SocArXiv Highlights, ASA Edition

In honor of the American Sociological Association annual meeting, which starts on Saturday, I’m highlighting a handful of SocArXiv papers that will be presented at the conference. Their time/location is noted below as well. If you’ve just shared an ASA paper of your own with your discussant (and if you haven’t, time to get moving), consider uploading it to SocArXiv as well. You can always update it with a revised version later.

A related note—as I’ve been collating these the past few months, I’ve been noticing a pretty heavy gender imbalance in my selections, even though I’ve been paying attention. At first I thought it was my subfield tastes or implicit bias, but looking more closely, the pool itself is quite male-dominated—certainly more so than the discipline as a whole. So women in particular, please consider sharing your papers!

And last point—a few days ago I noticed that a version of a SocArXiv paper by Penn State demographer Alexis Santos-Lozada and colleague Jeffrey T. Howard on excess deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, was just published in JAMA. Santos-Lozada’s research was highlighted here last month pre-publication. Congratulations—it’s important work.

Standard disclaimer: I make no claim to peer review or formal evaluation of the papers here. Read it yourself before you cite.

Market crises as disasters: the social meaning of financial risk in 401(k) retirement accounts

Adam Hayes

Section on Economic Sociology Refereed Roundtable Session

Mon, August 13, 4:30 to 5:30pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 113A

This very interesting paper links econ soc with the sociological literature on disasters to understand how experience of a stock market crash causes households to shift their 401(k) investments toward long-term conservatism. This is consistent with neither neoclassical or behavioral economic predictions, but fits predictions regarding the social amplification of risk. Unfortunately, this social reaction may not bode well for retirement savers in the long run—not a good sign as bankruptcy rises among older Americans.

God’s Country in Black and Blue: How Christian Nationalism Shapes Americans’ Views about Police (Mis)treatment of Blacks

Samuel Perry, Andrew Whitehead, and Joshua Davis

Religion, Politics, and Donald J. Trump

Sat, August 11, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, Franklin Hall 7

ASA’s theme this year is “Feeling Race”, and this paper on Christian nationalism and attitudes about police mistreatment of blacks is certainly relevant. Drawing on a national probability sample, it shows a relationship between Christian nationalism, measured by agreement with statements like “The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation,” and beliefs about differences in how U.S. police officers treat blacks and whites. There is a strong relationship between Christian nationalism and believing the police treat people of all races similarly, unsurprisingly, but with some unexpected twists: the relationship declines with increasing religious activity, and it holds for nonwhite Christian nationalists as well as white ones.

Duality in Diversity: Cultural Heterogeneity, Language, and Firm Performance

Matthew Corritore, Amir Goldberg, and Sameer Srivastava

Culture and Organizations

Sat, August 11, 4:30 to 6:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, Franklin Hall 4

Much of the conversation around diversity—certainly the legal conversation around affirmative action—is grounded in the idea that diversity is beneficial for everyone in an organization. In terms of organizational capacity, the working assumption is usually that of a tradeoff between better coordination (with homogeneity) or more creative problem-solving (with diversity). This paper shifts that conversation by examining intrapersonal diversity—having individuals with more internally heterogenous beliefs. Drawing on data from Glassdoor, the paper argues that interpersonal heterogeneity worsens organizational coordination, while intrapersonal heterogeneity facilitates creativity. An interesting angle with implications for debates over the effects of diversity from Google to higher ed.

Gender trouble beyond the LGB and T: Gender Image and Experiences of Marginalization on Campus

Kari J. Dockendorff and Claudia Geist

Section on Sociology of Education Refereed Roundtable Session

Sun, August 12, 2:30 to 3:30pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Salon H

Finally, Dockendorff and Geist survey a pool of American undergraduates to better understand the experiences of trans and nonbinary students, particularly focusing on students who report others perceiving them as androgynous or of a different gender than they perceive themselves, finding higher levels of self-reported marginalization among those who identify “beyond the binary”. The paper makes innovations in gender measurement as well as exploring student experiences around gender marginalization in new ways.

Enjoy the remaining days of summer, whether you’re heading to ASA in Philly, lounging by the beach, or just heading to the office.


SocArXiv Highlights for July

Once again it’s time for monthly highlights from SocArXiv, aka Stuff Beth Thought Was Interesting. This month we’ve got an eclectic set of papers with no unifying theme, other than being uploaded to SocArXiv in the last month. As usual, I remind you that SocArXiv papers are not necessarily peer-reviewed, so use judgment when you read.

In Puerto Rico, Excess Deaths Following Hurricane Georges Persisted for Three Months

Alexis R. Santos-Lozada

In the craziness of political life these days, disasters fall off the radar way too quickly. But we still don’t know how many people died in Puerto Rico as a result of the hurricane last fall. The official death toll is still 64. But a number of scholars have been working to provide better estimates of the real impact of the tragedy. Another widely reported estimate, based on house-to-house survey data, produced a figure of 4600. Now this paper by Santos-Lozada, comparing death records from last year to historical averages for the three-month period following the hurricane, suggests a number around 900. Debate over the true number will continue, but this is a great example of the kind of paper that needs to get out there quickly, rather than lingering hidden in peer review.

The Sources and Political Uses of Ambiguity in Statecraft

Katrina Quisumbing King

Well, this is right up my alley. A large and growing literature examines how states make populations “legible” through censuses, mapmaking, data collection and so on. But it’s also clear that states use ambiguity—in laws, definitions, policies—in productive ways. This paper uses the historical case of the U.S. colonization of the Philippines to show how the institutionalization of ambiguity can resolve imperial conflicts. After the U.S. took the Philippines in the Spanish-American War, debates about what their status should be—a colony? an eventual U.S. state?—were resolved by creating ambiguous categories: the territory would be “foreign in a domestic sense” (according to the Supreme Court), and their residents neither citizens nor aliens. The paper goes on to explore how this institutionalized ambiguity helped the U.S. resolve competing, and contradictory, demands that it remain true to the Constitution while presenting Filipinos, perceived as racially inferior, from accessing the rights of citizens.

Addendum: I just noticed this paper just won the grad student paper award in political sociology, and an honorable mention for the comparative-historical grad award. See, I have good taste!

Inequality Is a Problem of Inference: How People Solve the Social Puzzle of Unequal Outcomes

Jonathan J.B. Mijs

How do we understand inequality? This interesting theoretical paper argues that if people’s informal theories of inequality shape their political views, we need to take more seriously the task of understanding where those theories come from. The paper suggests we do that by conceptualizing inequality beliefs as inference problems – that ordinary people look for theories that explain their everyday experiences and observations of inequality. Personally, I wouldn’t discount the extent to which we learn our theories explicitly from those around us, as well as inferring them from experience, but this is still an intriguing way to conceptualize a challenging problem.

Career Paths and Prospects in Academic Data Science: Report of the Moore-Sloan Data Science Environments Survey

Stuart Geiger, Charlotte Mazel-Cabasse, Chihoko Cullens, Laura Norén, Brittany Fiore-Gartland, Diya Das, and Henry Brady

Ready to ditch sociology entirely? How about a career in the growing field of data science? This report on three major data science institutes—at Berkeley, NYU, and the University of Washington—explains what data science is, what academic data scientists do, and presents interesting interview data on the career paths of early-career data scientists. If you think you might be a data scientist, or would like to be, this report is definitely worth a read.

Okay, that’s it for this month’s SocArXiv update. If you’re in the northeastern U.S., hope you’re staying cool.

SocArXiv highlights for May, education organizations edition

Among the many interesting papers posted to SocArXiv this month, this I’m highlighting four that circle around a loose theme: education organizations. All four this month are not-yet-published drafts, including three working papers and a very interesting dissertation chapter. As always, these are papers that caught my eye but they are not peer-reviewed; read them yourself before citing.

The Performativity of Organizational Culture in a No Excuses Charter School

Jason Radford

Okay, I’ll admit I was grabbed by the title. Love the concept or hate it, we usually associate “performativity” with economics or finance, at least since Donald MacKenzie’s work. But of course the old Thomas theorem—“If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences”—applies to our understanding of the world more generally. So why not the performativity of org theory? Many innovative or experimental organizations are grounded in theories, academic or otherwise, about what accounts for organizational success. In the case at hand, No Excuses charter schools were founded based on a theory that strong leaders could create organizational cultures that would produce educational success for disadvantaged students. This ethnographic case study of one No Excuses school explores how leadership attempted to implement their theory and reacted when the theory did not quite perform in the way it expected.

Engineering a Platform: Constructing Interfaces, Users, Organizational Roles, and the Division of Labor

Shreeharsh Kelkar

This intriguing paper, also ethnographic, reports on the development of edX, a MOOC platform started in 2012 as a nonprofit collaboration between Harvard and MIT. edX began as an educational organization—it saw itself as linking faculty and TAs with software developers and students—but eventually became a platform for other organizations to use, adopting the slogan “We do software so that you can do education.” In the process, edX had to create a new division of labor in which it did software development (internally framed as “boring”), while instructors at partner institutions would do the “interesting” work of content creation. Yet the supposedly neutral role of platform design still had huge pedagogical implications, even as edX came to distinguish what it did as an organization from “education”. The paper concludes by arguing that understanding platforms requires attending not just to “licenses, legal arrangements, and calculative agencies, but also to the shaping of organizational roles within the eco-system.”

The Ties that Corporatize: A Social Network Analysis of University Presidents as Vectors of Higher Education Corporatization

Tressie McMillan Cottom, Sally Hunnicutt, and Jennifer A. Johnson

This new working paper from Cottom and colleagues reports on a social network analysis of a dataset involving the career histories and education of presidents of Association of Public & Land-grant Universities (APLU) members, including a number of HBCUs, and a smaller sample of for-profit institutions. Presidents of predominantly white APLU institutions are tightly networked, while for-profit institutions and HBCUs are marginal to the network; the institutions with the highest degree centrality are Purdue, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas A&M—an observation that makes Purdue’s recent experiments with purchase of the for-profit Kaplan to run its online classes all the more interesting.

Engineering Credentials: Educational Entrepreneurship as Statecraft in the Cold-War United States

Alexander Kindel and Mitchell Stevens

Last but not least, this historical case study of Stanford’s postwar expansion of graduate science and engineering education engages the longstanding “credential society” literature by advocating for greater attention to the role of the state. While credentialing theory gives credit to educational entrepreneurs and the status projects of occupational groups in driving the expansion of credential-producing programs, this paper points to the fundamental role of the state in this process—through massive government patronage that schools like Stanford entrepreneurially tapped into to drive their own credentialing contributions.

This is self-evidently true for the fields that benefited from the federal government’s massive Cold War expansion of science funding, but struck another chord with me as well, as I recently revised a draft chapter on the origins of public policy schools. Policy schools, which only got started in the late 1960s, were themselves an entrepreneurial response on the part of universities to the massive demand for RAND-style analysis produced by federal rollout of the Planning-Programming-Budgeting System in 1965—making them another, very distinct case in which educational entrepreneurship could be better described as academic statecraft.

Okay, that’s it for this round. Interested in highlighting papers closer to your own interests? Shoot us an email at In the meanwhile, keep those papers coming!

SocArXiv highlights for April

Welcome back for a second round of monthly SocArXiv highlights. This is a way to call out a handful of the many papers that were posted in April, focusing mostly and sociology and reflecting my totally idiosyncratic tastes. Some are working papers or forthcoming articles; some are preprints of recently published work. All are freely available via OSF.

Disclaimer: I make no claim to peer review or to evaluation of the papers here. Read it yourself before you cite!

The Price of an Uncertain Promise: Fair Value Accounting and the Shaping of Bank Counterparty Risk Valuation Practices

Taylor Spears

This paper, which lies at the intersection of social studies of finance and institutionalism/field theory, is a fascinating look at how the adoption of fair value accounting by the Financial Accounting Standards Board affected the financial modeling practices used by banks. Consistent with MacKenzie (2011), the paper finds competing and conflicting valuation processes within and across organizations, and that the new standards tipped the balance in favor of a set of practices aligned with financial economics. The paper does a really nice job of showing how institutional and sociomaterial explanations can be complementary, and that both are needed to understand this kind of change.

Cultural Meanings and the Aggregation of Actions: The Case of Sex and Schooling in Malawi

Margaret Frye

This paper was published in ASR last year, but it went up on SocArXiv this month, so fair game. Maggie Frye does great and original work linking cultural accounts and demographic data. By moving between empirical evidence on sexual behavior and school-leaving, and student/teacher accounts of why sexual relationships cause girls to leave school, Frye produces a compelling account of how causal narratives — even inaccurate ones — influence actions in ways that have population-level effects.

Two from the sociology of science:

Men Set Their Own Cites High: Gender and Self-citation across Fields and over Time

Molly King, Carl Bergstrom, Shelley Correll, Jennifer Jacquet, Jevin West


The Matthew Effect in Science Funding

Thijs Bol, Mathijs de Vaan, and Arnout van de Rijt

The findings of these two papers may not be shocking, but both provide important new evidence of the effects they describe. The King et al. paper, published in Socius last year, shows that men cite their own work 70% more than women, and that these numbers have not changed over the last fifty years. The Bol et al. paper, published this year in PNAS, shows that early career researchers just above the funding threshold of a major European grant accumulate twice as much funding over the next eight years as those just below it. The practical takeaway, though, is that part of the gap happens because initially unfunded applicants subsequently apply for fewer grants, not only because successful applicants are more likely to be funded down the road. So women, cite your own work, and rejected grant applicants, keep on trying.

Can Cultural Consumption Increase Future Earnings? Exploring the Economic Returns to Cultural Capital

Aaron Reeves and Robert de Vries

Just yesterday a graduate student asked me if anyone had looked at whether Lauren Rivera’s finding about the cultural matching that goes on at elite firms applies to other occupational settings. I said I didn’t know of work that did (though tell me if I’m wrong!), and then I ran into this paper, forthcoming in the British Journal of Sociology. While it doesn’t look at matching per se, it does examine whether cultural consumption predicts future earnings, upward social mobility, and promotions. (Answer: yes.) This seems like an area that is ripe for interesting work and where relationships are likely to vary a great deal across industry, occupation, and location.

Okay, that’s it for this time. Keep on posting your working papers and preprints to SocArXiv and I’ll keep on sharing — at least as much as I can.

Submitted a paper for an ASA section award? Submit it to SocArXiv and be eligible for a SOAR award too

If you’ve submitted a paper to be considered for an American Sociological Association section award – including a graduate student award – consider submitting it to SocArXiv as well. Any paper that is uploaded to SocArXiv by April 30 and wins a 2018 ASA section award will, upon letting us know, receive a supplementary SOAR (Sociology Open Access Recognition) award of $250 in recognition of your achievement. Support open access, gain recognition, and win money all at the same time!

Here’s how it works: You upload your paper to SocArXiv by April 30. If it’s a published paper, check your author agreement or the Sherpa/ROMEO database to see what version, if any, you’re allowed to share. Once you find out you’ve won a section award, email to notify us. We’ll send you a check for $250, as well as publicizing your paper and officially conferring a SOAR award. That’s the whole deal.

Sharing your paper through SocArXiv is a win-win. It’s good for you, because you get the word out about your research. It’s good for social science, because more people have access to ungated information. And now, with SOAR prizes for award-winning papers, it can be good for your wallet, too.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What happens if I submitted a paper, but don’t notify SocArXiv it’s won a section award?

You will only receive a SOAR award if you let SocArXiv know at by August 31, 2018 that your paper has won an ASA section award.

  1. What if I upload my paper after I win the section award?

Any papers uploaded by April 30, 2018 are eligible. We welcome later sharing of papers, but they will not be eligible for SOAR awards.

  1. Does the version submitted to SocArXiv have to be identical with the version submitted to the ASA section?

The versions must be reasonably similar but do not need to be identical. For example, if you upload to SocArXiv a pre-copyediting version of your published paper that you have permission to share, but send the award committee the published version, you are still eligible for the award.

  1. I’d love to upload my paper, but my copyright agreement doesn’t allow me to. What do I do?

First, you may still have the right to upload some version of the paper, even if it is not the final published version. Check the Sherpa/ROMEO database for the preprint policies of many academic journals. If you really can’t share any version, you are unfortunately not eligible for a SOAR award. But keep in mind for next time that copyright agreements can often be edited or amended. You don’t have to give away your rights to your work.

  1. I am a graduate student submitting a paper for a graduate student section award. Am I still eligible?

Yes, absolutely. ASA section awards for graduate student papers are also eligible for SOAR.

  1. I am submitting my paper for an award in another disciplinary association. Am I eligible for SOAR?

At present SOAR awards are limited to papers recognized by ASA sections. However, we are always interested in building partnerships with other organizations and disciplines. Please reach out to us at if you are interested in developing a similar program for your organization.


SocArXiv highlights for March

SocArXiv has been up and running for a year and a half now, and has accepted well over 2000 papers to date. Although you can follow the SocArXiv bot on Twitter to see what’s coming down the transom, and this page provides a running feed of the latest papers and abstracts, it’s a lot to follow – last month more than 200 papers were uploaded.

Toward the end of making this firehose of research a bit more manageable, I (Beth Popp Berman, member of the SocArXiv steering committee) thought I’d start to do a little curating. The intent at this point is to do this once a month, though clearly it could be a weekly feature.

Highlighted below are a handful of intriguing papers posted to SocArXiv recently. Selection criteria are totally idiosyncratic – sociology-centric and based on what looks intriguing to me, with some eye toward broader appeal. If you’re interested in helping to curate on a monthly basis, perhaps with a focus on a particular subfield, email me at

Disclaimer: I make no claim to peer review here or even to close reading of the papers to evaluate quality; some have been published and gone through peer review while others are working papers.

So, with no further ado:

The Emotional Labor of Surveillance: Evidence from the Fast Fashion Retail Industry

Madison Van Oort

This ethnography- and interview-based paper looks at just-in-time scheduling, biometric scanners, and point-of-sale metrics as forms of worker surveillance at two major “fast fashion” retailers. It details the ways these technologies shape work practices and require new kinds of emotional labor—the “emotional labor of surveillance.” I saw Van Oort present research from this project at ASA last year and it was fascinating – there is lots of room to understand how new technology is yet again restructuring the workplace through new forms of discipline than in turn produce their own resistance.

Exposure to Opposing Views can Increase Political Polarization: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment on Social Media

Christopher Bail, Lisa Argyle, Taylor Brown, John Bumpus, Haohan Chen, M.B. Fallin Hunzaker, Jaemin Lee, Marcus Mann, Friedolin Merhout, Alexander Volfovsky

This large-scale experiment got a lot of attention on (surprise) social media when it was posted a couple of weeks ago. Following a survey, authors randomly assigned Democratic and Republican Twitter users to follow a bot that would periodically tweet messages from the “other side”. After a month, they surveyed respondents again, finding that Republicans became substantially more conservative after following a liberal Twitter bot, and Democrats became slightly (but insignificantly) more liberal. Make of that what you will, but it’s interesting experimental evidence.

The Rise of the Randomistas: On the Experimental Turn in International Aid

Kevin Donovan

Speaking of experiments, this paper recently published online-first in Economy and Society looks at how randomized controlled trials became a newly dominant form of knowledge in international development. Promoted as a means of securing epistemic certainty, RCTs have reconfigured both development economics and international aid itself, yet still fail to achieve the closure hoped for by their proponents. This intriguing paper, part of a not-yet-published issue on evidence-based policy, builds on the work of scholars like Monika Krause and Gil Eyal to understand how networks of expertise are produced and maintained.

Leaving the Financial Nest: Connecting Young Adults’ Financial Independence to Financial Security

Megan Doherty Bea and Youngmin Yi

As someone with an interest in student loans and their effects, I found this paper on young adults and their reliance on family support intriguing. Clearly the ability of parents to continue to assist young adults is a difficult-to-measure but important mechanism for the reproduction of inequality. Using PSID data, this paper uses group-based trajectory analysis to identify four latent classes of young adults: consistently independent, quickly independent, gradually independent, and consistently supported. The consistently independent group, with lower average socioeconomic status, reports more financial worry and has a greater chance of being in poverty. This approach seems very promising for better understanding the mechanisms through which intergenerational advantage is transmitted and reproduced.

Too Many Papers? Slowed Canonical Progress in Large Fields of Science

Johan S. G. Chu and James Evans

Finally, and appropriate to the project of sorting through lots of papers, this short working paper uses a very large dataset (57 million papers and a billion citations) to look at how scientific fields develop as the number of papers in them grows large. Increasing size leads to “ossification” of the literature rather than increased citation of new papers, suggesting that new ideas may have trouble gaining hold as readers, overwhelmed by the literature, focus on canonical texts. This intriguing evidence could be interpreted in a number of different ways, and will doubtless generate debate over which story best fits the empirical citation patterns.

There’s lots of good stuff out there – I easily could have highlighted several times this number of papers! Again, if you’re interested in helping curate interesting work on SocArXiv, please let me know – with more people, and different tastes, we could conceivably do something a little more systematic here.

SocArXiv kicks off fundraising drive with new support

SocArXiv, open archive of the social sciences, has launched an initial round of fundraising to support outreach, development, and administration. To kick off this drive, we are delighted to announce that the libraries at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Los Angeles have each contributed $10,000 to our outreach efforts this year. The leaders of these forward-thinking organizations are stepping forward to support open scholarship in the social sciences.

SocArXiv is a partner of the nonprofit Center for Open Science (COS) and is housed at the University of Maryland, under the administrative direction of sociology professor Philip Cohen, who leads a steering committee of sociologists and academic librarians.

The archive launched in beta version on November 30. SocArXiv provides a free, noncommercial service for rapid sharing of academic papers; it is built on the Open Science Framework, a platform for researchers to upload data and code as well as research results. SocArXiv is a not-for-profit alternative to existing commercial platforms, so researchers can be assured that they are sharing their research in an environment where access, not profit, will remain at the heart of the mission.

Since development was first announced in July, researchers have deposited more than 800 papers and continue to participate at an increasing rate. We anticipate rapid growth in that number in the coming year as we establish a reputation as the fully open repository for sociology and social science research.

With COS developing the technology, SocArXiv is focusing on planning, community mobilization, outreach, and governance of the archive. To that end, the Open Society Foundations and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation have each granted the initiative at the University of Maryland $50,000 for the coming year. We now seek support from institutional leaders who anticipate collaboration and participation by their constituents, and who recognize the collective benefit of this public goods infrastructure project.

We are encouraging institutional supporters to participate at one of three levels:

$1,000: Supporter. Supporters receive promotional materials for dissemination to their constituents, and public recognition of their contributions to the future of open scholarship.

$5,000: Sponsor. In addition to supporter recognition, Sponsors have the opportunity to host a webinar or workshop for their constituents with a SocArXiv representative.

$10,000: Partner. Beyond the workshop/webinar, institutions at the Partner level of support have the opportunity to be represented on the SocArXiv Advisory Board, currently in formation, which we anticipate will have two online meetings per year, to evaluate progress and challenges, and to help set direction for governance and development.

Please contact us to discuss how we can work together.