Saturday, August 2, 2008

ASA Day 1

I'm here at the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association. Today was actually the second day of the conference, but the first I was able to attend. I heard a number of interesting presentations today -- here are some tidbits:

-In "School Disengagement and Problem Behavior: Distinguishing Cause from Consequence," Joseph Michael Gaspar and Paul Hirschfield examined the relationship between disengagement and delinquency in Chicago middle-schoolers. One model found that delinquency led to disengagement in school a year and a half later, but that disengagement did not lead to delinquency a year and a half later. Another model, however, using fixed-effects, found that both conditions led to more of the other condition a year later. The authors' preliminary conclusion is that delinquency causes more negative outcomes in the long-run while disengagement may affect students more in the short-term. One weakness was that "delinquency" was broadly defined and included many things that happen outside of school -- I'd be more interested in finding out if disengagement in school leads to more delinquency.

-In "Schools and Delinquency Revisited: Delinquent Affiliations in Middle and High School," Mark Warr and Robert Crosnoe looked at the actions of students' friends. They found that delinquent behavior increased steadily until about 10th grade, when it leveled off. Similarly, they found that moral condemnation of such behavior declined steadily until about 10th grade, when it also leveled off. The delinquency level of students in some schools was about 10x as high as in others -- meaning that significant differences do exist. The only students they found that were "peer-proof" and did not make friends with delinquent individuals were those that were highly religious and those that were socially isolated. Among those who said that all of their friends were going to college, 91% planned on attending college. Among those who said that none of their friends were going to college, less than half planned on attending college.

-In "Juvenile Delinquency, College Attendance, and the Paradoxical Role of Higher Education in Crime and Substance Use," Patrick Michael Seffrin and Stephen A. Cernkovich looked at the behavioral trends of those who do and do not attend college. They found that those who did not attend college drank alcohol and used drugs more often and committed more crimes before attending college. While attending college, however, college students drank more alcohol, used more drugs, and committed more crimes than their similarly aged peers who were not in college -- a surprising reversal. The authors attribute the increase in crime to the increase in alcohol consumption and the increase in unstructured socializing.

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