Book gift ideas for the Family Inequality reader

Here are some book recommendations for the Family Inequality reader or sympathizer on your year-end gift list. This year I opened up my social media accounts for recommendations for books published in 2017. I haven’t read all these, but each of them has been recommended by at least one person (not counting the author). Worth a look!

This list is arbitrary and I’m not the authority on what books to buy or read. Please feel free to add your own in the comments (including your own!).


Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, by Tressie McMillan Cottom. Maybe the most talked-about book in my feeds this year. The New York Times called it “revelatory,” adding: “With great compassion and analytical rigor, Cottom questions the fundamental narrative of American education policy: that a postsecondary degree always guarantees a better life.”

Interrogating Ethnography: Why Evidence Matters, by Steven Lubet. For Contexts, Syed Ali wrote, “Ethnographies are strange birds. Unlike much journalism and other forms of research, they suffer from a lack of replicability… Basically, ethnographic practice is kind of a black box. The output is the book and we’re impressed. But we have no idea how it was made. The ethnographer is asking us to trust them. Lubet says they should trust the readers more and lay everything out as transparently as possible. I agree.” My comments on the book, in audio form, are here.

stuff of family life

The Stuff of Family Life: How Our Homes Reflect Our Lives, by Michelle Janning. I wrote on the back cover: “Stuff and space, and how we interact with and relate to them, are at the intersection of house and home—and at the heart of this wonderful book. They shape our most intimate interactions, and therefore our relationships, our families, and the larger social world that they reflect and create. Michelle Janning leads us on an enthralling sociological journey through the objects and spaces of home—from LEGO and love letters to tables and toilets—to illuminate the social life of families.”

myth of millionaire

The Myth of Millionaire Tax Flight: How Place Still Matters for the Rich, by Cristobal Young. The headline on Young’s essay in Commonwealth was, “Taxes Don’t Make Millionaires Move,” which is the bottom line, but how he got there, with great data and analysis, is as important as that take-home message.

Rights on Trial: How Workplace Discrimination Law Perpetuates Inequality, by Ellen Berry, Robert L. Nelson, and Laura Beth Neilsen. Elizabeth Hirsh blurbed: “As the authors convincingly show, rather than enhancing workers’ rights, employment discrimination litigation often reinforces the very hierarchies it was intended to diminish. This is a fascinating study, well researched, written, and argued.”

citizen outsider

Citizen Outsider: Children of North African Immigrants in France, by Jean Beaman. Terri Givens blurbs: “An important contribution to the study of immigration and race in France, bringing the voices of second-generation North Africans into the debates around what it means to be French and what it means to be Maghrébin/Black at a time when the politics of immigration are creating volatile situations in the banlieus (suburbs) of France and fueling support for Far Right politicians.”

Are Racists Crazy? How Prejudice, Racism, and Antisemitism Became Markers of Insanity, Sander L. Gilman and James M. Thomas. Howard Winant blurbs: “They study the deep structures of racism, not only in plunder, privilege, and antipathy for the ‘other,’ but also in the scientific frameworks that seek to explain ‘otherness,’ sometimes affirming it, sometimes denying it. Locating racism within biopolitics, Are Racists Crazy? sheds new light on such varied matters as implicit bias and authoritarian populism. Most important, this book unveils the inescapable political connections between race and science”

kill it to save it

Kill It to Save It: An Autopsy of Capitalism’s Triumph over Democracy, by Corey Dolgon. I remember Corey’s activist folk-singing at Michigan in the early 1990s, and also having my mind blown in a history class with Robin D. G. Kelley, who blurbs: “To understand the popularity of Donald J. Trump and the prevailing logic that turns billionaires into job creators, unions into job destroyers, and climate scientists into godless Communists, we need Corey Dolgon. Clear-eyed and perceptive, Dolgon reveals that the new ‘common sense’ upholding privatization, deregulation, wealth concentration, and the erosion of democracy and civil liberties as the only path to prosperity was not the handiwork of Fox News and wily neocons but the outcome of a deeper ideological and cultural shift.”

someone to talk to

Someone To Talk To, by Mario Luis Small. The book “follows a group of graduate students as they cope with stress, overwork, self-doubt, failure, relationships, children, health care, and poverty. He unravels how they decide whom to turn to for support. And he then confirms his findings based on representative national data on adult Americans.” Bernice Pescosolido blurbs: “The reality of who affects our lives through contact is much more complicated, messy, and sometimes even random than contemporary theory and methods suggest. This fascinating book taps into the complex, networked fabric of our lives, revealing ground truth.”

down the up staircase

Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem Family, by Bruce D. Haynes and Syma Solovitch. Look at these blurbs! From Jeffrey Toobin (“combines the big themes of history with the gritty reality of a single family’s extraordinary story”), Dalton Conley (“channels W. E. B. Du Bois to provide a rich sociological portrait of his ‘talented tenth’ family”), Mitchell Duneier (“masterful at linking the small personal details of everyday family and community life to social structure and history”), George Lipsitz (“delineates vividly how poverty and downward mobility do not make people noble, resilient, and resourceful, but instead shatter social ties and self-esteem”).

Going Public: A Guide for Social Scientists, by Arlene Stein and Jessie Daniels. A nuts-and-bolts how-to on public engagement, with chapter titles including, Writing beyond the Academy, Telling Stories about Your Research, Books for General Audiences, and The Perils of Going Public.

Also, I have three new books coming in 2018, all available for pre-order now. Check out the updated books page!

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.)