Category Archives: Sociology of Health

Women, Regardless of Class, Need Access to Zika Prevention



Professor Letícia Marteleto discusses the ways that class informs women’s risks of contracting Zika and how governments and medical professionals should work to provide poor women equal preventative care:

Our findings suggest that, while incredibly concerned about Zika, wealthier women, much like Hope Solo, feel in control of preventing the virus by using repellant, netting their homes and postponing pregnancy. Poorer women have a more fatalistic attitude about getting infected with Zika and even about getting pregnant — a fact that can be verified by Brazil’s consistently high rate of unintended pregnancy, particularly among the lower classes.

Poorer women also feel that they can’t protect themselves as well as wealthy women can because they lack the means to do so (money to buy repellents and mosquito nets), and they recognize their living conditions make them more vulnerable to mosquito bites (particularly through exposure to open sewage and stagnant water).

Read more at the Austin-American Statesman!

Duty, Honor, Country, Disparity: Race/Ethnic Differences in Health among Veterans

by Connor Sheehan

A campaign supporter’s sign at a Trump rally in Chicago. (Source: Wall Street Journal)

During the 2016 election cycle, Democratic and Republican candidates for president have consistently discussed veteran health issues and reform of the Veterans Administration (VA).   The increased attention to veterans and their health is well-warranted, as veterans are an enormous population in the United States totaling over 23 million—almost as many people as live in the entire state of Texas. Veterans, of course, also have unique health, partially due to the occupational and behavioral hazards that accompany military service. As part of this policy discussion, it is important to discuss the large racial and ethnic health inequalities that exist among veterans. As I show below, racial and ethnic minority veterans consistently report worse health and have more health related limitations to activities than white veterans. These gaps are hard to ignore, particularly at a time when the veteran population is becoming increasingly racially diverse and the share of underrepresented groups among veterans is expected to increase dramatically over the next few decades (see Figure 1).

Sheehan Image 1

As a PhD student in the Sociology Department at the University of Texas, I have been conducting research that sheds some light on the extent and nature of racial and ethnic disparities in health and ultimately suggests what can be done about them. First, my findings consistently show that sizable health disparities exist. An analysis I conducted of a nationally representative survey of veterans administered by the VA showed that almost half of black veterans report “fair” or “poor” health rather than more favorable categories such as “good,” “very good,” or “excellent.” Conversely less than a quarter of whites reported “fair” or “poor” health (See Figure Two) (Sheehan et al 2015). The analysis also showed that 13% of black veterans report a severe activity limitation such as not being able to walk, get dressed, use a toilet, or eat. In contrast, less than 5% of white veterans reported having such limitations.

Not only are black veterans lives characterized by worse self-rated health, and more activity limitations, they are also shorter. In my own (unpublished) analysis using the Linked Mortality File of the National Health Interview Survey, I found that, even after controlling for age and region of residence, Black veterans were 43% more likely to die compared to white veterans from 1997-2011 (see Figure 2).

Sheehan Image 2

Imagine, so many of these veterans who once dedicated their lives to our country and sacrificed so much, are in such poor health. The American public and the presidential candidates cannot stand by and do nothing. The military, a longstanding institution that requires its members to uphold values like discipline, integrity, and loyalty should now uphold the same and do right by them. The VA, which shares similar values to the military and which also strives to provide equitable services, can also help minimize disparities.

There is a lot that can be done to reduce racial disparities in health among veterans. Any effort aimed at minimizing health disparities in later life must from the time that young recruits enter military service. My research shows that, compared to whites, a greater proportion of racial and ethnic minorities serve in combat roles, as well as also serving in branches with higher levels of exposure to combat and other dangerous experiences such as exposure to chemical or environmental hazards (Sheehan et al. 2015). Placement processes should be reviewed and such differences rectified in order to eliminate racial disparities in exposure to dangerous situations that have lifelong consequences for health.

Medalists from the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games (2013), from Houston, TX. (Source: U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs)
Medalists from the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games (2013), from Houston, TX. (Source: U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs)

Other researchers have shown that after military service, minority veterans attain lower levels of education and economic prosperity than their white counterparts – two components that are consistently linked to worse health (Teachman and Call 1996). To counter this, the VA could expand occupational training focused specifically on underrepresented groups, with the understanding that these programs may improve health.

Beyond these measures, there are also specific health interventions that could be used as models to design approaches that can help reduce disparities. One intervention which improved the overall health among a primarily black elderly veteran sample in Washington, D.C. relied on Home Based Primary Care (HBPC). HBPC emphasized the integration between social workers, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, and dietitians in providing care at home for the elderly population (see: Chang et al. 2009). Researchers found that those who received HBPC had 43.7% fewer hospital admissions and spent almost 50% fewer days in the hospital than those who did not.

Another intervention found that racial disparities in knee surgery outcomes were reduced when veterans were well-educated about their medical options. The black veterans who received more information on their treatment options experienced significantly less pain and greater physical function than black veterans who did not receive the information. There were little differences for the white veterans (Weng et al. 2007). These experiences suggest that integrating multiple domains and focusing on education regarding the health care system and health care options could help to minimize health disparities among veterans.

Veterans have sacrificed greatly for their country. Now it is time for their country to sacrifice for them, and work to end these health disparities. If the presidential candidates are as committed to veterans as their rhetoric claims, we should soon see policies and programs aimed at improving the health of all veterans.

Acknowledgements: I thank the Population Research Center, the Population Reference Bureau (Specifically Elizabeth and Reshma for their helpful comments), Shantel for her comments. All those working at the VA to end health disparities and all the veterans who have served. Mistakes and views are my own.



Chang, C., Jackson, S. S., Bullman, T. A., & Cobbs, E. L. (2009). Impact of a home-based primary care program in an urban Veterans Affairs medical center. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 10(2), 133–137.

Teachman, J. D., & Call, V. R. (1996). The effect of military service on educational, occupational, and income attainment. Social Science Research,25(1), 1-31.

Sheehan, C. M., Hummer, R. A., Moore, B. L., Huyser, K. R., & Butler, J. S. (2015). Duty, Honor, Country, Disparity: Race/Ethnic Differences in Health and Disability Among Male Veterans. Population research and policy review,34(6), 785-804.

Weng, H. H., Kaplan, R. M., Boscardin, W. J., MacLean, C. H., Lee, I. Y., Chen, W., & Fitzgerald, J. D. (2007). Development of a decision aid to address racial disparities in utilization of knee replacement surgery. Arthritis Care & Research, 57(4), 568–575.

Connor Sheehan is a fifth-year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology and the Population Research Center. His research analyzes health inequality and how institutions get “under the skin” to influence our health.  Follow him on Twitter at @ConDemography

Transgender people and Texas bathrooms: the ’80s and now

By Phyllis Frye and Thatcher Combs, for the Houston Chronicle


Phyllis Frye, the nation’s first transgender judge, now presides over a Houston municipal courts. Before that, she was a transgender activist, and as a lawyer, represented many people in the LGBT community. In the wake of voters’ rejection of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, and as a 13-year-old Dallas ordinance protecting transgender rights came under fire, she writes:

In 1980 I was a law student at the University of Houston, doing an internship at the Harris County District Attorney’s office. Even though my office was on the tenth floor of the DA building, the only restroom the DA’s staff allowed me to use was on the second floor. Each time nature called, I had to get by a guard, since the second floor was secure, then walk past a long row of secretaries.

So I did not use it. The results were many “accidents” and, by the end of that semester’s internship, blood in my urine from a bladder infection.

As to the current hate campaign of Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, I remain puzzled why few pro-HERO commentators mentioned the then and now, still applicable, city restroom ordinance which reads as follows:

City of Houston Ordinance Sec. 28-20
Entering Restrooms of the Opposite Sex:
It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally enter any public restroom designated for the exclusive use of the sex opposite to such person’s sex without the permission of the owner, tenant, manager, lessee or other person in charge of the premises in a manner calculated to cause a disturbance.

Clearly each offender depicted in the recent bathroom TV ads did “knowingly and intentionally enter any public restroom designated for the exclusive use of the sex opposite to such person’s sex” “in a manner calculated to cause a disturbance” and was in violation of the existing city ordinance.

In the early 1990s, the Houston police were arresting many transwomen for using the women’s restroom. I advised any who contacted me to “set it for a jury trial” and to testify to the jury that they were only entering to urinate in a locked stall and not to cause a disturbance. Each was found not guilty, and the police quit the arresting of transwomen for that offense.

I also remain puzzled why few mention the state criminal statues that made each offender depicted in the recent bathroom TV ads a criminal. The crimes of indecent exposure and public lewdness, and unlawful restraint (especially of a child) range in punishment from 180 days in county jail to two years in a state jail facility.

There is too much hate in the air over a person’s need to lawfully empty their bladders or bowels in a private and locked bathroom stall.

Thatcher Combs, a transgender graduate student in sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, writes:

The bathroom issue might strike many as a trivial matter, but for many trans people, myself included, choosing which bathroom to use is not trivial at all. This decision usually comes down to whether we “pass.” Every day, those of us who meet or exceed society’s expectations about gendered appearance norms enter public bathrooms without notice. Would anyone bat an eye if Laverne Cox entered the women’s room or Chaz Bono used the men’s room? Of course not.

But for many of us, the choice of which bathroom to use can be a life-or-death decision. Those of us who cannot, or do not, fit into the categories of “male” or “female” are the ones who bear the brunt of the strange looks, outrage and violence. The perpetrators of these acts toward us are not the “perverts” declaimed by the opponents of LGBT rights. They are the people who refuse to accept gender variance and insist that everyone conform to rigid notions of how men and women ought to look and behave.

It is true that violence against women and girls is a real problem in our society. But instead of discriminating against trans people in a misguided effort to protect women, our collective efforts ought to focus instead on why our current social norms for gender, especially for masculinity, victimize women.

The fear of the man in women’s restrooms, misunderstanding of trans people, and the violence women experience in society are all linked. Gender and sex are still understood to be biologically based and naturally given. Thus we say “boys will be boys” and “girls are feminine,” yet these childhood tropes also morph into the right for men to be violent and for women to be ever vigilant about their bodies.

Unfortunately, the defeat of HERO may be a signal that any form of national equality legislation that includes trans people cannot be won by popular vote. More importantly, the “no” vote from Houston should act as a wake-up call for the LGBT movement.
In the past, gays and lesbians fought under the slogan of “Just like you,” emphasizing their conformity to society’s mainstream values and beliefs. If the LGBT movement is to work toward bettering trans lives, it might be time to change tactics and fight for loosening gender norms that restrict all people.

@UTAustinSOC in Chicago #ASA15


Sexualities in the Modern World? @UTAustinSOC says yes, in a big way. While our faculty, graduate students and alumni always represent at ASA, Longhorns will steer this year’s sexualities’ conversation in many directions. In glancing over the schedule, I found 82 presentations and table sessions and I’m sure there are more. I include a few of our graduate student presenters below.

Anima Adjepong
“I Want Ghana to Continue to Live in the United States”: Cultural Identity among Second generation Ghanaian immigrants

Claims about the absence of transnational activities among second-generation immigrants do not often consider how racialization shapes these processes. This paper examines the extent to which the U.S.-born children of Ghanaian immigrants participate in a “transnational social field” (Glick-Schiller 2005; Levitt and Glick-Schiller 2004) where they simultaneously engage in Ghanaian life and culture, while fully immersed in American life. Ethnographic investigation of an organization that comprises 1.5- (foreign-born immigrants who moved to the United States prior to or during adolescence and attended school here) and second-generation Ghanaians in Houston, Texas leads me to ask why a group of ostensibly American youth would so strongly identify as Ghanaians. This ethnography examines the ways in which identifying with Ghana and as Ghanaians helps these mostly U.S.-raised youth make sense of their difference as racialized Americans and foreign Ghanaians.

Shantel Gabrieal Buggs
‘Your Momma Is Day-Glow White’: Questioning The Politics Of Racial Identity, Loyalty, And Obligation

This article utilizes discourse analysis and an autoethnographic approach to explore the impact of U.S. racial and ethnic categorization on the experiences of an individual marked as ‘mixed-race’ in terms of individual identity and familial/cultural group loyalty and obligation(s). This essay focuses on an incidence of public policing through the popular social networking platform Facebook, centering on the invocation of racial obligation by white friends and family members. I analyze how racial loyalty is articulated by friends and family members in their posts on my personal Facebook page and how this ‘loyalty’ is used as means of regulating my mixed-race identity performance. This essay aims to understand several things, namely how identity is mediated through the invocation of racial obligation and how tension around identity plays out in the multiracial family.

Caity Collins
Work-Family Policies And Working Mothers: A Comparative Study Of Germany, Sweden, Italy, And The United States

Despite women’s common struggles to balance motherhood and employment, western countries have responded with drastically different work-family policies. Drawing on 100 in-depth interviews and field observation with middle-income working mothers in Germany, Sweden, Italy, and the United States, I examine how different ideals of gender, motherhood, and employment are reflected in and reinforced by the work-family policy regimes of these four countries. Given these different policy regimes, I investigate how working mothers negotiate the constraints and opportunities facing them daily as they balance motherhood and employment. Depending on a country’s level of policy support for women’s employment and caregiving, I observed variation in (1) how closely mothers identify with their policy regime’s ideal of motherhood and the “ideal worker,” and (2) the extent to which they experience guilt and tension about their identities as a mother and a worker. This is the first comparative study to incorporate mothers’ voices into the scholarly debates about the relationship between gender inequality and work-family policy around the world. Understanding women’s perspectives about what works – and what hinders – their achievement of work-family balance should be central to any scholarly endeavor to craft, advocate for, and implement work-family policy as a force for social change.

Elizabeth Cozzolino and Christine L. Williams
Child Support Queens and Disappointing Dads: Gender and Child Support Compliance

Despite increased spending on child support enforcement in the U.S. over the past 30 years, child support collections remain around 40%. Existing literature focuses on three main explanations for this low compliance: poor enforcement, inability to pay, and unwillingness to pay. These explanations either neglect gender or rely on outdated assumptions about gender. Our analysis of in-depth interviews with 21 members of separated families reveals two controlling images of separated parenthood—the child support queen and the disappointing dad—that may help explain the underpayment of child support. In a reversal of traditional parenting roles, we find that separated mothers are now evaluated on their ability to financially provide for their children while separated fathers are evaluated on the time and care that they provide. We argue that these changing expectations of fatherhood and motherhood may contribute to men’s unwillingness to pay child support and women’s reluctance to demand compliance.

Rachel Donnelly
Intergenerational Changes and Health: the Effects of Downward Educational Mobility

A clear majority of high school graduates in the United States decide to enroll in college. In addition to many economic benefits, higher levels of education create opportunities for better health. Social stratification by education creates inequalities in education and health that are socially reproduced within families. Given the context of educational expansion in the United States, this study used data from the General Social Survey to explore the detriments to self-rated health when adult children receive less education than their parents and how these detriments differ by sex and race/ethnicity. Binomial logistic regression models of self-rated health indicated that an individual completing less years of education than his/her mother (downward intergenerational educational mobility) increases the likelihood of reporting fair or poor health. In an era where an increasing number of Americans are completing higher levels of education, these findings illustrate the detrimental effects on health for those who are left behind.

Marc Garcia
Prevalence and Trends in Morbidity and Disability among Mexican American Elders in the Southwestern United States, 1993-2011

The aim of this study was to examine trends in morbidity and disability among elderly Mexican Americans residing in the southwestern United States. Seventeen-year panel data from the Hispanic Established Population for the Epidemiological Study of the Elderly were used to make detailed comparisons specific to nativity, gender and five-year age groups. Results show that foreign-born and U.S.-born Mexican Americans, with a few exceptions, have similar prevalence rates for morbidity regardless of gender. Conversely, IADL prevalence is higher for foreign-born women. Nativity is found to be a significant predictor of IADL disability for females and ADL disability for males. The differences we report have important implications for health services and health policy. Given the rapid aging of the Mexican American population, the prevention and treatment of medical conditions and disabilities, particularly among the foreign-born should be a major public health priority to reduce ADL and IADL dependence in the community.

Erika Grajeda
A “Safe Space” for Undocumented Immigrant Workers?: The Case of the San Francisco Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective

In the U.S., more than 117,600 immigrant, displaced, and homeless workers gather daily in public settings such as street corners, storefronts, and in recent years, worker centers, to procure “off-the books” employment. While “informal” or unregulated hiring sites have long been a common feature of the urban landscape, day labor worker centers represent a new organizational model that emerged in recent years to halt the exploitative practices associated with curbside hiring. Worker centers are thus said to represent a “safe space” for marginalized immigrant workers, particularly a growing number of women who are turning to these organizations to secure employment. While these immigrant organizations are increasingly taking on the role of labor market intermediary, creating recognizable day labor markets and sorting low-wage workers into the world of work in the U.S., they have been largely overlooked by scholars. This article examines new (day) labor organizing in the Latin American immigrant community through an ethnographic case study of the San Francisco Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective (SFDLP-WC). Through participant observation and semi-structured interviews with SFDLP-WC staff, members, and volunteers, I show that assumptions about gender difference are encoded into the worker center’s organizational practices, ideologies, and distributions of power, ultimately placing undue burden on the women members. I find that while worker centers are purported to be “safe havens” for undocumented workers, particularly women, they may actually reproduce existing structures of gender, race, and class inequality.

Pamela Neumann
“Rutas y Desvios: Gender-based Violence, Bureaucratic Practices and (in)Justice in Nicaragua”

In Nicaragua, like other countries in Latin America, women’s police stations serve as the critical first point of contact with the state for women experiencing various forms of domestic violence. With the passage of Law 779 (Ley Integral contra la Violencia hacia las Mujeres) in 2012, new requirements, such as prohibiting mediation and detaining suspected offenders, were introduced. A year later, Law 779 was reformed to permit mediation again under limited circumstances. Then, in August 2014, Nicaragua’s President Ortega signed an executive decree altering Law 779 to incorporate the involvement of community-level “Gabinetes de Familia” in the resolution of certain domestic violence cases. Drawing on participant observation in women’s police stations and in-depth interviews with women victims, this paper analyzes the relationship between these legal and political developments and the everyday interactions that women have with police. In doing so, it highlights both the constraints of local state actors embedded in a web of partisan bureaucracy as well as their agentic role in shaping different women’s ability to access legal justice in domestic violence cases.

Cristian Paredes
Attendance at Museums and Live Theaters: Ethnic Disparities in Highbrow Out-of-the-House Leisure Consumption in Houston

Dynamics of compensation for the deprivations of segregation and discrimination, and the support of multiculturalism derived from ethnic cohesion explain the consumption of out-of-home highbrow leisure events by minority/ethnic individuals, immigrants, and their descendants as efforts toward their integration and assimilation in metropolitan areas. Using data from the Houston Area Survey, I examine whether there are any significant ethnic disparities in the attendance at museums and live theatres, which represent a relevant dimension of out-of-home highbrow leisure in Houston. I found that the odds of frequently attending museums and live theatres are lower for Anglos compared with non-Anglos, and higher for U.S.-born individuals with at least one foreign parent compared with U.S.-born individuals with U.S.-born parents. These findings reveal that the audiences of museums and live theatres in Houston are already characterized by a noteworthy ethnic diversity.

Marcos Perez
What About my Parents? Three Dilemmas of a Community-Based Campus Organization.

Based on a year of ethnographic research on a large organization of undocumented college students, this paper explores the contradictions experienced by activists in one of today’s most important social movements in the United States: the DREAMers. I argue that the dual nature of the organization under study, which is both community-grounded and campus-based, generates three dilemmas that severely affect the group and its members. The first dilemma concerns the organization’s goals, and is experienced as the hard choice between focusing on the needs of undocumented students and pursuing a more inclusive agenda that incorporates their families. The second dilemma is related to the organization’s mobilizing structures, and is caused by its strong ties to the local Latino community, which provides many types of resources but at the same time hinders the group’s appeal to other ethnic and national groups. Finally, the third dilemma stems from the clash between the member’s own identities as hard-working Americans and their experiences of exclusion and discrimination. I describe how these contradictions generate tensions among activists and how they complicate the relations with allied organizations. I also discuss how my findings apply to the nation-wide immigration reform movement. I conclude by exploring how the three dilemmas might shed light on the challenges currently faced by immigrant communities in the United States.

Juan Portillo
Is there really a “female advantage” in higher education? Reconceptualizing the “boy crisis” in education

A topic that dominates education these days is the “crisis” faced by boys’ due to underachievement relative to girls in education. In her best selling book, The War Against Boys: How misguided feminism is harming our young men (2001), Christina Hoff Sommers writes that “it’s a bad time to be a boy in America” (p. 13). She claims that misguided efforts of feminist and women’s groups have resulted in pathologizing boys and men, leading boys to be shut out of educational attainment because of teachers’ perceptions of their “bad behavior” compared to girls’ “good behavior.” This sentiment is accentuated in higher education, as scholars and others are alarmed over an apparent “dominance” of women, who earn a larger proportion of college degrees than men. However, it is not statistics but rather: (a) moral claims about discrimination against boys (particularly boys of color); and (b) a “female advantage” that is to blame for boys’ “disadvantage,” which are misguidedly at the root of most scholarly work done on this topic. In this paper, I will address current understandings of a “boys’ educational crisis” and show that it is a dangerous framing that follows heteropatriarchal logics without challenging gender norms. I argue that: (1) Men of color can easily fall into the trap of speaking ONLY from personal experience, blinding them to the way in which masculinity and male privilege also shape their experiences and their relative disadvantage; (2) A dichotomy that reproduces male dominance is re-created, disguised as “true equality.”

Brandon Robinson
Doing Sexual Responsibility: Gay Men Navigating HIV Online

In this article, the author draws on 15 in-depth interviews with self-identified HIV negative gay men who use for sexual purposes. The author examines how HIV discourses influence these men’s lives as they navigate their intimate and sexual relationships in cyberspace, and the author introduces the concept of doing sexual responsibility to illuminate how managing sexual health, HIV, and risk plays out on the interactional level within gay men’s online encounters. Specifically, the author shows how these men use the website interface to screen other users for HIV and how these men disclose one’s own status and safe sex practices. The author also exposes how these practices lead to the stigmatization of HIV positive individuals on the website. Lastly, the author uncovers how trust can lead to a contradiction of how gay men feel they should act and how they do act in certain sexual encounters. The author concludes that new ways of discussing sexuality, HIV, and sexual health need to be engendered.

Luis Romero
“From La Migra to El Amigo: The INS Campaign to Befriend Undocumented Immigrants during IRCA

Before the passage of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), the relationship between undocumented immigrants and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was highly antagonistic. Undocumented immigrants were distrustful of the immigration service due to its deportation mission that implemented deceitful tactics, including using children to lure their undocumented parents and sending letters to immigrants promising legalization only to deport them once they arrived to INS offices. However, this changed for a brief period after the passage of IRCA when INS transformed its image in the eyes of immigrants and became their amigo – their friend. INS accomplished this by engaging in a furious public relations campaign and training their staff to be supportive of immigrants as they applied for legal status – unprecedented measures for an agency that was set on deporting immigrants. This paper explains why INS, an organization that was defined by its enforcement duties and attempted to push out undocumented migrants, became an organization that altered its mission during IRCA to help undocumented migrants gain legal status. The author differs from other explanations of INS’ behavior during IRCA by extending interest-convergence theory and the implications that converging interests have on undocumented immigrants and racial minorities. Using a historical and content analysis of INS interviews, government documents and independent reports, the author expands interest-convergence theory to examine INS’ motivations for helping undocumented immigrants and transforming from the antagonistic migra to their amigo.

Connor Sheehan
Race and Ethnic Differences in Reconstructing Childhood Health

Using the Health and Retirement Survey (n = 9,696) we analyze how race/ethnic disparities in retrospective ratings of child health and current levels of functional limitations are influenced by controls for specific sets of childhood health and socioeconomic conditions. This research is important because the lifecourse framework has become reliant on retrospective measures to operationalize child health. Generally, it’s assumed that reports of childhood health, socioeconomic status and diseases operate similarly across racial and ethnic groups, a questionable supposition considering substantial stratification in life experiences and access to medical care. Indeed, we find considerable race/ethnic differences in retrospective reports of child health with Blacks and Hispanics having higher odds of “fair/poor” child health than Whites. These differences are strengthened when childhood diseases are controlled for, and mediated when socioeconomic conditions are controlled. The lack of access to the health care system likely leads to underreporting of specific childhood conditions among minorities which leads to a suppressor effect when childhood diseases are controlled. Results from negative binomial models predicting the current number of functional limitations largely echo, albeit less strongly, the findings from the retrospective measures. Our results suggest that race/ethnic health disparities begin in childhood but also that childhood health is appraised differently between race/ethnic groups. Due to the observed differences, future life course work should use more general measures of child health than specific when exploring the origins of health disparities.

Chelsea Smith
Change Over Time in Attitudes about Abortion Laws Relative to Recent Restrictions in Texas

Recent laws and regulations in the state of Texas have severely restricted access to abortion care; however, less is known about public opinion regarding such legislation. This study used the Houston Area Survey to investigate attitudes about abortion laws in 2009 (n = 1,393) and 2013 (n = 1,213), as a before-and-after comparison of 2011 restrictions. Descriptive results indicated a decrease in the proportion of Houstonians who were against restrictive abortion laws and who also reported conservative stances on welfare and immigration. Logistic regression analyses revealed that both before and after the 2011 legislation, the strongest predictors of public opinion on abortion laws were attitudes about gay marriage and political party affiliation. Multivariate results also suggested that Houstonians who were older and foreign-born were less supportive of restrictive abortion laws only following 2011 legislation. The findings of this study thus revealed continuity and change in attitudes (and correlates of attitudes) about abortion laws among respondents in the biggest city in Texas before and after the implementation of legislation severely limiting women’s access to abortion.

The study also has implications for current and future impacts on public opinion of the 2013 legislation, which received national attention following state Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster. Nationally, one in five pregnancies in 2008 end in abortion and in Texas this statistic is slightly lower at 15% of all pregnancies (Guttmacher 2011). Abortions performed in Texas account for 7% of all abortions in the United States; however, in 2008 33% of women lived in one of the 92% of Texas counties without an abortion provider (Guttmacher 2011). Although legal, abortion is an increasingly difficult procedure for Texas women to obtain because of recent laws targeting providers. Legislation in 2003, 2011, and 2013 not only inhibited providers’ ability to serve their patients but also created obstacles to women seeking abortions. Tied to the recent legislation is the increasingly vitriolic public discourse and debate surrounding abortion laws. In this study, I take advantage of a unique dataset, the Houston Area Survey (HAS), to investigate public opinion about abortion laws before and after the 2011 legislation.

Christine Wheatley
Social Effects of Immigrant Detention, Removal, and Return

The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) marks a restrictionist and punitive turn in contemporary United States immigration enforcement. The IIRIRA has made it significantly easier to deport non-U.S. citizens (Hagan, Eschbach and Rodríguez 2008; Rodríguez and Hagan 2004) and accounts for the nearly ten-fold increase in deportations since its passage, with Mexican citizens representing the vast majority of deportations. Despite these trends, few studies have examined the social impacts of IIRIRA, particularly such impacts of increases in detention and deportation. My research addresses this lacunae in immigration literature by assessing the intended and unintended consequences of IIRIRA for Mexican nationals, the largest group impacted by the legislation. In this paper, I uncover and examine the social effects of post-IIRIRA deportation law and practices on returning migrants in Mexico—Mexican nationals who recently returned to Mexico after living in the U.S. without documents, including deportees and other non-deportee returnees. I consider how current U.S. immigration enforcement affects their lives now, how it stays with them (or not) back in Mexico. I consider how this enforcement constrains them in Mexico—the various tangible and intangible, concrete and abstract forms of constraint they experience as a result of interacting, in some capacity, with the system of U.S. immigration enforcement.

Brandon Robinson in the journal Sociology of Race and Ethnicity

This image is an example of the data Brandon Robinson analyzed in his article. In the profile description you can read that the user is into “white and Hispanic guys.”

by Eric Enrique Borja

Brandon Robinson’s latest article, “Personal Preference” as the New Racism: Gay Desire and Racial Cleansing in Cyberspace, has been recently published in the journal Sociology of Race and Ethnicity.

In this article, I examine how race impacts online interactions on one of the most popular online gay personal websites in the United States. Based on 15 in-depth interviews and an analysis of 100 profiles, I show that the filtering system on this website allows users to cleanse particular racial bodies from their viewing practices. I use Patricia Hill Collins’s concept of the “new racism” and Sharon Holland’s ideas on everyday practices of racism within one’s erotic life to explain how these social exclusionary practices toward gay men of color in cyberspace are considered not to be racist acts.
Specifically, I show how the neoliberal discourse of “personal preference” effaces the larger cultural assumptions that are influencing people’s interpersonal and psychic racial desires, furthering an erotic new racism in this digital age. By also turning to a queer of color analysis, I posit that the practices that gay users engage in lead to the remarginalization of all nonheterosexual individuals, though in qualitatively different ways.

OnlyWhiteGuys copy
This image is another example of data Brandon Robinson analyzed in his article. In this post you read, “I usually only hookup with white guys.”

You can also read Robinson’s other articles in the following journals: Sexuality Research & Social PolicyDeviant BehaviorCulture, Health & Sexuality, and Social Theory & HealthHe also has a book chapter in the anthology A Critical Inquiry into Queer Utopias.

Twitter analysis shows not all Texans want abortion rights limited

Social media analysis challenges stereotype of conservative state
By Amanda Jean Stevenson
The full text of the article is available at this link to the June 24th edition of The Houston Chronicle
One year ago this week, state Sen. Wendy Davis drew national attention with her filibuster of HB2, an omnibus abortion restriction bill that has since ushered in a 50 percent decline in the number of abortion clinics in our state. For 11 hours a year ago today, she stood on the floor of the Texas Senate in her pink running shoes as thousands of Texans rallied around her at the state Capitol and 180,000 people watched online. Her filibuster also sparked the wildly popular social media hashtag #StandWithWendy, instantly offering insight into a segment of the state that isn’t so red: Not all Texans agree that restricting abortion rights is a good idea.

Most discussion of Texas in the national media focuses on the state’s extremely conservative factions. But Texas is full of principled people across the political spectrum. Thousands of them marched on the state Capitol to oppose HB2. Before Davis filibustered, 700 people registered to testify in a “citizens filibuster” that lasted late into the night of June 20, and thousands filled Capitol buildings day after day dressed in orange T-shirts, the color chosen to symbolize the fight against HB2. After Davis’ filibuster, 19,000 filed comments against the bill and they continued to fill the Capitol for each hearing and vote. Throughout, they were joined by a digital chorus on Twitter that was hundreds of thousands strong.

I have analyzed the 1.66 million tweets that comprise the Twitter discussion associated with the bill. These tweets came from 399,000 users worldwide. Roughly 44 percent of the tweets were sent from Texans in support of abortion rights, and in all, about 115,500 Texans expressed their support for abortion rights as part of the Twitter discussion of the bill. These Texans are not all Austin liberals. They live throughout the state, in rural and urban areas. In fact, tweets in support of the filibuster were sent from 189 of Texas’ 254 counties, including the majority of rural counties and all urban ones. Only 1.8 percent of the Texas population lives in counties from which no identifiable tweets of support were sent.

The full article

Latinos in an Aging World

by Ronald and Jacqueline Angel, July 31, 2014, Routledge.

AngelCover In 2010 during a speech in Potsdam, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the audience that the nation’s attempt to create a multicultural society had been an utter failure.  During his failed 2012 reelection campaign President Nicholas Sarkozy of France proclaimed that France had too many immigrants.  Recently, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain pledged to restrict the use of social services by immigrants.  These are only three examples of the growing rejection of foreigners and the threat to national cultures and identities that they represent that is a growing part of political discourse in Europe.  The nations of Europe are having to face the fact that they are increasingly multicultural and are heavily dependent on immigrants from the developing world, yet that reality is not easy for many to accept.  The fact that many of the newcomers are Muslim adds to the fear and rejection.

Unlike Europe, the United States has always thought of itself as a nation of immigrants, although new arrivals have not always been welcomed warmly by those who came earlier.  Immigration to the United States is not new, but its nature has changed.  Today immigrants come from Latin America and Asia rather than from Europe.  The result is a truly multicultural nation in which race and ethnicity intersect social class and other factors to influence various groups’ wealth and political power.

Although many Latinos have been in the United States for generations, much media coverage and political reporting focuses on immigrants, and many Latinos remain outside of the economic and social mainstream for generations.  As in Europe, many Americans fear the newcomer and like Political Scientist Samuel Huntington believe that Latinos are not assimilating as did previous immigrants, and that they reject the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream and are creating separate societies that threatens the nation’s cultural unity.

After thirty years of research on and writing about Latinos and other vulnerable populations we  have written our first textbook, which is scheduled for release on August 1, 2014 by Routledge.  The book consists of ten chapters that deal with all aspects the Latino experience in the United states.  It deals with demographics, education, employment, wealth, and income for the major Latino subgroups and compares them to Asians, African-Americans, and non-Hispanic whites.  The book also deals with social and psychological issues related to neighborhood quality, fear of crime, and the determinants of well-being.  It summarizes the most current and authoritative research on Latinos available and presents some of our more recent work.

The book takes a life course perspective on the welfare of the Latino population.  Low levels of education early in life lead to restricted employment opportunities, low income, little wealth accumulation, and inadequate retirement savings.  Since the Latino population is aging rapidly, the book deals with issues related to family structure and the sources of care for older parents.  Latinos depend heavily on their family for care and support in old age and tend not to enter nursing homes.  The book summarizes findings on the phenomenon of “caregiver burden,” a term that refers to the physical and psychological demands associated with caring for a seriously ill parent.

One might ask about the process of writing a book, especially a co-authored book.  This is the fourth book that we have written together, so we have some insights.  The fact of the matter is that it is not always smooth sailing.  Writing a book, or even an article with anyone requires a logical division of labor that capitalizes on everyone’s strengths, as well as a willingness not to have everything one’s own way.  Determining what those strengths are and how they complement others is a necessary first step.  Luckily, after four books and numerous articles we seem to have found the formula.  We would be happy to talk to anyone about the topic or the process of writing or finding a publisher.

Congratulations to former longhorn Cathy Liu on her NIH Mentored Scientist Development Award

Hui Liu

One of our highly esteemed former graduate students, Hui (Cathy) Liu, (now an assistant professor at Michigan State) received an NIH K01 Mentored Research Scientist Development Award. This five-year project (2013-2018) entitled “How Does Marriage Get Under the Skin? An Integrative Social and Biological Approach” addresses the way various social, biological, psychological, and behavioral mechanisms work together to forge links between marriage and health. The overall goal of this research is to develop an interdisciplinary model for studying the interactions between biological and social processes through which marital relationships affect health over the life course. This K01 award will enable Dr. Liu to acquire formal interdisciplinary training in order to facilitate her transition to an independent biodemographic researcher. This award is also valuable in helping Dr. Liu to achieve her long-term career goals to integrate interdisciplinary perspectives in research and foster dynamic collaborations across disciplines in order to enhance knowledge of interactions of the social world and biology in producing health outcomes. Congratulations Cathy!

Upcoming PRC Brown Bag Highlight: Jacqueline Angel – “The Policy Implications of the Extension of Morbidity”

Fri, Oct 4, 2013 • 12 PM • CLA 1.302B

This lecture examines the policy consequences of increased longevity and extended disability among Mexican-American elders. The work is informed by a study that employs growth mixture models and life table techniques to analyze patterns of decline in functional capacity measured by objective Performance Oriented Mobility Assessments (POMAs) in a cohort of 3,050 Mexican-origin elders who were initially interviewed in 1993-1994 and followed up at six points over the subsequent seventeen years. The main objectives of the study were:  (1) to characterize the functional capacity trajectories and mortality experiences of the original cohort, (2) to identify those factors accounting for differences in trajectories, and (3) to determine the proportion of life after age sixty-five in which an individual suffers from serious functional impairment.  Results reveal three general patterns of decline (1) high initial functioning followed by decline (48% of the sample); (3) moderate initial functioning followed by decline (37.5% of the sample) and (3) poor initial functioning followed by continuing poor functioning or slight improvement (14.5% of the sample).  On average, members of this cohort spent more than half of the period after sixty-five and before death or censoring with significant limitations in physical functioning.  Significant gender and nativity differences emerge.  In general, the data show that although Mexican-origin individuals live long lives much of the period after age sixty-five is characterized by serious functional impairment.  Implications of the lack of substantial compression of morbidity for the health and economic well-being of older Mexican Americans and their families, as well as for health and long-term care policy, are considered.

Angel, Jacqui
Dr Jacqueline Angel

Jacqueline Angel –
Population Research Center, Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs and Department of Sociology, The University of Texas at Austin

Sponsored by the Population Research Center (PRC).


Dr. Jacqui Angel Wins ASA Outstanding Publication Award

Dr. Jacqui Angel. Photo courtesy of the LBJ School of Public Affairs.
Dr. Jacqui Angel. Photo courtesy of the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Dr. Jacqui Angel is a winner of the 2013 Outstanding Publication Award from the American Sociological Association section on Aging and the Life Course. This award honors an outstanding recent contribution to the field of sociology of aging and the life course. The award is honoring the book, co-authored by Dr. Angel and Dr. Rick Settersten (Oregon State University), Handbook of Sociology of Aging. Dr. Angel and Dr. Settersten will receive the award at this year’s ASA meetings in New York.

Congratulations, Jacqui!