Sign directly opposite the Sojourner Truth, a federal housing project, in Detroit, Michigan. February, 1942. Credit: Arthur Siegel, Office of War Information, Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Accession Number 2013–3716. This image is in the public domain.

The image above depicts a dark time in U.S. history. This was the face of racial discrimination before the 1960s.

Public, common, direct, and fueled by outright racial animus.

Scholars define racial discrimination as “different treatment on the basis of race that disadvantages a racial group.” In other words, racial discrimination occurs when an individual or organization takes action that treats individuals in different ways depending on their race.

An important point here: distinguishing whether the treatment is intentional or unintentional does not matter if the result is the same.

The hard-fought Civil Rights Act of 1964 marked the first…


Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

A press release from the University of Pennsylvania demands your attention: “In the U.S., COVID-19 wasn’t sole cause of excess deaths in 2020.”

The first sentence reads, “By the year 2017, the United States was already suffering more excess deaths and more life years lost each year than those associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.”

Immediately, you think, “what does this mean? Are we overestimating COVID-19 deaths?”

Spoiler alert: the press release does not accurately translate what the researchers found. This is dangerous and irresponsible, and it comes directly from the lead author’s university press office. …


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

The U.S. News and World Report (USNWR) released their graduate program rankings for 2021, including “Best Sociology Programs,” this week. USNWR releases these rankings roughly every 3–4 years. Each time a new edition of the rankings comes out, there is quite a bit of chatter among academics.

One key topic — and rightfully so — always seems to be the methodology. “How appropriate is the five-point scale?” “What was the response rate this year?” “I wonder who chose to respond?” “Why didn’t X department move up after hiring scholars Y and Z?!”

The USNWR collected new data in the second…

S. Michael Gaddis

UCLA professor. Peeking into the interesting parts of the social world through data.

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