Monday, June 30, 2008


Hello. Mike asked me to introduce myself. I got so excited about the ideas for the labor movement discussion that I started posting. So, I'm E. Mike asked me to start posting on his blog, because technically it's called "pragmatic idealists," plural, so I figured, I'm kind of a pragmatic idealist, and if I start posting, the blog can live up to the plural assignment. I don't know who reads Mike's blog, but I haven't seen too many swear words or threats in the comments section, so I'm in! Look forward to participating more.

More Idealists!

As some of you have noticed, there are two more names in the "Contributors" section to the right. Therefore, I want to welcome both E. and mdmd as fellow Pragmatic Idealists (thus finally justifying the plural form of the title). I will let them both introduce themselves more fully when they have the chance.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

¡Enhorabuena España!

Wow! Congratulations to the Spanish side - that was a masterfully played game. And Torres' goal was nothing short of gorgeous. Although I had great plans for my afternoon, I am glad that I watched this game instead. It seemed like the Spanish just ran the Germans ragged—the Germans looked exhausted and were not able to mount anything close to a sustained attack at the end of the game.

I can't wait for el Mundial.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

More ideas to revitalize the labor movement

Snaps to Wobblie, who started this conversation. I could go on and on with suggestions, but I'll stick to what I think is the most important topic for these five suggestions: "Talking To People Under 50."

  1. Celebrities. In my dream, Kanye West sings "Spaceship" or "Heard 'Em Say" to a crowd, talks a little about the references in his songs to low-wage work, and while we're at it, sells or gives away some Kanye Says Raise Minimum Wage t-shirts.
  2. Unions are pathetic on the internet. Use Facebook and MySpace strategically in organizing campaigns. Nothing like 4,000 shoppers joining a "Boycott [Insert Monster Teen Retailer Here]" group to freak out [Insert Monster Teen Retailer Here]. And come on, update your own websites once in a while. Have a blog. Go nuts.
  3. This has been suggested endlessly, but the more members are seen as part of the process for electing leadership, giving political endorsements and campaign contributions, and targeting companies, the better; c.f. Obama's inclusive, grassroots, "you matter" message that galvanized young voters.
  4. Use your high school and college interns wisely. Don't plunk them into scary salting situations, or stick them behind a desk doing data entry. Get them invested in and excited about what they're doing.
  5. For that matter, don't burn and churn your young regular staffers, who are also often just out of high school or college. We know union leaders should be tough and encourage toughness, but pushing people to the point of no return is no good.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Turn, Five Strategies for the Labor Movement

In the ongoing online seminar discussing what can improve public confidence in the labor movement, I wanted to add my two cents. As a punishment for extreme tardiness, I will restrict myself to three:[1]

  1. Highlight grievance procedures one of the main strengths gained through organizing. Too many times I have seen discussions about negotiations or unions in general revolve around wages and benefits. I think that these are important - don't get me wrong. I like to be paid and I like my healthcare provided (although, I would prefer that be provided as a fundamental right -- but that is a discussion for another time and place). But, some of the most important benefits belonging to a union is the fact that you have the right to a fair process before disciplinary action or firing can happen. This is a fundamental notion for most people and gets at the basic sense of freedom in most Americans - you should have the right to defend yourself. Dave mentions this as one of many items, but I think that highlighting this single point can go a long way.

  2. Think of new ways to organize that speak to the realities of workers. This is where I believe that organizing must overlap with PR. Our notion of "organizing the workplace" is antiquated. Too many workers now have two or three jobs - organizing one workplace does nothing without organizing the other one or two in which workers are employed. I think that there is some movement towards this - UNITE HERE's organizing of entire hotel markets under a single contract -- or all jobs in the case of the Las Vegas Culinary Local. Also, the idea of a "Freelancer's Union is the type of thing that the AFL should be taking seriously. Similarly, we need to stop thinking about "workplace" issues versus other issues. For example, the biggest obstacle facing workers in New York is not necessarily their wages or benefits, but the exorbitant cost of housing in the city. Organizing for the realities of new types of lifestyles is a necessity.

  3. Go for citizen-initiated ballot proposals to overturn "right-to-work" laws. Yup, that's right. I've gone off the deep end. Lex is right, EFCA needs to be passed - major victories set a "winning" agenda. But, I think that going after right-to-work laws does two things. First, it allows labor to set the agenda on labor issues rather than being defined as the opposition. We all know the advantage to proactive campaign messages rather than reactive ones. Second, spending money to win something means that our opponents have to spend money to defeat us - rather than us spending money to defeat them (and really gaining nothing that we don't already have in the process). Let's go for broke. We'll win some, we'll lose some - but, hey, at least we're setting the agenda.

I'd be interested to hear what others think.

[1] Of course, this is also because many of the good ideas have been taken.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Long Summer Nights

Before I moved to New York, I was kind of dreading the thought of living in the city. I was excited to be living with E. again and I was excited about something new, but it just seemed daunting living in a city that big and impersonal. Now, it's hard to imagine that, if everything works according to plan with my dissertation, there is a chance that we will be moving in a year and it's hard to imagine living anywhere but New York. It is going to be a hard adjustment living anywhere else now.

But, I say all this because I am back in Ann Arbor this week - and I am lucky that it is the week with the longest days in the year. I mention to everyone how great the summers are in Ann Arbor and that it stays light out until 10:00 at night. But, being back here, it really reminded me why Ann Arbor is so great during the summer. If this was all I knew of Ann Arbor, I could imagine never wanting to live anywhere else. Then, of course, November comes around and I always remembered why!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Racial Residential Segregation Readings

A friend of mine who started a few years after me in my program is taking her prelim this summer and asked if I would write up a list of readings that I think represent the literature investigating racial residential segregation. Of course, I did not want to recommend an extremely long list to her - she does have a significant chunk of other readings to get through. I think I failed on the brevity for which I was striving, but I thought that it was a great exercise to really think through the "canons" in an area in which I study. I know that there are at least a few other sociologists who read this blog, so I thought that I'd pass along my list for others. I am sure that there are readings that I overlooked and others which might not be considered "canons" that I did include. If you want to comment, please feel free to let me know what your list would be.

Bruch, Elizabeth E., and Robert D. Mare. 2006. “Neighborhood Choice and Neighborhood Change.” American Journal of Sociology 112:667-709. link. I think that this study is the best to try and engage thoughtfully with Schelling's original study of neighborhood dynamics and looks at the effect that both data collection methods and our understanding of the nature of racialized preferences has on understanding the dynamic nature of housing patterns. But, more than that, it really tries to seriously engage with the implications of racial residential preferences in a way that is unparalleled in the current literature.

Charles, Camille Zubrinsky. 2003. “The Dynamics of Racial Residential Segregation.” Annual Review of Sociology 29:167-207. This is the best review piece on racial segregation out there. It is very clear, lays out dominant theories and implications.

Emerson, Michael O., Karen J. Chai, and George Yancey. 2001. “Does Race Matter in Residential Segregation? Exploring the Preferences of White Americans.” American Sociological Review 66:922-935. link. This is one of the only studies that looks at the role that specifically racial preferences play, net of other characteristics of neighborhoods. It relies on hypothetical neighborhoods, but finds that race is one of the over-riding factors in neighborhood preferences.

Crowder, Kyle. 2000. “The Racial Context of White Mobility: An Individual-Level Assessment of the White Flight Hypothesis.” Social Science Research 29:223-257. link. This paper looks at the individual-level moves of whites and what types of neighborhood factors influence the moves of whites out of and into neighborhoods. It is one of the first papers that looked at the theoretical importance of separating moves out of neighborhoods from the moves into a neighborhoods with an empirical study.

Farley, Reynolds, Charlotte Steeh, Tara Jackson, Maria Krysan, and Keith Reeves. 1993. “Continued Racial Residential Segregation in Detroit: "Chocolate City, Vanilla Suburbs" Revisited.” Journal of Housing Research 4:1-38. link. This paper is a follow-up to the original “Chocolate City, Vanilla Suburbs” paper that Farley wrote with colleagues based on the 1976 DAS. They find some evidence of changing attitudes, but preferences that are still very averse to integration. This is a staple of any segregation reading list.

Frey, William H., and Reynolds Farley. 1996. “Latino, Asian, and Black Segregation in U.S. Metropolitan Areas: Are Multi-ethnic Metros Different?.” Demography 33:35-50. link. This paper looks at the trends in segregation for Latinos, Asian-Americans and blacks in a comparative light and finds that multiethnic metropolitan areas have different dynamics of racial segregation than two-race (i.e. black/white) metropolitan areas. This is a key reading for understanding comparative relationships across racial groups and the importance of other racial groups on the dynamics of black/white segregation.

Harris, David R. 2001. “Why Are Whites and Blacks Averse to Black Neighbors?,.” Social Science Research 30:100-116. link.Harris counters the idea that racially biased preferences expressed by both whites and blacks are biased against living in communities with a significant proportion of black residents. Instead, Harris argues that this is due to the fact that residents are really reacting to the fact that black neighborhoods have higher levels of crime and poverty. Therefore, resistance to living with black neighbors is really the result of race being a “proxy” for these other issues.

Lee, Barrett A., R. S. Oropesa, and James W. Kanan. 1994. “Neighborhood Context and Residential Mobility.” Demography 31:249-270. link.

Massey, Douglas S., and Nancy A. Denton. 1993. American apartheid : segregation and the making of the underclass. Cambridge, Mass. ; London, Eng. :: Harvard University Press. Need I explain?

Quillian, Lincoln. 2002. “Why is black-white residential segregation so persistent?: Evidence on three theories from migration data.” Social science research 31:197-229. link.This is a fascinating paper that uses the probabilities that individuals make particular types of transitions from one neighborhood type to another (i.e. different levels of segregation). This paper examines the possibility that a person’s neighborhood context can change both because of a move by that family, but also of a neighborhood changing around them. It concludes that preferences among whites drive a good portion of the racial residential segregation in the country.

Sampson, Robert J., and Patrick Sharkey. 2008. “Neighborhood Selection and the Social Reproduction of Concentrated Racial Inequality.” Demography 45:1-29. link. In many ways, this paper builds off of Quillian’s 2002 paper, but it examines a much wider set of neighborhood characteristics and uses different methodological techniques and focuses more explicitly on the ways in which African Americans are trapped in high-poverty neighborhoods. Their ultimate conclusion is that race, above and beyond other SES and neighborhood factors, tends to dominate why blacks end up in poorer neighborhoods than whites.

Schelling, Thomas C. 1971. “Dynamic models of segregation.” Journal of Mathematical Sociology 1:143-186. link. This is a famous paper that establishes the importance of understanding the dynamic nature of residential patterns and that rational moves based on integrative (or at least minimally segregationist) preferences can lead to segregated cities. It has fueled a great deal of research into complex systems and dynamic modeling outside of segregation research (cf. Granovetter), but has made a profound contribution on the field of segregation research.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It has been too long...

It has been a long while since I have written anything on these here pages. I thought about writing, and how I had to write something extremely profound to make up for the two months of nothingness. Then, I realized that a) so few people read this and b) no one cares, whether they did read, would read, or have read in the past. Therefore, no proclamations of trying harder or grand hopes of writing more.

What pulled me out of my blogging slumber, you ask? Well, this story (h/t: Creative Class) from CNN about the failure of suburban housing and the return to "walkable" urban neighborhoods. This hit especially close to home, considering I study the effect of the built environment on health (and walking in particular) and residential choice. Naturally, I was intrigued. In particular this tid-bit caught my attention:

This change can be witnessed in places like Atlanta, Georgia, Detroit, Michigan, and Dallas, Texas, said Leinberger, where once rundown downtowns are being revitalized by well-educated, young professionals who have no desire to live in a detached single family home typical of a suburbia where life is often centered around long commutes and cars.

Instead, they are looking for what [Christopher] Leinberger calls "walkable urbanism" -- both small communities and big cities characterized by efficient mass transit systems and high density developments enabling residents to walk virtually everywhere for everything -- from home to work to restaurants to movie theaters.

Leinberger reports that 40% of people from selected metro areas want to live in walkable urban neighborhoods. On the one hand, I think that is about right and maybe even a little low. But, on the other, of course people want to live in walkable neighborhoods; but if I asked if they wanted good schools, good city services, and convenient transportation they would also say yes. The real question is, how high of a priority are walkable neighborhoods compared to the other desires of homeowners -- and given that it is very difficult and costly to build, from scratch, a "walkable" neighborhood (at least compared to suburban expansion) it is necessarily a limited market of people who would be able to afford such locations.

And, finally, let's not forget that there is one thing that is not mentioned at all in this article - race. I think that people want to profess strong egalitarian motives and racial composition does not matter as much to younger people as it does to older, but it matters. Places like the Kentlands in Maryland so that suburbanites can have it all - a suburban house, excellent schools, lots of space and the ability to walk to the grocery store without having to deal with the problems of the poor, largely minority populations of not only D.C., but also older suburbs like Silver Spring and Rockville. Of course, then the city or state government will just pay a ton of money to completely tear down and rebuild the place -- and in the process remove any "undesirable" elements.

And, as a final note, I thought that I should share reader NewWorld's insightful comments:

This is just another of countless examples to show that man cannot govern themselves (Jeremiah 10:23) The Bible teaches that God's government, ruled by Christ, will intervene in earth's affairs and repair the damage done by humans. This government will solve housing problems, economic issues, food shortages, end crime, violence and all abuses and injustices, prevent natural disasters, end sickness and even death.

We have much to look forward to!