by Michael Minton, Department of Sociology, University of Oxford.article by Robert Macpherson, Department.Department of Sociological Studies, University College London.article in Journal of Political Economy (2016) vol.44 no. 2 pp. 925-935.doi:10.2307/13747030....
PHILADELPHIA — It’s the perfect day to get your hands dirty with sociology.
The students, some with PhDs, have been getting together to do the very kind of experiments they are paid to do.
The goal of the project is to examine the social, cultural, and economic conditions in different parts of the country in order to figure out what’s causing poverty and inequality.
The group of social scientists, who are mostly women, have spent the past three years doing research at the University of Pennsylvania and the University at Buffalo.
In a nutshell, the students are trying to answer questions like:How many jobs are there in Philadelphia?
Is there a housing crisis in Philadelphia, and what is it that makes Philadelphia such a wealthy place to live?
What are the social issues that drive this inequality?
What is happening to African American women?
What is happening with women of color in this city?
How many people are in prison in Philadelphia now?
What are the ways in which race and gender interact with economic and political power?
“We’re really digging into the roots of the inequality,” said Sara Hensley, the president of Penn State’s Sociology and Social Policy Program, who is working on the project.
The project was spearheaded by sociologist Susan M. Ruhlman, who has conducted research at Penn State and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in New York.
It was developed to understand how the ways that people of different races and ethnicities are affected by the economic and social conditions in Philadelphia.
The participants are not paid, but Hensay said they are working on a grant that will allow them to pay for themselves.
In addition, Henssey said they will be receiving financial support from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other academic organizations.
In an email, Henson said the students have been working for more than two years on the sociological project.
“The social scientists at the university are extremely supportive of the research and have provided invaluable feedback to the program’s design,” she said.
Ruhlmann said the project was inspired by a recent research project by her on how the social class structure of Philadelphia affects the lives of African Americans and women.
“They’re very concerned that the social conditions that we’re describing are not universal,” Ruhman said.
“They’re not just happening in Philadelphia; it’s happening all over the country.”
The social sciences program is not an exclusive group.
The University at Albany and Rutgers University, for example, also have sociological programs.
The Pennsylvania Sociology program is different because it was started in the United States, Ruhler said.
“This project is really the first sociological study that has been conducted in the U.S. in a large enough group to be really representative of the entire country,” Ruehlman said in an email.
What is the economic situation like in Philadelphia today?
Is it a bubble?
Are the housing prices rising?
Are there more people in prison?
How does that impact the lives and work of those who are incarcerated?
“There is a huge gap between the rich and poor in Philadelphia,” Hensy said.
In other words, there are very few people living in poverty in Philadelphia and, in some cases, those living in the most affluent neighborhoods have higher incomes.
The students have already produced some interesting findings, including a study that found that black and Hispanic men earn less than white men in the same job, and that black men who earn less are more likely to be unemployed.
“I think we’re just starting to see how it impacts people, and the consequences are very powerful,” Rühlman added.
It’s not just the socioeconomic inequality that is the subject of the sociologists’ research.
They have also found that some of the people who are in jail are also in poverty.
They have also documented that, in Philadelphia’s affluent neighborhoods, the majority of the residents who are poor are white men.
Is there discrimination against black and Latino women?
There is no data about this, Rührman said, but they are not surprised that many people who work in the city’s financial services and insurance industries have a difficult time getting a mortgage or a job.
“We’ve seen some very clear examples of people who have been in poverty and have been discriminated against,” Ruel said.
Hensley said she hopes that her sociological studies will inform people’s thoughts about how to help the poor.
“The question of whether you should work on a research project that is about inequality or inequality in general is a very important one,” she added.
“It’s a question that people have to answer.”