Who you know: How social networks hurt Black and Latino job prospects

—Daria Roithmayr

In a recent article in The Atlantic, Derek Thompson highlights what many of us already know—that the burden of recent unemployment falls harder on black and Latino workers than on whites, even though black women and Latino men are working more consistently than their white counterparts.

This is largely due to occupational segregation—the fact that certain racial groups cluster into certain jobs. While some jobs have become increasingly integrated over time, others are dominated by particular groups. As Thompson notes, Latinos make up almost half of farmworkers, blacks make up a third of home health aides, and Asians make up 60% of personal appearance workers. So when the economy sours, certain low-skill, low-income jobs are hit harder than others, and as a result, certain racial groups are hit harder than others

Thompson argues that a disparity in education explains these racial differences. But education is only part of the story. The real story lies elsewhere, in something called “network effects,” which Thompson only mentions in passing.

The old saying—“it’s not what you know but who you know”—matters quite a lot in explaining occupational segregation. Employers fill well over half of all jobs via personal word-of-mouth referrals, and certain jobs, including those listed above, are filled almost exclusively via insider referrals.

A person’s contacts pass along information about the job opening and then often vouch for the candidate to the prospective employer. But job referral networks tend to be racially and occupationally segregated for reasons owing mostly to the idea that birds of a feather flock together socially because they create natural and comfortable connections.

Unhappily, black and Latino job referral networks are more likely to include people who are employed in low-skill, low-income jobs like bus driving and farm work, owing to past discrimination. What’s more, these networks are self-reinforcing. That is, going forward, people who make use of those social networks are far more likely to be referred via word-of-mouth to the same kinds of jobs. So Latinos will continue to take up jobs as domestic workers, for example, because the people in their networks are already employed in those kinds of jobs.

Thompson thinks that the explanation for occupational segregation is less network effects and more education. But education itself is a function of self-reinforcing network effects, this time in our neighborhoods. Public schools get their funding from local property taxes, and, like social networks, those local neighborhoods are racially segregated, which means that poor black and Latino schools are underfunded and contain predominantly poor students with greater material needs. In turn, these schools produce students with fewer skills. And of course, over time, those students are more likely to work in low-wage, low-skill jobs, and to live in poor segregated neighborhoods with underfunded schools.

Thus, even if intentional discrimination were to end tomorrow, occupational segregation will continue indefinitely. Indeed, until we address the problem of network effects, the everyday processes that we take for granted—referring our friends for a job or choosing a neighborhood on the basis of public schools—will continue to reproduce racial inequality.

Daria Roithmayr is the George T. and Harriet E. Pfleger Professor of Law at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. She is the author of Reproducing Racism: How Everyday Choices Lock in White Advantage (forthcoming from NYU Press, 2014).

The “bad” mothers of children with disabilities

—Ruth Colker

Blaming the mother is a long-standing cultural tradition in the United States. In the best-selling book, The Generation of Vipers, Philip Wylie invented the name “momism” in 1942 to describe the “women of America [who] raped the men, not sexually, unfortunately, but morally, since neuters come hard by morals.”

From the moment of pregnancy, mothers are disproportionately blamed for any difficulties faced by their child. During pregnancy, poor mothers are cast as uncaring crack addicts. During childbirth, the state distrusts mothers to make appropriate decisions to protect the well being of the fetus. And, if the child is born with a disability, the mother is blamed for causing whatever difficulties may occur. She is either negligent for failing to do enough to assist her child, or she is overly aggressive for advocating on behalf of her child.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act promises each child a free, appropriate, public education. The words “free” and “appropriate” are intended to signify that the school district, not the parent, should take primary responsibility for educating a child.  The “blame the mother” metaphor that permeates many special education cases, however, undercuts the promise of “free” and “appropriate” by placing educational responsibility on the parent, usually the mother, rather than the school district.

“I cannot turn a blind eye to Mother’s role in causing the original staffing crisis. Again, it was Mother’s complaints regarding [Teacher] and her disagreements with Dr. DePolo (that went so far as filing a professional complaint against her) that caused [Teacher] to discontinue involvement of its staff with Student and left the School District in a position to scramble to replace staff mid-school year.”

In the first case, quoted above, the school district blamed the mother for its staffing crisis after she filed a professional complaint against a teacher who was subjecting her son to seclusion and restraint. The school district insisted that the mother home-school her son for many months while it made little attempt to find a new teacher. Ultimately, the hearing officer accepted the school district’s “blame the mother” version of the story and denied her attorney fees, even though he found the school district had violated the IDEA.

“The student admittedly stays out of the classroom setting for reasons other than time-outs or to relieve anxiety … Allowing the student to do so, to such an extreme as has been tolerated by the school, and demanded by the [Mother], may be doing a dis-service to this student.”

In the second case, quoted above, the school district was allowed to get away with an appalling failure to identify a child with serious behavioral issues as disabled by blaming the mother for his supposed “intentional” bad behavior. The hearing officer said he was in no way “punishing” the mother for filing repeated administrative complaints against the school district, but he did, in fact, rely on those previous findings for the purpose of “detrimental reliance/collateral estoppel.” In other words, the mother was punished for supposedly supporting her son’s inappropriate behavior while also seeking to get him assistance so that he could make adequate educational progress.

Hostility against mothers is only one of many hurdles that parents face as they seek to attain appropriate educational services for their children with disabilities. It is one that deserves more attention now, during the 10-year anniversary of National Work and Family Month, as we seek to understand the challenges many women face.

Ruth Colker is a Distinguished University Professor and the Heck-Faust Memorial Chair in Constitutional Law at the Michael E. Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University. She is the author of Disabled Education: A Critical Analysis of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (New York University Press, 2013).

 

Bullying, teasing and the gender trap

—Emily W. Kane

With National Bullying Prevention Month underway and a focus this year on the sponsoring organization’s tagline, “The End of Bullying Begins with Me,” I find myself thinking back to what I heard from parents of three- to five-year-old children during interviews for my book, The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls.

I talked to parents from all social backgrounds and all family types, and found that quite a few wanted to give their kids the freedom to pick activities, toys, colors, and approaches that were not strictly determined by gender. But even those parents who wanted to encourage a moderately more fluid approach to gender, expressed fear and anxiety about how their children might be treated if they didn’t conform to typical gender expectations.

I heard reports of an everyday world teeming with social pressures, judgments from friends, relatives, their children’s peers and even strangers if their kids didn’t stick to a pretty narrowly gendered path. These parents were very much conscious of the social costs their children might face and, consistent with decades of scholarship in gender studies, these costs and anxieties loomed larger in relation to boys. With frequent mention of phrases liked “picked on” and “ostracized,” parents expressed the fear that their sons would be bullied by other children if they wandered even a little bit off that socially-dictated path.

The trap of parents pushing children toward traditionally-gendered outcomes is sometimes baited by beliefs about biology, personal preferences, and unconscious actions. Even when it isn’t, though, the everyday judgments of friends, relatives, and teachers can bait that same trap. Gender nonconformity is much too often met with bullying behavior, and if adults are not vigilant about responding to that bullying and responding to the more minor policing of gender expectations (which parents in my study labeled as teasing), many parents will enforce gendered constraints they don’t even agree with out of fear for what their children might face.

Individual parents can try to create a less constraining world for their children, but only if the rest of us suspend our judgments, applaud their efforts, and seek to interrupt the everyday teasing and more significant bullying that are too often ignored in children’s daily worlds. Suspending our judgments, offering that applause, and executing those interruptions are all ways that the end of bullying can indeed begin with each of us.

Emily W. Kane is a Professor of Sociology at Bates College and the author of The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls (NYU Press, 2012).

“What We Demand:” March on Washington, 50 years later

—Hasan Kwame Jeffries

The March on Washington had a very specific purpose – to present President Kennedy and Congress with a list of demands designed to secure basic civil and human rights for African Americans. The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, therefore, should not only be a time for sharing snippets of Dr. King’s most famous speech, but also an occasion to look back at the marchers’ demands. Assessing which demands have been met and which have yet to be met will provide a much more accurate picture of how far the nation has come in terms of providing equal opportunity for African Americans than all of the well–meaning recollections and recitations of “I Have A Dream” put together.

Leading the marchers’ list of demands was a call for meaningful civil rights laws. At the time, federal civil rights measures lacked teeth. Prosecutorial power was limited and punishments for racial discrimination were light, if they existed at all. In 1964, major civil rights legislation was passed in the form of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But many complained that it too lacked teeth, and were especially bothered by the absence of provisions to prosecute those who attacked civil rights workers. Today, it remains extremely difficult to bring to justice perpetrators of crimes where racial bias and discrimination were clearly at play. The failure to convict the murderer of young Trayvon Martin underscores the point.

The marchers’ demanded a massive federal work program. The economy was sputtering and hit African Americans especially hard. It was hoped that a New Deal-like jobs program would see the nation—and African Americans—through the downturn. But the federal government never invested in another work program. In fact, during subsequent economic downturns, including the Great Recession of recent years, it established a pattern of propping up large corporations and firing and laying off government employees, rather than expanding employment opportunities to the unemployed and underemployed.

Along with the demand for a massive federal work program, the marchers called for full and fair employment. African Americans were always the last hired and first fired. The only way to break this cycle was to insist on full employment for everyone. Fifty years after the march, America hasn’t come close to full or fair employment. Worse, a large percentage of the nation’s workforce, and disproportionately high numbers of black workers, don’t even earn a livable wage. Meanwhile, debate rages in Congress about nickel and dime increases to the minimum wage.

A major issue for the marchers was decent housing. African Americans across the country were routinely discriminated against when it came to housing, forcing many to live in overpriced, overcrowded dwellings in segregated neighborhoods. Little has changed over the years. In fact, patterns of residential segregation have increased as suburbs have spread and gentrification has reclaimed select urban spaces as exclusive white spaces. And the recent collapse of the housing market has exposed the ongoing vulnerability of black middle class homeowners to discriminatory lending practices.

The right to vote was also a central concern for the marchers. No constitutional right is more fundamental than the vote, yet black southerners continued to be excluded from the ballot box. In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, providing new protections for black voters. But in the new millennium, a wave of state voter ID laws, combined with the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of a key element of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, have put the vote of tens of thousands of African Americans at severe risk.

The marchers’ final demand was adequate integrated education. Nearly a decade after Brown, segregated schools remained the norm in the South and white southerners remained as determined as ever to keep it that way. And half a century later, a race-based dual education system persists. In much of the South, black children attend public schools and white children attend private white Christian academies. In most metropolitan areas with large black populations, the divide is between urban and suburban school districts.

A lot has changed since the March on Washington, and it is wonderful that so many people are taking the time to recognize this historic event. But the sobering reality is that half a century after the march, the marchers’ demands remain largely unmet.

Fifty years from now, at the centennial of the march, I hope these demands will have been fulfilled. But given the slow pace of progress, and the determination of reactionaries to roll back the clock, I’m much less hopeful than I was just a few years ago.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries is Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University, where he holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. He is the author of Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt (NYU Press, 2010).

Learning disability and the DSM-5

—Ruth Colker

Raised in a Spanish-speaking household, Peter learned to speak English at age two while recuperating from a car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Despite an amazing work ethic and informal assistance from others, he struggled in school with painfully slow reading and writing. After reading a paper that he wrote for one of my law school classes, I discretely asked him if he had ever been tested for a learning disability. His paper had great content but some awkward phrases. Four weeks later, after I helped him find inexpensive diagnostic services, he learned at the age of 25 that there was a name for his academic struggles: dyslexia (the most common type of learning disability). As a low-income student with a visible disability, Peter had no idea he should be evaluated for dyslexia.

This diagnosis served as a pivotal moment for Peter; his self-confidence improved as he realized he was not struggling due to low cognitive aptitude. He graduated from law school with some accommodations, received extra time on the bar exam, and became a successful lawyer.

Disappointingly, the American Psychiatric Association has barely recognized the existence of “dyslexia” in its recently published fifth edition to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“DSM-5”). And its fleeting recognition of dyslexia is likely to be confusing.  Despite comments from leading practitioners in the field to make “dyslexia” its own category, the APA stubbornly maintains the amorphous category of “Specific Learning Disorder” and then breaks that category down into impairments in reading, written expression or mathematics. Under “impairment in reading,” there is a brief notation that “Dyslexia is an alternate term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling abilities.” Although the long-awaited Fifth Edition was supposed to reflect the most recent state of knowledge about disability, it adds confusion by failing to recognize dyslexia as its own category.

According to the United States Department of Education, 2,476,000 children between the ages of 3 and 21 were classified as having a learning disability in 2008-2009.  Additionally, millions of adults are classified as having a learning disability and receive accommodations in college, on professional testing and at the workplace in order to be productive members of society.  The most common form of learning disability is dyslexia yet the DSM-5 does not even provide an independent definition of dyslexia.

The proposed DSM-5 reflects a misconception of dyslexia. The amorphous category of “Specific Learning Disorder” presumes that individuals with a learning disability will be low-achieving and need continual testing to demonstrate the existence of this impairment based on the stereotype that they might outgrow it.

It also presumes that adults with learning disabilities will have been typically diagnosed during their primary or secondary education, ignoring the large number of young people in our society who do not have access to the clinical services necessary for such a diagnosis.

One of the most alarming aspects of the DSM-5 is that it buys into what is called the “Response to Intervention” (“RTI”) process for diagnosing a learning disability. RTI is a creature of No Child Left Behind –  it requires that school districts provide low-achieving students with intervention to help them attain grade-level success.  RTI has nothing to do with disability; it is a mechanism to help students, especially poor students, attain grade-level expectations. The DSM-5 requires an RTI process for at least six months before a student can be classified as learning disabled and receive special education and related services. In a January 2011 letter, the United States Department of Education has criticized the way the RTI process often delays a referral for special education classification of students with learning disabilities. By requiring RTI, the proposed DSM-5 could worsen an already-existing problem.

In recent years, we have made enormous progress in providing appropriate assistance to millions of Americans with learning disabilities while maintaining high expectations for their achievement at school and at work. At the same time, science has opened up our ability to understand dyslexia by imaging how the brain works when a person is reading. The DSM-5 ignores legal and scientific developments, downplays the category of “dyslexia,” and turns back the clock with disastrous consequences for children and adults with learning disabilities, like Peter, who are tremendously bright but need modest accommodations in order to become productive, tax-paying members of society.

Ruth Colker is Distinguished University Professor and Heck-Faust Memorial Chair in Constitutional Law, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University. Professor Colker is the author of Disabled Education (New York University Press, 2013).

Marjorie Heins wins 2013 Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award!

NYU Press is proud to announce that Marjorie Heins has been chosen to receive the 2013 Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in book publishing. She is being honored for her book, Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge, a chronicle of the history, law and personal stories behind the struggle to recognize academic freedom as “a special concern of the First Amendment.”

Christie Hefner established the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards in 1979 “to honor individuals who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans,” in the fields of journalism, government, book publishing and education. Find the full list of this year’s winners here.

A press reception with the winners, judges and special presenters will be held on May 22, 2013 at the Playboy Mansion where winners will receive a cash award of $5,000 and a commemorative plaque. (Awesome—way to go, Marjorie!)

Rebel girls rising

—Jessica K. Taft

There is a poster on the wall of my office that reminds me of the long history of girls’ activism. The image is of two girls, wearing roller skates and sashes that proclaim “don’t be a scab.” They have pamphlets in their hands and bows in their hair. Taken during the 1916 New York City street car strike, this photograph speaks to the fact that girl activists have been participating in social movements for quite some time, and that they have been involved in a wide variety of struggles.

The girl activists I wrote about in Rebel Girls do not just address what we might think of as ‘girls’ issues,’ such as teens’ reproductive rights, access to education, or body politics. Like the girls in this early photograph, today’s girl activists in North and South America also fight for labor rights, economic justice, racial equality, environmental sustainability, peace, human rights, and indigenous sovereignty. Girls’ lives, and therefore girls’ politics, are not just defined by their “girl-ness” but are also shaped by their different experiences with neoliberal globalization, political repression, poverty, racism, militarism, and heterosexism.

From my perspective, an analysis of the multiple historical and social contexts of girls’ lives and girls’ activism is what is most notably missing from the current popular celebrations of girls’ capacities to “change the world” (i.e. The Girl Effect and Girl Rising). As girls become increasingly visible figures in discourses on development and economic growth, we desperately need to understand how girls are impacted by the structures of global capitalism and the histories of colonialism and imperialism (not just by local iterations of gender inequality). And, as girls are praised for their individual strengths and their capacity to overcome adversity, we need to learn about the ways they have collectively resisted these forces as participants in social movements.

I too believe that girls can change the world. However, I see this happening not just through individualized economic and educational empowerment but through collective activist projects.  Women’s History Month—and the public discourse on girls as agents of change—should not just applaud individual girls and their educational achievements, but should acknowledge the many generations of girls who have strapped on their roller skates, taken to the streets, and worked together to stand up for social and economic justice.

Jessica K. Taft is assistant professor of sociology at Davidson College and is the author of Rebel Girls: Youth Activism and Social Change Across the Americas (NYU Press, 2010).

Waiting for democracy

—Andrew Guthrie Ferguson

Last November, thousands of citizens waited for hours outside polling places to cast their ballots in the presidential election. When asked why they were willing to wait, most answered in the emphatic language of democratic pride. It is our duty. It is our right. It is our calling as citizens. We are proud to.

Every day in courthouses across America, there are other lines of waiting citizens—lines for jury duty. There are lines to get into the courthouse, lines to check in, lines before you head to the courtroom for jury selection. Yet, if you ask those jurors why they were willing to wait, the language is less emphatic, less proud.

Why do we think of voting as something more connected to our democratic identity?  Why of the twin political rights of voting and jury service—the two markers of full political citizenship—do we value the right to vote more? The answer is that we misunderstand the value and values of jury service to democracy.

Why Jury Duty Matters sets out to reframe the debate by showing the importance of jury service to our democracy. To understand the value of jury service you need to understand its history, its constitutional connection, and its personal relevance to citizenship.

First, the history of the jury is the history of America. The right to a jury trial came over on the first boats to America. Jury protections can be found in the charters that founded the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies. Juries were instituted in the constitutions of each of the Thirteen Colonies and each of the new States. In fact, the denial of the right to a jury trial made it into the Declaration of Independence as one of the grievances of the colonists, helping to spark the Revolutionary War. Not surprisingly then, the right to a criminal jury trial is the only right that makes an appearance in both the original text of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights—under Article III and the Sixth Amendment, respectively. Further, you also have the Seventh Amendment’s right to a civil jury and the Fifth Amendment’s right to a Grand Jury.

Then, as America democratized and diversified, the jury was central to the battle for equality. The civil rights movement in the South began by challenging exclusions from jury service. The right to serve as a juror was a badge of citizenship—symbolizing equality. The women’s suffrage movement (both before and well after the Nineteenth Amendment) also involved a particular emphasis on the right to serve as jurors. Equality meant voting and having the right to jury service. Today, paralleling the progress of the various civil rights movements, jurors represent a fair cross section of society, a living symbol of equality in law.

This constitutional history is real, yet most people do not appreciate it when it comes to jury service. Jury duty is the one time where constitutional history and constitutional theory become immediately relevant, because you—the citizen—are a constitutional actor. We—the people—must act, and Why Jury Duty Matters explores why you should accept the call as a constitutional actor.

Second, the jury is a teaching moment where constitutional values come alive in practice. Participation, deliberation, fairness, equality, accountability, liberty, dissent, and the common good—these are constitutional values, and they are embedded in jury service. While voting is one form of participation, jury service is an even more fundamental contribution. It requires working through those other principles, applying due process rules to achieve fairness, deliberating with others, dissenting with tolerance, and practicing equality in a microcosm of one-person, one-vote democracy in the jury room.

These values are also values that we see in other areas of our democratic practice. But in jury service the lessons are longer, the questions deeper, and the practice harder. It is for that reason that Alexis de Tocqueville likened juries to free public schools, always open to teach the civic skills of democracy.

Finally, jury service is personally meaningful. It is the one day that you are required to act like a constitutional citizen. The argument in this book is that you should treat that jury summons like a constitutional invitation. You get to experience it for a day, or more, and hopefully learn a thing or two about your country and the Constitution.

Jury duty is Constitution duty. It is a way for citizens, ordinary folks, to connect to the constitutional principles that guide this nation. Most people see jury duty as a service they do for the court system or for the defendant or parties. But in truth, jury duty is also for the citizen. Jury duty provides constitutional lessons necessary for democracy.

So the next time you are waiting on jury duty, remember you are waiting for democracy. It is just as important as your vote.

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson is Professor of Law at the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia. He is co-author of Youth Justice in America and author of Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Constitutional Action.

Sandy Hook: Another symptom of widespread cultural despair

—Jessie Klein

I’m still shaken from last Friday’s shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, one of the worst massacres in the history of the United States.

Not much information is available about the 20-year-old gunman or his motives. We know that he had been a student in the Newtown school system years before, and those who were acquainted with him described him as “brilliant” but “remote.” We need to stop looking for the profile of the perpetrators; and examine instead the profile of schools and society more generally. Many school shooters since 1979 have been described with those same adjectives.

When gunmen are repeatedly described as “remote” or as a “loner,” there is likely more than just a “personality disorder” behind their history. In 2004, the General Social Survey (GSS) revealed that fifty percent of our population has either one person or no one to talk to about important issues in their lives. Scholars suggest that this qualifies as inadequate or “marginal support.”

We need to stop looking for perpetrator’s profiles, and instead examine the profile of schools and society overall. According to GSS data from 1985 to 2004, social isolation has tripled. Other reports suggest that empathy has significantly decreased whereas depression and anxiety rates, among adults and youth alike, are soaring. Panic attacks have become part of the common vernacular and are no longer stigmatized as a characteristic of the insane. With fewer options for social acceptance, it is perhaps no surprise then, that depression among youth is starting at increasingly younger ages.

In The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools, I discuss how bullying and other hurtful behaviors have also become common norms. These days, we are pressured to become as successful and powerful as we can be, but are rarely encouraged to check on our neighbors or offer support to others in need. We are working so hard and are so overscheduled that we barely have time to stop for one another, even if it were our priority.

Schools need to make social obligation and support for one another a top goal in curricula, as well as a value discussed and re-affirmed in every aspect of their community. We need a new generation of youth to lead our country who will feel that being compassionate and empathic is just as important as being successful. We need to find a time again when talking to neighbors and offering support is considered kinder than leaving them alone because they are probably busy.

Of course there would be fewer fatalities if we had better gun control laws. There is no question about that. But then the symptoms of our despairing culture will be revealed in other forms. In addition to gun control, we need to tackle the real issues. People need to authentically connect with one another and support each other as a matter of course. We need to transform our bully society into more compassionate and integrated communities. Only then can we truly change.

Jessie Klein is Assistant Professor of Sociology/Criminal Justice at Adelphi University and author of Bully Society (NYU Press, 2012). She has also served as a supervisor, school social worker, college adviser, social studies teacher, substance abuse prevention counselor and conflict resolution coordinator at many high schools. Her writing appears in scholarly journals as well as popular media.

Enjoy 30% off holiday books from NYU Press!

This holiday season, we’re offering 30% off our hand-picked selection of gift books, from Press favorites to recent bestsellers!

Simply visit the sale page on our website to browse the collection—no promo code needed! Or, get started here with some quick suggestions for folks on your holiday shopping list…

    For the history buff: Highway Under the Hudson: A History of the Holland Tunnel, by Robert W. Jackson (now $21.00).

    For the social media junkie: The Social Media Reader, edited by Michael Mandiberg   (now $16.80).

    For the green thumb: Freedom’s GardenerJames F. Brown, Horticulture, and the Hudson Valley in Antebellum America, by Myra B. Young Armstead (now $24.50).

    For the wine lover: Soft Soil, Black Grapes: The Birth of Italian Winemaking in California, by Simone Cinotto (now $24.50).

    For the lonely hearts: Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled, by Michael Cobb (now $14.70).

    For the life-long (or aspiring) New YorkerMore New York Stories: The Best of the City Section of The New York Times, edited by Constance Rosenblum (now $13.27).

For guaranteed delivery by December 24, order by December 15, 2012. Sale for U.S. and Canadian customers only. Ends December 21, 2012.

Price of the “gender trap”? Childhood foundations of the wage gap

—Emily W. Kane

Last month, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) released its most recent study of the gender wage gap, “Graduating to a Pay Gap.” According to the data compiled by the AAUW, just one year out of college, women who were working full time earned, on average, only 82% of what their male counterparts earned. Media attention has focused on AAUW’s finding that, even after accounting for the impact of different college majors, occupations and industries, about one third of the wage gap remains unexplained.

The gap that remains after accounting for college majors and occupations is an important one, but it shouldn’t distract us from the even greater proportion of the gender wage gap that is explained by what social scientists call “occupational gender segregation,” or the tendency for men and women to pursue different courses of study in college and different occupations regardless of their level of formal education. Nor should it distract us from the financial price women pay for their lower overall hours in the labor force, which are often driven by domestic responsibilities. As I argue in my recent book The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls, some of the first foundations for all of this are laid down in early childhood.

Drawing on interviews I conducted with mothers and fathers of preschoolers from a wide range of backgrounds, my analysis reveals how parents can unwittingly contribute to reproducing occupational gender segregation, the wage gap, and women’s responsibilities for domestic labor. From toys and activities that encourage nurturance in girls and technical problem-solving in boys to the differential way they frame the importance of juggling work and family for sons and daughters, even parents anxious to open new opportunities for their daughters often reinforce patterns that are likely to trap them instead. One mother, for example, reported that she had discouraged her four-year old son’s expressed interest in growing up to be a daycare worker “because he could never support a family doing that.”

Another parent, this one a father, noted that he hopes his five-year old daughter has the option to pursue a high-powered career “in the boardroom”, but also hopes she could say “I am a woman and I want to stay home with my kids.” These kinds of comments were echoed often throughout my study, and were rarely combined with parallel comments about a girl’s potential responsibility for supporting children financially or a boy’s option to stay at home with kids. In small moments like these, parents reinforced occupational segregation, assumptions about men’s responsibilities for earning a “family wage” (and thus about women’s financial dependence on men), and routine acceptance of the double standard of low pay associated with traditionally female occupations like child care, social work and primary education.

As I outline in much greater detail in the book, all of those factors combine to reinforce gender traps that most parents hoped to avoid. But I also argue that with greater recognition of the constraints faced by both men and women as they struggle to support families, and greater awareness of the childhood lessons both girls and boys need to learn to be prepared for those future constraints, parents, educators and all of us interested in a better world for our children can sidestep some of the gender traps that contribute to the pay gap the AAUW report points out, a pay gap that only increases in the years after college graduation, and that is all the more complicated for women without college degrees and women who face other intersecting wage disparities by race or citizenship status.

Emily W. Kane is Professor of Sociology at Bates College, and author of The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls (NYU Press, August 2012).

Why “deferred action” isn’t enough

—Michael A. Olivas

Tens of thousands of undocumented students are making their way through college without federal financial support and with little state financial aid available—only to find that they cannot accept employment or enter the professions for which they have trained. Cases of undocumented law-school graduates who have passed the bar are surfacing in California, Florida, and New York, and more will soon surface in other fields, too, as unauthorized students graduate from college. Seeing this brick wall, a number of immigration law professors wrote a letter to the president, urging him to use the administrative discretion available to him, to help undocumented college students who find themselves in the worst of all possible worlds. It appears this call was heard when, in June 2012, President Obama announced an expansive Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which is still in the implementation first phases.

Unfortunately, despite the excitement (and outrage from President Obama’s Republican opponents), this policy is not the stalled DREAM Act, which would have created a path to citizenship for some immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. The President’s courageous decision could not have accorded any more than he did, as any true reform will have to come from Congress, which has been reluctant to take up even the modest DREAM Act, much less the more comprehensive immigration reform so needed.

Gov. Mitt Romney has indicated his determination to veto any version of the DREAM Act, and the 2012 GOP platform urges deportation of these students. In reality, the President’s adoption of a “deferred action” policy is, to a great extent, old wine in a new wineskin. The policy does not grant legal-residency status, as the DREAM Act would, but only defers deportation for a renewable two-year period. Announcing the policy shows new political will, but it does not change existing law or create additional discretion.

Forms of prosecutorial discretion, including deferred action, have been available for many years (originating in the John Lennon deportation case, in the early 1970s). Nothing substantive has been added to existing authority. Indeed, in June 2011, the government announced that it would focus on deporting known criminals (the “gangbangers” as President Obama referred to them in a recent debate)—and urged prosecutors to use their discretion in considering the cases of students who would qualify for the DREAM Act. DACA has made regular provisions for these students to receive work authorization. Bear in mind, too, that this administration removed and deported nearly 400,000 unauthorized immigrants in the previous year. Even with those metrics, and the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, those who would further restrict immigration are not convinced that there has been enough enforcement—and see deferred action as a threat to the present situation. In August 2012, CIS employees filed suit to end DACA. There is a new application procedure, a good thing, and many details yet to be determined.

Deferred action is a vague and confusing process—and it will probably lead to unscrupulous notarios entering the picture. Under current regulations, individuals whose case has been deferred are eligible to receive employment authorization, provided he or she can demonstrate “an economic necessity for employment.” Deferred action can be terminated or renewed at any time at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security. Many potential DREAMers will be hesitant to apply and “out” themselves to authorities, even in exchange for employment authorization, if the President is not re-elected. The delays occasioned by schools being overwhelmed with transcript requests make it clear that this has been a complicated and expensive process, one with uncertain contours. History may be on the side of the DREAMers, but they still find themselves in a cruel limbo not of their making, and with no clear way out of the thicket. This is a movement forward, and the program will transform many of the students’ lives for the better. But only the adults in Congress taking up immigration reform will truly serve their interests, and that of society.

Thirty years after the Supreme Court told us that undocumented immigrants deserve an education (Plyler v. Doe, 1982), we have yet to resolve this impasse. Deferred action is a step in the right direction, but until more cases are cleared and these students can take up work, it will be a program fraught with potential. While these students’ chances of being deported may be reduced, without employment authorization and a reasonable opportunity to regularize their status, they will still live in the shadows—with limited hope.

Michael A. Olivas is Professor of Law, University of Houston, and the author of No Undocumented Child Left Behind (NYU Press, 2102).