A student newsletter of the American Sociological Association
Winter Edition
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Welcome to the second issue of The Independent Variable! We are so pleased that our readership has grown to nearly 3,000 and represents students from a variety of institutions all across the US. While many of us are dealing with grey skies and dreary weather (and harboring jealousy of southern California residents), we hope taking a few minutes to read some of the interesting sociological content we have pulled together for you will add some light to your day. This issue runs the gamut of topics such as revealing a potential fertility consequence of friendship and a clip of professors reading their own teaching evaluations.
Since all sociology students can't physically get together in one room, this newsletter strives to serve as a unifier, a dissiminator of information, and an opportunity for the ASA to invite undergraduates to the broad and important conversation happening globally regarding the discipline and what it has to offer.

We welcome feedback, so if you are reading along and have any insight or suggestions to offer, feel free to email us at
In Every Issue:
  • Contexts magazine: Peruse newly released material free for 30 days!
  • In the News: Sociological research is cited and covered in newspapers, radio spots, and television segments everyday. In this section we will share articles featuring sociological research covered in the media.
  • Success in Sociology: What does it take to succeed in our discipline? Studying, exams, internships, and the job market- we will help you tackle them all!
By clicking here you can access the new Winter edition free for 30 days. In this issue, the newly minted editors explore a variety of issues focused around the notion of violence: Michael Brown, women and weapons, and an interview with a Cambodian genocide survivor.
Contexts Features:
  • On the Sharing Economy - Is "disownership" the new normal? This contexts article by Shehzad Nadeem helps to seperate the "rhetoric from the reality" of an emerging economy.
  • Carrying Guns, Contesting Gender - In many respects, "gun culture is a man's world," which was part of the impetus for Jennifer Dawn Carlson's research. This ethnographic piece follows her story as she immerses herself into gun culture to gain a deeper understanding of gender dynamics in the typically male dominated gun world.
  • Neoliberal Mothering - In her Contexts contribution, Melissa Brown cites research by sociologist Jennifer Reich on the rising trend of middle class mothers opting out of vaccinating their children.  Reich suggests vaccine refusal is an "elite process in which mothers embrace and replicate privilege in order to advocate for their children against state public heath standards." Reich is also quoted in this New Republic piece on the Measles outbreak and why culture may be to blame.
In The News:
Can we really have it all? Since the publication of Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, gender equality with regard to work and family is a topic that has been sprinkled throughout public discourse. Can men and women really enter marriage and parenting on equal footing? Both NPR and the Chicago Tribune reported on an American Sociological Review study on attitudes toward domestic and work obligations. The study's co- author, UC Santa Barbara sociologist Sarah Thébaud, notes that although there is significant evidence showing preferences for egalitarian relationships, there is still a tendency to fall into traditional gender roles.
Sure, groups of women friends may tend to like some of the same things. It is not uncommon for individuals to be pulled toward others with similar interests and tastes. But to what extent do our friends actually influence our most personal of choices? This article in The New Republic reported on research published in the American Sociological Review regarding the increased rates of pregnancy among high school friends. Nicoletta Barbo a postdoctoral fellow at Bocconi University in Italy and Dutch sociologist Nicola Barban argue the chances of pregnancy increase substantially if you have a close friend having a baby. So, to you women out there: proceed with caution when viewing instagrammed baby photos.
Bill Cosby
The allegations surrounding Bill Cosby have been circulating for years. So why now do we see sensational headlines all over the news? In this New York Times piece, Ari Adut of the University of Texas at Austin offers a sociological explanation

Heard of Ebola? Of course you have. The media was on an Ebola binge for what seemed like forever. On the website, Sociology in Focus, Sociologist Ami Stearns critically examines our society's tendency to panic over inflated crises.
Happiness has a shape- and its a U! University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill sociologist Y. Claire Young is quoted in a Washington Post opinion piece exploring the connections between age and happiness.

Success in Sociology

You may be studying all wrong. Check out this "success-debate" between entrepreneur Patrick O'Brien and sociologist Susan Davis-Ali, founder of Leadership1.

Cheap textbooks? Apparently, it's not an oxymoron after all.

A computer scientist started a blog exploring patterns of success and offering useful study tips. It's excellent. Check it out here.

You may not want to listen to a lecture on your off time, but trust us, this man is worth your attention. Physician and sociologist (like it's hard to be both), Nicholas Cristakis gives an engaging hour long talk on the value and impact of social networks and social influence on a variety of seemingly individual topics such as suicide.
Over half of America's workforce is unhappy with their jobs. Let social science research lead you down the path to career success. Check out this interesting article from Vox.

We are not above using psychological research to our benefit. Dr. Marty Lobdell shares some insight on what he found to be best way to retain information: "Study less, Study Smart."
  • ASA has released the 2013 Annual Report. A full text pdf version is available online.
  • ASA's section on Race and Ethnicity has published the first edition of its journal, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity.
Mean Tweets Meets Mean Reviews
Taking a cue from Jimmy Kimmel's successful bit, "Mean Tweets", we came across this delightful video of college professors reading some colorful reviews of themselves. Remember, professors have feelings too.

The Sociology of Gossip
It's nice to know that watching "E" News or reading Us Weekly can have a positive contribution to your education. Check out this surprisingly engaging TedxVancouver talk by gossip writer, Elaine Lui.

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