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Focus on Social Problems

Second Edition

Edited by Mindy Stombler and Amanda M. Jungels

Publication Date - 20 March 2020

ISBN: 9780190936419

736 pages
7 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock

The most comprehensive, current, student-oriented social problems reader available


Focus on Social Problems: A Contemporary Reader, Second Edition, exposes students to current issues in the field. The selections in this reader help students understand how social problems are defined and constructed, increase their empirical knowledge about the causes and consequences of social problems, and develop empathy. Working from a critical social constructionist foundation, the readings address a wide variety of social problems. Editors Mindy Stombler and Amanda M. Jungels include a combination of research-based articles and popular media pieces. Each chapter opens with an interview of a social-change activist doing work related to the chapter's featured social problem, giving students an opportunity to envision themselves as agents of social change.

New to this Edition

  • An expanded introduction is now a full-length chapter, written by Stombler and Jungels, that introduces students to the discipline of sociology, the sociological imagination, the role of American cultural values in defining and understanding social problems, the social construction of social problems, and a critical constructionist perspective
  • Each chapter has a new multi-page introduction
  • Selections have been updated and revised with the latest data
  • Updated and new activist interviews
  • More than half of the selections are new to this edition

About the Author(s)

Mindy Stombler is Principle Senior Lecturer and Director of Instruction at Georgia State University.

Amanda M. Jungels is Senior Assistant Director of Faculty Programs and Services at the Center for Teaching and Learning at Columbia University.


"Focus on Social Problems is data driven with a focus on understanding the unique facets to social problems. It is a solid, comprehensive reader with timely and informative readings that pique students' interest in the material."--Amy Grau, Shawnee State University

"Focus on Social Problems is a unique reader that focuses on contemporary social problems. Students will be able to relate to the social problems on a personal level and build analytical skills to help solve these problems."--Jeffrey Lentz, University of North Georgia-Gainesville

"This is an accessible reader that discusses a wide range of social problems from a social constructionist approach. It has a definite focus on the process, but also includes a range of social problems that students want to discuss. I also like the inclusion of activist interviews, because it is very solution oriented."--Sarah Epplen, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Table of Contents

    * = new to this edition
    # = updated for this edition

    Chapter 1: Introduction

    Chapter 2: Wealth and Income Inequality
    Activist Interview: Sam Nelson
    * 1. Unequality: Who Gets What and Why it Matters, Michael I. Norton
    # 2. Income Inequality Threatens the American Dream, Renee M. Shelby
    BOX: The "Middle Class" Myth: Here's Why Wages Are Really So Low Today, Edward McClelland
    * 3. The Ever-Growing Gap: Without Change, African-American and Latino Families Won't Match White Wealth for Centuries, Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, Chuck Collins, Josh Hoxie, and Emanuel Nieves
    * BOX: The Second Racial Wealth Gap, Mel Jones
    4. Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%, Joseph E. Stiglitz
    * 5. The Cost of Admission: Political Elites and the National Discourse, Chris M. Vidmar

    Chapter 3: Poverty
    * Activist Interview: Destiny Vasquez
    6. Rethinking American Poverty, Mark R. Rank
    * BOX: Perceived Racial Threat and Welfare Backlash in the United States, Amanda M. Jungels and Jordan Forrest Miller
    * 7. $2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer
    BOX: The Americans Deepest in Poverty, Kristen Bialik
    * 8. Making Bank on Tribal Gaming? Poverty and the Myth of Native American Prosperity, Ashley Rockwell
    * 9. Being Poor is Too Expensive, Eric Ravenscraft
    BOX: "I Wish I Could Eat That Well": Misconceptions and Resentment about Food Stamps, Arthur Delaney
    * 10. The Eviction Economy, Matthew Desmond
    * 11. A Hand Up for Lower-Income Families, Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Laura Tach, Kathryn J. Edin, and Jennifer Sykes

    Chapter 4: Racial and Ethnic Inequality
    * Activist Interview: Sawsan Selim
    12. Sociologists on the Colorblind Question, Elaine McArdle
    * BOX: Racialized Space in Rentals and Rideshares, Dresden Lackey
    * 13. Racial Residential Segregation and Neighborhood Disparities, Solomon Greene, Margery Austin Turner, and Ruth Gourevitch
    14. The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander
    * BOX: When Heroin Hits the White Suburbs, Andrew Cohen
    * 15. The Disproportionate Risks of Driving While Black, Sharon LaFraniere and Andrew W. Lehren
    * BOX: "Hands on the Wheel": Disparities in Respect during Traffic Stops, Moey Rojas
    *16. The Racialization of Islam in the United States: Islamophobia, Hate Crimes, and "Flying while Brown", Craig Considine
    * BOX: Hate Crimes, Explained, Southern Poverty Law Center
    # 17. Tomahawk Chops and "Red" Skin: Cultural Appropriation of Sport Symbols, Elizabeth S. Cavalier
    * 18. White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo
    # BOX: White Americans' Racial Attitudes and their Effect on Antidiscrimination Policies, Amanda Atwell and Amanda M. Jungels

    Chapter 5: Gender Inequality
    Activist Interview: Emily May
    19. The Problem When Sexism Just Sounds So Darn Friendly, Melanie Tannenbaum
    * BOX: The Fault in Our Scores: Gender and Racial Bias in Student Evaluations, Kiersten Kummerow
    * 20. "You Just Accepted It": Why Older Women Kept Silent about Sexual Harassment--and Younger Ones are Speaking Out, Anna North
    * 21. Imagining a Better Boyhood, Sarah Rich
    BOX: Selling Feminism, Consuming Femininity, Amanda M. Gengler
    22. Transgender Discrimination in the Workplace, Elis Herman and Elroi J. Windsor

    Chapter 6: Social Problems Related to Sexuality
    Activist Interview: Heather Corinna
    23. Sexuality Education in the United States: Shared Cultural Ideas across a Political Divide, Jessica Fields
    * BOX: America's Sex Education: How We are Failing Our Students, University of Southern California, Department of Nursing
    24. "Children" Having Children, Stefanie Mollborn
    BOX: Reducing Unintended Pregnancy: The Role of Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives, Stacy Gorman Harmon
    * 25. What Teenagers are Learning from Online Porn, Maggie Jones
    26. Normalizing Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harassment and Abuse, Heather R. Hlavka
    * 27. Sex Trafficking, Social Inequality, and Our Evolving Legal Consciousness, Renee M. Shelby

    Chapter 7: Social Problems Related to Media
    # Activist Interview: Josh Golin
    # 28. A Modern Empire: The Concentration of Media, Desmond Goss
    * BOX: How Shows Like "Will & Grace" and "Black-ish" Can Change Your Brain, Maanvi Singh
    29. Constructing Crime, Gary W. Potter and Victor E. Kappeler
    * 30. The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News, Robinson Meyer
    * BOX: A Savvy News Consumer's Guide: How Not to Get Duped, Alicia Shepard
    * 31. The Algorithmic Rise of the "Alt-Right", Jessie Daniels
    * BOX: How the Internet Has Changed Bullying, Maria Konnikova
    * 32. Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism, Nancy Wang Yuen

    Chapter 8: Social Problems Related to Education
    # Activist Interview: Jesse Hagopian
    33. Inequality and School Resources: What It Will Take to Close the Opportunity Gap, Linda Darling-Hammond
    34. How Schools Really Matter, Douglas B. Downey and Benjamin G. Gibbs
    * BOX: How Limited Internet Access Can Subtract from Kids' Education, Alina Selyukh
    * 35. Why Are Our Most Important Teachers Paid the Least?, Jeneen Interlandi
    * BOX: Teaching While Afraid, Ashley Lamb-Sinclair
    * 36. Staunching the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Mimi Kirk
    * BOX: Teachers' Implicit Bias Starts in Preschool, Yolanda Young
    * 37. The Dark Side of College (Un)Affordability: Food and Housing Insecurity in Higher Education, Katharine Broton and Sara Goldrick-Rab
    * 38. Does Investing in Knowledge Still Pay the Best Interest?, Bailey A. Brown

    Chapter 9: Social Problems Related to Families
    * Activist Interview: Ana Hernandez
    39. Families Facing Untenable Choices, Lisa Dodson and Wendy Luttrell
    * BOX: The Diaper Dilemma, Jennifer Randles
    40. Unmarried with Children, Kathryn J. Edin and Maria Kefalas
    # 41. Does It Pay to Have Kids? Not for Working Moms, Kirstin Ralston-Coley
    * 42. The Difference Between a Happy Marriage and a Miserable One: Chores, Wendy Klein, Carolina Izquierdo, Thomas N. Bradbury
    * 43. Love Wins?, Amanda K. Baumle and D'Lane R. Compton
    * 44. "Will They Take Me, Too?", Brooke Jarvis
    45. Fighting Back, Tim Stelloh

    Chapter 10: Social Problems Related to Health and the Healthcare System
    Activist Interview: Elba L. Saavedra
    # 46. They've Got a Pill for That: The Medicalization of Society, Stephanie Medley-Rath
    47. Paying Till It Hurts: The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill, Elisabeth Rosenthal
    48. Big Pharma Comes of Age, Rose Weitz
    * 49. The Addicts Next Door, Margaret Talbot
    * 50. Why America's Black Mothers and Babies are in a Life-or-Death Crisis, Linda Villarosa
    51. What's Killing Poor White Women?, Monica Potts
    * 52. Mechanisms by Which Anti-Immigrant Stigma Exacerbates Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities, Brittany N. Morey
    53. How We Do Harm, Otis Webb Brawley and Paul Goldberg

    Chapter 11: Social Problems Related to Crime and the Criminal Justice System
    # Activist Interview: Nicole Porter
    # 54. Mass Shootings, Masculinity, and Gun Violence as Social Problems, Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh Tober
    * BOX: Millions of Kids Haven't Lived through a School Shooting, but Fear that They Will, Petula Dvorak
    # 55. Crimes of the Powerful: Crafting Criminality, Miriam Konrad and Angie Luvara
    # BOX: Inequality in Life and Death: The Death Penalty in the United States, Erin Thomas
    # 56. For-Profit Justice: How the Private Prison Industry and the Criminal Justice System Benefit from Mass Incarceration, Amanda Atwell and Amanda M. Jungels
    BOX: How Prisons Change the Balance of Power in America, Heather Ann Thompson
    * 57. Black Lives and Police Tactics Matter, Rory Kramer, Brianna Remster, and Camille Z. Charles
    * BOX: The Tragic Fiction of Immigrant Threat, Watoii Rabii

    Chapter 12: Social Problems Related to the Economy and Work
    # Activist Interview: Ai-Jen Poo
    * 58. Americans Want to Believe Jobs are the Solution to Poverty. They're Not., Matthew Desmond
    * 59. I Delivered Packages for Amazon and It Was a Nightmare, Alana Semuels
    * BOX: The Long-Term Jobs Killer Is Not China. It's Automation., Claire Cain Miller
    * 60. Exploitation and Abuse at the Chicken Plant, Michael Grabell
    * 61. No Piece of the Pie: U.S. Food Workers in the United States, Food Chain Workers Alliance and Solidarity Research Cooperative
    # 62. Gender Segregation at Work, Anastasia Prokos
    * BOX: About Those 79 Cents, Adia Harvey Wingfield
    63. The Case against Racial Colorblindness in the Workplace, Carmen Nobel
    # BOX: What's in a Name? Discrimination, Erin Thomas

    Chapter 13: Social Problems Related to the Environment and Food System
    Activist Interview: Daniel R. Wildcat
    64. Environmental Inequalities, Hollie Nyseth Brehm and David Pellow
    * BOX: Flint Isn't the Only Place with Racism in the Water, Tracey Ross and Danyelle Solomon
    * 65. The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells
    * 66. More Recycling Won't Solve Plastic Pollution, Matt Wilkins
    * BOX: Making a Profit on Bottled Water, Eleanor Cummins
    # 67. Why Beef is What's for Dinner: Agricultural Policy and its Implications, Emily Stutzman
    * BOX: Deserts and Swamps: Inhospitable Foodscapes and Health, Claudia Tillman
    68. The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, Michael Moss
    69. A Bug in the System: Why Last Night's Chicken Made You Sick, Wil S. Hylton
    BOX: Consumers Fight Back, Food Chain Workers Alliance

    Chapter 14: Strategies for Social Change
    Activist Interview: Alicia Garza
    70. Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted, Malcolm Gladwell
    * 71. The Real Rosa Parks, Paul Rogat Loeb
    # 72. Political Polarization in Contemporary American Society, Megan M. Tesene
    * BOX: The Worst Voter Suppression We've Seen in the Modern Era, Zachary Roth, Wendy R. Weiser
    73. What Can We Do? Becoming Part of the Solution, Allan G. Johnson