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.
Over seven million Americans are either incarcerated, on probation, or on parole, with their criminal records often following them for life and affecting access to higher education, jobs, and housing. Court-ordered monetary sanctions that compel criminal defendants to pay fines, fees, surcharges, and restitution further inhibit their ability to reenter society. In A Pound of Flesh, sociologist Alexes Harris analyzes the rise of monetary sanctions in the criminal justice system and shows how they permanently penalize and marginalize the poor.
The American Sociological Association (ASA) filed an amicus curiae brief in March, 2015 with the Supreme Court of the United States in the same-sex marriage cases pending before the court. The ASA’s brief highlights the social science consensus that children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well as children raised by different-sex parents.
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.
Debates about science and religion—whether they conflict and how they factor into public opinion, policies, and politics—are of longstanding interest to social scientists. Research in this area often examines how elites use science and religion to justify competing claims. But, how do members of the public more generally incorporate science and religion into their worldviews? The assumption that science and religion inherently conflict with one another has come under increasing scrutiny and recent studies reveal that science and religion are more compatible than previously assumed.
There’s a stark and troubling way that incarceration diminishes the ability of a former inmate to empathize with a loved one behind bars, but existing sociological theories fail to capture it, Vanderbilt University sociologists have found.
"As the United States prepares for the upcoming presidential election, Arlie Hochschild’s essay, “The Ecstatic Edge of Politics: Sociology and Donald Trump,” provides valuable insight into the emotional dynamics that underpin the political perceptions of Trump supporters. Hochschild’s account provides new perspective on the causes of the disenchantment experienced by large sections of the voting population and the particular nature of Donald Trump’s charismatic appeal to them." - Michael Sauder, editor, Contemporary Sociology
In 2013, in Portland, Oregon, the fat positive revolution “got bigger.” A volunteer-run organization called Nolose (National Organization for Lesbians of SizE), centered on ending fat oppression and catalyzing a fat and queer positive culture, organized a conference to continue a conversation of fat acceptance at home and around the world. Part of the conference proceedings was the initiation of a project entitled “I need fat acceptance because…”, a platform on which individuals could express their reasons for needing and supporting a fat acceptance and fat positive ideology.