Hans Noel, a political scientist at Georgetown, has a fabulous, short, readable paper called Ten Things Political Scientists Know that You Don’t (The Forum, 2010).* The paper reviews major findings in American politics research, mostly focused on campaigning, in a style aimed at interested non-academics. Noel starts with research on how fundamentals (mostly involving the economy and wars) determine most of the presidential vote, and then goes on to talk about the difficulties of interpreting survey results in light of the fact that most people don’t have strong opinions on most political topics and thus their opinions are very malleable in a polling context. I highly recommend the paper.
Reading it got me to thinking: what would a sociologist’s version of the same look like? What are 10 findings that we consider pretty well-established that we would want, say, every journalist or politician to know? This is a very different question from the idea of “principles” of sociology, in some ways it’s the exact opposite end. What are our most important and still not widely believed findings?
I think my top candidate would be something involving how much racism still exists in the labor market, drawing on Bruce Wester and Devah Pager’s work (for example). The figures are simple to explain and hit home the point incredibly well. Other race-related findings could involve the tremendous, unprecedented boom in US prisons (and the racial disparities therein) and the persistence of intense segregation. Last, I’d be tempted to include “Brown v. Board mattered less than you think” (following on Rosenberg’s The Hollow Hope) as a lead-in to discussions of how enforcement matters as much or more than court decisions.
What else would make the cut? What about from organizations or economic sociology?