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Focus on Social Problems

A Contemporary Reader

Mindy Stombler and Amanda M. Jungels

Publication Date - March 2016

ISBN: 9780199321353

720 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $75.95

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


Focus on Social Problems: A Contemporary Reader 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.

About the Author(s)

Mindy Stombler is a Senior Lecturer and Director of Instruction in the Department of Sociology at Georgia State University. She is a co-editor of Sex Matters: The Sexuality and Society Reader, Fourth Edition (2013) and a recipient of the Southern Sociological Society's Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award.

Amanda M. Jungels is an ORISE Fellow studying social and behavioral health among U.S. Army soldiers. She is a past recipient of the Jacqueline Boles Teaching Fellowship and Teaching Associate Award at Georgia State University.


"I really appreciate the mix between readings that are well-grounded in social science and the more popular pieces. This is a great way to engage students; the selections encourage critical thinking."--Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Saint Joseph's University

"The articles are up to date and of interest to students, and reflect the controversial nature of 'social problems.' A unique feature in each chapter is the 'Activist Interview.' This shows students (and academics) what is currently happening in the construction of and responses to various social problems in America and the world."--Meredith Huey Dye, Middle Tennessee State University

"I believe the editors struck a perfect balance between readings that draw from very recent research, readings/interviews drawing from an activist perspective, and less data-driven and more accessible articles that can generate class discussion."--Shoon Lio, University of Illinois-Springfield

Table of Contents

    Contributor List

    Chapter 1: Social Construction of Social Problems

    Activist Interview: Sut Jhally
    1. Interpersonal Violence as Social Construction: The Potentially Undermining Role of Claims Making and Advocacy Statistics, Robin D. Perrin and Cindy L. Miller-Perrin
    2. Terrorism, Ziad Munson
    Box: Making Claims: The Role of Language in the Construction of Social Problems, Kiersten Kummerow
    3. Telling the Truth about Damned Lies and Statistics, Joel Best

    Chapter 2: Core American Values

    Activist Interview: Stiv Wilson
    4. The Way We Were: Rethinking the American Dream, David Kamp
    5. Endangered Childhoods: How Consumerism is Impacting Child and Youth Identity, Jennifer Ann Hill
    6. Public Attitudes toward the Next Social Contract, Bruce Stokes
    Box: Hidden Beneficiaries of Federal Programs, Gwen Sharp
    7. Political Polarization in Contemporary American Society, Megan M. Tesene
    Box: The Story of Citizens United v. FECr, Annie Leonard, Jonah Sachs, and Louis Fox

    Chapter 3: Wealth and Income Inequality

    Activist Interview: Ann Larson
    8. Building a Better America--One Wealth Quintile at a Time, Michael I. Norton and Dan Ariely

    Box: For the Public, It's Not about Class Warfare, but Fairness, Pew Research Center
    9. Rising Inequality and the Fading American Dream, Renee M. Shelby
    Box: The "Middle Class" Myth: Here's Why Wages are Really So Low Today, Edward McClelland
    10. Roots of the Widening Racial Wealth Gap: Explaining the Black-White Economic Divide, Thomas Shapiro, Tatjana Meschede, Sam Osoro
    11. Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%, Joseph E. Stiglitz
    Box: Paying for Politics: How Elite Donors Purchase Political Power, Lee Drutman

    Chapter 4: Poverty

    Activist Interview: David Pirtle
    12. Rethinking American Poverty, Mark R. Rank

    Box: Poverty as a Childhood Disease, Perri Klass, M.D.
    13. Surviving the Great Recession: Growing Need and the Stigmatized Safety Net, Jennifer Sherman
    14. Traps, Pitfalls, and Unexpected Cliffs on the Path Out of Poverty, Mary A. Prenovost and Deborah C. Youngblood
    Box: Voices of the Near Poor, Sabrina Tavernise, Jason DeParle, Robert Gebeloff
    15. The Compassion Gap in American Poverty Policy, Fred Block, Anna C. Korteweg, Kerry Woodward, Zach Schiller, and Imrul Mazid
    Box: "I Wish I Could Eat That Well": Misconceptions and Resentment about Food Stamp, Arthur Delaney
    16. The Myth of Prosperity: Poverty among Native Americans, Chris McGreal

    Chapter 5: Racial and Ethnic Inequality

    Activist Interview: Allegra Phox
    17. Sociologists on the Colorblind Question, Elaine McArdle
    Box: White Americans' Racial Attitudes and their Effect on Anti-Discrimination Policies in the 'Age of Obama', Amanda Atwell
    18. Fences and Neighbors: Segregation in 21, John E. Farley and Gregory D. Squires
    19. The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander
    20. Explaining and Eliminating Racial Profiling, Donald Tomaskovic-Devey and Patricia Warren
    21. Tomahawk Chops and "Red" Skin: Cultural Appropriation of Sports Symbols, Elizabeth S. Cavalier
    22. Learning to Be Illegal: Undocumented Youth and Shifting Legal Contexts in the Transition to Adulthood, Roberto G. Gonzales

    Chapter 6: Gender Inequality

    Activist Interview: Emily May
    23. The Problem When Sexism Just Sounds So Darn Friendly, Melanie Tannenbaum
    Box: Selling Feminism, Consuming Femininity, Amanda M. Gengler
    24. "Men are Stuck" in Gender Roles, Emily Alpert Reyes
    25. Normalizing Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harassment and Abuse, Heather R. Hlavka
    Box: Tackling the Roots of Rape, Frank Bruni
    26. Transgender Discrimination in the Workplace, Elis Herman and Elroi J. Windsor
    27. Why Gender Equality is Good for the World, Stacy Gorman Harmon

    Chapter 7: Social Problems related to Sex and Sexuality

    Activist Interview: Heather Corinna
    28. "Children" Having Children, Stefanie Mollborn
    Box: Reducing Unintended Pregnancy: The Role of Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs), Stacy Gorman Harmon
    29. Sexuality Education in the United States: Shared Cultural Ideas across a Political Divide, Jessica Fields
    Box: The Social Consequences of Abstinence-Only Sex Education, Lanier Basenberg
    30. One Town's War on Gay Teens, Sabrina Rubin Erdely
    31. Prostitution: Facts and Fictions, Ronald Weitzer
    Box: Selling People: Sex, Money, and Brutality, Sutapa Basu

    Chapter 8: Social Problems related to Media

    Activist Interview: Josh Golin
    32. A Modern Empire: The Concentration of Media, Desmond Goss
    Box: Connection Failed: Internet Still a Luxury for Many Americans, Jana Kasperkevic
    33. How to Stop the Bullies, Emily Bazelon
    34. Constructing Crime, Gary W. Potter and Victor E. Kappeler
    Box: #IfTheyGunnedMeDown and the Power of Social Media to Change the Message, Mindy Stombler and Nate Steiner
    35. Equal Opportunity Objectification? The Sexualization of Men and Women on the Cover of Rolling Stone, Erin Hatton and Mary Nell Trautner
    Box: At the Movies, The Women are Gone, Linda Holmes

    Chapter 9: Social Problems related to Education

    Activist Interview: Jesse Hagopian
    36. Inequality and School Resources: What Will it Take to Close the Opportunity Gap, Linda Darling-Hammond
    Box: Why Some Schools Want to Expel Suspensions, NPR Staff
    37. How Schools Really Matter, Douglas B. Downey and Benjamin G. Gibbs
    38. The (Mis)Education of Monica and Karen, Laura Hamilton and Elizabeth A. Armstrong
    Box: A Campus More Colorful than Reality: Beware that College Brochure, Deena Prichep
    39. Screw U: How For-Profit Colleges Rip You Off, Yasmeen Qureshi, Sarah Gross, and Lisa Desai

    Chapter 10: Social Problems related to Families

    Activist Interview: Oscar Hernandez
    40. Families Facing Untenable Choices, Lisa Dodson and Wendy Luttrell
    Box: Challenges Faced by LGBT Families with Children, Kaitlin A. Hippen
    41. Unmarried with Children, Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas
    Box: The Changing American Family: Bonding from Behind Bars, Natalie Angier
    42. Does It Pay to Have Kids? Not for Working Moms, Kirstin Ralston-Coley
    Box: Lean In, Dad: How Shared Diaper Duty Could Stimulate the Economy, Catherine Rampell
    43. Fighting Back, Tim Stelloh
    44. Families and Elder Care in the Twenty-First Century, Ann Bookman and Delia Kimbrel

    Chapter 11: Social Problems related to Health and the Healthcare System

    Activist Interview: Elba L. Saavedra
    45. They've Got a Pill for That: The Medicalization of Society, Stephanie Medley-Rath
    Box: Selling Sickness: How Drug Ads Changed Health Care, Alix Spiegel
    46. Paying Till It Hurts: The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill, Elisabeth Rosenthal
    47. Big Pharma Comes of Age, Rose Weitz
    Box: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Rose Weitz
    48. What's Killing Poor White Women?, Monica Potts
    49. How We Do Harm, Otis Webb Brawley, M.D., and Paul Goldberg

    Chapter 12: Social Problems related to Crime and the Criminal Justice System

    Activist Interview: Nicole D. Porter
    50. Mass Shootings and Masculinity, Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh Tober
    Box: More Guns, More Mass Shootings-Coincidence?, Mark Follman
    51. Crimes of the Powerful: Crafting Criminality, Miriam Konrad
    Box: Inequality in Life and Death: The Death Penalty in the U.S., Erin Thomas Echols
    52. For-Profit Justice: How the Private Prison Industry and the Criminal Justice System Benefit from Mass Incarceration, Amanda Atwell
    53. How Prisons Change the Balance of Power in America, Heather Ann Thompson
    54. Can the Police be Reformed?, Ronald Weitzer

    Chapter 13: Social Problems related to the Economy and Work

    Activist Interview: Ai-jen Poo
    55. The Rhetoric and Reality of "Opting Out", Pamela Stone
    Box: How Sheryl Sandberg and Getty are Making Stock Photos Less Sexist, Claire Suddath
    56. Sex Segregation at Work: Persistence and Change, Anastasia Prokos
    57. Pride and Prejudice: Employment Discrimination against Openly Gay Men in the United States, András Tilcsik
    Box: ENDA's End Game: Why Workplace Protections for LGBT People is a Necessary Step, J. Jennings Moss
    58. The Case against Racial Colorblindness in the Workplace, Carmen Nobel
    Box: What's in a Name? Discrimination, Erin Thomas Echols
    59. The Hands that Feed Us: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers along the Food Chain, Food Chain Workers Alliance
    Box: Why U.S. Taxpayers Pay $7 Billion a Year to Help Fast-Food Workers, Allison Aubrey
    60. In China, the Human Costs that are Built into an iPad, Charles Duhigg and David Barboza

    Chapter 14: Social Problems related to the Environment and Food System

    Activist Interview: Daniel Wildcat
    61. Environmental Inequalities,Hollie Nyseth Brehm and David Pellow
    Box: U.S. Electronic Waste Gets Sent to Africa, Ron Claiborne
    62. Fixing the Bungled U.S. Environmental Movement, Robert Brulle and J. Craig Jenkins
    63. Why Beef is What's for Dinner: Agricultural Policy and Its Implications, Emily Stutzman Jones
    Box: Consumers Fight Back, Food Chain Workers Alliance
    64. The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, Michael Moss
    65. A Bug in the System: Why Last Night's Chicken Made You Sick, Wil S. Hylton

    Chapter 15: Strategies for Social Change

    Activist Interview: Alicia Garza
    66. Same-Sex, Different Attitudes, Kathleen E. Hull
    67. Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted, Malcolm Gladwell
    68. Get Angry. Go Viral. Change Everything!, Alexis Jetter
    69. What Can We Do? Becoming Part of the Solution, Allan G. Johnson
    Box: The Arc of Justice and the Long Run: Hope, History, and Unpredictability, Rebecca Solnit