Posts tagged with sociology

An astounding 26 percent of black males in the United States report seeing someone shot before turning 12.

Conditional on reported exposure to violence, black and white young males are equally likely to engage in violent behavior.
Aliprantis, Dionissi, 2014. “Human Capital in the Inner City,” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, working paper no. 13-02R.


[T]he impulse of the heart often coincided with other imperatives.

happy love, i.e., love which is socially approved and thus likely to succeed, is nothing but that kind of amor fati, … love of one’s own social destiny, which, by the apparently hazardous and arbitrary paths of free choice, unites partners already socially predestined for each other.

Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie — quoting Pierre Bourdieu

One of the important discoveries of the late 1700s and 1800s was that family life in Northwest Europe during this period varied substantially from family life in other parts of the world, such as Russia, The Middle East, China and India.

Compared to family life in many other parts of the world—with extensive family solidarity, little individualism, overwhelming control of parents over adolescent children, a young age at marriage, universal marriage, marriages arranged by parents, and large and extended households—family life in Northwest Europe could be characterized as having relatively little family solidarity, great individualism, little control of parents over adolescent children, an older age at marriage, many people never marrying, marriages arranged by the couple through courtship, and small and nuclear (or stem) households.

—arvind thornton

Hat tip to @mileskimball.


"You can keep blaming your parents for your life in your 20’s, but by the time you’re 30 it’s your own fault."

—having a difficult time getting an original source on this quote

This is like unknotting an autoregressive term in a time series. Even if the past only has a hold on the present back to 5 years ago, your upbringing still influences you when you’re 70.

an autoregressive AR(1) time series


  • who you were at 15 influences who you were at 20 ρ¹,
  • which in turn influences who you were at 25 ρ²,
  • and so on until 9 half-decades later there’s a ρ¹¹ echo of your 15-year-old self

whose apprehension at the way she looked (or rather didn’t look) rumbles faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly through time—the decisions then affected the next decisions which altered the next decisions … on and on to the present.


If the initial spike was −1<ρ<1, then the rumble of the thunder diminishes geometrically over time. So a ρ=½ only shivers .00049 eleven knots into the future, and even a ρ=.9 recedes to a .314 by the time it’s so deep past. 


Maybe I can spot a corollary to the new parents’ dilemma as well. If the present choices are always framed by the habits formed in the past, then ε perturbations in the baby’s care echo forward, and forward, and forward…and can they really be undone?

Even the beneficiaries of hypertrophy have found it difficult to cope with extreme cultural change … they are sociobiologically equipped only for an earlier, simpler existence. Where the hunter-gatherer fills … one or two … roles out of … several available, his literate counterpart … must choose ten or more out of thousands, and replace one … with another….

Furthermore, each occupation—the physician, the judge, the teacher, the waitress—is played just so, regardless of the true workings of the mind behind the persona. [D]eviations … are interpreted … as a sign of mental incapacity…. Daily life is a compromised blend of posturing … and of varying degrees of self-revelation. Under these stressful conditions even the “true” self cannot be precisely defined….:

"…Self, then, is not … half-concealed behind events, but a changeable formula for managing … during them. Just as the current situation prescribes the official guise…so it provides where & how we will show through, the culture … prescribing what … we must believe ourselves to be….”

Little wonder that the identity crisis is a major source of modern neuroticism, and that the urban middle class aches for a return to a simpler existence.

E. O. Wilson (also quoting Erving Goffman), On Human Nature

Particularly the phrase “changeable formula” stands out to me. I think this means that our self-concept, seen as a function ƒ, takes the_environment as an input. (And that input has a nonzero derivative, i.e. it’s not a trivial input.)

Not only that; “the environment” isn’t limited to what_happened_in_our_early_years. We might feed that early_environment variable in as well, but in addition immediate conditions can change our self-concept. In equation form:

  • Self = ƒ (   ∫ early life,    present situation,   ...other stuff...  )