Category: February 2015

Gender Differences in the Heterosexual College Scene of Hooking Up and Relationships

By Paula England and Jessie Ford

What is going on in today’s heterosexual college scene, which features both casual “hookups” and exclusive relationships?  How does gender structure students’ experiences? We’ll give you an overview, using data from the Online College Survey of Social Life (OCSLS) led by Paula England. This survey was taken online by over 20,000 students from 21 four-year colleges and universities between 2005 and 2011. We limit our analysis to those who said they are heterosexual.

An Overview of What’s Happening

Most students are involved in both exclusive relationships and hooking up at some point during their time in college. As students use the term “hookup,” it generally means that there was no formal, pre-arranged date, but two people met at a party, or in the dorm, and something sexual happened. Hookups can entail anything from just making out to intercourse.

The survey asked students who said they had ever hooked up while at college to provide details about their most recent hookup. It provided a list of sexual behaviors; they checked all that applied. We found that 40 percent of hookups involved intercourse, and 35 percent involved no more than making out and some nongenital touching.  The rest involved oral sex and/or hand-genital touching.

Who Initiates Dates, Relationships, and Sex?

Behavior in both hookups and relationships is structured by gender. For example, many women aim for male-traditional careers, but few ever ask a man on a date. Only 12 percent of students reporting on their most recent date said that the woman had asked the man out. A large majority of both men and women report that they think it is okay for women to ask men out—it just doesn’t happen much. Reports of who initiated the date or the talk defining the relationship match up quite closely.

How about initiating sex in hookups? Male initiation is more common than female initiation. But the size of the gender difference in initiation is unclear because men and women report things differently. Men attribute initiation to themselves than to the woman, but not by a large margin.

By contrast, women are much more likely to attribute initiation to the man than to themselves. We suspect that women are reluctant to initiate or to claim doing so in hookups because of the double standard of sexuality, that is, because women are judged more harshly for engaging in casual sex than men are.

Who Has Orgasms in Hookups and Relationships?

When we analyze gender inequality in the workplace, we usually focus on the sex gap in pay.  In the casual sex of hookups, we could see sexual pleasure as an analogous outcome measure. One available measure of pleasure is whether the student reported that she or he had an orgasm. Students were asked whether they had an orgasm on their last hookup, and also on the last time in their most recent relationship (of at least six months) when they did something sexual beyond just kissing with their partner. The figure below shows the orgasm gap in various types of hookups and in relationships.

Percent of Men and Women Reporting an Orgasm in Recent Hookup and Relationship. Graph shows that women tend to orgasm less. Note: oral sex refers to whether the student reporting on his or her own orgasm received oral sex. Data limited to students identifying as heterosexual in male/female events.

Percent of Men and Women Reporting an Orgasm in Recent Hookup and Relationship
Note: oral sex refers to whether the student reporting on his or her own orgasm received oral sex. Data limited to students identifying as heterosexual in male/female events.


We conclude several things from the graph: (1) There is a large gender gap in orgasms in hookups. (2) A gender gap in orgasms also occurs in relationship sex, but it is much smaller than in hookups. (3) Both women and men are more likely to have an orgasm in a relationship (given the same sexual behavior). Thus suggests that relationship-specific practice, caring for the partner, both matter for both men and women’s pleasure. (4) When couples have intercourse, both men and women are more likely to orgasm if they received oral sex, and this is especially true for women.

In addition to being asked about whether they had an orgasm in hookups, students were asked if their partner orgasmed. What is striking is how much men appear to overstate their partners’ orgasms. This may be because women fake orgasms to make men feel better, and men are misled by this; we learned in qualitative interviews that some women do this, but don’t know how prevalent it is. It is also possible that men simply don’t know and make an exaggerated assessment.

If women had an orgasm, they are much more likely to report that they enjoyed the hookup.  However, despite the gender inequality in orgasm, women report almost the same degree of overall enjoyment of their hookups as men report.

Conclusions and Speculations: Gender in the College Sexual Scene

Men are more likely to initiate dates, sexual behavior, and exclusive relationships. Women may feel uncomfortable initiating or claiming initiation for sex in hookups because of the double standard of sexuality, under which they are judged more harshly than men for casual sex. Hookup sex leads to an orgasm much more often for men than women; this gender gap in orgasm is greater in casual than relational sex. We speculate that men’s lack of concern for their partner’s orgasm in hookups flows from holding the double standard that gives them permission for casual sex but leads them to look down on their partners for the same behavior.

We suggest the following.

First, other research shows that gender equality in careers is enhanced when marriage and childbearing are delayed until later ages. To the extent that hooking up rather than early involvement in relationships delays marriage and childbearing, it contributes to gender equality.

Second, an alternative to a series of hookups in college could be a series of a few extended monogamous relationships. Because we find that women orgasm more and report more enjoyment in relationship sex than hookup sex, a change from hookups to relationships would improve gender equality in sexual pleasure. One question is whether this shift could occur without encouraging earlier marriage, which, as mentioned, is bad for gender equality in careers.

Third, because we speculate that it is men’s belief in the double standard that leads them to fail to prioritize their hookup partners’ pleasure because they feel some disrespect for them, it follows that if the double standard could be changed, gender equality in sexual pleasure might be achieved within the hookup context.


This article summarizes a talk presented by ASA President Paula England to DCSS in November 2014.  If you are interested in using the OCSLS data, contact Paula England at

For published analyses using the OCSLS data, see:

  1. Armstrong, Elizabeth, Paula England, and Alison Fogarty. 2012. “Accounting for Women’s Orgasm and Sexual Enjoyment in College Hookups and Relationships.” American Sociological Review 77(3): 435–462.
  2. Bearak, Jonathan Marc. 2014. “Casual Contraception in Casual Sex: Life-Cycle Change in Undergraduates’ Sexual Behavior in Hookups.” Social Forces 93: 483-513.
  3. England, Paula and Jonathan Marc Bearak. 2014. “The Sexual Double Standard and Gender Differences in Attitudes Toward Casual Sex among U.S. University Students.” Demographic Research 30, 46:1327-1338.
  4. England, Paula, Emily Fitzgibbons Shafer, and Alison C. K. Fogarty. 2012. “Hooking Up and Forming Romantic Relationships on Today’s College Campuses.” Pp. 559-572 in The Gendered Society Reader, Fifth Edition, edited by Michael Kimmel and Amy Aronson. New York: Oxford University Press.

Return to February 2015 Issue

The Founding of DCSS Part One: The Context

By Patricia Lengermann and Gillian Niebrugge

This paper shares a work-in-progress on the history of sociology in the District of Columbia.  We welcome information and corrections.

The earliest published reference to the District of Columbia Sociological Society that we have located is Morgan Baker’s May 4, 1934 “The Federal Diary,” a daily feature The Washington Post began running on November 29, 1932.  The lead entry in that day’s “Diary” reports on “a conference of sociologists” recently held at 1640 Rhode Island Avenue N.W.  Located near DuPont Circle, it was the address of The Admiral Inn, a preferred meeting place for D.C.-based sociologists; it became the B’nai Brith Museum and is today the site of the Human Rights Campaign.

Attending were two prominent figures in the American Sociological Society (since 1959, “Association”), Ernest Burgess, that year’s President and an eminent member of University of Chicago’s Department of Sociology, and Stuart A. Rice, an active figure on ASS committees, past president of the American Statistical Association, and at that time the Assistant Director of the Census Bureau; both were members of the ASS’s increasingly important Research Planning Committee.  Also present were D. W. Willard, chair of the Department of Sociology at the George Washington University and Earl Bellman of the University of Maryland. Together with then-director of the Community Chest, Elwood Street, they presented a “constitution and plan” for the formation of a local chapter of the ASS.  That presentation was bracketed by Rice’s talk on the need for “a sociological council to reconcile and coordinate the sociological objectives of various government bureaus and offices” and a talk by Burgess on the “National Opportunity for Sociologists.”

Part One of our paper identifies three societal factors shaping that founding:  (1) The Great Depression of the 1930s, (2) the New Deal, and (3) the intensification of conflicts long brewing in American sociology.

The Great Depression

Although as early as 1927 there were signs of weakness in the seemingly boom economy of the 1920s, the Great Depression is popularly taken as beginning with the stock market crash in October-November 1929; by November 13, about $30 billion in the listed value of stocks had been lost—by the middle of 1932, $75 billion, or 89 percent of the listed value before the Crash.  From 1930 to 1933, the Depression worsened despite the efforts of the administration of President Herbert Hoover (elected in 1928). Industrial production reached an all-time low; over 5,000 banks failed; unemployment rose to 35 percent (the figures partly reflect debates over agricultural unemployment caused by “the Dust Bowl” on the one hand and bank foreclosures on the other).

Image of newspaper called the "Brooklyn Daily Eagle" with headline 'Wall St. in Panic as Tocks Crash"

Yet the leadership of the American Sociological Society for the most part failed to confront it—a pattern of avoidance that Charles Camic (2007) traces in the ASS Presidential Addresses from 1929 to 1933. This blindness may have occurred because that leadership was so economically secure they failed to recognize the scale of the disaster.  But this avoidance had long-range deleterious effects on the status of sociology in American life and on job prospects for sociologists down to this present moment.

For sociologists outside of that leadership circle, however, the Depression impacted employment and livelihood.  While there is at present no clear aggregate data on sociology departments in this period, what can be inferred is that sociologists, like other academics, lost employment opportunities as colleges and universities reduced faculty size by approximately 8 percent, and cut salaries (except at the elite schools) by as much as 30 percent  (Camic 2007: 240-241).   Faculty from that period reported the practice of small economies, like using both sides of sheets of paper for student exams, formal letters, and even papers submitted to meetings (Lengermann, personal communication).

The New Deal 

The “First Hundred Days” of Roosevelt’s administration produced a tidal wave of New Deal measures designed to reform economic institutions, create jobs, and provide relief using an enlarged federal bureaucracy, the creation of which gave rise to the famous alphabet soup of New Deal agencies.  These agencies, in turn, came to employ thousands of people—representing enormous opportunities for social scientists for paid work and intellectual challenge.

This moment forever changed Washington, D.C. from what many had regarded as only slightly more than a sleepy Southern town to the center of national power, a rival to New York and Chicago.   In size, the city expanded from 486,000 in 1930 to 663,000 by 1940 (; employment in the federal government in Washington, D.C. grew from 57,000 in 1927 to 117,000 in 1936 (American Liberty League Pamphlet 133, 1936).

Black and white photograph that shows for children sitting on steps and a woman satnding behind them. A sign the righht reads "4 Children for Sale Inquire Within"



Camic (2007: 228-229) challenges the unproved assumption that “federal jobs for ‘social scientists’ mean positions specially for sociologists; and/or . . . that the availability of positions for sociologists in a few federal agencies meant a wider opening up of such avenues of employment.”    He argues that perhaps only a hundred sociologists found full professional level employment in federal agencies, compared with the thousands of such job openings for economists, political scientists, and lawyers.

He notes, however, that a larger number of lower level positions for the implementation of relief projects may have gone to junior sociologists, like those without a Ph.D., and “social workers” (a label that may have included many women who self-identified as “sociologists and social reformers”—see Lengermann and Niebrugge 2007).

Though the number of sociologists hired at New Deal agencies looks small in comparison to the number of economists, lawyers and political scientists, the impact of several dozen newly hired sociologists on the Washington, D.C. sociological landscape may have been the primary force producing DCSS in 1934.

Sociologists found significant employment at agencies like the Census Bureau, where Stuart Rice was Assistant Director, the Department of Agriculture where rural sociologists under Carl Taylor were a dominant force, and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and the Children’s Bureau.  That employment brought sociologists into contact with other social scientists and would naturally have produced comparisons of orientation and methods.  But that employment also made the more prescient of them, notably Stuart Rice, aware that sociology was losing out, particularly to economists, in the competition to define the situation they and the nation confronted. Rice emerges as a prophetic voice in his call, frequently reiterated, that sociology must make its presence felt in the organization of government agencies and as sociologists not just as statisticians.

Conflict in the Profession

Sociology’s inability to formulate either an analytic or an organizational response to The Depression and the New Deal deepened rifts that pre-dated 1929 but had, prior to that moment, been mitigated by a practice “of organizational control . . . [that] went along with a broad and eclectic definition of what constituted ‘good’ sociology”  (Lengermann 1979: 194).  The deepening and overtly expressed conflicts in the Thirties center around three oppositions:

(1) elites in the profession, most especially Chicago faculty, graduates and other loyalists versus everyone else, (2) centralization of administration and resources—research grants, meeting programs, publication opportunities—at Chicago versus a growing demand for autonomy through decentralization, and (3) most significantly in the 1930s, fights over the appropriate orientation and methodology for sociology.  This last conflict was located in the long-standing debate between positivists who insisted on creating a value-neutral sociology versus activists who embraced sociology as a critical and ameliorative project.

This conflict was now complicated by the growing sophistication of statistical method; positivists saw quantification as a natural extension of empirical rigor, but statisticians were more ambivalent, often deterred by the positivist rejection of an active pursuit of social reform.

In 1927, when William Ogburn moved to Chicago and consolidated his power there, the positivist/quantifier camp assumed a newly radical stance, the extremism of which can be seen in a letter to the membership by Maurice Parmelee and others at the 1931 Annual Meeting: “[T]he scientist qua scientist should not be influenced by the practical significance of his work. . . .   [We] wish to prune the Society of its excrescences and to intensify its scientific activities. . . . [This] means limiting its programs and publications to the problems of our science without including melioristic and propagandistic activities” (Rhoades, 1981).  This stance not only alienated the critical reformers and those using qualitative methodologies, it logically precluded sociology’s engagement with the great state-run reforms of the New Deal and from the rewards and satisfactions of such engagement.

Both Rice and Burgess actively rejected this rigidity, embracing the tolerance and eclecticism of earlier years.

To be continued.

Works Cited

  1. American Liberty League. 1936. No. 133 “Federal Bureaucracy In The Fourth Year Of The New Deal.” August 23. Retrieved December 27, 2013.;idno=kuk59m61
  2. Baker, Morgan. 1934. “The Federal Diary” The Washington Post May 4, p. 5.
  3. Camic, Charles. 2007. “On Edge: Sociology during the Great Depression and the New Deal.”  Pp. 225-280 in Sociology in America: A History edited by C. Calhoun. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  4. Lengermann, Patricia. 1979. “The Founding of the American Sociological Review: The Anatomy of a Rebellion.” American Sociological Review 44:185-198.
  5. Lengermann, Patricia and Gillian Niebrugge. 2007. “Thrice-Told: Narratives of Sociology’s Relation to Social Work.” Pp. 63-114 in Sociology in America: A History edited by C. Calhoun. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  6. Rhoades, Lawrence J. 1981. A History of the American Sociological Association, 1905-1980. Washington, D.C.: American Sociological Association. Retrieved December 24, 2013

Return to February 2015 Issue

Rethinking Police-Community Relations

An interview with Ron Weitzer

On December 22, 2014, The Sociologist (TS) interviewed Ron Weitzer, who has studied and written two books and many articles about police-community relations in the U.S. and other nations. Below we have reproduced excerpts from the interview. Professor Weitzer is in the sociology department at the George Washington University.

TS: Over the past 20 years, you have researched, studied and written about police-community relations. What are the key findings you can share with us in the wake of the protests surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and John Crawford?

Ron Weitzer: There are over 17,000 police departments.  First, we have to be careful not to generalize from one incident or one pattern of practice (like racial profiling in a particular police department) to other departments.  Second, over the past 50 years there has been significant progress in policing in the United States. In the past, both patrol officers and their supervisors were much less accountable than they are today. There was much less media coverage of harsh and oppressive police practices or of questionable incidents resulting in injury or death. One major variable is the type of philosophy or police culture in a department.

Philosophies of Policing

There are different types of organizational cultures: one is the zero-tolerance approach—also called the “broken-windows” approach—where the police believe that by cracking down on very minor offenses they are thereby preventing more serious offenses from occurring; the offenses may be minor misdemeanors or just civil infractions like selling cigarettes illegally on the street (Eric Garner in New York). Some police departments put a lot of resources into enforcing the law against these minor offenses, because of the department’s ethos of zero-tolerance or broken-windows policing.  The New York Police Department (NYPD) and a few others adamantly believe that this approach works to reduce crime.

The opposite philosophy is community policing. Under community policing, officers do not necessarily ignore minor infractions, but they are less likely to devote significant resources to minor infractions, and focus instead on more serious crimes. And at the same time, police try to build positive relationships with neighborhood residents and merchants in a way that can help officers solve crimes in the present or can help to deter criminal activity in the future.

Community policing shifts the priorities away from low-level infractions towards more serious crimes and also toward building ongoing collaborative relationships with neighborhood residents.

Variation in Policing

TS:  Are there variations in policing, within a particular city, based on the composition of neighborhoods?

Ron Weitzer: Yes. Police practices vary, at least to some extent, by racial, ethnic and class composition of a neighborhood. Neighborhoods that are predominantly black or Latino—and especially those that are socioeconomically disadvantaged—tend to get a different kind of policing than neighborhoods that are white or middle class. So there’s both a race and class difference in how the police perceive different neighborhoods, and also in how they behave in those neighborhoods. What makes it somewhat complicated is the local crime rate: the police will tell you that they make no distinctions by racial or class makeup of neighborhoods. Instead, police  practices are governed solely by the local crime rate; but, there are some very good controlled studies comparing different types of neighborhoods by race, class, and crime rate that find that the police do act differently in black and Latino communities than in white communities—and particularly in poor neighborhoods and areas.

Blue shield that reads "Metropolitan Police USA" in white

TS: Do police receive training to sensitize them to different groups?

Ron Weitzer: The police get sensitivity training in the police academy, which attempts to reduce racial bias, and this has been a progressive development across the board in police departments over the past 40 years or so. Part of their training involves community sensitivity courses, and other attempts by the instructors to reduce or prevent class or racial profiling once recruits start working the streets.

Racial Profiling

Once they get out of the academy, many officers have progressive views: they see themselves as serving the public and fighting crime with no animus toward civilians. But after they have worked for some time, the tendency is for officers to begin to typify people according to type of neighborhood, because officers receive a disproportionate number of calls to high-crime neighborhoods. So, their day-to-day activities begin to generate typifications of “good” and “bad” neighborhoods as well as the residents living in them. The other part of this evolving orientation is socialization by other officers, where they learn to perceive some people as crime-prone or some neighborhoods as criminogenic, compared to other neighborhoods that are viewed as law-abiding.

We know that the police stop young black or Latino males more often than they stop young white males. And young minority males are not just stopped disproportionately; they are stopped repeatedly. This certainly feels like harassment and discrimination. We don’t hear young white males claiming that this happens to them.

TS: Can we say that whatever prejudices the police recruits have before they enter the academy are washed away through training in the academy?

Ron Weitzer: We shouldn’t assume that they have a clean slate either before or after training. There are individuals who come into the training academy with strong prejudices. I am sure there are individuals like that. I don’t think there’s much research, however, on recruits’ racial attitudes prior to coming into the academy.

What we do know is that, just like the wider public, implicit racism operates. Police officers as well as civilians hold perceptions and stereotypes that are latent and semi-conscious, as revealed in experimental studies. Most of us have these implicit racial biases, and individuals who enlist in a police department bring those biases into the force, just like ordinary civilians do in their daily lives.

Typical Background of the Police Recruit

TS:  What is the typical background of a police recruit who enters the academy?

Ron Weitzer: Forty years ago, a typical recruit would be someone who is white, male, working-class, and had not gone to college. But today, it is much more mixed, especially in big-city departments. In rural areas or small cities there remains a preponderance of officers with blue-collar backgrounds. But when you come to the big cities, there are recruits who are college graduates (some have master’s degrees), are from middle-class families, and come from all racial and ethnic groups. The number of female officers has increased as well, though not so dramatically. This raises the question of whether diversification makes a difference in officer behavior.


There are data that show that some black officers are better able to communicate with black citizens than white officers.

In enforcing the law, they tend to act similarly. You could say that officers are “blue” rather than black, brown, or white.

On the other hand, diversification of a police department is important symbolically in multi-racial cities. Research shows that the American public overwhelmingly favors the diversification of departments to make them visibly reflect the composition of the local population. This can enhance the level of public trust and confidence in the police.

The Fringe

TS: How about the recent killing of the two police officers in New York City in December 2014? What does it say about the direction of police-community relations?

Ron Weitzer: Attacking police officers is a way for extremists, angered by incidents of police misconduct, to retaliate or, as we have seen in other recent shootings, for anti-government radicals to attack the state. In June 2014, a young man and woman killed two Las Vegas officers at a restaurant, apparently acting on their white-supremacist, anti-government views.

The killing of the officers in New York City is a bad omen in several ways. It has already made the police more tense, more guarded, and perhaps more likely to shoot unruly civilians. And this kind of reaction goes in the opposite direction of the way the police should be going. An incident like this, perhaps understandably, may make the NYPD and other police departments much more cautious and less willing to reach out and have conversations with minority communities. A violent attack on a police officer undermines progress in opening up channels of communication and problem-solving. It puts all officers on edge and makes them less likely to have constructive engagement with the public. It is unfortunate for improving police-community relations throughout the country.

Return to February 2015 Issue

What’s Your Sociology?

By Johanna Bockman

In the 1920s and 1930s, a time of much revolutionary activity, what did sociologists understand by sociology? There are at least three answers to this question, and the sociologists in DCSS exemplified at least two, if not all three, of the answers. The answers will likely surprise many sociologists today.

Representing the first answer, Stuart A. Rice, founding member of the DCSS, seemed to give up right away: “I do not want to go into a discussion of what sociology is. You all know the embarrassment that the question raises” (1934:220). He overcame his embarrassment to suggest that sociology deals with “problems,” which “are regarded by all as social or sociological problems” (ibid.). For Rice, Roosevelt’s New Deal programs put sociology into practice. The government had identified a wide range of sociological problems – problems with housing, work, the family, crime, and so on – which it was trying to solve through “social reform” in order to improve the “social well-being” and “social security” of the population. For Rice, this was sociology. Therefore, “government is a great sociological experiment.”

Source: the National Archives and New Deal Network. WPA workers indexing and preserving census records, New York City, October 1936.

Source: the National Archives and New Deal Network. WPA workers indexing and preserving census records, New York City, October 1936.


Yet, Rice came from a radical background in a radical time. In early 1920s Seattle, Rice had been the executive secretary of the local Farmer-Labor Party, which called for public ownership of railroads, utilities, and natural resources; an end to private banking; and the nationalization of unused land (“Stuart Arthur Rice” 1969). One Farmer-Labor Party song went:

Take the two old parties, mister.

No difference in them can I see.

But with a farmer-labor party,

We will set the workers free.1

After the electoral failure of one of the party candidates, Rice left radical politics to study sociology at Columbia University: “My matriculation in sociology…was a confession of failure, a search for freedom from illusions.…I wanted to abandon preconceptions and to learn what makes the world ‘tick,’ rejecting in the search everything but demonstrable evidence and objective analysis…finding the truth and taking the consequences” (ibid.). By the time he arrived in Washington, D.C., he seems to have turned to a more top-down sociology, a sociology for a New Deal public administration.

Other members of DCSS embraced a bottom-up approach to social life, the second answer to the question. The first president of DCSS and George Washington University sociology professor, D. W. Willard, wrote about the uniquely vibrant nature of associational life in Washington, D.C. Willard (1930) documented the wide variety of local associations that existed at the neighborhood level and federated at the city-wide level. Willard focused on white citizen associations, which more recent literature has criticized for their support of racially restrictive housing covenants and new forms of racial segregation in the 1920s (Gotham 2002; Sugrue 2014).

Other sociologists followed the cooperative movement and its more inclusive and integrative potential. In 1940, Eva Jeany Ross began as the head of the department of sociology at Trinity College in Washington, D.C. and soon joined the DCSS. She had been born in Belfast and then worked and studied in London, Paris, and elsewhere in Europe. She published a number of sociology textbooks. In 1937, she completed her sociology dissertation at Yale University, which was published in 1940 as Belgian Rural Cooperation: A Study in Social Adjustment. Ross approved that Belgian cooperatives worked “solely for the well-being of their members,” though she found unfortunate their later emphasis on “the profit motive” that made them more “capitalist” (1940: 74, 149). Ross supported cooperatives and their “social” nature.

Her work reflected an excitement about cooperatives in the United States and Europe. In far northeast Washington, D.C., with assistance from the New Deal’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration, civil rights activist Nannie Helen Burroughs established the Northeast Self-Help Cooperative, later renamed Cooperative Industries, Inc., a cooperative that served approximately six-thousand people between 1934 and 1938 (Bockman Forthcoming a). In 1938, the Washington Bookshop, also called The Bookshop and the Bookshop Association, formed as a cooperative, which sold books and records at a discount, but also functioned as an interracial social club, art gallery, and lecture hall (McReynolds and Robbins 2009: 76-77). Further away in France, like Ross, Marcel Mauss had written admiringly on Belgian cooperatives, and both Mauss and his uncle Emile Durkheim greatly supported “institutional socialism,” which seems to have found support within the Washington, D.C. sociological community and which I describe below.

In this second answer, sociology is not the top-down or technocratic guiding of social reform nor is it merely the description of populations and their social needs.

According to a fascinating interpretation by Gane (1992), Emile Durkheim had long written about the abnormalities of modern social life – anomie, suicide, and so on – caused by the anarchic capitalist system. In contrast to this destructive world, Durkheim sought a return to a more normal and healthy society of the guilds. He called for a guild or “institutional” socialism, an inclusive democratic society built from occupational organizations.2

In 1899, Mauss built on Durkheim’s ideas and turned to Belgian cooperatives as an exemplar because of their economic, welfare, intellectual, and artistic elements based on collective property; he later argued that a cooperative society must also include markets and money (Gane 1992: 140; Mauss 1924-5:188-190). Through vast international federation, cooperatives would reorganize society and be able to stand up to capitalism in the name of “a universal proletariat” (Gane 1992: 141). In contrast to elite-driven revolutionary or reformist change, Durkheim’s and Mauss’s ideas were evolutionary and socialist.

By the 1920s, many scholars had put forth similar ideas. Guild socialism became very popular. In his book Social Theory, G.D.H. Cole (1920) argued for “functionalist” democracy, in which people represent the many sides of themselves in associations – such as factories, churches, trade unions, cooperatives, socialist league, hobby clubs, and sports clubs – each defined

by their specific function. The state would be just one part of this much broader society of associations. These associations would unite through functional congresses or councils, which would realize full self-government by all the members of society, in contrast to representative democracy. The working class would organize this new order because it has a new form of social power, associative power.3 Thus, the excitement about cooperatives and local associations by Eva Jeany Ross, D. W. Willard, and others, as well as Lester Ward’s interest in evolutionary trends in Washington, D.C. reflects this second answer, a sociology that helps to create a new society built on local institutions and cooperatives with individuals participating voluntarily and as equals.4

Finally, the third answer is represented in the 1921 publication (in Russian) of Nikolai Bukharin’s Historical Materialism: A System of Sociology. To Bukharin, sociology was historical materialism, an approach to studying society from the perspective of the proletariat and class conflict, and laying out a revolutionary path forward. W.E.B. Dubois’s 1935 Black Reconstruction in America also reflects a similar approach to sociology. I have not found an example of this group in the early DCSS, but, if you have some ideas, let me know.

How do we today relate to these three different answers? On the surface, we have easily accepted that sociology’s forefathers were Weber, Durkheim, and Marx. We can see the DCSS sociologists as mirroring these three forefathers.

When we dig deeper, however, we can see that in the revolutionary world of the 1920s and 1930s, sociology had close ties to a variety of socialisms: a top-down socialism or capitalism expressed through statistics and rigorous methods, a grassroots socialism full of civic associations and cooperatives, and a revolutionary socialism of class conflict. Where would one of DCSS’s most famous sociologists from this time period, former DCSS president E. Franklin Frazier, fit in these categories? Do we see these socialisms today in sociology? Did the Cold War destroy sociology’s links to socialisms? Or have they just been lurking around hidden from clear view?


  1. “I Don’t Want Your Millions, Mister” by Jim Garland, sung by Tillman Cadle. Labor Arts website: Retrieved December 29, 2014.
  2. Gane (1992) rejects 1930s theories about Durkheim’s connection with fascism, since more recent theories have demonstrated Durkheim’s commitment to democratic socialism (p. 139).
  3. In the early 1920s, Karl Polanyi developed similar ideas (Bockman Forthcoming b).
  4. However, the segregated associations of Washington, D.C. discussed by Willard and others did not allow for equality.

Works Cited

  1. Bockman, Johanna. Forthcoming a. “Home Rule from Below: The Cooperative Movement in Washington, D.C.” In Capital Dilemma: Growth and Inequality in Washington, D.C., edited by Sabiyha Prince and Derek Hyra.
  2. Bockman, Johanna. Forthcoming b. “Socialism and the Embedded Society: Preface to Karl Polanyi’s ‘Socialist Accounting,’” Theory and Society.
  3. Bukharin, Nikolai. [1921] 1925. Historical Materialism: A System of Sociology. International Publisher
  4. Cole, G. D. H. (1920). Social Theory. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company Publishers.
  5. DuBois, W. E. B. 1935. Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  6. Gane, Mike. 1992. “Institutional Socialism and the Sociological Critique of Communism.” Pp. 135–64 in The Radical sociology of Durkheim and Mauss, edited by Mike Gane. London, UK: Routledge.
  7. Gotham, Kevin Fox. 2002. Race, Real Estate, and Uneven Development: The Kansas City Experience, 1900-2000. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  8. Mauss, Marcel. [1924-5] 1992. “A Sociological Assessment of Bolshevism (1924-5).” Pp. 165–211 in The Radical Sociology of Durkheim and Mauss, edited by Mike Gane. London, UK: Routledge.
  9. McReynolds, Rosalee, and Louise S. Robbins. 2009. The Librarian Spies: Philip and Mary Jane Keeney and Cold War Espionage. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Publishing Group.
  10. Rice, Stuart A. 1934. “Questions for Sociology: An Informal Round Table Symposium: What is the Role of Sociology in Current Social Reconstruction? What are the Sociological Implications of the New Deal? What is the Place of Sociology in the Federal Government? Is There a New Rural Sociology for the Inventory of American Agrarian Culture? What is the Matter with the Sociologists? and other Questions.” Social Forces 13(2): 220-223.
  11. Ross, Eva Jeany. 1940. Belgian Rural Cooperation; a Study in Social Adjustment. Milwaukee, WI: The Bruce Publishing Company.
  12. “Stuart Arthur Rice: Student Activist to Statistical Statesman,” The American Statistician, 1969.
  13. Sugrue, Thomas J. 2014. The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  14. Willard, D. W. 1930. “Community Organization Through Citizens Associations,” Social Forces 9(2): 220-229.

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The Mis-measurement of Racial Identity

By C. Soledad Espinoza

A fundamental challenge to collecting and analyzing race data is how to appropriately measure the racial identity for many Americans. The present conventions at the United States Census Bureau may undermine the accurate reporting of the full racial composition of contemporary America.

There are two major changes being considered by the U.S. Census Bureau (2014a). The first proposed revision is to combine the race and Hispanic ethnicity questions. This would allow those of Spanish descent or Latin American origin to select Hispanic/Latino as an available response alongside the standard Office of Management and Budget (OMB) race categories.1,2 The second proposed revision is to add a new category under the combined race and ethnicity questions for those of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) origin. These revisions would allow the largest ethnic groups of multi-racial ancestry to report commonly shared identities as a single response or in addition to other responses for racial identity.

The proposed changes contrast with historical precedent and the existing convention at the U.S. Census Bureau to generally attribute a white identity to these populations.3 Yet advocates and scholars have criticized the paradox of individuals from these groups being counted as white (but not treated as white), especially when many individuals from these groups do not themselves identify as white (Gómez 2007; Kahn 2010; Dowling 2014; U.S. Census Bureau 2014a; 2014b). The revised schema would be more congruent with the treatment of multi-racial persons in past decennial censuses.

Race data on blacks and whites have been collected since the first decennial census in 1790 (U.S. Census Bureau 2002). The race of native born blacks of full black ancestry have at times been separately recorded from native born blacks of “some proportion” or a “perceptible trace” of black ancestry (as mulatto, quadroons, or octoroons), whose race has never been recorded as white by convention. In contrast, for American Indians of multi-racial origins, whiteness has been available, “a person of mixed white and Indian blood should be returned as Indian, except where the percentage of Indian blood is very small, or where he is regarded as a white person by those in the community” (U.S. Census Bureau 1930).

Per the U.S. Census Bureau, the existing category of ‘Black, African American, or Negro’ “refers to a person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa” (U.S. Census Bureau 2009; 2011). The category of ‘White’ refers to any “person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.  It includes people who identify as ‘White’ or report entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab, or Polish.”

Current practices at the U.S. Census Bureau lead to perplexing racial classifications for Latinos of multi-racial ancestry as well. Per the U.S. Census Bureau, the category ‘American Indian or Alaska Native’ “refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment”  (U.S. Census Bureau 2009; 2011).

For those persons who have deep ancestral origins in the continents of the Americas but who do not maintain ‘tribal affiliation’ or indigenous ‘community attachment,’ there is no standard OMB race category available. Of the Latino population, only 1.4 percent report being American Indian alone and another 1 percent report being American Indian in combination with another race (U.S. Census Bureau 2011). This does not reflect the indigenous racial ancestry of Latin America and of many Latinos.

Per the U.S. Census Bureau, the category ‘Some Other Race’ includes “all other responses not included in the race categories…Respondents identifying as multiracial, mixed, interracial, or a Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish group (for example, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or Spanish) are included in this category” (U.S. Census Bureau 2014b). Yet, due to historical reasons, many Latinos report as white alone despite having multi-racial ancestry. In 1970, among Hispanics, 94.9 percent identified or were recorded as white.

In subsequent decades, however, there was a marked shift to many more Latinos reporting as non-white (U.S. Census Bureau 2002). For the 1980 decennial census, there was the first introduction of the term “Hispanic” and a full transition to reporting racial and ethnic identity based on self-identification (rather than based on external observation by census enumerators). From 1980 to the present, about half of Latinos have opted out of reporting as white. Among Latinos, 55.6 percent, 51.7 percent, 48.1 percent, and 53.0 percent identified as white in the 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010 decennial censuses respectively (U.S. Census Bureau 2002). See graph below.

Data compiled by the author from various decennial censuses (see U.S. Census Bureau 2002, 2012).

Source: Data compiled by the author from various decennial censuses (see U.S. Census Bureau 2002, 2012).


There has been no established trend of a rebound to Latinos—as a group—wholly identifying as white (as was presumed to be the case in the decades prior to 1980). Indeed, the most noteworthy change in the trend of race reporting among Latinos since 1980 is that the proportion reporting as white drops markedly (to about only one-in-five) when a Hispanic/Latino option is made available in a combined race and ethnic origin question format (JBS International, Inc. 2011; U.S. Census Bureau 2014b).

Broadly attributing whiteness to multi-racial groups contradicts the historical and present structure of race in America and globally. Within the current schema of the decennial census that allows for multiple responses (which was first adopted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000), there is no longer a practical need to assign single race identities to groups that have deep interracial histories. Indeed, the common terms of ‘Latino’ and ‘Middle Eastern’ are often used to reflect the inextricably multi-racial history of the respective regions. Proposed revisions would enable persons of single race or multi-racial ancestry to report a single response or choose from the array of options that they authentically identify with. For example, this would allow the reporting of Latino and black, Latino and white, or Latino and any other combination of race.

The practice of restricting and re-defining the racial identities of Latino and MENA groups to white results in mis-measurement of white identity and the relative size of other racial identities in America. Without revisions, the race data collected from the decennial census will continue to be incomplete and, in many cases inaccurate for the millions who do not partly or fully identify with any of the standard OMB races. The proposed revisions would enhance the accuracy, completeness, and validity of the self-reported data on race and ethnicity. They would also clarify the racial identity of many of the otherwise ambiguous residual race category responses now reported as ‘Some Other Race,’ which is now the third largest race category in the U.S. (and may soon become the second largest race category).


  1. The standard OMB race categories used for the 2010 census are White; Black, African American, or Negro; American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and Some Other Race.
  2. The terms Latino and Hispanic are used interchangeably in this article.
  3. Eligibility rules for U.S. citizenship historically established the assignment of whiteness to members of Latino and MENA groups (Gómez 2007 and Gualtieri 2009).

Works Cited

  1. Dowling, Julie. 2014. Mexican Americans and the Question of Race. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
  2. Gómez, Laura E. 2007. Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race. New York, NY: New York University Press.
  3. Gualtieri, Sarah. 2009. Between Arab and White: Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
  4. JBS International, Inc. 2011. “Final Report of the Alternative Questionnaire Experiment Focus Group Research.” Bethesda, MD.
  5. Kahn, Carrie. 2010. “Arab-American Census Activist Say ‘Check It Right’” NPR. March 29th. Retrieved Jan 5. 2015.
  6. U.S. Census Bureau. 1930. “Instructions to Enumerators: Population and Agriculture.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce.
  7. U.S. Census Bureau. 2002. “Historical Census Statistics on Populations Totals by Race, 1790 to 1990, and by Hispanic Origin, 1970 to 1990, for the United States, Regions, Divisions, and States. Suitland, MD: U.S. Department of Commerce. Economics and Statistics Administration.
  8. U.S. Census Bureau. 2009. “Enumerator Manual 2010 Census.” Suitland, MD: U.S. Department of Commerce.
  9. U.S. Census Bureau. 2011. “Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010.” Suitland, MD: U.S. Department of Commerce.
  10. U.S. Census Bureau. 2012. Census Tables DP-1 Demographic Profile Data for 2000 and 2010. American FactFinder. Retrieved Jan 5. 2015.
  11. U.S. Census Bureau 2014a. “The 2010 Census Race and Hispanic Origin Alternative Questionnaire Experiment.” Presented at Pew Research Center on March 12, 2014.
  12. U.S. Census Bureau 2014b. “Race Reporting Among Hispanics: 2010.” Suitland, MD: U.S. Department of Commerce.

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