Out of the Next and into the Red

The Dynamics of Debt in Young Adulthood

In any newspaper or blog these days, you’re bound to find human interest stories of fresh-faced young adults, newly independent from their parents, and saddled by a mountain of debt they can’t even dream of repaying. The media narrative–think the white college student plagued by $120,000 of student loan and credit card debt—often borders on hyperbole. It skews the reality of how much debt the typical young adult owes.

And while youth indebtedness has received rampant media coverage, there’s been very little solid research tackling this emerging social problem. Evidence from a small group of researchers examining how youth debt has changed over time, how youth indebtedness is linked to social stratification and inequality, and the consequences of debt for young people as they advance through their adult lives can give us a glimpse. The research in this area is nascent, and some of it is contradictory, in large part because access to credit and debt carries an array of costs and benefits, and is influenced by social and structural factors, such as race, class, and education. Debt can surely open doors and create access, but it can also close doors by imposing a long-term burden for debtors and their families.

Three Genderations of Debt

Over the past fifty years, the period known as the “transition to adulthood” has changed dramatically. In the 1960s and ‘70s, young people left the parental home, completed education, got married, and had children, in a relatively quick and orderly fashion. Today’s transition to adulthood is much more complex. Young people are extending their education, delaying marriage and childbearing, and some return to live with relatives. They enter and exit college, cohabitate rather than marry, and take longer periods for “self-discovery” if they are able. While youth must now navigate this increasingly complex transition, they also take on unprecedented financial risk. Whether in the pursuit of a college degree, getting married, buying a home, or simply paying bills and making ends meet, young adults often assume great deal of debt as they leave the nest and set out on their own.

The rise of debt in young adulthood has been driven by a potent mix of policy changes, rising costs, and stagnating incomes. On the supply side, young adults have come of age in an era of easy access to credit. Financial deregulation in the 1970s and ‘80s increased the supply of credit and made debt an extremely profitable business for banks. It was aggressively marketed toward consumers—particularly young adults—which led to a massive increase in household debt and problems with repayment. On the demand side, rising costs—such as the skyrocketing price of college—make credit an appealing option. Since their parents already have debt, young people must take on debt of their own.

In a recent study for Social Problems, I used data from the National Longitudinal Surveys to show how debt has changed across three generations (what we demographers refer to as “cohorts”) of young adults. I focused on people in their mid-twenties—The Early Baby Boomers, who were young adults in the late 1970s; The Late Baby Boomers, who were young adults in the late 1980s; and Generation Y, who are currently in their twenties.

The [graphs] confirm what most laypersons and media reports have suggested—debt has risen. I show mean and median total debt across three cohorts of young adults, adjusted for inflation and basic sociodemographic factors such as socioeconomic status, race, and age. Total debt is the sum of everything from home mortgages, credit cards, and student loans to automobiles and personal loans. Comparing mean and median debt across cohorts, we notice the mean has increased much faster than the median. While the median gives us a good sense of debt in the middle of the distribution, the mean is far more sensitive to extremely high and extremely low debt loads. What this reveals is that much of the growth in debt across cohorts is being driven by an increase in the number of severely indebted young adults. In some ways, it seems the media imagery of the young person beleaguered by extremely high levels of debt is more commonplace today than it was thirty years ago.

To finish reading this special feature, see more graphics on generational debt, and view some suggestions to compliment this piece by Jason Houle, Click Here!

Reproduzindo o gênero binário ativo/passivo
“Reproduzindo o gênero binário ativo/passivo na Target”
(título do post original, retirado do The Society Pages, que foi traduzido e adaptado)

Eric mandou um exemplo que ele viu na seção infantil da Target.

A loja em que ele esteve tinha cinco corredores: cada corredor tinha grandes cartazes na parte superior. Três dos cinco eram focados em meninos e todos eles enfatizavam atividades:

“Quando comer com as mãos vale um grande aplauso.”

“As mãozinhas dele fazem grandes descobertas.”

“Seus joguinhos são imperdíveis.”

Então, garotos fazem coisas (brincam, aprendem a se alimentar sozinhos, descobrem coisas) que merecem a atenção e admiranção dos adultos. E as garotas?

Oh, elas dormem.

“Sua canção de ninar preferida é aquela que seu coração canta.”

“Coloque-a para dormir e seja a estrela de seus sonhos.”

Nota do MachismoChato: Quando exposto dessa forma, fica bem fácil entender a dinâmica que cria a passividade ou a atividade atribuída aos gêneros. Não é natural, é aprendido.
International Christmas of Mystery

The Society Pages (nee is a feminist/social justice blog that does a lot of articles (guest-written or non-) on economic justice, racism, sexism, rape culture, lots of other stuff. Incredibly edifying material for anyone looking to be more… aware of the contexts in society (get it now?).

Anyway, this week they had a post on Christmases around the world. Multiculturalism!

Oh blessed Father, for Christmas this year I would like peace on earth, and for my mother to become healthy once more, and for father to have a good year, and maybe because I think I’ve been a very good girl this year can you maybe see it in your heart to let the pastor untie my hands, because it’s been like two years and the beads are starting to chafe.

Yo dude I just can’t get over how Govind’s eyes don’t close when he passes out, this is creeping me right up a wall. Oh oh write “Maneesh rules” next, and then maybe draw a penis.

“We wish you a merry Christ-mus, we wish you a merry Christ-mus, we wish we had elec-tri-city, and a happy new year!”

Okay, Gush'narl the Ravenous, just use this joystick here to guide the claw-lamps over the humans you want, and when you press this big red button the claw will drop and pick up hopefully the one beneath it. But you have to be careful bringing the claw back to the slot because sometimes they slip out.


Watch on

Femininity: Feared and Reviled

The paradox: masculinity is strength, power, and dominance… but femininity is terrifying. Gender rules insist that men must avoid association with the feminine at all costs because, if they do not, they are weak. They are pussies, bitches, women, girls. Femininity is weakness and yet, oddly, it has the power to strip men of their manliness. It is as if, as sociologist Gwen Sharp once put it, “masculinity is so fragile that apparently even the slightest brush with the feminine destroys it.”

Let’s be clear. The reason he’s afraid of femininity is because it’s reviled. It makes you a woman, which makes you worthless. Which is fine for the ladies, but dudes are advised to avoid personal denigration if at all possible.

Thanks Summer’s Eve, you make my job easy.
Concern for Equality Linked to Logic, Not Emotion » Sociological Images

‘A new study finds that people with high “justice sensitivity” are using logic, not emotions.  Subjects were put in a fMRI machine, one that measures ongoing brain activity and shown videos of people acting kindly or cruelly toward a homeless person.

Some respondents reacted more strongly than others — hence the high versus low justice sensitivity — and an analysis of the high sensitivity individuals’ brain activity showed that they were processing the images in the parts of the brain where logic and rationality live.   “Individuals who are sensitive to justice and fairness do not seem to be emotionally driven,” explained one of the scientists, “Rather, they are cognitively driven.”

Activists aren’t angry, they reasonably object to unjust circumstances that they understand all too well.

You don’t fucking say…

Vendendo flores com sexismo
Em alguns casos, além do produto, a propaganda vende uma ideia de como os relacionamentos “normais" devem ser.

Esse anúncio sugere que a chateação de uma mulher poderia ser resolvida com flores. Esse tipo de ideia desencoraja outra: que exista um real motivo para essa chateação.

Exatamente quão brava ela está?

As mulheres têm sido consideradas criaturas irracionais (foi uma das justificativas para negar-lhes o voto - que não tinham razão suficiente para fazer boas escolhas no governo), assim como as crianças. A chateação de uma criança é facilmente rotulada de imaturidade, como se não tivesse razão de ser, não precisasse ser discutida e nem fosse causada por qualquer atitude.

Este anúncio encoraja a tratar as mulheres da mesma maneira, como se tivessem acabado de ter seus sentimentos feridos e um pouco de consideração melhorasse tudo.

Isso prejudica o status das mulheres em uma variedade de contextos, comunicando que as queixas das mulheres não precisam ser levadas a sério. Este tipo de atitude torna as mulheres menos capazes de estruturar seus ambientes sociais para atender suas necessidades.

Além disso, essa ideia sugere que não importa os interesses de uma mulher, ela vai abandonar essas posições e princípios se você gastar bastante dinheiro. Isso coloca a mulheres como corruptíveis - outra construção para justificar a falta de mulheres em posições de autoridade. Afinal de contas, você gostaria de alguém que é irracional, materialista e corruptível dirigisse a sua empresa? Ou seu governo?

Traduzido e adaptado deste post do The Society Pages
Barrel Chests, Brawn, and Buffoonery: Controlling Images of Masculinity in Pixar Movies » Feminist Reflections

This is definitely a more dense piece to wade through, but it certainly has interesting observations about the portrayal of masculinity in Pixar movies (and also contrasts a bit to Disney – even though they now own Pixar, the studios themselves are still distinct). 

The films in Pixar’s collection show a patterned reliance on controlling images associated with the embodiment of masculinity that shores up the very systems of gender inequality the films are often lauded as challenging.

To be clear, I like these films – and clearly, many of them are a significant step in a new direction. Yet, we continue to implicitly exalt controlling images of masculine embodiment that reiterate gender relations between men and exaggerate gender dimorphism between men and women.

Re-Touching the Consequences of Extreme Thinness

When thinking about the photoshopping process for celebrities, models, and media icons, we’re generally certain that re-touching is used to make models look thinner.
We assume (often correctly) that celebrities really don’t look like they do on the cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine. That they’ve been slimmed down in order to live up to conceptions of beauty.

However, an article written by Lisa Wade, professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles, inverts the re-touching dialogue.

What happens when a celebrity or model is truly and extremely thin? When they’ve ‘succeeded’ in living up to body image standards?

They have to be digitally perfected. Bulkier thighs, hidden rib cages, fuller cheeks…

Read more here.
Where Did “Hispanics” Come From?

Mora describes an alliance that emerged in the 1970s among grassroots activists, Spanish-language broadcasters, and federal officials to define and promote “Hispanic.”

Activists had previously stressed their national origins and operated regionally – notably, Mexicans in the southwest (where the term “Chicano” became popular for a while) and Puerto Ricans in the northeast. But the larger the numbers they could claim by joining together, the more political clout, the more governmental funds, and the more philanthropic support they could claim. Pumping up the numbers was particularly important given their latent competition with African-American activists over limited resources and limited media attention. Some pan-ethnic term promised to yield the biggest count.

Spanish-language television broadcasters, notably Univision, looked to expand their appeal to advertisers by delivering them a national market. Although the broadcasters faced obstacles in appealing to Spanish-language viewers across the country differing significantly in programming tastes and dialects, they managed to amalgamate the audiences by replacing content imported from abroad with content developed in the United States. They could then sell not medium-to-small Mexican-, Cuban-, or Puerto Rican-American audiences to advertisers, but one huge Hispanic-American audience.

Making the term official as a census category helped both activists and entrepreneurs. Previously, the Bureau of the Census classified Latin Americans as whites with distinct national origins, usually poorly measured. The activists pressed the census bureau, as did some politicians, to provide as broad a label as possible and count everyone who might conceivably fit the category, including, for example, the African-origin Dominicans (although not the French-speaking Haitians nor the Portuguese-speaking Brazilians). This pressure led to the 1980 formulation, used ever since, in which the census asks Americans whether or not they are “Hispanic” separately from whether they are white, black, Asian, or Indian.
Protecting (white) women in the bathroom: A history -

With interest, I have been watching the resistance to the right of trans people to choose public restrooms based on their identity instead of their biology at birth. Though there is no evidence that allowing trans people to use the bathroom of their choice will put anyone in danger, one of the arguments against doing so is that women or children will be victimized. Completely tone deaf to the actual experiences of trans people, the idea is nonetheless framed as allowing men to use women’s restrooms.

I can’t help but want to draw connections to history and a recent post at Notches, a history of sexuality blog, helped me do so.

Recall that it wasn’t so long ago that black and white people weren’t allowed to use the same restrooms in public. When this practice came under attack, segregationists in the South, like anti-trans choice advocates today, claimed that it would be dangerous for white women, claiming that they would be infected with black women’s venereal diseases.

White women participated in this resistance, protesting against the integration of their bathrooms. A girl at Central High in Little Rock, AR, for example, claimed that bathroom integration functionally stole bathroom facilities from white girls. “Many of the girls won’t use the rest rooms at Central,” she said, “simply because the ‘Nigger’ girls use them.”

Several decades later, conservatives fighting the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) for women drew again on racism and the politics of the bathroom. They stoked fear in the American public by suggesting that passage of the ERA would lead to the sex integration of bathrooms. Still smarting from the loss of racial segregation, they even compared race and sex segregation, hoping that the public would be opposed to both.
The Beauty Industry: Spending And Routines - Sociological Images

The Beauty Industry: Spending And Routines

Lisa Wade, PhD

on May 15, 2009                                                

According to the Economist, beauty spending–on make-up, diet and exercise, fragrances, skin care, hair products, and cosmetic surgery–adds up to a $160 billion-a-year worldwide.  To illustrate this, Lauren Greenfield calculated the monthly spending of six women and photographed them undergoing their beauty treatments (slideshow here).  Thanks to Karl B. for sending along the link!

26 year-old, Ginger spends $650 a month on her physical appearance. At Manhattan’s store Sephora, Ginger shops alone for cosmetics because her friends know she will spend hours. She is so obsessed with makeup that she founded her own line of cosmetics, Ginger Luxe:

PR-Company owner, Claudine (29) compares prices at Duane Reade drug store in Upper East Side Manhattan. Claudine spends only $80 each month on her personal grooming. Her philosophy is ‘the less stuff I use, the better I look’:

New York City actress Cameron (25) spends $620 a month on her personal grooming. Cameron reveals that her hair is the key to her personality, ‘I spend so much time with my hair-stylists, they’re like my family’:

New York City hedge-fund exec Suzanne (36) spends $1720 a month on personal grooming.  At ‘Skin & Spa’ cosmetic surgery center, Suzanne receives Botox from Dr. Howard Sobel, a treatment that she receives 3 times a year:

25-year-old Manhattan publicist, Laura gets her eyebrows threaded, an Indian technique where hair is pulled out at the roots. Laura spends $145 a month on her personal grooming, but her mother is a hair stylist who cuts and colors Laura’s hair monthly for free:

Fashion company spokeswoman, Jennifer, 27 receives a spray tan at a top New York salon. Jennifer spends $865 on personal grooming, ‘My spa time’s not a splurge-it’s a necessity!’:

For more on beauty and spending, see our posts on the scientizing of beauty products (here, here, and here), our post on how Dove and Axe are in bed together, and this post on the economics of beauty over a lifetime.

Also see Lauren Greenfield’s work on girl culture and photographs of children at a weight loss camp.

“Normative” Marriage in the Fourth Grade Classroom
From Sociology Lens

When I picked my friend’s nine year old daughter up from school last week the first thing she said to me was, “We had to do something really weird in class today. The teacher paired all the girls with a boy and we had to be a married couple.” It turns out the teacher was having her students work on writing dialogue and since it was right before Valentine’s Day she thought it would be cute for them to write dialogue about love and marriage.

“Not all girls want to marry a boy. It was so lame,” my friend’s daughter told me. ‘Lame’ was not really the word that came to my mind; I was more thinking about heteronormativity and how it is reproduced through our social institutions.

My friend’s daughter might not understand the term ‘heteronormativity’ but she is quite aware that not all marriages take place between a man and a woman and there was something short-sighted in only pairing up boys and girls to represent married couples. We live in New York, where gay marriage is legal. She attends a progressive school in a liberal area. One of her best friends has two moms and she has been exposed to a diversity of family arrangement. Therefore, it is not surprising to me that she found the assignment odd. In addition, she’s nine and romance in general is gross.

Within the academy it seems so easy to spot how heteronormativity, racism, classism, and other forms of inequality continue to be produced and reproduced in society. We have read Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” (1989). Many of us have had our undergraduate students do the Power Shuffle exercise. And we have heard countless students share painful and difficult experiences of their personal attempts to challenge the status quo. Inside the ivory towers, especially in disciplines like sociology and gender studies, there is often a safe space to highlight, discuss, and question how institutions reproduce normative behaviors even if they are discriminatory.

Like many individuals living in academia, my social circle is not representative of the larger world. Even so, my mother thought the dialogue exercise was endearing. My sister, an elementary school teacher, told me about dozens of similar exercises where young children were taught math, grammar, spelling, and science while also being socialized to see heterosexual romantic pairs as normative. And my friend, the girl’s mother, agreed that there was something limiting about the exercise but told me she would not have been completely comfortable if the teacher had paired girls with girls and boys with boys and told them to write out romantic dialogue.

At first I felt defeated. How can we ever create an egalitarian society when inequality is so deeply embedded in our cultural institutions? Then I felt motivated. I would focus more on exposing spot how heteronormativity, racism, classism, and other forms of inequality continue to be produced and reproduced in my work, my teaching, and my interaction with other people. Finally, I felt hopeful. My friend’s daughter told me the dialogue exercise was ‘weird.’ She did not say it was ‘gross’ or ‘embarrassing.’ It was weird. And it was weird because she knew that heterosexual marriage was not the only kind of marriage. She knew that family was not necessarily a nuclear family. The world is changing. I could never have imagined an alternative to heterosexual marriage as a fourth grade student but today there are nine year olds who do and that inspires me.

For further reading, click here!
36 Hours, Four Violent Men, and One American Ideology

Omar Mateen’s crime is tied to this sort of masculinity, too. Mateen’s father has already spoken to the media, revealing that his son had previously been angered by the sight of two men kissing. Anti-gay hate crimes, like violence against women (Mateen also reportedly beat his ex-wife), are tied closely to rigid and hierarchical ideas about masculinity. Mass murders have become a distinctly American way for men to defend that hierarchy. As the sociologists Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh Tober write:

This type of rampage violence happens more in the United States of America than anywhere else… Gun control is a significant part of the problem. But, gun control is only a partial explanation for mass shootings in the United States. Mass shootings are also almost universally committed by men. So, this is not just an American problem; it’s a problem related to American masculinity and to the ways American men use guns.

Some segments of the media, of course, will focus on Mateen’s Afghan parents, but he — just like Brock Turner — was born, raised, and made a man right here in America. Early reports say that he had (possibly aspirational) links to ISIS, but this is no way undermines his American-ness. This was terrorism, yes, but it was domestic terrorism: of, by, and aimed at Americans.

I’m not writing this to force us all to keep Turner in the news (though I imagine that he and his father are breathing a perverse sigh of relief right now). I’m writing it to remind us to keep the generalities in mind even as we mourn the particulars. Sociologists are pattern seekers. This problem is bigger than Brock Turner and Omar Mateen. It’s Kevin James Loibl, who sought out and killed the singer Christina Grimmie less than 48 hours ago. It’s the still-unindentified man who was caught with explosives on his way to the Los Angeles Pride Parade this morning. It’s the grotesque list of men who used guns to defend their sense of superiority that I collected last summer.

Let’s mourn and let’s share our sadness. In doing so, let’s keep front-and-center the threads that tie these tragedies together, so that we can perhaps feel a little less helpless. Cultural change is both indescribably difficult and surprisingly easy. It requires massive coordination, but if enough of us decide to disinvest in a toxic ideology, it disappears. Just like that. So, let’s cry. Let’s gnash our teeth. And let’s fight.

Representing the Field: What–and Where–is “Sociology”?
By TSP editor, Doug Hartmann

At the beginning of this academic year, Chris and I set a goal: we wanted The Society Pages to do a better job of representing the field of sociology as a whole. This aim is driven by our sense that the site does a great job in certain areas and specialties (race, gender, and sexuality, for example), but not so much in others. In addition, much of our content tends to be more oriented toward commentary, advocacy, and critique than the facts, empirical data, explanations, and discoveries which are so crucial to the research orientation and contributions of the field. We’ve made some great progress on these fronts, especially with building the topical beat pages (which we will unveil soon), revitalizing the Reading List, and launching the new There’s Research on That! feature. But there is still work to be done. In addition to these innovations—actually, as a supplement to them—we want to push for a renewed emphasis on developing content and material that does a better job of identifying, illustrating, and advocating for distinctly sociological approaches and perspectives to the study of human life.

A lot of what sociologists have to contribute is data and social facts in key societal domains (gender, inequality, etc.) as well as critical commentaries that extend from this work. But sociology is also more than new information and critical analysis in a few topical areas. It is also—as anyone who’s ever had an reasonable introduction to sociology class or heard the term “the sociological imagination” can tell you—a whole way of thinking about the world, an orientation, a unique perspective or lens. Too often, however, the distinctively sociological orientation and set of sensibilities is something we sociologists “know when we see it” but have a hard time specifying, articulating, or elaborating explicitly. This distinctive orientation and set of sensibilities is what we want and need to do a better job of identifying, explaining, and promoting in all of our content.

What follows are a few key elements or dimensions of the distinctively sociological vision of and contribution to society. I’m hoping this list can help us—and others—orient and guide our work both on the site and in the world.

wholistic or synthetic: The sociological perspective doesn’t see social life as separate or discrete parts, but as an entire system or set of relationships; there is a real focus on how things fit and work together, how things are connected, shape, determine, and constrain.

contextualizing: Situating things in a broader social context is a real key for sociology, and it extends from the wholistic or synthetic orientation. People, groups, organizations, ideas, events—none of these exists on its own, in a vacuum. They take shape and meaning in a context, in relation to other phenomenon and forces.

constructionist: In the sociological vision, very little about human life is inevitable, universal, or predetermined. Nothing can really be assumed or taken for granted. This in mind, we are fascinated how social life is made (or constructed), how it is remade and reproduced, and how it can be changed or transformed. Connected with this is our fascination with identifying and explaining both regular patterns and general processes (making the familiar strange, calling commonsense into question, and exploring underlying forces) and accounting for things that are otherwise puzzling or unexpected (making the unfamiliar more intelligible).

collectivist: A focus on the social or communal or collective aspects of social life and social action; groups, networks, and commonalities. Sociology also examines institutions, organizations, social systems—all those things we do together, with others.

attentive: We must be attentive to variation and social and cultural diversity—to outsiders and others who are typically marginalized, disadvantaged, or ignored, and to the unique ways that different people and different groups have of understanding, experiencing, and explaining the world.

critical and questioning: Attention to inequalities and injustices are part of this, but it also includes social problems and all manner of dysfunctions and conflicts. It also involves generally questioning the taken-for-granted and unseen aspects of social life.

It is this distinctive orientation and set of sensibilities that compose the unique sociological perspective that we mean to do a better job of capturing. Our task is to improve our efforts to spot sociology’s unique take, identify sociological research and writing that adheres to and illustrates these core principles and world views, and find ways to bring all of this out on the site.
Why Lesbians and Gay Men Don’t Share Space » Sociological Images

What are the differences between where same-sex female and same-sex male couples live?

First, Same-sex female couples are more likely than their male counterparts to live in rural areas. Ghaziani thinks that “cultural cues regarding masculinity and femininity play a part.” As one interviewee told sociologist Emily Kazyak:

If you’re a flaming gay queen, they’re like, “Oh, you’re a freak, I’m scared of you.” But if you’re a really butch woman and you’re working at a factory, I think [living in the midwest is] a little easier.

If being “butch” is normative for people living in rural environments, lesbians who perform masculinity might fit in better than gay men who don’t.

Second, non-heterosexual women are about three times as likely as non-heterosexual men to be raising a child under 18. Whatever a person’s sexual orientation, parents are more likely to be looking for good schools, safe neighborhoods, and non-postage stamp-sized apartments.

Finally, there’s evidence that gay men price lesbians out. Gay men are notorious for gentrifying neighborhoods, but data shows that lesbians usually get there first. When non-heterosexual men arrive, they accelerate the gentrification, often making it less possible for non-heterosexual women to afford to stay. Thanks to the gender pay gap, times two, women living with women don’t generally make as much money as men living with men.

Or, they might leave because they don’t want to be around so many men. Ghaziani writes:

Gay men are still men, after all, and they are not exempt from the sexism that saturates our society. In reflecting on her experiences in the gay village of Manchester, England, one lesbian described gay men as “quite intimidating. They’re not very welcoming towards women.”