Discussing myths regarding the most segregated American cities

As a follow-up to a recent piece looking at the top 10 segregated cities in the United States (see my discussion here), a Salon writer discusses five myths people have regarding this data.

An interesting read and several sociologists contribute to the myth-busting.

“Five myths about the suburbs”

From a writer whose first book was titled Bomb the Suburbs (first released in 1994), this might seem like an unusual column title: “Five myths about the suburbs.” But William Upski Wimsatt goes on to lay out five common misperceptions regarding American suburbs:

1. Suburbs are white, middle-class enclaves…

2. Suburbs aren’t cool…

3. Suburbs are a product of the free market…

4. Suburbs are politically conservative…

5. Suburbanites don’t care about the environment…

The first three points in particular line up with research about suburbs: they are government-subsidized communities (highways, mortgages, etc.) that have growing minority and poorer populations as well as increasing cultural opportunities. The last two points might be more contentious: the suburbs are not just conservative though they went conservative in the 2010 elections (see Joel Kotkin’s opinion here). I’ve also seen other analyses suggesting that exurbs, far-flung suburbs, are quite conservative so perhaps they are balanced out by more Democratic-leaning inner-ring suburbs. About environmentalism and going green, there are still seem to be plenty of people who think the suburbs are not green enough (see an example here) or perhaps can never truly be good for the environment.

Wimsatt’s conclusion is also interesting:

Everyone with a prejudice against the suburbs will have to get over it. Even me.

He seems to be suggesting that the suburbs aren’t as bad as some people once thought (and there is a long history of suburban critique). Perhaps this is an honest sharing of a revelation, perhaps it is simply prompted by the fact that a majority of Americans live in the suburbs and this is where the action is taking place.

Venkatesh discusses five myths about prostitution

Sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh quickly dissects five myths regarding prostitution. Here are the myths: “prostitution is an alleyway business,” “men visit sex workers for sex,” “most prostitutes are addicted to drugs or were abused as children,” “prostitutes and police are enemies,” and “closing Craigslist’s “adult services” section will significantly affect the sex trade.”

Two quick thoughts:

1. It is difficult to tackle a social problem if people don’t know what is really going on. If Venkatesh is right about the role of Craigslist, then lawmakers and officials are just dealing with symptoms of the problem.

2. One common argument against the need to study sociology is that everything about the social world is “just common sense.” Venkatesh is suggesting based on research of his own and from others that much of the accepted wisdom about prostitution is inaccurate.