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‘Work is the single most important way of proving your worth’ in the U.S., professor says — and it’s making Americans miserable

Jennifer Sherman.

In the early 2000s, Jennifer Sherman, a professor of sociology at Washington State University, went to study a poverty-stricken mountain town in Northern California for her thesis. The town had been stripped of its main source of jobs by an environmental ruling that shut down its logging industry, and she planned to look at that ruling’s effects on marriage and family.

Instead, what she found upon meeting folks on the ground was that “every interview, people just talked about their own work ethic, somebody else lacking work ethic, or the value of hard work,” she tells Grow. Even in the absence of jobs, work remained key in measuring human value. With whatever external proof they could find, “people really, really did make the big show of letting me know that, ‘I’m a worker,’” she says.

That attitude toward employment — that belief that work and being a worker is at the core of someone’s identity — is prevalent throughout the U.S.

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Big name corporations more likely to commit fraud

Researchers from Washington State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Miami University examined the characteristics of more than 250 U.S. public corporations that were involved in financial securities fraud identified in Securities and Exchange Commission filings from 2005-2013. They were then compared to a control sample of firms that were not named in SEC fraud filings.

Jennifer Schwartz.

“Prestigious companies, those that are household names, were actually more prone to engage in financial fraud, which was very surprising,” said Jennifer Schwartz, WSU sociologist and lead author on the study. “We thought it would be companies that were struggling financially, that were nearing bankruptcy, but it was quite the opposite. It was the companies that thought they should be doing better than they were, the ones with strong growth imperatives—those were the firms that were most likely to cheat.”

“What these companies were doing was essentially fudging the numbers, lying to investors, other companies and the SEC,” said Schwartz. “Eventually, you have to make up for the money that was lost, that really never existed, so shareholders lose money, people lose retirement plans, people lose jobs. It’s very, very damaging.”

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WSU Insider
Fast Company
The Ladders

SESRC celebrates 50 years of social science research

The Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC) is celebrating 50 years of conducting social science research for Washington State University and others in need of information on people’s opinions and behaviors.

Don Dillman.“Many local residents and people throughout the state were reported as being upset at what students and faculty were doing,” said Don Dillman, deputy director for research and development at the SESRC.

In the midst of this unrest, James F. Short, Jr., founding director of SESRC, and Melvin Defleur, chair of sociology, proposed to President Terrell that they could create a telephone survey laboratory to learn what students and others in the community were thinking. The president agreed. Dillman was asked to form the Public Opinion Laboratory, install phones, hire interviewers, and provide results.

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WSU Insider

Football-loving states slow to enact youth concussion laws

States with college teams in strong conferences, in particular the Southeastern Conference (SEC), were among the last to take up regulations on youth concussions, according to a recent study. The study, which investigated the association between youth sport participation and passage of concussion legislation, uncovered the importance of SEC affiliation, and found a similar connection in states with high rates of high school football participation.

Tom Rotolo.
Michael Lengefeld.

Washington State University sociologists Thomas Rotolo and Michael Lengefeld, a recent WSU Ph.D. now at Goucher College, analyzed the wave of youth concussion laws from 2007 to 2014, specifically looking at return-to-play guidelines: a mandated 24-hour wait period before sending a player with a possible concussion back on to the field.

“We explored a lot of different ways of measuring college football presence, and the thing that just kept standing out was SEC membership,” said Rotolo, the lead author on the study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine. “Every college town thinks they have a strong college football presence, but the SEC is a very unique conference.”

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Medical Xpress

U.S. News & World Report

Census undercounts in rural areas could threaten health care funding, experts say

Door-knocking, which experts say is crucial to counting people of color and rural residents, is stopping later this month, the Census Bureau announced in August. It’s a month earlier than the Bureau had planned to stop. Experts worry undercounts could threaten federal funding for a host of programs that sustain rural areas.

Don Dillman.

However, there are some promising signs in Idaho’s census counts. Roughly 96.7% of the state’s households have responded, according to a Monday report by Census Bureau. That’s the highest in the nation.

The “main reason” for Idaho’s high total response rate is, according to Washington State University sociologist Don Dillman, “in-person (counting) has been more successful here than in other places.”

Census counts determine how much representation states will have in the House of Representatives. They also guide funding formulas for public programs.

The Pew Research Center says 95% of all federal funding programs to local and state governments are tied to census figures, amounting to $580 billion. Even hospital planning uses census data. Also funded through these figures are health care services such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid and school lunch programs.

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Idaho State Journal