Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Thriving Third vs. Everyone Else

I often distinguish between the "fortunate fifth" at the top of the social structure, and everyone else.  

My friend David Blankenhorn argues that the real divide in America is not between the 1% and the 99%, nor between the federal government and everyone else - the favorite division points of the left and the right, respectively.  Instead, he says the real divide is between the top 30% and everyone else.

The top group is likely to have a college education, stable jobs, stable marriages, and avoid self-destructive habits.

Statistically, one could argue well for either cut point.  The central issue is that a sizable minority are doing well, while those below live with increasing uncertainty.

From now on I will talk about the Thriving Third.  This is supportable empirically, and has the advantage of being more hopeful to those in the middle. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Racial Gap in Replying to Church Visitors - PCUSA MORE Likely to Respond to Black Visitors

An interesting study by my friend Brad Wright at the University of Connecticut sent emails to various churches posing as potential visitors to the congregation, using racially distinct names.

Overall, there was a small racial gap: whites were a little more likely to get a response than blacks,  Hispanics, or Asians.

Catholic and Evangelical churches responded to all races equally.  Mainline churches, on the whole, responded more to white inquirers.  Here are just the white and black response rates for the mainline Protestant churches:

ELCA (Lutherans)        75% to 52% [White to black]
United Methodist          66    to 46
Episcopal                      82    to 71
PCUSA (Presbyterian)  48   to 58

The report said there were not enough Presbyterians to do a separate analysis with statistical confidence, so we should take this anomaly with a grain of salt.

Still, the Presbyterians seem not to show a pro-white bias, and, if anything, have a pro-black bias.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pregnancy-Related Deaths Cut Nearly in Half Since 1990 Worldwide

The World Health Organization said there has been a 44% drop in pregnancy-related deaths in the last 15 years.

East Asia has made the biggest progress, where maternal deaths dropped from 95 per 100,000 to only 27/100K.  Even sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest rates of maternal deaths, cut their rates in half.

Reducing maternal mortality is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals adopted by most nations in 2000.  The WHO goal is get down to a worldwide rate of less than 70/100K by 2030.

Monday, November 09, 2015

In the Yale Halloween Costume Controversy, the Sociologists Are Right

There has been a peculiar controversy at Yale about Halloween costumes. Sociologist Nicholas Christakis and his wife Erika encouraged students who were offended by one another's costumes to 
look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society. 
Some students vehemently objected, calling for Christakis to step down as master of Silliman College. In a videotaped confrontation, a student contended to Christakis that  “In your position as master it is your job to create a place of comfort and home for the students who live in Silliman. ... It is not about creating an intellectual space! 

On the substance of the issue, I think the Christakises are entirely right.

I was struck by another feature.  Knowledge class homes try to be places of both comfort and intellectual engagement. Learning how to think critically is one of the aims of the homes of most professors. 

Sunday, November 08, 2015

"My Vote Doesn't Make a Difference" Misunderstands What Makes Democracy Work

People who don't vote in elections because "my vote doesn't make a difference" are committing an individualistic fallacy - one of the great errors that sociology was born to correct.

The great virtue of democracy is that no important issue is decided by just one person.  The collective wisdom corrects the various individual biases - and the broader the group that votes, the more this is so.

Sociology lets us see the big picture - and in the big picture, the individual choice not to vote makes things worse, when aggregated with the millions of other individualists making the same mistake.