a fatherhood premium. Married residential fathers also receive no statistically significant wage premium when their wives work full-time. About 15 percent of the wage premium for married residential fathers can be explained by changes in human capital and job traits.
What is the impact of three decades of neoliberal narratives and policies on communities and individual lives? What are the sources of social resilience? This book offers a sweeping assessment of the effects of neoliberalism, the dominant feature of our times. It analyzes the ideology in unusually wide-ranging terms as a movement that not only opened markets but also introduced new logics into social life, integrating macro-level analyses of the ways in which neoliberal narratives made their way into international policy regimes with micro-level analyses of the ways in which individuals responded to the challenges of the neoliberal era. The book introduces the concept of social resilience and explores how communities, social groups, and nations sustain their well-being in the face of such challenges. The product of ten years of collaboration among a distinguished group of scholars, it integrates institutional and cultural analysis in new ways to understand neoliberalism as a syncretic social process and to explore the sources of social resilience across communities in the developed and developing worlds.
This essay reviews and evaluates recent comparative social science scholarship on healthcare systems. We focus on four of the strongest themes in current research: (1) the development of typologies of healthcare systems, (2) assessment of convergence among healthcare systems, (3) problematization of the shifting boundaries of healthcare systems, and (4) the relationship between healthcare systems and social inequalities. Our discussion seeks to highlight the central debates that animate current scholarship and identify unresolved questions and new opportunities for research. We also identify five currents in contemporary sociology that have not been incorporated as deeply as they might into research on healthcare systems. These five missed turns include an emphasis on social relations, culture, postnational theory, institutions, and causal mechanisms. We conclude by highlighting some key challenges for comparative research on healthcare systems.
In comparison to the heated debate over the origins of trust in political institutions, few studies have empirically examined the linkage between trust in political and nonpolitical institutions at the individual level. In this study, we utilize a two-step methodology to investigate attitudes toward the government in the broader context of attitudes toward related nonpolitical institutions in South Korea. Results from latent class analysis reveal that political trust is an integrated part of a more general set of attitudes toward social and economic institutions. In addition, results from multinomial logistic regression analysis corroborate past studies that found a positive relationship between perceptions of institutional performance and trust in institutions while partially supporting theories advocating the importance of interpersonal trust for institutional trust. This study points to the possibility of interpersonal trust “spilling up” to trust in institutions and the likelihood that trust in one institution “spills over” to trust in other related institutions.
In a context of increasing globalization and neoliberal restructuring and with labor's power diminishing vis-à-vis employers, American workers have turned in recent years to community-based campaigns targeting local government. These mobilizations have received considerable attention from scholars who see this emerging community orientation as a significant strategic innovation. This study, alternatively, focuses on the subjective and ideological consequences of such mobilizations for those engaged in protest. In particular, it seeks to extend social movement theory regarding the transformative impact of collective action by asking: how do distinct forms of collective action bring about particular kinds of consciousness and identity among participants?
Scholars rooted in a variety of traditions – from theorists of “post-industrial” society and “new” social movements to state theorists and geographers – have suggested that identities fostered at the local level are characterized by a “defensive,” “introverted,” or “retrospective” quality. This study examines a local mobilization, the case of a living wage campaign in Chicago, which deviates from these expectations. Through an analysis of interviews with participants, I find that instead of spurring defensiveness the campaign engendered a citizenship identity that was both active and inclusive. In explaining why my findings diverge from existing theories of identity formation, my analysis highlights three conceptual deficiencies in the literature with respect to (1) the distinction between local versus transnational collective action, (2) the relationship between social movement goals/tactics and outcomes, and (3) the prioritization of “new” social movements over the labor movement. Examining the citizenship identities that developed during Chicago's living wage campaign is instructive, finally, for understanding the sources of counter-hegemonic subjectivity within a broader context of eroding citizenship rights and a dominant market fundamentalist ideology. More generally, this analysis paves the way for a more productive engagement among theories of social movements, citizenship, labor, and globalization.
Economic insecurity describes the risk of economic loss faced by workers and households as they encounter the unpredictable events of social life. Our review suggests a four-part framework for studying the distribution and trends in these economic risks. First, a focus on households rather than workers captures the microlevel risk pooling that can smooth income flows and stabilize economic well-being. Second, insecurity is related to income volatility and the risk of downward mobility into poverty. Third, adverse events such as unemployment, family dissolution, or poor health commonly trigger income losses. Fourth, the effects of adverse events are mitigated by insurance relationships provided by government programs, employer benefits, and the informal support of families. Empirical research in these areas reveals high levels of economic insecurity among low-income households and suggests an increase in economic insecurity with the growth in economic inequality in the United States.
We motivate future neighborhood research through a simple model that considers youth educational outcomes as a function of neighborhood context, neighborhood exposure, individual vulnerability to neighborhood effects, and non-neighborhood educational inputs -- with a focus on effect heterogeneity. Research using this approach would require three steps. First, researchers would need to shift focus away from broad theories of neighborhood effects and examine the specific mechanisms through which the characteristics of a neighborhood might affect an individual. Second, neighborhood research would need new and far more nuanced data. Third, more research designs would be needed that can unpack the causal effects, if any, of specific neighborhood characteristics as they operate through well-specified mechanisms. http://www.nber.org/papers/w16055
For over fifty years numerous public intellectuals and social theorists have insisted that community is dead. Some would have us believe that we act solely as individuals choosing our own fates regardless of our surroundings, while other theories place us at the mercy of global forces beyond our control. These two perspectives dominate contemporary views of society, but by rejecting the importance of place they are both deeply flawed. Based on one of the most ambitious studies in the history of social science, Great American City argues that communities still matter because life is decisively shaped by where you live.
To demonstrate the powerfully enduring impact of place, Robert J. Sampson presents here the fruits of over a decade’s research in Chicago combined with his own unique personal observations about life in the city, from Cabrini Green to Trump Tower and Millennium Park to the Robert Taylor Homes. He discovers that neighborhoods influence a remarkably wide variety of social phenomena, including crime, health, civic engagement, home foreclosures, teen births, altruism, leadership networks, and immigration. Even national crises cannot halt the impact of place, Sampson finds, as he analyzes the consequences of the Great Recession and its aftermath, bringing his magisterial study up to the fall of 2010.
Following in the influential tradition of the Chicago School of urban studies but updated for the twenty-first century, Great American City is at once a landmark research project, a commanding argument for a new theory of social life, and the story of an iconic city.
Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast of the United States in August 2005, exposed area residents to trauma and extensive property loss. However, little is known about the long-run effects of the hurricane on the mental health of those who were exposed. This study documents long-run changes in mental health among a particularly vulnerable group-low income mothers-from before to after the hurricane, and identifies factors that are associated with different recovery trajectories. Longitudinal surveys of 532 low-income mothers from New Orleans were conducted approximately one year before, 7-19 months after, and 43-54 months after Hurricane Katrina. The surveys collected information on mental health, social support, earnings and hurricane experiences. We document changes in post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), as measured by the Impact of Event Scale-Revised, and symptoms of psychological distress (PD), as measured by the K6 scale. We find that although PTSS has declined over time after the hurricane, it remained high 43-54 months later. PD also declined, but did not return to pre-hurricane levels. At both time periods, psychological distress before the hurricane, hurricane-related home damage, and exposure to traumatic events were associated with PTSS that co-occurred with PD. Hurricane-related home damage and traumatic events were associated with PTSS without PD. Home damage was an especially important predictor of chronic PTSS, with and without PD. Most hurricane stressors did not have strong associations with PD alone over the short or long run. Over the long run, higher earnings were protective against PD, and greater social support was protective against PTSS. These results indicate that mental health problems, particularly PTSS alone or in co-occurrence with PD, among Hurricane Katrina survivors remain a concern, especially for those who experienced hurricane-related trauma and had poor mental health or low socioeconomic status before the hurricane.
The question of race lies at the heart of one of the great debates of American ideas and scholarly discourse. At one end of this debate we can find those who argue for the American Liberal Tradition. At its core this position maintains that American institutions, values, and culture are deeply liberal. As such, the nation is destined to adopt a broadly expansive and inclusive sense of who belongs and is worthy of respect. Under this perspective, the United States will eventually and inevitably transcend the divisions of race and black–white inequality that marred the nation's founding, arriving ultimately at a place of full comity between blacks and whites. Several variants and exemplars of the argument exist. For example, sociologist Nathan Glazer made the case for one prominent version of this argument that he termed “the American ethnic pattern.” This view has three core claims. First, that people from the world over would be allowed to enter the United States. And, furthermore, that “all citizens would have equal rights. No group would be considered subordinate to another.” Second, that the government would not extend formal and distinctive political recognition and rights to separate ethnic groups. Third, however, that no ethnic group would be compelled to give up its distinctive cultural traditions and practices.