One Way to Reduce Teen Pregnancies…

A sociologist from my old department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amy Schalet, has completed a comparative study of Dutch and American attitudes towards teen sexuality. I haven’t read the book yet, but there was an interesting interview in Salon, an online magazine.

The basic upshot of her research is that families in the Netherlands are much more accepting of teen sexuality than we are here. Teenagers in the Netherlands have higher contraceptive use and lower teen pregnancy rates while having sex about as frequently as American teens. There are many more details in the article.

The interesting thing about this research is that it violates our societal beliefs about how to lower teen pregnancies. Ask most people what they think about how to reduce teen pregnancies and they will not say allow them to have sex at home and talk about sex more. Most people believe that these actions would lead to more teen sex and more teen pregnancies.

Is this the solutions for the U.S.? Cultures are remarkably hard to change and ideas from one culture don’t always translate to another culture, but it is an interesting bit of sociological data that should be considered when we make policy.

And just to keep people informed about the issue…

Graph on teen pregnancy rates

Income and Statistics

My introductory sociology classes have been looking at statistics. This made me think about how we represent income in the U.S. News stories often just report “average” income without defining what that means. The Census released a new report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance on September 13. Their press release states that median income is $49,445 (The full report can be found here). This is a much better figure than mean (what we think of as average income) because that calculation is highly sensitive to outliers. The median tells us that half of the people have incomes above $49,445 and half have incomes below that.

However, even the median can be misleading. This is median household income. If we break that down into family households (people who are related who live together) and non-family households (people who are not related who live together) the numbers are very different. Non-family households have a median income of $29,730. Family households have a median income of $61,544. The difference is not surprising once you realize that people who live with unrelated people are likely doing so because they cannot afford not to.

What this all shows is it is essential to know how a statistic is defined. The name that they used, median household income, is correct, but it hides quite a lot of important information.

Welcome to the Sociology Blog!

Berkshire Community College’s sociologists will be blogging here regularly. There is much in the world that can be connected to sociology. This blog gives us a place to bring together our commentary on current issues, resources, and ideas that connect to what we do in the classroom. We will be kicking the blog off at the start of the Fall 2012 semester. Look for us then!