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:

Michael T. Hannan: Stanford University. Email:

  • 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:

Jeremy Freese: Northwestern University. Email:

David McElhattan: Northwestern University. Email:

  • 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 Sørensen, 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:

Yu Xie: Department of Sociology, University of Michigan and Peking University. Email:

  • 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 Sørensen, 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:

  • 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 Sørensen, 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:

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

  • 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 Sørensen, Delia Baldassarri
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a16

Finding Cultural Holes: How Structure and Culture Diverge in Networks of Scholarly Communication

Daril A. Vilhena, Jacob G. Foster, Martin Rosvall, Jevin D. West, James Evans, Carl T. Bergstrom

Sociological Science, June 9, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a15

Divergent interests, expertise, and language form cultural barriers to communication. No formalism has been available to characterize these “cultural holes.” Here we use information theory to measure cultural holes and demonstrate our formalism in the context of scientific communication using papers from JSTOR. We extract scientific fields from the structure of citation flows and infer field-specific cultures by cataloging phrase frequencies in full text and measuring the relative efficiency of between-field communication. We then combine citation and cultural information in a novel topographic map of science, mapping citations to geographic distance and cultural holes to topography. By analyzing the full citation network, we find that communicative efficiency decays with citation distance in a field-specific way. These decay rates reveal hidden patterns of cohesion and fragmentation. For example, the ecological sciences are balkanized by jargon, whereas the social sciences are relatively integrated. Our results highlight the importance of enriching structural analyses with cultural data.

Daril A. Vilhena: Department of Biology, University of Washington. E-mail:

Jacob G. Foster: Department of Sociology, University of California-Los Angeles. E-mail:

Martin Rosvall: Department of Physics, University of Umea. E-mail:

Jevin D. West: Information School, University of Washington. E-mail:

James Evans: Department of Sociology, University of Chicago. E-mail:

Carl T. Bergstrom: Department of Biology, University of Washington. E-mail:

  • Citation: Vilhena, Daril A., Jacob G. Foster, Martin Rosvall, Jevin D. West, James Evans, and Carl T. Bergstrom. 2014. “Finding Cultural Holes: How Structure and Culture Diverge in Networks of Scholarly Communication.” Sociological Science 1: 221-238.
  • Received: December 20, 2013
  • Accepted: February 8, 2014
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Delia Baldassarri
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a15

High Stakes in the Classroom, High Stakes on the Street: The Effects of Community Violence on Student’s Standardized Test Performance

Patrick Sharkey, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Johanna Lacoe

Sociological Science, May 27, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a14

This article examines the effect of exposure to violent crime on students’ standardized test performance among a sample of students in New York City public schools. To identify the effect of exposure to community violence on children’s test scores, we compare students exposed to an incident of violent crime on their own blockface in the week prior to the exam to students exposed in the week after the exam. The results show that such exposure to violent crime reduces performance on English language arts assessments and has no effect on math scores. The effect of exposure to violent crime is most pronounced among African Americans and reduces the passing rates of black students by approximately 3 percentage points.

Patrick Sharkey: Department of Sociology, New York University.

Amy Ellen Schwartz: Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, New York University.

Ingrid Gould Ellen: Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, New York University.

Johanna Lacoe: Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California.

  • Citation: Sharkey, Patrick, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Ingrid Gould Ellen, and Johanna Lacoe. 2014. “High stakes in the classroom, high stakes on the street: The effects of community violence on students’ standardized test performance.” Sociological Science 1: 199-220.
  • Received: October 29, 2013
  • Accepted: December 20, 2013
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Stephen L. Morgan
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a14

Asymmetries in Experiential and Vicarious Feedback: Lessons from the Hiring and Firing of Baseball Managers

David Strang, Kelly Patterson

Sociological Science, May 12, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a13

We examine experiential and vicarious feedback in the hiring and firing of baseball managers. Realized outcomes play a large role in both decisions; the probability that a manager will be fired is a function of the team’s win–loss record, and a manager is quicker to be rehired if his teams had won more in the past. There are substantial asymmetries, however, in the fine structure of the two feedback functions. The rate at which managers are fired is powerfully shaped by recent outcomes, falls with success and rises with failure, and adjusts for history-based expectations. By contrast, hiring reflects a longer-term perspective that emphasizes outcomes over the manager’s career as well as the most recent campaign, rewards success but does not penalize failure, and exhibits no adjustment for historical expectations. We explain these asymmetries in terms of the disparate displays of rationality that organizations enact in response to their own outcomes versus those of others. Experiential feedback is conditioned by a logic of accountability, vicarious feedback by a logic of emulation.

David Strang: Cornell University. E-mail:

Kelly Patterson: University of Southern California. E-mail:

  • Citation: Strang, David and Kelly Patterson. 2014. “Asymmetries in Experiential and Vicarious Feedback: Lessons from the Hiring and Firing of Baseball Managers.” Sociological Science 1: 178-198.
  • Received: October 9, 2013
  • Accepted: October 14, 2013
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Olav Sorenson
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a13

Job Mobility and the Great Recession: Wage Consequences by Gender and Parenthood

Youngjoo Cha

Sociological Science, May 2, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a12

This study examines how inter-organizational mobility affects earnings inequality based on gender and parenthood under different macroeconomic conditions. Fixed effects regression analysis of Survey of Income and Program Participation data from 2004 to 2012 shows that earnings growth after quitting jobs for work-related reasons (e.g., to improve one’s job situation) is greater for women than for men pre-recession, but the trend is driven by childless women, and mothers of children under six benefit the least among all groups of workers. However, this motherhood wage penalty disappears in the 2008 recession, as a result of the decline of wage returns to mobility for childless women. The analysis also shows that across economic conditions, the rate of layoffs or displacement is higher among men than women, but once laid off, women experience greater earnings losses than men. No motherhood penalty is found for this mobility type. These findings help us understand the longitudinal process by which the motherhood wage penalty is generated, and conditions under which a motherhood-based or gender-based wage gap becomes more pronounced.

Youngjoo Cha: Indiana University. E-mail:

  • Citation: Cha, Youngjoo. 2014. “Job Mobility and the Great Recession: Wage Consequences by Gender and Parenthood.” Sociological Science 1: 159-177.
  • Received: October 31, 2013
  • Accepted: January 19, 2014
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Olav Sorenson
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a12

Unintended Consequences: Effects of Paternal Incarceration on Child School Readiness and Later Special Education Placement

Anna R. Haskins

Sociological Science, April 21, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a11

Though sociologists have examined how mass incarceration affects stratification, remarkably little is known about how it shapes educational disparities. Analyzing the Fragile Families Study and its rich paternal incarceration data, I ask whether black and white children with fathers who have been incarcerated are less prepared for school both cognitively and non-cognitively as a result, and whether racial and gendered disparities in incarceration help explain the persistence of similar gaps in educational outcomes and trajectories. Using a variety of estimation strategies, I show that experiencing paternal incarceration by age five is associated with lower non-cognitive school readiness. While the main effect of incarceration does not vary by race, boys with incarcerated fathers have substantially worse non-cognitive skills at school entry, impacting the likelihood of special education placement at age nine. Mass incarceration facilitates the intergenerational transmission of male behavioral disadvantage, and because of the higher exposure of black children to incarceration, it also plays a role in explaining the persistently low achievement of black boys.

Anna R Haskins: Columbia Populations Research Center, Columbia University. E-mail:

  • Citation: Haskins, Anna R. 2014. “Unintended Consequences: Effects of Paternal Incarceration on Child School Readiness and Later Special Education Placement.” Sociological Science 1: 141-158.
  • Received: February 3, 2014
  • Accepted: February 12, 2014
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Sarah A. Soule
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a11