Category Archives: Me @ work

Basic self promotion

your work

If you don’t care enough to promote your research, how can you expect others to?

These are some basic thoughts for academics promoting their research. You don’t have to be a full-time self-promoter to improve your reach and impact, but the options are daunting and I often hear people say they don’t have time to do things like run a Twitter account or write blogs. Even a relatively small effort, if well directed, can help a lot. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It’s fine to do some things pretty well even if you can’t do everything to your ideal standard.

It’s all about making your research better — better quality, better impact. You want more people to read and appreciate your work, not just because you want fame and fortune, but because that’s what the work is for. I welcome your comments and suggestions below. 

Present yourself

Make a decent personal website and keep it up to date with information about your research, including links to accessible copies of your publications (see below). It doesn’t have to be fancy (I have a vested interest in keeping standards low in that department). I’m often surprised at how man  people are sitting behind years-old websites. 

Very often people who come across your research somewhere else will want to know more about you before they share, report on, or even cite it. Your website gives your work more credibility. Has this person published other work in this area? Taught related courses? Gotten grants? These are things people look for. It’s not vain or obnoxious to present this information, it’s your job. I recommend a good quality photo (others disagree).

Make your work available

Let people read the actual research. Publishing in open-access journals is ideal, because it’s the right thing to do and more people can read it. (My recent article in Sociological Science was downloaded several hundred times within 10 days, which is much more than I would expect from a paywalled journal.)

Whether or not you do that, share your working paper or preprint versions. This is best done in your university repository (ask your library) or public disciplinary archive. (For prominent examples, check out the University of California’s has eScholarship or Harvard’s DASH; I use the working paper site of the Maryland Population Research Center, which is run by UCLA.) If you put them on your own university website, that will allow them to show up in web searches (including Google Scholar), but they won’t be properly tagged and indexed for things like citation or grant analysis, or archived — so it’s better just to put links on your website. But don’t just link to the pay-walled version, that’s the click of death for someone just browsing around. 

Don’t be intimidated by copyright. You can almost always put up a preprint without violating any agreement (ideally you wouldn’t publish anywhere that makes you take it down afterwards), and even if you have to take it down eventually you get months or years to share it first. No one will sue you or fire you — the worst outcome is being asked to take it down, which is very rare. Don’t prioritize protecting the journal’s proprietary right to promotion over serving the public (and your career) by getting the research out there, as soon as it’s ready. To see the policies of different journals regarding self-archiving, check out the simple database at SHERPA/RoMEO.

I oppose private sites like and ResearchGate. These are just private companies doing what your university and its library are already doing for the public. Your paper will not be discovered more if it is on one of these sites. It will show up in a Google search if you put it on your website or, better, in a public repository.

I’m not an open access purist, at least for sociology. If you got public money to develop a cure for cancer, that’s different. For us, not everything has to be open access (books, for example), but the more it is the better, especially original research. Anyway, it would be great if sociology got more into open science (for example, with the Open Science Framework). People for whom code is big already use sites like GitHub for sharing, which is beyond me; in your neck of the woods that can be great for getting your work out, too.

Share your work

In the old days we used to order paper reprints of papers we published and literally mail them to the famous and important people we hoped would read and cite them. Nowadays you can email them a PDF. Sending a short note that says, “I thought you might be interested in this paper I wrote” is normal, reasonable, and may be considered flattering. (As long as you don’t follow up with repeated emails asking if they’ve read it yet.)

Social media

I recommend at least basic social media, Twitter and Facebook. This does not require a massive time commitment — you can always ignore them. Setting up a public profile on Twitter or a page on Facebook gives people who do use them all the time a way to link to you and share your profile. If someone wants to show their friends one of my papers on Twitter, this doesn’t require any effort on my part. They tweet, “Look at this awesome new paper @familyunequal wrote!” When people click on the link they go to my profile, which tells them who I am and links to my website. I do not have to spend time on Twitter for this to work. (I chose @familyunequal because familyinequality was too long and I didn’t want to use my name because I was determined not to use Twitter for personal stuff. I think something closest to your name is ideal, but don’t not do this because you can’t think of the perfect handle.)

Of course, an active social media presence does help draw people into your work. But even low-level attention will help: posting or tweeting links to new papers, conference presentations, other writing, etc. No need to get into snarky chitchat and following hundreds of people if you don’t want to.

To see how others are using Twitter, you can visit the list I maintain, which has more than 600 sociologists. This is useful for comparing profile and feed styles.

Other writing

People who write popular books go on book tours to promote them. People who write minor articles in sociology might send out some tweets, or share them with their friends on Facebook. In between are lots of other places you can write something to help people find and learn about your work. I recommend blogging, but that can be done different ways.

As with publications themselves, there are public and private options, and I’m not a purist. (Some of my blog posts at the Atlantic, for which I used to get paid a little, were literally sponsored by Exxon, which I didn’t notice at first because I only looked at the site with my ad-blocker on.) But again public usually works better in addition to feeling better.

There are some good organizations now that help people get their work out. In my area, for example, the Council on Contemporary Families is great (I’m on their board), producing research briefs related to new publications, and helping to bring them to the attention of journalists and editors. Others work with the Scholars Strategy Network, which helps people place Op-Eds, or others. The great non-profit site The Society Pages includes lots of avenues for writing about your research. In addition, there are blogs run by sections of the American Sociological Association (like Work in Progress, from the Organizations, Occupations, and Work section) or other professional associations, and various group blogs.

And there is Contexts (of which I’m co-editor), the general interest magazine of ASA, where we would love to hear proposals for how you can bring your research out into the open (for the magazine or our blog).


Filed under Me @ work

The things I read (7 days a storm edition)

I’m writing a book for the next few months, and putting less of the original content I’m (still!) generating on the blog, for now. To help pass the time, I figured I’d post periodic link roundups of things I read and shared or discussed briefly elsewhere (mostly at @familyunequal on Twitter). Feel free to share your own suggestions or comments below.

Leave a comment

Filed under Me @ work

Family Inequality weekly link roundup

Maybe you’re trying not to spend so much time on Twitter (or don’t use it), but why miss the things I share during the week? Here are some highlights:

Discrimination against Queer Women in the U.S. Workforce: A Résumé Audit Study, by Emma Mishel

Preregistration Challenge at the Center for Open Science

The Great Chocolate-Milk Concussion Scandal: How the University of Maryland got embroiled in a junk-science saga, Jesse Singal

Black Women Don’t Reap the Same Health Benefits from Delaying Motherhood as Whites (Elissa Straus in Slate covers my new paper)

A drone protester heads to jail, while Oregon protesters literally use heavy machinery to destroy Federal property

Nancy Folbre‘s tribute to the late Barbara Bergmann

Andrew Perrin reviews Aldon Morris on DuBois

Jay Livingston on Ted Cruz and “New York values”

How to bridge that stubborn pay gap, in NYTimes Upshot

The common-law marriage myth, in the Economist 

3 Lingering Questions From the Alice Goffman Controversy, by Jesse Singal

Dynamics of perceived social network support for same-sex versus mixed-sex relationships, by Diane Holmberg and Karen Blair

In D.C., Nearly Half Of Homeless Youth Identify As LGBTQ, Survey Finds, by Armando Trull

Hard Work and Marriage Aren’t the Magic Cure-Alls for Poverty Jeb Bush Is Hoping For, by Ally Boghun at RH Reality Check


Leave a comment

Filed under Me @ work

Thought leader for a day: Families in uncertain times

I have contributed to the Canvas8 2016 Expert Outlook report. I am not sure what this is, but it has to do with experts, and the future, and being a thought leader. Thirty-nine experts in 13 areas contributed their thoughts. My area was Home, and my Thought #29 was Uncertain Times.


The Home section is here, the slideshow version is here, and the full report in PDF is here.

The text of my thought came from a very interesting phone conversation I had with editor Jo Allison, who then wrote it up very nicely. Here is the text she produced from our call (I added some links for supplemental reading or factual support). I wasn’t sure where to start, but I was pretty sure any conversation about the future should start with plastics.

Philip N. Cohen is a sociologist and demographer at the University of Maryland. He’s also the author of The Family: Diversity, Inequality and Social Change.

There’s an increase in family plasticity. In the US especially, there’s a big increase in re-marriage, marriage later in life after people already have children, with one or both partners having children from a previous relationship. Cohabitation has been increasing for a few decades, with couples living together after one and both of them have been married or divorced, or have children with somebody else. These things create a dynamic where the rules are unclear and people have to negotiate their own family boundaries and relationships.

We’ve also seen a lot of people having children and getting married later in life. But it’s not just that people do them at later ages, it’s that the ages at which people do these things are spreading out. Everybody used to get married at 22, but now it’s spread out – some people get married at 22, while some get married at 52.

The major life markers – completing education, having children, living together, marrying – as the periods of time get elongated, these things are more interwoven, instead of sequenced rigidly. Where there used to be firm expectations for how you ordered your life in terms of these events, now the order of those things is more flexible. All that plays into the same theme of uncertainty and people feeling like there are no rules to tell them exactly how they should do things.

There’s also uncertainty around family obligations. It used to be that adult children supported their older parents; maybe they inherited the family home, but they were in the support role with their elderly parents. Now, the relationship is more complex than that because there are more young adults who have had trouble establishing themselves, their careers and their families, so they’re still dependent on their parents.

We have more choices and we have more freedom in how we organise and live our family lives. Same-sex marriage is the latest formal recognition of that. But it’s been coming with divorce, with remarriage, adoption. The downside is that we’re more at sea when it comes to making those decisions and people really need to justify their decisions with regards to family life. In the US in the 50s, we basically had universal marriage – over 90% of people were married before 25, so you didn’t have to justify why you were doing what you were doing. Now we do.

That’s why we see so much attention on celebrities’ and leaders’ personal lives – because people want to hold them up and say, ‘I’m like that person’. They need anchor points to reference their own decisions. So people might say, ‘I’m thinking of adoption and look, Angelina Jolie did it, I like her.’ Celebrities give us models to chose from. It’s harder to be a conformist but people need something to define their behaviour, positively or negatively.

Parents are increasingly worried about how their kids are going to do in an unequal world. We saw this with the scandal that came out with Baby Einstein. It had a product that seemed to be a no-brainer; ‘wow this is great for infants, they’re going to turn out to be smart if they watch these little videos’. It turns out there was no science behind it. People were so mad, because they just want to do the right thing. From breastfeeding to limiting screen time, parents are worried about how their kids are going to turn out.

There’s big controversy over the gendering of toys, too. It was interesting that Target said it wasn’t going to have separate aisles for boys and girls. I think that’s very healthy. Children have an inclination to rock the boat, but as soon as it appears that they’re going to be penalised, it can be harsh. So it’s a very positive thing when they have more choices and variety. Particularly for boys. That’s why it’s been harder for men to become secretaries, even as women’s roles have changed. Because men have higher status, the penalties for gender non-conformity are more harsh, especially for adolescent boys.


Filed under Me @ work

Maternal age and infant mortality paper forthcoming

Update: The paper is now published here. 

The working paper I wrote about here has now been accepted for publication in Sociological Science. Although the results haven’t changed substantially, I revised it since the last post, so you should use this copy instead. Here’s the abstract:

Maternal Age and Infant Mortality for White, Black, and Mexican Mothers in the United States

This paper assesses the pattern of infant mortality by maternal age for White, Black, and Mexican mothers, using 2013 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death Public Use File from the Centers for Disease Control. The results are consistent with the “weathering” hypothesis, which suggests that White women benefit from delayed childbearing while for Black women early childbearing is adaptive because of deteriorating health status through the childbearing years. For White women, the risk (adjusted for covariates) of infant death is U-shaped – lowest in the early thirties – while for Black women the risk increases linearly with age. Mexican-origin women show a J-shape, with highest risk at the oldest ages. The results underscore the need for understanding the relationship between maternal age and infant mortality in the context of unequal health unequal health experiences across race/ethnic groups in the U.S.


Filed under Me @ work, Research reports

Year-end report

The state of our blog is strong. Family Inequality readership grew 20% in 2015. That continues a pattern of slowing annual growth:


But it’s a good result compared with our old-new-media benchmarks, Facebook and Twitter, which had annual year-to-year growth rates of 17% and 11% through the 3rd quarter (slower in North America). So progress is good, media-empire-wise.

According to Twitter’s analytics, @familyunequal followers skew a little female (52%), college-educated (54%), high-income (half over $75,000), professional, and single (55%). In terms of interests, they are most into politics, news, and books — much more than the Twitter average. In consumer style, Twitter says they’re into (in descending order): premium brands, ethnic explorers, natural living, fresh and healthy, vegetarian, Mexican food, and Kosher (the last one at twice the Twitter average).

Come to think of it, instead of passively penalizing me for my social media work, my university should probably fine me for not monetizing this audience better (I pay WordPress to have no ads on the blog).

In related publishing news, my textbook is being used to teach thousands of undergraduate students at more than 100 colleges (some of their instructors share ideas and resources on a Facebook group). And I’m happy to report that I have a contract with the University of California Press to produce a collection of revised and edited essays from the blog, to be published in 2016.

Here are the top 12 most-viewed posts written in 2015.

12. Herculean dimorphism. Thanks in part to a hefty repost on Sociological Images, this turned out to be one of the most popular in my series on sex dimorphism in popular culture.

8. New data on gender-segregated sociology. Our discipline is internally gender segregated, and also increasingly female-dominated professionally (but not yet overwhelmingly so, as I showed in a followup post).

7, 9. How random error and dirty data made Regnerus even wronger than we thought. With the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision (teaching supplement here), the pressing importance of this research dispute subsided, but it’s still going on. This year we learned that the Regenerus/Wilcox research was worse than we even knew, and also that the anti-gay-parenting community is still trying to make a peer-reviewed paper trail for future use (post number 9).

6. How about we stop moralizing and end child poverty tomorrow? The simple observation, supported by a few calculations, that the U.S. has plenty of money to lift every poor child out of poverty if we wanted to.

5. No, you should get married in your late 40s (just kidding). A little debunking of the latest bit of you-better-marry-early advice, based on age at marriage and divorce risk. A classic example of overreaching to turn minor research blips into breaking news personal-life advice.

4, 10, 11. On the ropes (Goffman review). Everything Alice Goffman was big in U.S. sociology this year, producing three of the top 11 posts: my review of her book, reporting that my comment was rejected by the American Sociological Review, and my proposed a rule change for the American Sociological Association’s dissertation award (to require the winner to make their dissertation publicly available), which is on its way to approval, I hope.

3. Our broken peer-review system, in one saga. A blow-by-blow report on how Lucia Lykke and I tried – eventually successfully – to publish a paper on attitudes toward pornography.

2. Charter, private, and wealthy schools lead California vaccine exemptions. Using data from the state, some simple analysis showing how vaccine-exempting parents cluster in some schools. (Inspired by work Kieran Healy did.)

1. How we really can study divorce using just five questions and a giant sample. This post was aided by a big day on Reddit’s Data Is Beautiful page, because of the heat-map graphics showing divorce risk by age at marriage and marital duration. (Also a warning to look at marital history of both partners, which little research in this area does – because more than 1/3 of women marrying for the first time over age 35 have husbands who’ve been married before.)


Leave a comment

Filed under Me @ work