Sociological Science: Recent Research


Gabriel Rossman

Sociological Science, Mar 3, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a5
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This article models the implications of innovations being nested within categories. In effect, social actors assess the legitimacy of innovations vis-à-vis conformity to categories such that a sufficiently legitimate innovation may be adopted without direct reference to the behavior of peers. However, when innovations lack categorical legitimacy, actors default to proximately peer-oriented heuristics such as information cascades. Eventually, if enough similarly novel innovations achieve widespread popularity, their conventions will become accepted as a legitimate category. Thus density creates legitimacy, but this density can be at the level of the particular innovation or of the category within which it is embedded.

Gabriel Rossman: University of California, Los Angeles. E-mail: [email protected]

Rossman, Gabriel. 2014. “The Diffusion of the Legitimate and the Diffusion of Legitimacy.” Sociological Science 1: xx-yy.


An Ecology of Social Categories

Elizabeth G. Pontikes, Michael T. Hannan

Sociological Science, August 18, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a20



This article proposes that meaningful social classification emerges from an ecological dynamic that operates in two planes: feature space and label space. It takes a dynamic view of classification, allowing objects’ movements in both spaces to change the meaning of social categories. The first part of the theory argues that agents assign labels to objects based on perceptions of their similarities to existing members of a category. The second part of the theory shows that an object’s perceived similarity to members of other categories reduces its typicality in a focal category. This means that for categories with a high degree of overlap with other categories in label space (lenient categories), the link between feature-based similarities and labeling weakens. The findings suggest that social classification will likely evolve to contain both constraining and lenient categories. The theory implies that this process is self-reinforcing, so that constraining categories become more constraining, whereas lenient categories become more lenient.

Elizabeth G. Pontikes: University of Chicago. E-mail: [email protected]

Michael T. Hannan: Stanford University. Email: [email protected]

  • Citation: Pontkes, Elizabeth G. and Michael T. Hannan. 2014. “An Ecology of Social Categories.” Sociological Science 1: 311-343.
  • Received: April 15, 2014
  • Accepted: May 28, 2014
  • Editors: Olav Sorenson
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a20


Comparing Data Characteristics and Results of an Online Factorial Survey between a Population-Based and a Crowdsource-Recruited Sample

Jill Weinberg, Jeremy Freese, David McElhattan

Sociological Science, August 4, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a19



Compared to older kinds of sample surveys, online platforms provide a fast and low-cost platform for factorial surveys, as well as a more demographically diverse alternative to student samples. Two distinct strategies have emerged for recruitment: using panels based on population-based samples versus recruiting people actively seeking to complete online tasks for money. The latter is much cheaper but prompts various concerns about data quality and generalizability. We compare results of three vignette experiments conducted using the leading online panel that uses a population-based paradigm (Knowledge Networks, now GfK) and the leading platform for crowdsource recruitment (Amazon Mechanical Turk). Our data show that, while demographic differences exist, most notably in age, the actual results of our experiments are very similar, especially once these demographic differences have been taken into account. Indicators of data quality were actually slightly better among the crowdsource subjects. Although more evidence is plainly needed, our results support the accumulating evidence for the promise of crowdsource recruitment for online experiments, including factorial surveys.

Jill D. Weinberg: Northwestern University: American Bar Foundation. E-mail: [email protected]

Jeremy Freese: Northwestern University. Email: [email protected]

David McElhattan: Northwestern Universtity. Email: [email protected]

  • Citation: Weinberg, Jill D., Jeremy Freese, and David McElhattan 2014. “Comparing Data Characteristics and Results of an Online Factorial Survey between a Population-Based and a Crowdsource-Recruited Sample.” Sociological Science 1: 292-310.
  • Received: April 23, 2014
  • Accepted: May 22, 2014
  • Editors: Jesper Sorensen, Delia Baldassarri
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a19


Market Transition Theory Revisited: Changing Regimes of Housing Inequality in China, 1988-2002

Xi Song, Yu Xie

Sociological Science, July 21, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a18



This paper revisits the market transition theory of Nee (1989), using housing as an alternative to income as a measure of socioeconomic attainment. We argue that housing space is a better outcome variable by which to evaluate Nee’s market transition theory because it is a more consistent measure of socioeconomic success than income before and after the economic reform. Using three waves of a national household survey in 1988, 1995, and 2002, we compare temporal changes in the role of market and redistributive determinants for income and housing space. In support of a weak form of the theory, our results show that market determinants replaced redistributive determinants over time as the most significant predictors of housing space. In contrast, parallel analyses of income show mixed results for market and redistributive determinants.

Xi Song: Department of Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles. E-mail: [email protected]

Yu Xie: Department of Sociology, University of Michigan and Peking University. Email: [email protected]

  • Citation: Song, Xi and Yu Xie 2014. “Market Transition Theory Revisited: Changing Regimes of Housing Inequality in China, 1988-2002.” Sociological Science 1: 277-291.
  • Received: May 7, 2014
  • Accepted: June 3, 2014
  • Editors: Jesper Sorensen, Kim Weeden
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a18


Friend Effects and Racial Disparities in Academic Achievement

Jennifer Flashman

Sociological Science, July 7, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a17



Racial disparities in achievement are a persistent fact of the US educational system. An often cited but rarely directly studied explanation for these disparities is that adolescents from different racial and ethnic backgrounds are exposed to different peers and have different friends. In this article I identify the impact of friends on racial and ethnic achievement disparities. Using data from Add Health and an instrumental variable approach, I show that the achievement characteristics of youths’ friends drive friend effects; adolescents with friends with higher grades are more likely to increase their grades compared to those with lower-achieving friends. Although these effects do not differ across race/ethnicity, given differences in friendship patterns, if black and Latino adolescents had friends with the achievement characteristics of white students, the GPA gap would be 17 to 19 percent smaller. Although modest, this effect represents an important and often overlooked source of difference among black and Latino youth.

Jennifer Flashman: Center for Research on Educational Opportunity, University of Notre Dame. E-mail: [email protected]

  • Citation: Jennifer Flashman. 2014. “Friend Effects and Racial Disparities in Academic Achievement.” Sociological Science 1: 260-276.
  • Received: March 27, 2014
  • Accepted: April 29, 2014
  • Editors: Jesper Sorensen, Stephen L. Morgan
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a17


When Forecasts Fail: Unpredictability in Israeli-Palestinian Interaction

Charles Kurzman, Aseem Hasnain

Sociological Science, June 23, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a16



This article explores the paradox that forecasts may be most likely to fail during dramatic moments of historic change that social scientists are most eager to predict. It distinguishes among four types of shocks that can undermine the predictive power of time series analyses: effect shocks that change the size of the causal effect; input shocks that change the causal variables; duration shocks that change how long a causal effect lasts; and actor shocks that change the number of agents in the system. The significance of these shocks is illustrated in Israeli–Palestinian interactions, one of the contemporary world’s most intensely scrutinized episodes, using vector autogression analyses of more than 15,000 Reuters news stories over the past three decades. The intervention of these shocks raises the prospect that some historic episodes may be unpredictable, even retrospectively.

Charles Kurzman: Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. E-mail: [email protected]

Aseem Hasnain: Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. E-mail: [email protected]

  • Citation:Kurzman, Charles and Aseem Hasnain. 2014. “When Forecasts Fail: Unpredictability in Israeli-Palestinian Interaction.” Sociological Science 1: 239-259.
  • Received: March 7, 2014
  • Accepted: April 23, 2014
  • Editors: Jesper Sorensen, Delia Baldassarri
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a16