My dissertation examines how income inequality shapes the social comparisons that individuals make with each other. I link restricted-access survey data to administrative data to show that higher state-level inequality increases feelings of relative deprivation, reduces trust in others, and reduces optimism for upward economic mobility—three factors that are frequently assumed to be key mediators between income inequality and critical social problems, yet are rarely examined directly. I also consider how these effects vary across the income distribution and by the rate of change in inequality. Next, I use an online experiment that manipulates perceptions of inequality to better understand the mechanisms. Finally, I show how references groups affect how Americans perceive they stand relative to others on the income distribution. The direction and magnitude of the effect depends on the reference group’s scale and status hierarchy. Together, this work provides new insight into the mechanisms by which contextual inequality matters and how research on its consequences can be improved.
Topics of papers in progress or under review. (To read any of this work please get in touch!)
Published works with short descriptions
Hout, Michael and Orestes P. Hastings. 2016. "Reliability of the Core Items in the General Social Survey: Estimates from the Three-Wave Panels, 2006–2014" Sociological Science 3:971-1002.
We used standard and multilevel models to assess the reliability of core items in the General Social Survey panel studies. Most of the 293 core items scored well on the measure of reliability: 62 items (21 percent) had reliability measures greater than 0.85; another 71 (24 percent) had reliability measures between 0.70 and 0.85. Objective items, especially facts about demography and religion, were generally more reliable than subjective items. The economic recession of 2007-09, the slow recovery afterward, and the election of Barack Obama in 2008 altered the social context in ways that may look like unreliability of items. For example, unemployment status, hours worked, and weeks worked have lower reliability than most work-related items, reflecting the consequences of the recession on the facts of peoples lives. Items regarding racial and gender discrimination and racial stereotypes scored as particularly unreliable, accounting for most of the 15 items with reliability coefficients less than 0.40. Our results allow scholars to more easily take measurement reliability into consideration in their own research, while also highlighting the limitations of these approaches. Preliminary analysis of early results were published as GSS Methodological Report #119.
Hastings, Orestes P. 2016. "Not a Lonely Crowd? Social Connectedness, Religious Service Attendance, and the Spiritual But Not Religious." Social Science Research 57:63-79.
I explore concerns that the rise of the religiously unaffiliated is a cause of declining social connectedness among Americans. I show that religious service attenders are more socially connected than religious non-attenders and the neither spiritual nor religious, but there are few differences between attenders and the spiritual but not religious. Using panel data, I show there is little evidence that switches between categories are associated with changes in connectedness, and that prior social connectedness explains only a small portion of future switches. These results have important implications for research on what it means to be spiritual, measuring religion and spirituality, and understanding the role of formal organizations in social life.
Schneider, Daniel and Orestes P. Hastings. 2015. "Socioeconomic Variation in the Effect of Economic Conditions on Marriage and Nonmarital Fertility in the United States: Evidence From the Great Recession." Demography 52(6):1893-1915.
The United States has become increasingly characterized by stark class divides in family structure. Poor women are less likely to marry than their more affluent counterparts but are far more likely to have a birth outside of marriage. Recent work in demography and cultural sociology suggests that these patterns are generated because poor women have high economic standards for marriage but make a much weaker connection between economic standing and fertility decisions. We use variation in the severity of the Great Recession between years and across states to examine how exposure to worse state-level economic conditions is related to poor women’s likelihood of marriage and of having a nonmarital birth between 2008 and 2012. We find that worse economic conditions reduced both marriage and fertility rates for unmarried women of low socioeconomic status (SES). This suggests economic concerns are connected to fertility decisions for low-SES unmarried women.
Hout, Michael and Orestes P. Hastings. 2014. "Recession, Religion, and Happiness, 2006-10." in Religion and Inequality in America: Research and Theory on Religion's Role in Stratification, edited by Lisa A. Keister and Darren E. Sherkat. New York: Cambridge University Press. (Working paper version available here at the Stanford Center for Poverty and Inequality Working Paper Series.)
Using the 2006-2008-2010 GSS panel, we look at how changing church attendance, family income, and marital status may help explain why Americans were less happy in 2010 than 2006. We find significant effects from changing family income-especially in response to job loss-and changes in marital status.
Though most research finds women are more religious than men, we find the opposite among former White House Fellows. Based on our survey and in-depth interviews, we think aspiring women may not benefit from religion the same way men do, that religious institutions often do not provide as much support for elite women as elite men, and that scholars need finer-grained measures of professional accomplishment and social standing to understand gender differences in religion.Sociology coauthors
L. Lorini, N. Ashby, A. Brusch, S. Diddams, R. Drullinger, E. Eason, T. Fortier, P. Hastings, T. Heavner, D. Hume, W. Itano, S. Jefferts, N. Newbury, T. Parker, T. Rosenband, J. Stalnaker, W. Swann, D. Wineland, and J. Bergquist. 2008. “Recent Atomic Clock Comparisons at NIST” European Physics Journal Special Topics. Volume 163: 19–35. (abstract) (manuscript pdf)
Hastings, Orestes P. and Edison Liang. 2008. “2.5 Dimensional Particle-in-Cell Simulations of Relativistic Plasma Collisions” (pdf)