Virtual Coffee Hours
* No registration needed, just click the "Zoom Link" of each meeting.
August 6, 2021 at 10 am (Central) / 11 am (Eastern)
Informal session for those who are new to problem-solving
"Introduction to Problem-Solving Sociology" (Zoom Link)
This session is for those new to problem-solving. We will discuss the basic approach, and consider various objections to it. More experienced problem-solvers are also welcome to participate and discuss their own experiences
August 7, 2021 at 3:15-4:40 pm (Central) / 4:15-5:40 pm (Eastern)
Thematic Session at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association
"(How) Should Sociology Solve Problems?" (Zoom Link: TBA)
Session organizer and presider: Monica Prasad
Fred Block (University of California-Davis)
John Levi Martin (University of Chicago)
Isaac Ariail Reed (University of Virginia)
Mariana Zaloznaya (University of Iowa)
Currently, we plan for Fall Coffee Hours. If you are interested, please read "How do I sign up" at the bottom of this page.
May 28, 2021 at 3-4 pm (Central)
Virtual Coffee Hour with Jeremy Levine, Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies and Sociology (by courtesy) at the University of Michigan.
"Protecting Places or Punishing Offenders?: Moral Economies, Political Legacies, and U.S. Crime Victim Policy" (Zoom Link)
In the mid- to late 1960s, federal lawmakers confronted an unprecedented crime problem. Violent crime rates were increasing, and urban rebellions resulted in significant property destruction across the country. Scholars have largely studied this period as a critical turning point in the development of punitive criminal justice policy. A comparatively understudied development was the emergence of crime victim policy. Two distinct policy paths emerged, one focused on financial compensation for victims with bodily injuries, and another focused on affordable insurance for property crime victims. In both cases, racist understandings of criminality infused seemingly race-neutral policy design decisions. The result was a reflection and refraction of racist criminal justice policy under the guise of benefits for crime victims. These institutional configurations set the crime victims’ movement down a particularly punitive path, with important implications for victims’ services and support for punishment.
May 7, 2021 at 3-4:30 pm (Central)
RUTH MILKMAN (City University of New York) will discuss the decline of unions as a cause of the decline of the working class, and explore the prospects for rebuilding unions.
JOHN ROBINSON (Washington University in St. Louis) will discuss the role of affordable housing reform in rebuilding the American working class, with emphasis on reimagining the public role in housing finance.
LEAH RUPPANNER (University of Melbourne) will focus on the role of childcare in rebuilding the working class.
LAUREN SCHUDDE (University of Texas-Austin) will discuss the need for re-investment in public higher education, with an explicit focus on broad-access institutions that educate the majority of college-goers in the United States.
STEPHANIE TERNULLO (University of Chicago) will argue that labor’s integration into local politics is a crucial mechanism by which communities can come to understand their problems as structural rather than individual and develop political identities around this understanding.
April 16, at 3-4 pm (Central)
Virtual Coffee Hour with Alonso Aravena, Ph.D. student at Baylor University
"A case for Social Equity: How equal funding for low-income students can disprove biased narratives and improve Class and Gender Disparities in Higher Education" (Zoom Link)
A college degree is usually seen as a driver of social mobility, while not being a sufficient marker to guarantee access to the workforce. Using data in modernized developing countries, sociologists are able to shed some light on debates about Higher Education. The Chilean Congress passed in 2015 an educational reform that provided funding for any student from the 50% lowest income households in the country who was enrolled at a public university or a high-quality private one. Despite its developed status in Latin America, Chilean education has been plagued with income-based and gendered segregation for decades. Using population data, my research has focused on two biased narratives. The first one says that the reform would only benefit a small number of low-income students, since they do not usually qualify for top universities. Expensive private high schools are in fact overrepresented at universities, but my research suggests this is a self-fulfilled prophecy built on financial segregation. The second biased narrative is the notion that even though more women go to college than men, they choose to self-exclude from higher prestige and higher rewarding majors, also attending lower quality institutions. Longitudinal analyses for the past 5 years provide evidence against both narratives, suggesting that providing equal benefits can improve gender parity, even within STEM majors.
April 2, 2021 at 3-4 pm (Central)
Virtual Coffee Hour with Berenike Firestone, Ph.D. candidate and Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow at Columbia University.
"Political Socialization during Historical Turning Points: Perceptions of the “German Fatherland” by School Students in Post-WWII Germany" (Zoom Link)
Parents and teachers are instrumental in shaping the political socialization of children and youth. In post-WWII West Germany, the Allies and subsequently the new German political elites sought to use schools to educate a new generation of democratic citizens. At the same time, many parents still embraced fascist ideology. How did these conflicting socialization forces – at school versus home – inform the perspectives of students regarding identity and belonging? In this paper, I analyze an archival collection of 69 school student essays about the meaning of the “German fatherland” from the mid-1950s. To what extent did students draw on fascist “blood and soil” narratives and language? In which ways did their writing reflect the content of new curricula and textbooks that sought to teach more inclusive notions of belonging? How did the students tie their analyses to recent history, and which themes and events did they emphasize? Preliminary findings point to the predominance of themes around territory, land, and nature, as well as physical labor and work ethos.
March 19, 2021 at 3pm (Central)
Virtual Coffee Hour with Marina Zaloznaya, Associate Professor at the University of Iowa.
"How Sociology Can Help Solve Public Sector Corruption" (Zoom Link)
February 19, 2021 at 3pm (Central)
Virtual Coffee Hour with Ji-won Lee, Ph.D. Candidate at University at Albany, SUNY
"Standardizing Private Schools, a Remedy for Educational Inequality and/or Source of Hyper Education?" (Zoom Link)
Discussions of educational reform presume that private schools are engines of social inequality. Private schools are often viewed to be a place reproducing social disparities in academic achievement and credentials, and thus policy efforts supporting educational equity tend to focus on expanding the public education sector. However, despite private schools’ stratifying tendencies, policymakers sometimes prefer regulating and negotiating with private schools to nurturing public institutions. In the case of Korea, such negotiations have been present since the 1950s. What is notable is that the government imposed various and robust standardization policies on private schools that were not conditioned on providing sufficient subsidies, resulting in mixed consequences. For example, the Korean state was able to build a comparatively equal K-12 education system without compromising its overall competency. However, many social pundits have criticized that standardization has amplified educational competition among students and their parents and reduced their interest in demanding a welfare state. How did the Korean government enact these standardization policies? Is this policy path reproducible and desirable in other countries? How can we measure the “negative” impact of standardization policies at the macrosocial level? How can the US sociological literature on educational inequality and welfare policymaking help us to understand the Korean education system and solve its problem?
February 5, 2021 at 3pm (Central)
Virtual Coffee Hour with Rourke O'Brien, Assistant Professor at Yale University.
"Robots Don’t Pay Taxes: Deindustrialization and Fiscal Decline" (Zoom Link)
Abstract: Structural shifts in the U.S. economy have led to a dramatic decline in manufacturing employment over the past five decades. Recent estimates suggest more than 700,000 manufacturing jobs were lost between 1990 and 2014 due to automation alone. Existing research details the lasting negative effects of deindustrialization on the material well-being of displaced workers and their families--but what about their communities? In this study we examine the effect of deindustrialization on state and local public finances. Harnessing plausibly exogenous variation in the adoption of robots by industry sector, we estimate the causal effect of automation-driven manufacturing job loss on public sector revenues and expenditures at both the state and local levels.
January 29, 2021 at 3pm (Central)
"Wide Ponds and Narrow Barrels: How Community Organizing and Local Recruitment Strategies Shape Partisan Tendencies Among American Libertarians"
Social scientists have long identified two parallel trends in American society: a decline in local civic engagement, and a rise in political polarization. While these trends have been thoroughly investigated, the relations between them remain under debate. This study shows how changing forms of local organizing play a key role in shaping political actors’ understanding of politics and, accordingly, their partisan tendencies. The paper draws on four years of participant-observation and twelve guided focus-group discussions with two American libertarian groups. Findings show how differences in groups’ style of civic organization, and especially in the way members understand the bonds between them, directly correspond with differences in activists’ adoption of partisan frames of ideological commitments and political action. Specifically, the differences in the type of bonds between members create distinct constraints on local political organizers as they recruit volunteers for political projects. When members understand the bonds between them as communal, organizers are forced to diversify their pool of potential volunteers and organize political projects based on diverse, bipartisan coalitions. On the other hand, when members understand their bonds as rooted in shared ideological convictions, as in advocacy-group organizing, organizers can rely on a politically narrow, highly committed group of volunteers for organizing various political action. These differences create different active political spheres in each group, which correspond with the meanings members attribute to civic participation, and their understanding of politics in general, with community-style of civic organizing working to alleviate partisan identifications and animosity among members. As these findings suggest, changes in local forms of civic organizing should be a key factor in future explanations of rising political polarization.
December 4, 2020 at 3pm (Central)
Virtual Coffee Hour with Jenny Melo, PhD Candidate at the University of Missouri.
"Socio-ethical implications of Digital Agricultural Technologies in Latin America"
Digital agricultural technologies —involving sensors, drones, and robots, and technologies such as blockchain, internet of things, and artificial intelligence, both creating and using massive amounts of data— are being promoted across the globe with the promise to transform how food is produced and commercialized. Potential benefits are high, so are the risks for small farmers. Scholars are calling for empirical explorations of socio-ethical implications to better understand the specific consequences of these technologies, how they are unpacked and configurated in different contexts, and various trajectories. This exploratory qualitative study addresses these needs by bringing insights from two underrepresented actors –promoters of digital agricultural technologies and purpose-driven or triple-impact technological entrepreneurs— and an overlooked context —Latin America. It shows the perspectives of individuals and organizations supporting the expansion of these technologies —promoters— or unfolding business initiatives trying to achieve economic, social, and environmental objectives —triple-impact entrepreneurs. In particular, it addresses their views on digital technology opportunities, complexities, and unforeseen impacts on small farmers. The results show concerns on social implications revolve mostly around access —how to develop low-cost technology and service models reaching small farmers. Furthermore, there is little awareness yet of the complex intersection between the double-edged sword that technology is, and the unequal social structure of the region. I argue that to address this lack of awareness, a scholarship digging more in-depth on how these technologies are being deployed has to go hand in hand with an engagement with the current conversations and actions held by policymakers and practitioners across the region.
November 30, 2020 at 4pm (Central)
November 20, 2020 at 3pm (Central)
Virtual Coffee Hour with Andrew Messamore, PhD Candidate at the University of Texas at Austin.
"Elite Consolidation Among Community Based Organizations: on the consolidation of interlocking boards of directors"
In U.S. cities, community-based organizations (CBOs) are the primary advocates and service providers for many social service domains. However, even as governments and neighborhoods continue to rely on CBOs, an emerging literature has documented the consolidation of a “civic elite” of asset-rich CBOs across communities who appear less likely to cooperate with grassroots activists and more likely to consolidate ties with funders and one another. This trend has so far been documented through case studies of particular organizations or communities. In this paper, administrative data on CBO boards of directors is leveraged to evaluate whether asset-rich organizations tend to form interlocking directorates with one another across multiple Texas cities, signaling the consolidation of information and resource flows. Social network analyses reveal that interlocking directorates are common and unevenly distributed in Texas cities. Exponential Random Graph Models (ERGMs) are then used to evaluate the micro-mechanisms behind tie formation, revealing that asset-rich organizations do tend to have the most interlocks and strongly tend to build interlocks with one another. This finding is robust to analyses that test for endogeneity by following only new ties between organizations. These results provide an initial test of elite consolidation theory from ethnography and invite future research on mediators of elite entrenchment across communities.
October 9, 2020 at 3pm (Central)
Virtual Coffee Hour with Monica Prasad, Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University.
"The Place of Problem-Solving in American Sociology"
At the level of sociological practice a threefold debate occurs in American sociology between the rationalist tradition, in which the goal is the better understanding of society, the emancipatory tradition, in which the goal is improvement of society, and the skeptical tradition, which argues that we cannot know if either our knowledge or our norms are correct, and therefore it is not possible to expect progress in either. Each of these strands runs into problems: for the rationalist tradition, an inability to cumulate knowledge; for the emancipatory strand, a difficulty in grounding the norms that would determine what counts as emancipation; and for the skeptical strand, inability to accept the logical conclusion of the argument, which is inaction even in the face of extreme oppression. This paper argues that the practice of problem-solving offers resolutions to these dilemmas, developing the idea through a discussion of pragmatism. Pragmatism has attracted some attention within sociology recently, but most sociologists who study pragmatism are not very pragmatist themselves, and have thus missed the opportunity to develop the problem-solving strain of pragmatist thought.
September 18, 2020 at 3pm (Central)
Virtual Coffee Hour with Michael Soto, PhD Candidate at the University of Minnesota.
"Building on your Problem Solving lens after data collection"
The Problem Solving Sociology Workshops have emphasized that the best time to start thinking about research design is before you begin conducting research. But even if you are part of the way through the process, there are still important decisions to make as you begin to analyze your data and write up results. Michael Soto just returned from conducting his dissertation fieldwork in Colombia examining the social reintegration of ex-combatants of the FARC-EP. As a result of the pandemic, this involved an unplanned combination of participant observation, interviews, and Twitter data. He will provide a brief overview of his fieldwork and plans now for analyzing and writing up results.
Past Panel: "How to Rebuild the American Working Class" (05/07/2021)
What is the range of possible topics?
Really anything you can imagine. Some options for you to consider presenting on:
· A work in progress
· A research dilemma you want to share and to get feedback on
· Career advise/strategies for grad students and the early career stage
· A methodological technique or challenge you are working on
· Grants application guide
· A specific empirical case
· Research published you would like to share and discuss
Why should I do it?
Virtual Coffee Hours are a great way to identify and connect with people who share similar interests. It is an opportunity to start a conversation and receive valuable feedback as a presenter or participant. Your profile and proposed topic (2-3 sentences) will be broadcast to the Problem Solving Sociology mailing list. For those who are interested in broader engagement and exposure, we would record and upload the first 10 minutes of the meeting as an audio recording to YouTube, and share it on the website.
Individuals who are interested in your proposed topic will attend the virtual coffee hour and may provide interesting questions, or valuable feedback on your project.
What is a Virtual Coffee Hour?
The Problem Solving Sociology’s Virtual Coffee Hour is a platform for members to present their work, share their experience, and to connect throughout the year in between ASA conferences. We aim to have about four virtual coffees during the year. In each session, a group of people connect for a video conference to have an informal conversation. Typically, we have one person lead the discussion for 10 minutes and then open up the floor for all participants, whether as a Q&A session or a more free-flowing conversation.