Randall Amster, Georgetown University

Ethnography Unplugged: Problematizing the 'Digital Divide'

This research explores the justice and equity implications of a ‘digital divide’ that fosters differential access to online opportunities and other technological resources often associated with mobility, power, and prosperity. Drawing upon mobile and wireless coverage maps, in conjunction with demographic and census data, the research analyzes various communities (geographically and/or sociologically defined) for which digital access is problematic if not altogether absent. The investigation seeks to illuminate core questions of how identities are formed in the digital age, how preexisting inequalities (social and environmental) impact access to technology, and who has the capacity to tell their stories in a media-driven era. In a time when key issues of health and productivity are emerging in light of a nascent recognition of ‘digital overload’, important lessons may emerge from the experiences of those who are effectively ‘unplugged’. This presentation will address these themes through a critical lens that problematizes dominant perceptions of technology and the cultural impacts that are accruing.

Clare E. B. Cannon, University of California, Davis and University of the Free State, South Africa

Unpacking Sustainability: World System Position, the Washington Consensus, and Overshoot

Current global population makes the greatest demands on nature ever before due to climate change, rapid growth, and the need for fossil fuels—the energy source of choice for our global system of transportation and production of goods (Ewing et al. 2010; IPCC 2014). This demand calls into question whether the current global system is sustainable. Sustainability is defined by the United Nations (1987) as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” As demand for goods and services continues to rise across the globe, and as the current global economic and political regime continues to feed this demand in ways that maximize short-term profit at the expense of longterm resource renewal, then necessarily the importance of sustainability increases. The resulting, constant increase of demands on nature leads to overshoot, or the point at which collective human demand on nature exceeds nature’s ability to replenish necessary resources (i.e. energy, raw materials, and habitat) (Catton 1980). 

Although sociologists have looked at various, specific forms of environmental degradation, such as greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, ecological footprints, and biodiversity loss (Bunker 1984; 1985; Jorgenson 2006; McKinney, Kick, and Fulkerson 2010; York, Rosa, and Dietz 2003a; 2003b), only recently have sociologists begun to look at issues of sustainability. Using the concept of overshoot, McKinney (2012; 2014) found that wealthier and more powerful countries, through modernization—the increase in production and increase in population density (Durkheim 1887)—increase overshoot. Building on such work, I employ global political economic theories, which share an underlying assumption that the system of capital is inherently unsustainable. Specifically, I use world systems theory (e.g. Wallerstein 1974), dependency theory (e.g. Ciccantell and Bunker 2004), and unequal ecological exchange (e.g. Hornborg 2001) to investigate relationships between economic and political power, neoliberal reforms— also known as the Washington Consensus, include such economic policies founded on laissez faire principles to stimulate growth and expansion through the deregulation of industry, agriculture, and finance (see Harvey 2001; Stiglitz 2012)—and sustainability. 

Utilizing this theoretical approach to unpack further the political, economic, social and environmental dynamics of sustainability, I use a unique dataset comprised of variables at the cross-national level, such as overshoot—measured as the difference in a nation’s footprint, or demands on nature, and its biocapacity, or its available resources—world system position, GDP per capita, and Washington Consensus indicators, such as free trade and sound money. To quantitatively analyze these data, I employ structural equation modeling to investigate the nature and extent of associations between these global processes and environmental outcomes to reveal ways in which urban growth, world position, and the Washington Consensus produce sustainable and/or unsustainable outcomes cross-nationally. Structural equation modeling is an analytic technique uniquely suited to uncover such nuanced relationships between latent and observed variables as these, while flexible enough to avoid issues that arise due to co-variance and a limited case-base (Bollen 1989). Having analyzed these data, I seek to discuss how findings support or counter aspects of theoretical frameworks used and implications for policies of sustainability. 

Preliminary findings suggest that the latent variable, modernization, comprised of the indicators GDP per capita and percent urban, has a positive effect on overshoot. Additionally, the latent variable, Washington Consensus, comprised of the indicators sound money, free trade, and property rights, has a positive effect on overshoot. These initial findings suggest that recent neoliberal reforms exacerbate overshoot and thus result in unsustainable ecological outcomes.

Robert D. Francis, Johns Hopkins University

Men Fleeing Work or Work Fleeing Men? A Qualitative Exploration of Chronic Labor Force Nonparticipation among Rural, Working-class Men

While the unemployment rate for men has been below 6% since late 2014, this obscures the fact that millions of men are not counted in this statistic because they are deemed not to be in the labor force, meaning they are not working or seeking work. Survey data has revealed the existence of these nonparticipating men and suggested some about who they are and what they are doing, but there have been few qualitative explorations of these men. Based upon in-depth interviews with 28 prime-age, working-classmen in rural Pennsylvania, I examine the work trajectories of these men with special attention to periods of nonparticipation in the labor force of a year or more. I find the most common reasons for chronic nonparticipation are substance abuse, the receipt of disability benefits, and elective nonparticipation, which are periods when men voluntarily leave the labor force. I then identify two themes that unite most of the cases: 1) nonparticipation does not equal nonwork, as many men out of the labor force engage in paid and unpaid labor; and 2) most men who spend time out of the labor force, even for a year or longer, reenter the labor force and often stay reattached to work. Finally, I identify what I call the job carousel, which describes the churning these men experience between jobs that are relatively fungible with few ladders of advancement and relatively little long-term job security.

Brian R. Grossman and Courtney Mullin, University of Illinois at Chicago

Working to Move: The Hidden Work of Medicaid Personal Care Assistance (PCA) Services Users Planning and Pursuing Cross-state Moves

Medicaid home and community-based services, which include personal care assistance (PCA) services, facilitate community living for more than 3 million people with disabilities in the US. Due to the joint federal-state funding structure of these services, there is great variation in eligibility and types of services available across states known as interstate variation (Kassner et al. 2008; Kassner and Shirey 2000; Kitchener, Ng, and Harrington 2007; LeBlanc, Tonner, and Harrington 2000; Reinhard et al. 2011, 2014; Summer and Ihara 2005; Wenzlow et al. 2013). These interstate differences act as a structural barrier to cross-state movement for Medicaid PCA users and their families (Grossman, 2018a; Murinko, 2014; Ruiz, 2013; Shapiro, 2013). Despite this barrier, program users desire and pursue cross-state moves (Grossman 2018b).

In this paper, we provide a grounded theory analysis of 18 interviews with Medicaid PCA users with physical disabilities who expressed desire for or pursued cross-state moves. Specifically, we address six forms of previously unnamed and unrecognized work in which PCA users engage when planning or pursuing cross-state moves.

1. Assessing service ecosystems

2. Finding the right front door

3. Persisting through the bureaucratic gauntlet

4. Advocating for systems cooperation

5. Re-establishing networks of support

6. Responding to gaps/lapses in service

Data from the interviews is offered to illustrate each of these forms of work. This hidden work will be discussed in terms of feminist and symbolic interactionist understandings of disability, poverty, and work, as well as experiences of citizenship for disabled people.

The paper will close with a discussion of the implications of these findings for theory and policy. We will contend with the implications of these forms of hidden work for how policy has imagined PCA users and what are the social, economic, and other costs associated with successfully or unsuccessfully engaging in these types of moves. Lastly, we describe how support for these forms of work could be offered by states and through peer networks.

Marisa Lucca and Sabrina Marks, University of Central Florida
Lucca Marks
Exploring Normative Social Capital and Employment of Minorities with Disabilities

Social capital is variously conceived as the social resources to which people have access and can mobilize to achieve better economic, social, and political outcomes. Some scholars reason that having access to a range of social relationships in diverse social networks can potentially address (at least partially) social inequalities endured by disadvantaged groups in that participation in civic organizations, community associations, and other social networks facilitates contact with individuals who can connect them to job opportunities outside of their immediate social networks. While a great deal of research examines social capital and its relation to a range of outcomes for disadvantaged groups including racial minorities, women, and too much lesser extent persons with disabilities, little to no research have opted to use an intersectional approach to investigate the relationship between social capital and employment outcomes in regards to persons with disabilities. The lack of research examining the relationship between race, gender, and disability, and social capital on employment outcomes creates a significant gap in the literature considering that women with disabilities and racial/ethnic minorities with disabilities continue to have substantially lower rates of employment compared to their counterparts without disabilities. Therefore, the current quantitative study explores how social capital relates to employment outcomes among working-age women and racial/ethnic minorities with disabilities. The study includes an unweighted sample of 22,717 working-age (ages 25 to 61) individuals who completed the 2013 Civic Engagement Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS) in November 2013. The analysis includes logistic regressions that regress on employment status individual characteristics, indicators of social capital, and interaction terms. Preliminary analyses show that particular types of social capital behaviors contribute to a higher odds of employment for working-age persons with disabilities. More specifically, working-age persons with disabilities who participate in community organizations have a higher odds of employment compared to working-age persons who do not participate in community organizations. This finding is especially interesting in light of analyses that show that, among the general working-age population, working-age persons who participate in community organizations have a lower odds of employment. The paper concludes with a discussion of additional findings and their implications for future research.

Gail Markle, Kennesaw State University

Ease of Transition, Involvement, and Academic Development: Comparing First-generation to Continuing-generation Students and the Impact of a First-generation Learning Community

First-generation college students represent between 31- 57% of incoming freshmen in American postsecondary institutions (NCES 2016). Research indicates that as a group these students differ considerably from continuing-generation students; they tend to be less prepared for college and less likely to complete a degree. Using Astin’s (1993) Theory of Student Involvement as a theoretical framework I conducted a study comparing pre-college perceptions of academic skills, confidence in ease of transition to college, and predispositions to learning new perspectives among three groups of freshmen students at a large public university in the Southeastern United States: students participating in a first-generation college student learning community (N=49), first-generation college students (N=110), and continuing-generation college students (N=122). The study also examined whether participation in a first-generation college student learning community influenced ease of transition, student involvement and self-reported gains in communication, interpersonal, and intellectual skills. Results indicate no significant difference among the three student groups in pre-college perceptions of academic skills, confidence in ease of transition to college, and predispositions to learning new perspectives. Results also indicate participation in a first-generation learning community positively influenced ease of transition to college, student involvement in academics, with faculty, and with student peers, and self-reported gains in communication, interpersonal, and intellectual skills. This study challenges widely held perceptions that first-generation students consider themselves less prepared and less confident of succeeding in college compared to continuing-generation students. This study also reveals the positive impact of participation in a learning community geared toward first-generation college students.  

Alicia E. Suarez, DePauw University 

I Wish I Could Hold Your Hand: The Complexity of Interactions between Correctional Officers and Pregnant Women at a State Prison 

The incarceration of women in the United States has dramatically increased over the last several decades. Consequently, 1 in 25 women enter state prisons pregnant. There has been growing scholarly attention concerning pregnant women who are incarcerated. Much of this literature focuses on perinatal outcomes for infants, access to and quality of medical care, mental health concerns, prison nurseries and shackling practices. This research adds a unique focus by exploring how women’s interactions with correctional officers (CO) during pregnancy, labor, and birth affect women’s experiences. Based on in depth interviews with 18 pregnant or postpartum women incarcerated at a maximum-security state prison, the findings suggest complex relationships between women and CO. Correctional officers served as gatekeepers and/or advocates for pregnant and laboring women. While women reported both shaming and dehumanizing behaviors, they also reported compassion, support and empathy from CO especially in the delivery room though limited by prison regulations.  The findings have implications for training of correctional officers in trauma informed care for pregnant women, consistency and clarity of role expectations for CO, and consideration of doula programs to support women during labor and delivery.