Americans love crime. The criminal justice system is fetishized in popular culture and news media. We watch the news and scour the Internet to assess our own moral compass, take cues from others' digressions, and bear witness to justice and punishment. Historically, we learned about crime through news media and fiction. The Internet has dramatically changed this landscape: for the first time, mug shots and jailhouse rosters are available with a click.
Despite significant public, political, and media attention to the issue of criminal violence in the United States, we know surprisingly little about the trends in violent crime for different racial/ethnic groups in recent decades. For example, what are the disparities in homicide between whites, African Americans, and Hispanics? Have these disparities changed over the past 20 years? If so, why? This lack of knowledge is largely due to data limitations, as ethnic identifiers are rarely collected in many official crime statistics.
ASA speaks with sociologist Christopher Dum at the 2016 ASA Annual Meeting on August, 2016, in Seattle, WA. Dum talks about what it means to “do sociology,” how he uses sociology in his work, highlights of his work in the field, the relevance of sociological work to society, and his advice to students interested in entering the field.
In 1996, Congress overhauled welfare policy to promote work, marriage, and responsible fatherhood for American families living in poverty. This led to the creation of the federal Healthy Marriage Initiative—often referred to as marriage promotion policy—which has spent almost $1 billion since 2002 to fund hundreds of relationship and marriage education programs.
The fight over campus speech has a long history, but recent events suggest it is at least as vitriolic as ever. Headlines are illustrative of how volatile campuses can be with mass protests leading to cancellations of speeches by invited speakers and threats made against academics such as Johnny Williams, a sociology professor at Trinity College. What constitutes acceptable speech on campus? When does it become hate speech? What rights should and do professors, students, and invited speakers have?
With access to more personal data than ever before, police have the power to solve crimes more quickly, but in practice, the influx of information tends to amplify existing practices, according to sociological research at the University of Texas at Austin.
Despite having only about 5 percent of the world's population, the United States was the attack site for a disproportionate 31 percent of public mass shooters globally from 1966-2012, according to research presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA).
by Julie Wiest, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Contemporary Philadelphia is known for many things: cheesesteaks, cream cheese, the Rocky movie franchise, that Always Sunny television show, and its many universities. In scholarly circles, it’s renowned as the cradle of American history. But the city—the site of the upcoming ASA 2018 annual meeting—is perhaps less known for its longstanding influence on criminal justice systems worldwide.