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Occam’s Press publishes clear, simple, and engaging writing about society and its people.

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The social sciences and humanities are chock-a-block with great and edifying stories about who we are, and why we do what we do, and where we are headed. In a little over a thousand words, we promote and re-tell current and classic research stories from the social sciences and humanities to reach a broader audience. Inspired by Occam’s razor, we get to the core of academic research in as few steps as possible. We aspire to tell stories that are a pleasure to read and educational, to boot.

Here are some of the pieces on social stratification and inequality that you can read right now on Occam’s Press:

An Unguarded Moment

Sociologists found that Halloween is an unguarded moment in America when some young adults publicly express, through make-up and dress, their inner racial thoughts.

Based on “Unmasking Racism: Halloween Costuming and Engagement of the Racial Other” by Jennifer C. Mueller, Danielle Dirks, and Leslie Houts Picca, published in Qualitative Sociology in 2007. 30:315–335.

In the Last Place You Look

In the world’s richest nations, how do folks become food insecure, and how do they reconcile being food insecure with living in one of the world’s richest nations?

Based on K. A. Garthwaite, P. J. Collins, and Clare Bambra. “Food for thought: An ethnographic study of negotiating ill health and food insecurity in a UK foodbank,” published in Social Science & Medicine 132 (2015): 38-44; and Mohan Jyoti Dutta, LaReina Hingson, Agaptus Anaele, Soumitro Sen, and Kyle Jones. “Narratives of food insecurity in Tippecanoe County, Indiana: Economic constraints in local meanings of hunger,” published in Health Communication 31, no. 6 (2016): 647-658.

Mafia Equality

When we think of equality, we tend to envision lawful activities like education, business, and politics. We think of women as entrepreneurs, CEOs, and presidents. But social scientists Felia Allum and Irene Marchi find that the treasured ideal of emancipation is cherished by some women in organized crime. They ask: How do women become mafia clan leaders? And what does their leadership look like?

Based on the article by Felia Allum and Irene Marchi, “Analyzing the role of women in Italian mafias: the case of the Neapolitan Camorra,” published in Qualitative Sociology 41, no. 3 (2018): 361-380.

A Rich Malty Stout with a Hint of Sexism

Is the art of drinking artisanal beer another way to reinforce gender stereotypes?

Written by Adrianna Zabrzewska and based on Maggie Nanney, Nathaniel G. Chapman, J. Slade Lellock, and Julie Mikles-Schluterman’s article “Gendered Expectations, Gatekeeping, and Consumption in Craft Beer Spaces” published in Humanity and Society 44(4), 2020, pp. 449–468.

Pick Me Up

Far from being a hot-headed haven of selfishness and immaturity, pickup basketball is a welcoming and well-organized place. It provides informal mentoring on how to improve your game, how to get a job, and how you can deal with life’s everyday troubles.

Based on “Pickup Basketball in the Production of Black Community” by Francisco Vieyra in Qualitative Sociology in 2016 (39:101–123).

The Quilters

They rebel against a world in which women devote all their energy to others. They show that a woman’s self-expression and leisure time are as important as a man’s. They define and reinvent themselves independently of family and profession.

Written by Adrianna Zabrzewska based on a 2006 article by Marybeth C. Stalp, “Creating an Artistic Self: Amateur Quilters and Subjective Careers” published in Sociological Focus 39:3, pp. 193–216, DOI: 10.1080/00380237.2006.10571285

Doctor’s Orders

Compared to their wealthy compatriots, Canadian men on the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder are more likely to choose an unhealthy lifestyle. And these men are less likely to survive one year after heart surgery. Why do these men in precarious health ignore doctor’s orders?

Based on Mathieu Savage, Alex Dumas, and Stephen A. Stuart. “Fatalism and short‐termism as cultural barriers to cardiac rehabilitation among underprivileged men.” Sociology of health & illness 35, no. 8 (2013): 1211-1226.

Wives of the Unemployed

You can find this piece and more on Occam’s Press.

Marcus was an unemployed IT professional with two kids and a wife. He told a story that many men in his situation would recognize.

“I kind of feel that I’m failing in my part to provide for my family because we’re just relying on my wife’s salary and her health care and everything,” Marcus said. “So I feel that I am failing in a sense by not having a job and providing for the family.”

Sylvia, Marcus’ wife, earned six-figures as a manager in a telecommunications company.

And Sylvia was stressed out.

“I felt the weight of the family was solely on me,” she said. “The pressure of ‘I can’t lose my job’ because… both of us can’t be unemployed. … made it stressful.”

In a full year of Marcus’ unemployment, Sylvia gain 30 pounds from “stress eating.”

After the Great Recession, sociologist Aliya Hamid Rao spoke to dozens of white-collar unemployed men and, for thirteen of them, their wives, too.

How do wives deal with their unemployed husbands?

Professor Rao, writing for Journal of Marriage and Family, sought to find out.

Wedding Rings

Bedrock of the Soul

Whether you love your job or hate it, just the fact that you have a job can be a bedrock of the soul. Losing your job, whether this loss was sought after or thrust upon you, can feel bad. It can feel really bad if you lost the job unexpectedly, without fanfare or warning. Grown men in this situation feel fear, sadness, hopelessness, and embarrassment.

To land a job you have to work. You have to network and you have to go on job interviews and sell yourself to the highest bidder. But Rao found that unemployed men who sport a breadwinner mentality can lose the confidence to look for a job.

The story goes like this:

The husband struggles to find a new job.

The wife struggles to deadlift her husband’s sagging spirits and gets him to look for a job.

“Why is Brian the greatest employee ever?”

Rao the social scientist met Brian and Emily.

Brian has been out of work for a while and feels frustrated at the job search: “[you have] to sit there in an interview and try to bullshit why is Brian the greatest employee ever? That part just for me is very probably the worst part of the whole thing,” Brian said.

Brian’s wife, Emily, sustains the family at a third of the income they once enjoyed. She loses sleep over it.

“It’s very scary,” Emily said. “I sit up in the kitchen and I think ‘We’re going to have to give up this house,’ you know, what are we going to do? We’re going to rent some shitty little apartment?” (646)

Emily understood Brian. “He doesn’t have the get-up-and-go to go do it [the job search] ’Cause he’s in such a dump,” Emily said. “So I am trying to still be very positive.” (646)

In tough situations it’s tough to be positive. And Emily is frustrated.

“But he is not a strong like a man like who just says, ‘Oh I don’t care. I’ve been fired? I don’t care. Screw them. I’ll go find another job.’” Emily said. “He is very sensitive and emotional. And he’s like a girl! Like man up!…”

Emotional Rescue

While the men were supposed to be trawling the internet for jobs, the duty of family organizer and confidence booster fell to the wives, many of whom had a steady job that could support the family, though at a lower income bracket than a dual-earner couple would make.

Some wives said that they are half of a husband-wife team — a partnership that will find a way out of their troubles. Wives made sure their husbands call and tell them about their day.

The husbands felt lost in their newly unstructured time; the wives tried to put their husbands on a schedule to look for a job.  All the while, the wives hid their own stressful emotions as best they could.

Managing stress is the wives’ homework. There’s a term for it coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild: “emotional labor.” In this kind of labor, Rao writes, the wives of the unemployed draw strength and humor from wherever they can find it.

One woman compared the situation to the taming of the fox in the children’s book, The Little Prince:

“It’s kind of like taming the little creature in The Little Prince: You meet at the same time every day and you’re expected to be there,” she said. “I don’t know that I’ve tamed him or whatever [chuckles] but [the call] is something I look forward to. ’Cause I like to hear what he has to say.”

“It’s an important call for me,” she added.

A Fine Line

Taming and nagging can be a fine line that neither the wives nor the husbands want crossed.

Rao met Shannon. Shannon has a job but her husband, William, is unemployed. Shannon treads carefully.

“I always ask him, you know, ‘What’d you do today?’ or, but I don’t want it to come across like ‘Did you do anything to find a job?’…” Shannon said.

“And I’m just trying to make conversation, where I’m sure he’s thinking “Just get off my back,” Shannon said. “So, that’s been hard.”

Teamwork it is, with wives batting clean-up.


This piece is based on Aliya Hamid Rao’s “Stand By Your Man: Wives’ Emotion Work During Men’s Unemployment” published in the Journal of Marriage and Family (pp. 636 – 656) in 2017. Joshua K. Dubrow authored this short popularization of that article, and is solely responsible for this interpretation of Professor Rao’s work. Professor Rao’s book, Crunch Time: How Married Couples Confront Unemployment (University of California Press), is due out June 2020.

“I kind of feel that I’m failing…” (644)

“I felt the weight of the family…” (648)

In a full year of Marcus’ unemployment… (650)

“[you have] to sit there in an interview…” (644)

“It’s very scary…” (646)

“But he is not a strong like a man…” (646)

Though at a lower income bracket (646)

“It’s kind of like taming…” (647)

“I always ask him…” (652)

“And I’m just trying to make conversation…” (652)

The Fight That Never Comes

You can find this piece and more on Occam’s Press.

“Instead of leaning back away from a punch,” the man said, “you let it come, let the other guy commit to the attack, then spin it around on him.”

The man wasn’t talking about a fist fight. He was talking about how to deal with life’s daily problems, like an argument with a co-worker or a negotiation for a hotel discount.

He was talking about Aikido.

Aikido, like karate, is a martial art, but with a big difference: its practitioners don’t fight. Instead of throwing kicks and punches, in the martial ballet of Aikido they rigorously prepare themselves to side-step the violence of a fight that never comes.

Writing for Qualitative Sociology, sociologist Drew Foster wonders, “Why do people who will never actually fight train their bodies to fight?”

Roll with It

Aikido is not like the other martial arts. “Instead of overcoming an opponent through force,” Foster writes, “the goal of aikido techniques is simply to neutralize the situation by pinning, throwing, or taking the balance of the aggressor, often only to the extent that one can safely withdraw from the situation.” You receive the attack, flow with it, and find the exact point where you can use the attacker’s force to counterattack.

A rule: You can’t muscle it. The whole point is minimal force. Submission by sheer force – and not the ballet of angle, leverage, and timing – is a cheat. Rule breakers are admonished.

Another rule: No competition. An early Aikido founder declared competitiveness as inimical to Aikido’s spirit: “Such things are seen as fueling only egotism, self-concern and disregard for others.” To rise in status, one goes through formal tests to earn grades and degrees (like academia).

Foster spent nearly two years in an Aikido training center, called a Dojo, set up “in a revamped storage facility near the edge of town” somewhere in Middle America. With his “body as a tool for research,” he interviewed, observed, participated, and took notes. To gain their acquaintance, he went to out-of-Dojo experiences such as parties and potlucks, bars and restaurants.

Aikido in America is a mostly white, male, and middle class affair. In Foster’s study, the Dojo’s Sensei, or main instructor, worked at a business consulting firm. His assistants included a musicologist, a retired professor, and a children’s drama teacher. Most of the members were white men. They were architects, academics, consultants, and engineers. Membership was a hundred bucks a month. They came in after work.

Most have never been in a life-or-death physical fight.

“These mostly white and middle-class practitioners,” Foster writes, “are extremely unlikely to experience violence or risk of violence in their everyday worlds.”

What Are They Training For?

Mike is a 30-something graduate student and a member of the Dojo. “Lately I’ve been thinking how I’m striving to do aikido in everyday arguments with my wife,” he said.

“I’ve been really trying to figure out how to finesse my responses to my wife and blend with what she’s saying… I also try to know when I’ve been overcome and roll out of it safely instead of trying to meet whatever’s beating me with more counterforce.”

As hokey as it may sound, they are training for life. It’s what Foster and some of his interviewees call Big Aikido, “the employment of aikido techniques, philosophies, and principles in non-martial settings.”

One guy told the story of when he tried to get the discount he was owed at a hotel. Instead of being angry and confrontational, the guy calmly took in the hotel clerk’s aggression (so the story went) and produced the necessary information to win the argument. He got the discount. The guy’s wife praised him: “Wow! You really aikido-ed that!”

In Aikido, the body is fit and the pain is real. But hitting is for the mat and the training is for life’s non-martial problems.

“Ever since that period when I really just pushed myself to keep rolling out of throws even though I was so afraid of getting hurt,” a woman in the Dojo said, “I’ve found I can apply this ‘just roll’ to other areas of my life…”

“Like trying to finish my novel.”



This piece is based on the article, “Fighters who Don’t Fight: The Case of Aikido and Somatic Metaphorism” by Drew Foster in Qualitative Sociology, (2015) 38:165–183. This piece is authored by Joshua K. Dubrow, but he did not conduct any of the research, and Josh alone is responsible for the interpretation of it.

“Instead of leaning back…” (178).

“Why do people …” (166).

“Instead of overcoming an opponent …” (171).

“muscling it” (175)

“Such things are seen …” Quote by Ueshiba (1984: 15) in Foster (2015: 171).

“in a revamped storage facility…” (170)

“body as a tool for research” (169)

“These mostly white and middle-class practitioners…” (171). Most of his 19 interviewees were white men in their 30s and 40s. Most were middle class.

“Lately I’ve been thinking… beating me with more counterforce.” (176)

“the employment of aikido techniques…” (176).

“Wow! You really aikido-ed that …” (178).

“Ever since that period … trying to finish my novel.” (177)

The Wrestler’s Paradox

You can find this piece and more on Occam’s Press.

Bobby sawed a broomstick half way across and hid it under the wrestling ring. At the right moment, he was going to pull it out and hit his opponent with it.

“Oh, this thing is going to break real easy,” Bobby thought.

Bobby’s a wrestler in the indy circuit. He didn’t want to hurt the guy, but he figured if he hit him with a broom and the broomstick would break, then the small crowd of young men that came to watch would cheer.

Bobby pulled the guy over the ropes. He got out the broomstick. He swung at the guy’s back.


The broom didn’t break.

“Oh, shit,” he thought.

Bobby took the broom and broke it over his knee. Bobby figured that he accidently hit the guy with the whole broom, rather than the part he had sawed.

“It looked like he was caned,” Bobby said later.

Professional wrestlers are sport entertainers. In their 20’ by 20’ stage, they move their bodies in tandem and opposition to tell a fantastic story of heroes and villains and good versus evil.

In their dramatic violence, the wrestlers get hurt.


Sometimes seriously so.

Call it the Wrestler’s Paradox: dramatize violence, but avoid injury to yourself and others.

The Indies

To discover how wrestlers contend with the Wrestler’s Paradox, sociologist R. Tyson Smith (published in 2008, Qualitative Sociology) dove into the pro wrestling circuit called “the indies.” Indies, short for “independent,” are local, low-budget affairs held in schools and community centers, far from the flash and cash of the WWE. It’s less Hulk Hogan and more Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. The best known wrestlers are unknown outside of the tight-knit indy community. The audiences they attract are young men.

wrestling ringSmith spent three years in a school designed to turn young men into professional wrestlers. In these schools they learn the ropes and choose their character: heroes (“babyfaces”) or villains (“heels”). One of the first school lessons are how to relax when a shirtless and snarling muscle-bound man hurtles at you from 20 feet away.

Wrestling schools, usually founded by famous and erstwhile pro wrestlers, are informally run and hard to find. Most students discover schools from folks they know and, of course, through the internet. You can join for two hundred bucks a month and quit with no fanfare. After your first year there are no dues to pay other than helping out — set up the ring, take tickets at the shows, and clean up after.

To get to know the students, Smith attended wrestling shows and practices. He interviewed wrestlers and hung out with them in gyms, bars, and road trips. Almost all the students he interviewed were young, white, working class men of average build. A few had a college degree, but most never went past high school.

Breaking Even

A performance can pay anywhere from 25 to 75 dollars. Most don’t pay at all. “After factoring in costs for meals and travel,” Smith writes, “a mid-level indy performer comes out about even, if not at a loss.” So the wrestlers worked day jobs and hoped for the big time. After a few years, most realize they are never going to the big time. “Vets” of the circuit have been around only five years or more.

Work conditions can be precarious. Some indies feature “extreme” wrestling, with heavy furniture and sharp objects as props. Some wrestlers will jump from a tall ladder into the ring. As mandated by the government, a doctor checks out the wrestlers before they perform and stays backstage during the show. But there are no labor contracts to speak of and no health care plans.  

The Hurt

Guys mostly get hurt because of mistakes and miscommunications – like hitting an opponent with the wrong part of the broom or swinging an arm at the wrong time.

“I shattered my nose in a Battle Royal,” said Johnny, an indy wrestler. In this part of the performance, Johnny expected his opponent to swing a forearm, but they didn’t sync. “Turned around and he clocked me right in the nose, completely shattered my nose. I had to get reconstructive nose surgery….”

“The bone’s sticking into my eyeball,” he added.

The rowdy crowd of young men came for the story of fantastic violence but the performers spend most of their time trying not to get hurt. Like vaccination against communicable diseases, it’s a public health problem where one careless guy can cause injuries to many.

To protect the group – and themselves – they created social norms to avoid injury. Serious transgressions of the no-hurt norm are met with anger and disgust. Vets will admonish careless newbies. Too-often careless newbies are not encouraged to stick around.

Show, Don’t Tell

Most people think of pain as a medical condition. Nerve damage tells the brain that there’s an unpleasant problem. But if we can reinterpret the pain as not a big deal, or even as pleasurable, it can change how we think of ourselves.

If others notice that we wear our pain as a badge of honor, it can change how others think of us.

Within their tight knit circle, talking about the pain is an opportunity for ridicule: “You still bitchin’ about your neck?,” and the like. At the same time, they are sensitive to public criticism that wrestling is “fake.” As a consequence, the wrestlers go in hard for the authenticity of their hurt.

“Visible indications of pain like limping, bruises, bleeding, scars, and red marks are commonly flaunted,” Smith writes.

Expose the injury. Hide the pain. Gain the respect of your peers.


Sometimes they try to hurt each other.

On rare occasion a real fight breaks out, what wrestlers call a “shoot.”

“Premeditated shoots are frightening,” Smith writes. Wrestlers are trained to relax when fighting, and when a guy stiff arms his opponent without warning, the opponent is left “virtually defenseless.”

Wrestlers spend all that time avoiding injury – why would they then intentionally hurt a fellow wrestler?

There are a few reasons: Perhaps they don’t like you, or they think you need to be taken down a notch, or they’re testing you, to “see if you’re a pansy or not.”

Dominance, hierarchy, and putting a guy in his place: This is a hidden currency of wrestling.

Most of the time, though, the wrestlers look out for one another. Yes, sometimes a fight breaks out, and sometimes its personal, but usually it’s from an accident in a heated moment.

In that sweaty hotbed of violence and risk, a solidarity rules. Solidarity does not fully solve the Wrestler’s Paradox, but it makes it more likely that once the ring is cleared and the crowd disperses, the wrestlers can drive themselves home.


The piece that appears in this blog was written by Joshua K. Dubrow based on “Pain in the Act: The Meanings of Pain among Professional Wrestlers” by R. Tyson Smith published in Qualitative Sociology (2008) 31:129–148 DOI 10.1007/s11133-008-9098-9.

Bobby sawed a broomstick… (137). At school they learn how to get a strong reaction, a “pop,” from the crowd. Bobby must have hoped for a pop from his broomstick idea.

Wrestler’s Paradox is my term for what Smith studied.

One of the first school lessons are how to relax… (139). Previous martial arts experience can help with feeling relaxed while fighting.

Almost all the students… Smith writes, “Of the twenty participants, most are white, working-class men who range in age from eighteen to thirty-five, have a high school education, and work part-time in low-level service jobs in a metropolitan area. Five have attained a B.A. at a local college. Contrary to the stereotype of pro wrestlers as massive strongmen, most are of average body size, weighing between 160–200 pounds and standing between 5′8″ and 6′2″ in height.” (131)

“After factoring in costs for meals…” (133)

“I shattered my nose…” (137)

Most think of pain… (130-131).

“You still bitchin’ about your neck?” (140-141)

“Visible indications…” (141).

“Premeditated shoots are frightening…” (145)

“see if you’re a pansy…” (146)

Book: Dynamics of Class and Stratification in Poland

Dynamics of class and stratThis book published by CEU Press is about long-term changes to class and inequality in Poland.

Drawing upon major social surveys, the team of authors from the Polish Academy of Sciences offer the rare comprehensive study of important changes to the social structure from the communist era to the present.

Team of Authors: Irina Tomescu-Dubrow, Kazimierz M. Słomczyński, Henryk Domański, Joshua Kjerulf Dubrow, Zbigniew Sawiński, and Dariusz Przybysz
ISBN: 978-963-386-155-4
cloth $70.00 / €62.00 / £54.00
Publication date: 2018
310 pages

Even during extreme societal transformations, key features of social life have long-lasting and stratifying effects. The authors analyze the core issues of inequality research that best explain “who gets what and why:” social mobility, status attainment, and mechanisms of inequality with a focus on education, occupation, and income.

The transition from communist political economy to liberal democracy and market capitalism offers a unique opportunity for scholars to understand how people move from one stratification regime to the next.

There are valuable lessons to be learned from linking past to present. Classic issues of class, stratification, mobility, and attainment have endured decades of radical social change. These concepts remain valid even when society tries to eradicate them.

Pick Me Up: Build a Community with Street Basketball

pick me up bball pic

You can find this piece and more on Occam’s Press.

Pick Me Up

Shooting bricks builds communities

“Hey, man, your peripheral better be fucked up!”

In a pickup basketball game on a New York City playground, a player ignores his teammates. He hoists a bad shot. On the next possession, he turns the ball over.

“Mother fucking Michael Jordan. Yeah, go ahead and shoot, Jordan-ass wannabe.”

Laughter erupts from the spectators. The player tries ball-hogging again. The spectators boo. To teach him a lesson, his teammates stop passing him the ball.

Pick-up basketball is often derided as “street” and “schoolyard” and as encouraging selfish play. It is maligned as an immature version of the textbook games organized by civic associations, high schools, and universities.

But on that New York City playground, both the players and the spectators tried to teach an ill-mannered player how to be a good sport.

Francisco Vieyra, writing for Qualitative Sociology, spent over a year in the Big Apple playing and talking with players and spectators on several dozen basketball courts.

He found that, far from being a hot-headed haven of selfishness and immaturity, pickup basketball is a welcoming and well-organized place. It provides informal mentoring on how to improve your game, how to get a job, and how you can deal with life’s everyday troubles.

Shoot bricks all you like: pick-up bball is a foundation of urban communities.


Anyone can be a spectator and everyone – no matter who they are or what clothes they wear – can play.

“I often found white-collar workers wearing the athletic shoes they tucked away in their briefcases, blue-collar workers still in their overalls and boots, and underemployed or unemployed men and children in their shorts and sneakers on the same court,” Vieyra writes.

There are social rules for every aspect of the basketball experience: for fair choice in who will play next and for pre-game practice shoot-arounds. Everyone is expected to help clear the court of ice or other seasonal debris.

Players organize “contests,” which can be 3-on-3 or 5-on-5 matches that, to get as many different folks onto the court as possible in a reasonable amount of time, are between fifteen minutes and a half an hour. While some of the rules differed from game to game – such as how fouls will be called and the point allotment for baskets – the players negotiate and agree on these rules before tipoff.

Talk about It

Some guys were hanging around the court, waiting for their turn to play. One of these guys started talking about how he recently lost his job. One guy pointed to a short fellow who worked at an employment agency and suggested that he talk to him. Another guy chimed in that, just a few months ago, he got a construction job that way. The first guy took the suggestion for help and, later on, got a job as a janitor.

In the pickup basketball world, one can find friends, news, gossip, advice.

They also share stories about racism in America.

“In one memorable conversation,” Vieyra writes, “a player told us how earlier in the day he overheard his white boss make racist remarks about Blacks to several white co-workers. Rustling a few papers to establish his presence in the room resulted in his boss quickly turning around, awkwardly stammering that it was ‘just a joke,’ and leaving the room without waiting for a response.”

The others listened and some told their similar stories of racism at work. A discussion ensued “over the merits of filing a grievance, quitting on principle, or begrudgingly tolerating such abuses because of the difficulty of finding a new job as a Black man.”

If You Build It

Communities are sustained by special events. In good weather, the community turns the basketball courts into tournaments and summer leagues that, over time, can develop a long standing and well-known local history, like the Entertainers’ Basketball Classic at the Holcombe Rucker Basketball Court, and that can draw over a thousand spectators. Out-of-town tourists come there for “a big part of Black history.”

Most of these special contests are smaller affairs of the local community. They exhibit the kind of “flashy” play that is highlighted on YouTube, but this is because they are, first and foremost, festive. Vendors sell ice cream, artists hawk their wares, and players’ family and friends cheer.

“Yeah, this makes my mom proud,” a player said. “She comes to every tournament. Every one. Doesn’t matter where it’s at. And afterwards, that’s all she’ll talk about.”

Pickup basketball is not a utopia: insults, bad manners, and undesirable conduct happens. Generally, bad manners are done in-game and spectators and players try to cool heated disagreements. Rarely is it personal and once the game is over, the conflict ends. Fights are rare.

Pickup basketball can be a deep and meaningful experience that is woven into the fabric of players’ everyday life. Within it, they become a part of the larger community.

“Pickup basketball does not escape New York City’s greater structural realities,” Vieyra writes. “It can, however, serve as a reprieve from these issues.”


This is written by Joshua K. Dubrow and is based on “Pickup Basketball in the Production of Black Community” by Francisco Vieyra in Qualitative Sociology in 2016 (39:101–123).

Please feel free to use this summary in the classroom! To help, here is a free teaching guide: Pick Me Up summary with Teaching Guide

Tips for Grant Finding and Grant Writing

An interesting primer for early career researchers to obtain grant funding is by Jonathan O’Donnell in a blog post for LSE. With shrinking funding options and more and more PhDs in the world, how to get grants?

Some tips if you are…

A Reviewer of Grants:

Register to review for granting agencies. If you are dreaming of working in another country in the future, register to review their grants, too.

Set clear limits, both in how many reviews you will do, and how long you will spend on each one.

Since you live in a world of measurement, record your effort.

Seek out mentoring, including peer mentoring.

Be kind

A Seeker of Grants:

To gain experience for yourself, work on grants with someone else, perhaps those with successful experience. Be a good collaborator.

There is a world of funding that isn’t peer reviewed. Industry funding, philanthropic funding, crowdfunding, micro-patronage, etc. Get creative with your funding opportunities.

Reject academia altogether, at least for a short time. Go and work in industry, or set up your own entrepreneurial research endeavour.

Set a time limit on how long you will bang your head against your rejection wall.

A Grant Agency:

Make the grant application process less onerous.

Experiment with more inventive methods of review.

Consider changing attitudes to the confidentiality of grant applications. You might choose to build a library of successful applications, or even make all your applications public. That would provide significant benefits to people learning to write good applications.

Reduce grant applications to two pages, concentrating on the core idea. Fixed budgets, double-blind review and no administrivia.

Give better feedback. “After the amount of work that most grant applications entail, it’s always anticlimactic to get a ‘yes/no’ result.”

An Established Scholar and Experienced Grant Writer:

Provide training in peer review, both for grants and publications.





Sociologists Everywhere: Inequality in the World Science System

This is based on our article, “Sociologists everywhere: Country representation in conferences hosted by the International Sociological Association, 1990–2012,” published in Current Sociology.

The Unequal World Science System

In general terms, the World Science System (WSS) refers to the economic, political and social factors involved in the production and distribution of, and access to, scientific knowledge on a global scale. The structure of this system is characterized by various kinds of inequalities (Beigel 2014; Patel 2014) some of which last for decades (Martin 2012: 833 -36; Mosbah-Natanson and Gingras 2014). Theoretically, the deep and persistent inequalities within the WSS manifest as a core-periphery system in which privileged, Western countries dominate (Alatas 2003). Recognition of the unequal WSS has led to initiatives – both inside and outside of ISA – that are designed to call wider attention to this issue and promote inequality-reduction policies (Beigel 2014: 619-621).

Empirical studies on inequality across the WSS tend to focus on publishing and on cross-national scientific collaborations (Bentley 2015; Mosbah-Natanson and Gingras 2014; Wagner and Wong 2011). Professional events – conferences, world congresses, forums and similar meetings that feature face-to-face interaction of scholars from across the world – are also vital to the WSS (Godin 1998; Glanzel et al 2006).

Regarding sociology, attendance at international scientific events is important for three reasons. The first deals with production of knowledge. Sociological knowledge, as recorded in academic journals, builds on the presentation of papers at international scientific conferences (Glanzel et al 2006; Godin 1998; Lisee, Larivière and Archambault 2008). The second reason pertains to the processes of scholarly learning and collaboration. Sociologists gain the opportunity to learn from, and connect to, scholars from different countries with whom they do not regularly interact; this spurs creativity and forms the foundation for new scientific collaborations. Third, sociologists gain access to the personal networking that is intrinsic to professional development and status building. Attending international conferences is important in the building and evaluation of academic careers.

In the article recently published in Current Sociology, we focused in-depth on the International Sociological Association (ISA) to examine inequality in attendance at its flagship conferences. The extent to which ISA’s flagship conferences – the quadrennial World Congress and the mid-term Forum – have successfully included sociologists from all over the world is an open empirical question.

Inequality and the International Sociological Association

We ask, To what extent do countries differ with respect to the number of scholars attending ISA conferences? and What factors drive attendance? As is the case with other WSS elements, we argue that scholarly involvement in international social science events is characterized by unequal cross-national representation.

We develop a set of hypotheses based on the economic, political and social dimensions that likely influence country representation. To test them, we created a dataset containing information on 212 countries and their participation in eight ISA conferences – World Congresses and Forums – held from 1990 to 2012. The data on attendance were generously provided by ISA. One can note that, for the eight conferences between 1990 and 2012, ten countries lead in terms of total number of participants: USA (3,678); UK (1,952); Germany (1,898); Spain (1,811); Canada (1,594); Brazil (1,482); Australia (1,293); France (1,250); Italy (929) and Argentina (884). Figure 1 illustrates participation from 1990 to 2012 by world regions.


Figure 1. Number of participants at International Sociological Association events, 1990-2012

isa country representation

While ISA focuses on economic factors to reduce this inequality – most notably in their A, B, C membership and conference fee schema – we also include political and economic factors. We measure economy with GDP per capita. Political factors are measured with the level of democracy. We argue that greater civil liberties and political rights are usually accompanied by more academic freedom to carry out research and to travel abroad. For social factors, we consider that countries’ participation in large-scale international research projects, such as the major cross-national public opinion surveys, is a reasonable indicator of the social science research infrastructure. Country representation in cross-national public opinion surveys (such as the World Values Survey) is very uneven due to economic and political reasons and reflects the strength of national-level social science research infrastructure required for active participation in such projects (Slomczynski and Tomescu-Dubrow 2006; see also Lynn et al 2006: 12-13; on the importance of cross-national data for ISA internationalization, see Platt 1998: 47).

What We Find

Results from a series of statistical analyses show that a country’s GDP, level of democracy and social science research infrastructure (SSRI) substantially determine their level of representation. SSRI effects are significant above and beyond that of GDP, and of other controls. At the same time, we also find a meaningful decrease of representation inequality according to countries’ GDP for the period 1990 – 2010.

We do not suggest that ISA purposively excludes sociologists from certain countries. On the contrary, the history of the organization shows clearly that the ISA has always been aware of the unequal representation of scholars at its events, and has sought ways to address this problem. Yet, inequality endures. The ISA, as well as key actors in the WSS of the social sciences, should acknowledge the resilient nature of this phenomenon and contend with it.


Alatas, Syed Farid. 2003. “Academic Dependency and the Global Division of Labour in the Social Sciences.” Current Sociology 51(6): 599 – 613.

Beigel, Fernanda. 2014. “Introduction: Current Tensions and Trends in the World Scientific System.” Current Sociology 62(5): 617 – 625.

Bentley, Peter James. 2015. “Cross-country Differences in Publishing Productivity of Academics and Research Universities.” Scientometrics 102: 865 – 883.

Calloids, Francoise and Laurent Jeanpierre. 2010. “General Introduction,” pp. 1 – 6 in World Social Science Report 2010: Knowledge Divides. UNESCO Publishing.

Dubrow, Joshua Kjerulf, Marta Kolczynska, Kazimierz M. Slomczynski and Irina Tomescu-Dubrow. “Sociologists Everywhere: Country Representation in Conferences Hosted by the International Sociological Association, 1990 to 2012.” Forthcoming in Current Sociology. [authors contributed equally and listed alphabetically]

Glanzel, Wolfgang, Balazs Schlemmer, Andras Schubert and Bart Thus. 2006. “Proceedings Literature as Additional Data Source for Bibliometric Analysis.” Scientometrics 68(3): 457 – 473.

Godin, B. 1998. “Measuring Knowledge Flows between Countries: The Use of Scientific Meeting Data.” Scientometrics 42(3): 313 – 323.

Keim, Wiebke. 2011. “Counterhegemonic Currents and Internationalization of Sociology: Theoretical Reflections and an Empirical Example.” International Sociology 26(1): 123 – 145.

Lisee, Cynthia, Vincent Larivière and Éric Archambault. 2008. “Conference Proceedings as a Source of Scientific Information: A Bibliometric Analysis.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 59(11): 1776 – 1784.

Leydesdorff, Loet and Caroline Wagner. 2009. “Is the United States Losing Ground in Science? A Global Perspective on the World Science System.” Scientometrics 78(1): 23 – 36.

Lynn, Peter. Lilli Japec and Lars Lyberg. 2006. “What’s So Special about Cross-National Surveys?” pp. 7 – 20 in Conducting Cross-National and Cross-Cultural Surveys edited by Janet Harkness. Germany: GESIS.

Martin, Eloise. 2012. “Making Sociology Current through International Publication: A Collective Task.” Current Sociology 60(6): 832-37.

Mosbah-Natanson, Sebastien, and Yves Gingras. 2014. “The globalization of social sciences? Evidence from a quantitative analysis of 30 years of production, collaboration and citations in the social sciences (1980 – 2009).” Current Sociology 62(5): 626-646.

Patel, Sujata. 2014. “Afterword: Doing Global Sociology: Issues, Problems and Challenges.” Current Sociology 62(4): 603 – 613.

Platt, Jennifer. 1998. A Brief History of the ISA: 1948 – 1997. International Sociological Association.

Rostan, Michele. 2010. “Challenges to Academic Freedom: Some Empirical Evidence.” European Review 18(1):71 – 88.

Schubert, A., S. Zsindley, and T. Bruan. 1983. “Scientometric Analysis of Attendance at International Scientific Meetings.” Scientometrics 5(3): 177 – 187.

Slomczynski, Kazimierz M. and Irina Tomescu-Dubrow. 2006. “Representation of European Post-Communist Countries in Cross-National Public Opinion Surveys.” Problems of Post-Communism 53 (4): 42-52.

Wagner, Caroline S. and Shing Kit Wong. 2011. “Unseen Science? Representation of BRICs in Global Science.” Scientometrics 90:1001 – 1013.

World Social Science Report. 2010. Knowledge Divides. UNESCO Publishing.

This article was prepared by Joshua Kjerulf Dubrow, Marta Kolczynska, Kazimierz M. Slomczynski and Irina Tomescu-Dubrow, Cross-national Studies: Interdisciplinary Research and Training program (, The Ohio State University and the Polish Academy of Sciences.

We thank ISA for providing the data on attendance to ISA events and current ISA President Margaret Abraham for encouraging our project. Versions of this research was presented at events of the Laboratory for Comparative Social Research (LCSR) of the Higher School of Economics in Russia, and we are grateful for their comments.


Does Going Abroad Boost Your Income and Help Your Career? The Value of International Experience

by Irina Tomescu-Dubrow, Associate Professor, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences

Does going abroad, even for a little while, give you an edge in the job market?

As a small world gets smaller, employers across the US and Europe are looking for that “international experience” element in the resumes of job applicants. Corporations are sending their employees outside headquarters to do business in established and emerging economies. Universities push for international research and training collaborations, and academia and the private sector increasingly seek out personnel who can perform well in multi-national and multi-cultural environments.

Working or living abroad gives people skills and knowledge that businesses can use as they look for new markets and opportunities across the world. International experience seems like a good investment, but to date outside of the USA, empirical studies on its relationship to income and upward mobility are few.

In my article, “International Experience and Labour Market Success: Analysing Panel Data from Poland,” I used the longest running panel survey in Poland (POLPAN 1988 – 2013) to discover the impact of having spent at least two months in a foreign country (my definition of “international experience”) on two major life outcomes.

The first thing I looked for was relative income gains. Above and beyond gender, age, and education, I wanted to know whether people who went abroad earned more than those who did not. The answer is a strong yes: People who went abroad, even for as little as two months, have a higher income than those who did not go abroad, other things equal.

Next, I investigated the odds of becoming an employer or entrepreneur above and beyond the effects of age, gender, and education. Again, the answer is a strong yes: Having international experience boosts the odds of becoming an employer or entrepreneur.

As with a recent study in the US by economist Susan Pozo, I find that those with international experience have higher income than those without this experience. I also find that international experience leads to upward mobility, in the form of becoming an entrepreneur.

Since 1989, millions of East Europeans have traveled abroad seeking new skills, insights, and economic opportunities. Many of them come back. While the tales of making one’s fortune abroad fill popular culture and the media, there are surprisingly few empirical studies on whether and how being in another country impacts one’s income and career. Part of the reason is that there too few long-term panel datasets that document career paths and include episodes of being abroad. The case of Poland, via its unique panel data called POLPAN, suggests that international experience significantly matters for East Europeans as they navigate the labour market of their home country.

This article is based on the paper, International Experience and Labour Market Success: Analysing Panel Data from Poland, in the Polish Sociological Review.

Irina Tomescu-Dubrow

Irina Tomescu-Dubrow is a Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences and the Director of the Graduate School for Social Research (GSSR). She conducts research on inequality, attainment, and mobility in historical and cross-national perspectives.

Dynamic Class and Stratification in Poland

A new book, Dynamic Class and Stratification in Poland, forthcoming from CEU Press, takes the long view. Written by a team of authors from the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, including Irina Tomescu-Dubrow, Kazimierz M. Slomczynski, Henryk Domanski, Joshua Kjerulf Dubrow, Zbigniew Sawinski, and Dariusz Przybysz, this book is about changes to the social structure in Poland from the Communist era to the present. We, the authors, focus on class and stratification, two key facets of the social structure that best explain, as Gerhard Lenski famously put it, “who gets what and why.”

Our core concepts are rooted in the classic sociological literature on class and stratification, in Poland and abroad. We define class as occupationally-based groups that maneuver within the economic markets. Classes principally revolve around ownership relations and control over labor, including skills. Defining stratification as structured inequality with respect to scarce and valued resources, we focus on formal education, occupational rank, and job income.

Dynamic social structure begs the question: If stratification refers to enduring inequalities, how are social stratification structures simultaneously stable and dynamic? We argue that even during extreme societal transformations, key features of social life, class especially, have long-lasting, stratifying effects. Similarly, mechanisms of differentiation embedded in class and stratification, such as mobility and attainment, are potent explanations for how inequalities structure and restructure.

We use a variety of survey data, including the Polish Panel Survey (POLPAN 1988 -2013), the longest running panel survey in Central and Eastern Europe, and one of the longest in the world. In addition to our own analyses, we summarize the best in quantitative research that appeared in numerous Polish and English language publications since World War Two. This book is the first of its kind, as none other, in Polish or English, has linked Poland’s State Socialist past with the present using survey data on class and inequality.

To explain how the relationship between class and stratification changed through time, we present theoretical and empirical analyses that deal with the following main research questions:

Class and stratification: What has been the impact of the economic and political system in different periods on the class structure? How does the relationship between class and stratification change over-time?

Social mobility and attainment: How did the relationship between social origins and social destinations change over time? How did radical social change impact class mobility and educational attainment?

Occupational differentiation: What is the role of occupational differentiation in maintaining social inequality? Is the occupational hierarchy stable over time?

Class analyses: To what extent does the relationship between class and stratification differ for men and women? How does class align with political behavior after 1989?

We wrote this book because we feel that there are valuable lessons to be learned from linking past to present. Classic issues of class, stratification, mobility, and attainment have endured decades of radical social change. These concepts remain valid even when society tries to eradicate them. The theories retain their explanatory power, though the details shift with the times. Most contemporary class and stratification studies do not age well, as scholars tend to forget that what they are studying has, empirically speaking, deep historical roots. While some would be eager to shed the classic issues of the past to forge what they believe is a new path, this book is a reminder that history continually informs the present.

Table of Contents

Part I: Class and Stratification

Chapter 1: Polish Sociology and Investigations into Class and Stratification in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Chapter 2: Class Structure and Social Stratification in Poland from the 1970s to the 2010s

Part II: Mobility and Attainment

Chapter 3: Social Mobility and Systemic Changes in Class Structure: Analyzing Inflow-Outflow Tables with Different Origin and Destination Categories

Chapter 4: Social Mobility in Education and Occupation, 1982 – 2006

Chapter 5: Systemic Changes and Inequality in Access to Education, 1972 – 2008

Chapter 6: Determinants of Educational Inequality before and after the Systemic Change

Part III: Occupational Differentiation

Chapter 7: Occupational Classifications in Poland since the 1970s

Chapter 8: Changes in Occupational Prestige, 1958 – 2008

Part IV: Class Analyses

Chapter 9: Class, Gender and the Economic Crisis from an Intersectional Perspective

Chapter 10: Twenty Years of Class Voting in Poland, 1991 – 2011